Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday Poetry

It's a lazy Sunday and I'm spending it catching up on poetry, so figured I'd toss in a few links:

First, the current issue of Poetry has a special section on Indian poetry edited by R. Parthasarathy. I think Parthasarathy's a little too dismissive of Indian poetry in English (in his article accompanying the poems in the issue - most of them translated from regional languages - his only comment on English poetry is that it "has served as a model to be imitated, often with unhappy results") but he makes a good point about Indian poetry in languages other than English not receiving adequate translation and therefore remaining inaccessible to a wider audience, and his discussion of the evolution of Tamil poetry is fascinating.

I'm not too happy with his selections of poems for the magazine either - I can't help feeling that too much of what he picks feels dated, old-fashioned and well, parochial - but here are two of the better selections, both available online - Amrita Pritam's Street Dog and Vinda Karandikar's The Wheel. Parthasarathy's article, alas, isn't available online, and neither is a lovely essay by Brian Phillips on the problem of taste in poetry, which really deserves a whole other post (which I will get around to eventually; n! - there's a challenge to look forward to).


Meanwhile, over at the APR, Bob Hicok has a set of poems dealing with the Virginia Tech shootings. Hicok is an assistant professor at Virginia Tech and Seung-Hui Cho was apparently a student of his, so he has a set of poems talking about the tragedy, one of which is available online here.

Personally, I wasn't too impressed with the poems - some of them felt a little too manipulative, a little too pat. The one bit I did like, though, was in this poem titled Whimper:

"years from now

I'll be a man who buys grapes for the reason
anyone buys grapes, and in the way anyone buys grapes,
by eating some and putting some in bag to be eaten
at a later date, with the difference that,
as I turn for a twist-tie if it's a store
that still provides them, not all stores do
and fewer I suspect will be so thoughtful
in the future, somewhere in that turning
I'll sense a parent some states away
dropping to the floor as I imagined
a moment ago, with no image of the face and the body
really just a cloud, it's the action
that's distinct, the cause, the erasure
of the daughter or son who went off to college
to get maybe a little drunk - the parents knew that -
a little laid, a little while passes and the picture
that's not exactly a picture passes too
and then it's back and this is just how things work
around here now, I'm a theater of these short films
of people I don't know falling down and being broken, why
do we think answers will help, and why ask that why

of the larger why, why did this happen, and why from that why
branch to the why am I alive why"

- Bob Hicok, 'Whimper'


Finally, an old pal of mine shows up (again) in the Guardian Poetry Workshop, this time with a poem about poetry and forests (scroll down to the third poem).

I have to agree with Matthew Sweeney that the poem is more than a little overdone, still I like the gambit of the opening lines (the first line comes from a poem by WS Graham, which was the point of the workshop exercise) and I like the bit about Blake's tiger and Borges' (for more on tigers in poetry see Chandrahas here). Plus I can't help wondering if some of the overwrought bits aren't deliberate: after all he is talking about a ramble in the forest, about being "out on what you thought / would be a stroll / but has become an excursion", so perhaps a more polished poem would be too neat? At any rate, it's fun to see a familiar name in print.


Anonymous said...

n! - where art thou ?

Anonymous said...

Ah Falsie, how sharper than a serpents tooth is it to have a loving friend!

Where is that keenly critical note, that world-weary bite, the straight and narrow literary evaluation, indeed that admirable Falstaffian unbiasedness that we all know and love when it comes to critically evaluating the literary output of one's friend? What is this mellow "I like.." and this ( gasp! is it? can it be?) understanding "I can't help wondering if some of the overwrought parts are deliberate" that we sense here? Falstaff as Pollyanna? What sunny abominations shall we see next from thee? Finding the good points of Jalandhar Unclejis on flights? Consorting with the unwashed masses who watch American Idol?


Anonymous said...

And because n! is dramatic, n! shall only add:

Falsi, Falsi, lama sabachthani.

And then she dies.


Anonymous said...

@ n! - You go gal, N! for president!

tangled said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gedevan Alexandrovich Alexidze said...

n!: Our forces are presently standing by on our Kin-dza-dza galaxy. Pepelats will shortly be sent to your residence.

Source: fatwa-dealer

Cheshire Cat said...

I think it's fair to say that there are a number of competent Indian poets writing in English, and a few occasionally inspired ones, but no exceptional ones. The Karandikar poem, though, I rate exceptional. I should try to find Parthasarathy's article.

Who exactly is this "n!" character and why does she always sound so astonished to be signing off? alexidze aka Falstaff, you better do something about the fatwa soon, for I find myself looking forward even more to the comments than to the posts nowadays. Of course the commenter has an advantage: the margin is a natural haunt for the subversive.

samira said...

It's a pity that so much of our non-English, regional Indian poetry goes unacknowledged. Parthasarthy's trnaslations are lovely, though - his Cilappatikaram is so incredibly beautiful, it's a work of art.