Pleased to note that my poem received a commendation prize in the all India poetry contest 2014. This is perhaps the most noteworthy of all contests in India and it's satisfying to be anywhere in the results. My entry is titled Peddar Road Flyover...I'll share it here soon, once the formalities are done with.
A month ago I wrote about Kusum Choppra who has compiled a book of short stories titled NIRBHAYA. The stories represent the core courage that women possess and exhibit when faced with bitter obstacles in life. As a part of the exercise to promote the book, the team Organised a contest inviting writings that portray the indomitable spirit of womanhood. I submitted my entry too - a poem titled Attracted To Sin, and it was adjudged the winner.
Proud to featured in the Earthen Lamp Journal edited by Divya Dubey. I dedicate this poem Black Lead, to all my Tibetan Friends...for their interminable struggle against oppression and exploitation and their indomitable spirit to claim their share of justice on this globe. I also dedicate it to the sweet, friendly relations that India shares with Tibet and Indians share with Tibetans at a deeply human level.
With Jayanta Mahapatra, Mumbai, August 8th 2014
With Adil Jussawala, Kitaabkhana, November 2014
With Vijay Sheshadri, Pulitzer Prize Winner 2014, Kitaabkhana, Mumbai 7th nov 2014
I submitted my entry to the WordWeaver's Contest in August, I think. Or perhaps earlier than that. My poem House For Sale was inspired by a true incident in Mumbai. Poetry is often triggered that way - by the things we see happening around us. This was one such poem.
During the selection process my entry first made it to the Longlist and then a month later to the shortlist.
The results were announced today i.e. 1st November 2014. I was pleased that my poem was chosen the winner from amongst so many wonderful entries! Yes...there's nothing quite like winning! I'm all smiles now. Thank you Escribes!
Here's the poem:-
House For Sale
The bungalow at Marine Drive is on sale;
the last of its owners has died
leaving behind walls lunatic with visions
and red luscious dates ashen with grief
The mist gliding inwards from the Arabian Sea
like an aerophane of damp ice blue chiffon
sketching a familiar face on the house's bleached exterior,
stubborn about not forgetting...
not forgetting the old man...and how, when he sat down to write his Will,
he realized he had no one to leave it to, except the theatre group,
which he'd attended just for the heck of it,
just so that he didn't choke on his evenings.
How, when he'd put down his Sheaffer pen, with the faintest of sighs,
he'd simply picked up his Lantus - carefully calibrated the insulin to his calorie intake,
popped pills, fluffed up the pillows with empty thoughts and dreamless ness,
blown kisses to the chrysanthemums and dahlias before drifting off to sleep forever.
The sea couldn't forget the stench of his peace;
such absolute stillness, not even the neighbors stirred...
until death rode the winds like a brass knocker and begged for attention.
Of course the birds had cried themselves hoarse. Frogs had croaked non-stop.
And now the house was up for sale. The theatre group didn't want it.
Wanted only the money...not the sentimental shroud of an old man,
not the front porch that reached out to strangers like a handshake
not the sunlight that fell just short of good Feng Shui.
I believe the day it was sold, the sea receded - like serotonin levels in anxiety,
the mud path that led to the house became mottled, the humus wept openly,
moss curled up, looked tawny. Dry leaves scratched each other restlessly.
All loyal to an old man who was one of them now.
Linda Ashok or Lee as I call her is a poetry promoter with a difference. Yes she, like many others has a wonderful website to promote excellent poetry from all over the world. Yes, she also has a wonderful poetic sensibility like many other splendid poets. What sets Lee apart, is her soul. Her passionate, righteous, tender soul that bleeds like an open wound when the underprivileged suffer or when injustice is in the air and burns like a hot flame, scorching anyone trying to pass off mediocrity for real creative talent and trying to cut corners to just put their work out into the world. For Lee, poetry must be gut wrenching, sword-like, blending blood and tears together and yet flying away tenderly with your soul.
How I love this 28 year old, upright, liberated poet cum promoter of poetry! I'll have all you readers know that she chose my picture to go with the poems herself, from my Facebook album! That's Lee!
Four of my poems are up on the site.
Autumn is a season of sown miracles.
A weather-vane, bleeding red.
Starched auburn perfection.
Old spirits of heaven and earth
torching soil and sky, like love.
With turrets of blushing earth piercing air;
Plum tinted, glinting like a rooster's feathery back
celebrating something no one knows anything about
bringing alive the worn-out tyre of the earth.
Nothing prudent about autumn;
it snatches our eyes through open lips.
Nothing passive -
it forces us to listen to something other than ourselves.
Our heartfelt moans sink in it,
mottle the sienna maple leaves with treacherous tales.
The cold battles of our minds steal some warmth
from its melting ochre pyres and flow past time.
The October 2014 issue of NorthEast Review is themed around Autumn - a Sharadiya issue as Bengalis would call it. That was motivation enough for me to submit my poem Autumn Surrender to the Editors. You can read here:
The souls of pavements
and the silence of footsteps
that have nowhere to go
slope down into the sea
here, at Land's End.
Salt licks air.
lies in the net of the night
like fallen stars
and the railings
with the sea's spray,
beckon to leap
into the mess of my past
hoping to become food for fish.
So many sandbags of me
heavy with touch
are lined against the shore's crags.
Vastness floats to me
seeps inside my jute.
I look like earth's lips:
Dry, as all the nothingness
that pants like a tired, broken leaf
seeking Land's End
and then, the endless burn of seas.
Bare of Shade
They said I'd reach home if I reached your heart.
So I took the odd path
followed blood trails
wizened grass, dry wells.
Until I reached un mended fences
barbed wires, geographical chalk lines,
morbid like skeletal grins.
Then I went right
walked through eyes that shone
like sweat in the hollow of the collar bone
followed the scratch of the twig in the mud -
followed wilted tuberoses
strewn on the road like tortured, white, fairy brooms.
Until I reached alphabets, vernacular kick starters
poetry and the rustling-bamboo flutter of turning pages
jaundiced by sun's mania.
And then I knew
I knew that homes are bare of shade.
They hang like dead birds from wires of distance.
Claw at air to send litanies that make even seasoned Gods kneel.
Homes are in those pining gazes we exchange
when we pretend not to look at each other,
aware of the galaxies that so easily keep us apart.
I chanced upon the call for submissions to the Stockholm Literary review quite inadvertently. And suddenly many memories of my father's college days in Stockholm, Sweden came alive in my mind. Suddenly the thought of submitting two of my recent writes to the journal seemed more appealing. It seemed to symbolism a personal connection with the place where my father did his masters.
I sent the editors two poems - both freshly written, both particularly special to me. Quite unusually, the editors got back to me in a couple of days stating that they would like to publish both the poems. Of course I was pleased...firstly because they accepted both poems and secondly because their come-back time was so short! Inviting you to read both poems at the link below :-
Unfulfilled promises jangle like an empty syringe of morphine
Sprinkling the pain of blockages further into the veins
The chapel at the turn of the street is cob-webbed with morbid confessions
They tar its facade; reduce it to a box of walls when faith disappears
I cannot pray anymore...I am sunk in the creek, in a jungle of letting-go
When rescued, I'll make triangular boats and float them in your name, like water flags
Seasons will come and go and I will continue to sing the songs you wrote for me
From between the jowls of my December mufflers...
...Will continue to torch the corners that failed to receive light
In the spell binding, fleeting, summer of our love...a summer we called home
What happens when women want more from life?
NIRBHAYA is a unique writing project that ropes in sisterhood across generations and takes on the tyranny of unwritten rules, customs and misdemeanours to help women find their place in the sun.
Strange stories evolve: NIRBHAYA & OTHERS WHO DARED is that Anthology of Hope.
Nirbhaya’s women are grandmas, mothers, daughters, sisters, wives: brutally gang raped, inhumanly burnt for dowry, shunned from their rightful inheritance, deserted by their families or may be, just living a lifetime ‘adjusting and tolerating’.
Finally the traumatized, broken spirits lift. They learn to think out of the box, find incredible new age solutions to age-old problems.
Quietly but firmly they stake out their own space and live in it. No loud speeches, no bra burning; just a new quiet resolve to live their lives with dignity and courage. Doing what is right and simply going about their lives - tacitly challenging anyone who threatens to impose on their space.
The message here is that the new dawn on women's horizons is quiet but promising, soft but with a blazing core of gold and tentative but full of new directions and firm vigour. No atrocities can suppress the beautiful female spirit any longer.
The proposition is that every female has a Nirbhaya in her that can evolve to take a step forward, sans confrontation, with the confidence of sisterhood.
To know more about the project and about the author, please visit www.kusumchoppra.com
Here's raising a toast to Kusum for this incredibly relevant work and wishing her book all the success!
LEAP+ has been developed as a way to help advance the careers of writers, and for anyone interested in what’s happening in dynamic literary communities around Asia.
With contributions from writers around Asia and beyond, it seeks to provide pragmatic advice on creative writing, editing, literary translation, finding publishers, opportunities to present new work, and places to find writer peers and mentors. It welcomes ideas and articles from established writers, editors and others willing to share their expertise and experience.
LEAP+ is not a literary magazine. It does not want to duplicate existing resources, and there are now plenty of good online literary magazines produced in Asia.
My interview with the doyenne of Indian poetry Jayanta Mahapatra is in the current issue of LEAP+. I hope you enjoy the read!
Here's the link:
Fox Chase Review is doing wonderful philanthropy work. They've put together a gift basket of poetry books for a fund raising event for Cara's Sweethearts.
Cara’s Sweethearts is an organization that does the right thing by children and their families during their stay at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. There is a link to their website at the bottom of this post under the flyer for the fundraiser. I wish them the best.
I too contributed my book to this basket. :) Thank you g Emil Reuter for your good heartedness.