Friday, March 24, 2006

"A treasure" (On dangers of publishing)     [gnomic verse]

In a former life   I was famous     now I'm obscure
but obscurity     is a treasure the famous   crave
my obscurity   it would seem     will long endure
unless I     reprehensibly     misbehave

writing     to obscurity   no threat poses
whereas publishing     is the pathway of   primroses

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"Cold night at end of winter"     [lyric]

The self is not a constant
      it changes with the wind
it's here a lingering instant
      the poem is its friend

the self is not a constant
      it varies with the time
it lingers for an instant
      a transient paradigm

the self is not a constant
      it's terminal like the night
amid its fleeting instant
      it casts a moonlike light

Composed 20 March, arriving home late from local bus

Monday, March 13, 2006

"The scroll of silk"           [shi-ish]

The ink of China returns to me   occasionally or often
the aroma of the ink pervades   a history lost to time
you could count the beats   there are seven here   you could listen for the rhyme
you could feel the moonlight glisten   hear the sounds of evening soften
but it's afternoon in America   it's English now I speak
it's the twenty-first century   didn't you know?   it's a world forgetting the past
the ink of China returns to me   although maybe I'm speaking Greek?
the scroll of silk is long my friend   the sea of ink is vast

Composed 12 March, aboard train to NYC.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Tale of Two Photos

On 3/12/06, vasudev murthy wrote:

Doubts have been cast on the Bangalore pre-meeting meeting held yesterday.

Please find a photo of VM playing the violin for the Ghazal master KVK Murthy alias JJ. The framed photo of the Washington Doubter stares down from the walls, ensuring an active conscience.


Exhibit A:

On 3/12/06, David Raphael Israel wrote:

Dear Vasudev,
thanks for the photo montage. Kindly note my attached visual reply. Kindly pay special attention to the Korean cheeks and the Indian beard.

I ask you, is JJ wearing a false beard?
Has he developed a secret formula for instant prolific growth of a gray beard?
Or was the photograph falsely labelled?
But if the photo was falsely labelled, and then its veracity is defended (as for instance by Rupa, claiming JJ had explained away the Koreanness of he image), does this not begin to suggest a conspiracy of deception?

These are troubling questions that no friend should wish to pose to his literary confreres. I mention them solely in the interest of a candid examination and resolution in the light of high principles of journalism. It may be that the Korean publication accidentally substituted a photo of a Korean gent for KVK. It may be that the photographer was directed to photograph the wrong person. It may be many things. One thing I do not accept it as being, is KVK in traditional Korean dress. Good Lord, Professor, do you take us for Simpletons?

Most cordially submitted,

ps: delighted to observe, Sir, you played yet more music for the Bangalore cognoscenti. Perhaps we can have you to NYC for our 2nd anniversary event next year, inshallah. With or without Mehdi Hasan.
Exhibit B:

Details are noted here:
JJ in the News Again! This time from Korea!
-- d.i. (en route to NYC 1st annual S. & Co. readmeet, with hat-tips to Prof. Vasudev Murthy and the redoubtable James Joyce aka KVK Murthy)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

"Lost in thought"           [rubaiyat]

Lost in thought   day after day   am I
tossed & caught   day after day   am I
the essential continuities   still elude me
crossed & fraught   day after day   am I

I yearn to find   the very bottom of thinking
within my mind   the very bottom of thinking
the content of thought   is merely the swirling of water
define it cannot   the very bottom of thinking

Whatever I came to do   remains undone
whatever I came to spin   remains unspun
the rounds begin & end   but still I'm baffled
whatever I cam to win   remains unwon

There's a keening in the heart   that pines for truth
there's a keening in the heart   that starts in youth
the celebrants grow merry   into the evening
there's a keening in the heart   again forsooth

Friday, March 10, 2006

"Smithereens"           [rubai]

Do we tune into desparation's pitch   but gradually?
in the powerhouse do they throw the switch   but gradually?
when the mill of life is reducing us   to smithereens
do we realize our wholegrain heritage   but gradually?

"In tumult"           [boomerang]

The days when I may wander in the evening are returning
I have perhaps some while yet to tarry on the earth
they say there's wondrous order in the play of death & birth
some claim the world is fashioned as a school for lovely learning
but reason's insufficient to produce the rhyme of mirth
for reasons under reasons hide   like waves whose restive churning
describes a heart in tumult   such a heart dwells in my girth
the days when I may wander in the evening are returning

Thursday, March 09, 2006

"Slanting rays"           [villanelle]

The faces of the buildings catching slanting rays
the cityfolk are mostly heading home
I'm missing something central to the nights & days

the fiber doesn't break although it twirls & frays
I linger with espresso & a poem
the faces of the buildings catching slanting rays

the music might be maudlin but the lyrics praise
the pathos of the soul that's forced to roam
I'm missing something central to the nights & days

how come I fail to fathom life in all its ways?
my years are slowly drowning in the gloam
the faces of the buildings catching slanting rays

It wasn't that I wanted words the poet says
I want a thing that's spoken but unknown
I'm missing something central to the nights & days

the evening clouds might settle bringing pleasant haze
the morning tide might mention sand & foam
the faces of the buildings catching slanting rays
I'm missing something central to the nights & days

What is grammar?           [blank verse]

you know more than you claim
(or than you'd wish to know?)
for grammar is the dress
pure utterance wears on visits
a ghostly thing without it
we'd have no way to see it

when it folds its arms the dress-arms
become folded exactly so!
it twirls & the dress is caught
in the spectacle of a twirl!

it's a gate allowing water
to reach our mental world
from behind the obdurate dam --
the mighty dam of the unspoken
O how it flows into the air of
our speaking & our listening!

responsive to Christina Hymes' poem,
I know nothing about grammar and grammar knows nothing about me

"Winter is leaving"           [5-si-boomerang]

Born for a purpose I've yet to discern
perhaps I'll expire in kindred dismay
the ring-around seasons incessantly turn
    but they               [1 silent beat]
    don't say               [1 silent beat]
in so many words what fires they burn
    okay . . .               [3 silent beats]
born for a purpose I've yet to discern

This new form of boomerang poem is designed to be recited with 5 silent beats, as noted. Accordingly, I hereby name it a "5-si-boomerang". My most standard form of boomerang poem has five beats per line [mirroring the antecedent 8-line Chinese form with 5 characters per line]. But this new form now specifically calls for lines of four beats. And of course (as noted), here the 4th and 5th lines are recited with merely two beats per line (one spoken, one silent). Incidentally, I notice that at the conclusion of the 8th line, there is an implied additional silence of 4 beats (i.e., implied [in my view] by the inherent musical measure of the poem).

Here is a second expression within the new form.

Winter is leaving & spring will arrive
twigs are appearing on slumbersome trees
under the witness of heaven all strive
    like these
    to tease
new life into being?   all beings alive
winter is leaving & spring will arrive

I think I will add a further requirement to this new form. It must appear in multiple stanzas -- minimally two. Each stanza can be taken as a kind of stand-alone poem within the suite of 2 (or more) such verses. But (partly because of the 4 silent beats just mentioned) I find that the form also implies that one verse be followed by (at least) a second one. So, immediately after the 4 silent beats [of an initial stanza], the reciter then recites the verse that follows.

(This strikes me as the sensible and natural way of approaching this form, though needless to say readers [and/or other writers] are free to try, or to ignore, such suggestions as they may please.)

A Boomerang for Batul           [boomerang]

With ghetto-blaster sits Batul
the echo-chamber of the world
makes few of us nobody's fool
& who of us ain't often swirled

by abysmal currents way too swift!
while insouciant clouds may idly drift?
kaleidoscopic grows the view
where waterways through pebbles sift

the fodder of the heart is pearled
the wind is hot the breeze is cool
the flag of day at dawn's unfurled
with ghetto-blaster sits Batul

"A stroll"           [rubaiyat]

For a time   we become inconsolable
is each mood of the heart   bankrollable?
for a time we become absurd
for a time we become uncontrollable

The number of breaths is precise
        not one more nor one less
all the births & the deaths are done nice
        not one more nor one less
wherever you go   whomever you meet
        it will find you
karma plots every edit & splice
        not one more nor one less

Whoever may think they are free
        have got a think coming
those adrift on a thought-numbing sea
        have got a think coming
the child says "I"   the mother says "mine"
          with conviction
who believe in the fiction of "me"
        have got a think coming

The evening is pleasant   & so
        I go for a stroll
I smoke my cigar   as slow
        I go for a stroll
the puzzle of life is beyond me to solve
        at this moment
but something continues to tow
        I go for a stroll

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"Pleasant places"           [rubaiyat]

Beloved!   I'm mired in living's   deep aggravation
high mountain!   I'm tired of climbing's   steep aggravation
dark marketplace!   must one engage in your weary charade?
Ardeo!   I'm ired by haggling's   cheap aggravation

It had seemed for a time that freedom   one could achieve
it had seemed for a time that trouble   could find reprieve
where a day late   & a dollar short   grow too habitual
it may seem for a time that none know   how you may grieve

The sandbox   & the grave   are both pleasant places
the monarch   & the slave   have both pleasant faces
the teeter-totter of life   is a rollicking playground!
damnation   & heaven   are both pleasant spaces

From my toddling days   till the time I can crawl   no longer
could the world & its ways   delight & appall   no longer?
from the morning of "Be!"   till the curtain descends on the stage
could confusion & praise   upset & enthrall   no longer?

"A year awry"           [form?]

I'm reaching the tail
of an angular year
it rests oblique
things aren't clear
what do I seek?
where do I sail?

I'm reaching the end
of a year quite strange
in dream it swims
enigmas range
the outline dims
what's it portend?

I'm reaching the close
of a year awry
it careens along
the fish I'd fry
in freshets throng
I yet suppose

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Most poems"             [ditty]

Most days the sun is blue
most hours the wind is green
most poems are mostly mellow
most waking life is dream

most faucets give forth milk
most parrots speak in rhymes
most poems are nothing at all
but preposterous paradigms

most trees desire to walk
most cars are prone to speed
most poems are mostly hobbled
by exigency or need

most skies are dark as pitch
most clouds are white as salt
most poems are mostly whatsit?
"imperfect" by default

[Inspired by this discussion.]

Blank Noise Project   [tribute verse]

I recall the gentleman brushing my private member
in a shadowy shop of antiques   aloud he wondered
weren't I inclined (I of 13 years) to linger?
more sooner than later I left   withal unplundered

Monday, March 06, 2006

"Your every word"             [villanelles]

and remember --
hit the ‘send’ button.

    Alaka Yeravadekar, Please don’t send me fwds

Your every word I love to comprehend
ambrosial words of yours my eyeballs read
but only when you write & then hit send

perhaps you wait to edit & amend?
alas! you starve my brain's desire & need
your every word I love to comprehend

our time of life each moment we expend
we purchase what? our action sows what seed?
explain it please to me! & then hit send

an error naturally we would forfend
are lazy words so dangerous indeed?
your every word I love to comprehend

each line is like a vile in which we blend
the newt the leaf the ingot   what we bleed
becomes a rose that blooms when we hit send

deliberate or impromptu?   words unpenned
were promises the keyboard's dance has freed!
your every word I love to comprehend
delighted when you write & then hit send

Saturday, March 04, 2006

"What I know"   Frog Song IV     [frog lyric]

I don't know about hours nor days
    what I know is here in the air
to be half an hour alive in this world
        requires a fierce desire
what I know is very practical
    & I'm seeing it everywhere
to be half an hour alive in this world
        you've got to sing with fire

I don't know about months nor years
    what I know is here in the pond
to be half n week alive in this world
        is not some idle game
what I know is philosophical
    it involves a living bond
to be half a week alive in this world
        your heart cannot be tame

[these songs are related to a prose fable, The Frog Literatus]

Friday, March 03, 2006

"The gladness"   Frog Song III     [frog lyric]

I love to sit in the fronds
            of the ferns!
I love to ponder the ponds
            from the ferns!
the gladness of a frog
            is in his singing!
one hardly feels desponds
            in the ferns!

I love to sit in the shade
            of the tree!
I love to ponder the glade
            from the tree!
the gladness of a frog
            is in his singing!
I watch the seasons' parade
            from the tree!

"Wonderful words!"             [ghazal]

Who were they fighting & what was I seeking   in the end?
why were they biting & how was I reeking   in the end?

the complaint pertained to a stink-bomb   in the bazaar
what were the blossoms I noticed out-peeking   in the end?

when the restive crowd is intent   to cast the first stone
where's the Messiah renowned for his speaking   in the end?

our culture is premised on tolerance   wonderful words!
what's the suspicion & why is it sneaking   in the end?

Ardeo addressed the ascetic   under the bo tree
if nothing is hiding then what are you seeking   in the end?

"My violin"             [ghazal]

I have held her   up to my chin   my violin
ah what music   nestles within   my violin!

turn the peg &   tune up the string   silence the crowd
clamor's ended   when you begin   my violin!

some take pleasure   racing their cars   into the hills
you I love to   take for a spin   my violin!

dust your surface   taut is your bow   hair of the horse
dark the rosin   costly as sin   my violin!

prayers when uttered   some will say Om   others Amen
you're my bhajan   & my Amin   my violin!

wise Professor!   why is the raag   wide as the sky?
can it hold both   dunya & din   my violin?


Om / Amen / Amin : three kindred forms of blessing marking the conclusion of a formal prayer (respectively from Hindu, Christian, and Moslem traditions)

bhajan : a devotional song (which, in Indian classical music, can also be expounded & explored instrumentally -- and which traditionally may optionally serve as the final item in a concert program)

raag (Hindi, from Skt. raaga) : the modal & archetypal root structure underlying any given composition or improvisation in Indian classical music; the word is also used to denote any exposition of any given raag (although, conceptually speaking, the raag per se exists on a higher plane, or at a more abstracted level, than the particularlizing expression of its embodiment in any specific exposition. If seemingly a fastidious, academic distinction, in point of fact this is actually a lucid, basic distinction in the ubiquitous theory underlying classical traditions of Indian music. Among other things, this nuanced theoretical ground allows for the sophisticatedly conservative (while yet expressive, indeed expressionistic) approach to structured improvisation found in those traditions.)

dunya & din (Arabic/Urdu) : the world and the faith

[English ghazal attempting to show strict attention to cadence (equivalent to the principle of beher in traditional Urdu prosody). The poem's maatla [first couplet] is based on a sher [couplet] borrowed [stolen, but reworked a bit] from Vasudev Murthy, the Bangaluru writer-violinist. (The 1st line of sher #2 is also semi-appropriated from the same source.) The maaqta [final couplet] alludes to Dr. Murthy, via directly addressing him as "Professor" -- this title serving in the ghazal as (or, one could say, in lieu of) a takhallus [poet's own pen-name]. Dr. Murthy is, it should be remarked, both a serious quasi-professional humorist, and also a serious semi-professional violinist. Although his own (possibly impromptu) faux-ghazal lines were perhaps penned with an element of comic intent [that is, with tongue, as the saying goes, firmly planted in cheek], I've laundered out such accidental-on-purpose wrinkles and ironed (which, ironically, removes the irony), creased & folded (formalized) this small tribute poem. In fine (and en passant), let me additionally hat-tip Dr. Murthy's late music teacher, the esteemed Pandit V.G. Jog (whose performance of Hindustani violin I recall with fondness from 20 years ago).]

Thursday, March 02, 2006

"Each invention of time"             [ghazal]

I am here   to interrogate you   for a little while
while the hour   of the morning is new   for a little while

the day's work   has already begun   in the world around
yet I seek   an unhurried review   for a little while

why did you   such a canvas unfurl   in your studio?
why these hues   green & orange & blue   for a little while?

every bird   was aware of your song   in the morning light
every blade   was arraying your dew   for a little while

very slight   each invention of time   in the endless book
very small   is the tea one can brew   for a little while

music sought   to describe your delight   or your moodiness
nature strove   to display what you knew   for a little while

Raphael   what cuisine you prefer   has yet to discern
he but boils   like potatoes in stew   for a little while

[ghazal with beher]

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Long gone"         [troilet]

Long gone is the world of the past
it's beyond the edge of the frame
the first is dead   not the last

long gone is the world of the past
the net has been long since cast
none's yet been hauled in for blame

long gone is the world of the past
it's beyond the edge of the frame

[first time I've used this nice little form]