Sunday, October 09, 2005

Sivakami Velliangiri's "Indian Very Contemporary"

The above-noted poet has today posted a wonderfully-crafted, strong-sounding poem here.

Further to the discussion of specific allusions in poetry -- here's a case in point. The poem catches my interest and has a moving feeling to it, although most of the (clearly specific) allusions are unknown / opaque to me. I'm clueless thus about some of the poem's more detailed meanings. Such a poem, if "studied" line by line with somebody in the know (providing requisite clues & parsings), would afford a far-more-rich (nuanced) reading. This seems a case where the critical discussion of a poem (in some form -- whether embedded in a close-reading review, or in footnotes, hyperlinks, or whatnot) would be valuable.

Now I'll return to my Sunday chores.


Blogger ~River~ said...

I just read Sivakami Velliangiri's response to your questions at Caferati. I also found this aside remarkable:

The Little magazine , which has published only one poem of mine, interpreted it as a communist poem I was not aware of any such implications.

Mon Oct 10, 02:39:00 AM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...


yes, that was a curiousity. And the deadpan (sans affect) way Sivakami describes it is somehow satisfying to read.

But what baffled my reading of the poem (besides the final 4 lines, which I still don't quite get -- especially the freeze business) are primarily the gauntlet of specific references in these lines:

Like the Greeks we too have our myths
worm that turned into snake in seven seas [1]
and demon that swallowed seed of rain [2]:
aware of tribulations, the females know
all the right answers---
like tufts of hair, three eyes of a coconut [3]

So I guess it's merely 3 ref-mysteries; it'd seemed like more, when I first read the poem.
Really, the tufts of hair / three eyes of a cocanut seems the most important thing I'm missing. (What I find odd is how intriguing the lines seem, despite being clueless about what they signify. Maybe it's the mystery -- and sense that perhaps some sort of sexual meaning is implied, that I can't get at -- that makes them seem interesting. But too, it's simply the sort of incantatory rhythm, knowing-rueful tone, and some related qualities, no doubt.)

The first two [numbered refs], even though I don't know (or recall) the specific stories, are part of a type of mythology that's familiar enough (in general terms or flavor).

In life, one can't grasp everything. It's too much to ask an author for a bunch of notes, at least in this situation. If it was some universally-debated poem, that's be another story.

I agree with your original point that the Pound sort of footnote-baggage is terribly weighty -- not something one would wish to emulate; but for such writing, I guess they're fairly needed. The differences in erudition or familiarity of reference between writer & reader can work out in various ways. The "ideal reader" might be one who knows every last allusion like the back of her hand? Some thoughtful poets write at once for the ideal reader, as well as a few friends & others, I suppose. Perhaps, too, the ideal reader can be a hybrid: partly all-knowing, partly not knowing. There are differing sorts of pleasures (and perhaps in some sense slightly differing languages) that can emerge from addressing one or the other aspect of this imagined composite reader. The question of ideal reader, anyway, is an idea that seems germane to this footnotes / hyperlinks / allusions discussion.


ps: in my first poetry MS (Orison), I did have a number of end-notes for certain specific things. This subject matter interests I guess due to various solutions (mostly ignoring question of notes) in my own practice. I do notice that many poets will preface live readings with some degree of explaining. In this situation too, one likes a bit of that at times, though too much would be too much.

Mon Oct 10, 05:40:00 AM PDT  

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