Thursday, April 30, 2015

NPM - Day 18 (Finale)

The motivation for the NPM series is to celebrate April 2015 -- the National poetry month (hence NPM in the title), by sharing a favorite poem of mine every day of this month, starting April 13, 2015.

It is the last day of NPM series and I am far from sharing all my favorite poems on this blog. There are multiple reasons for this --- I started out late in this month on April 13, then due to my far from perfect multi tasking skills I defaulted on 5 out of 18 total days at hand, and finally and most importantly, there are definitely many more than 18 pieces to share.

In any case, I have really enjoyed this stroll in the world of poetry this month. In the process of researching some of the details for pieces that I like and posted about, I actually discovered some new  gems. Plus after a long time I made a serious effort to reconnect with poetry. So these past 2.5 blogging weeks have been really great!

There are two poems  -- one in Hindi and the other in Urdu, both by poets who have superstar status in the world of Indian poetry.
1. Madhushala by Harivansh Rai Bachchan. There are translations available on the web, for more often quoted portions of this long poem, but I have not been able to find a credible translation of the full piece yet!
2. Aurat by Kaifi Azmi (with translation) -- a recitation by the poet himself is available on YouTube (Highly recommended)

I resisted the temptation to post them mostly because I have already talked about both of them in the past on this blog (here and here). Nonetheless, since I cannot conceive any collection of my favorites from poetry to be complete without them, I definitely need to mention them in this finale.

In addition to the poets whose works I posted as part of the NPM series, I have really enjoyed poems by Sahir Ludhianvi, Jaishankar Prasad and Mahadevi Verma, in Hindi and Urdu. Amid English poets, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Rabindranath Tagore and Oscar Wilde are some of my favorites too.

So to conclude, here is the last poem of the NPM 2015 series on Ankasya. It describes a young bride being carried in a palanquin to her husband's house. The words of the poet delicately capture the vivid beauty of the scene, the tumult of emotions (of the bride), the rhythm (of the palanquin) and evoke an enduring image from the memory --- some reasons why reading poetry is always such a special experience!

Palanquin Bearers

-- Sarojini Naidu

Lightly, O lightly we bear her along,
She sways like a flower in the wind of our song;
She skims like a bird on the foam of a stream,
She floats like a laugh from the lips of a dream.
Gaily, O gaily we glide and we sing,
We bear her along like a pearl on a string.

Softly, O softly we bear her along,
She hangs like a star in the dew of our song;
She springs like a beam on the brow of the tide,
She falls like a tear from the eyes of a bride.
Lightly, O lightly we glide and we sing,

We bear her along like a pearl on a string.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

NPM - Day 16

The motivation for the NPM series is to celebrate April 2015 -- the National poetry month (hence NPM in the title), by sharing a favorite poem of mine every day of this month, starting April 13, 2015.

When one of the most celebrated mystery writers of all time writes a poem, it is bound to be unusual. This poem by Edgar Allan Poe is a testimony to the fact. Its characteristic style of rhythm and unique use of poetic devices, combined with the agonized undercurrents in Poe's writing, have given way to rich interpretations and speculations, including psychoanalytical impressions about its poetry and Poe himself!

A Dream Within a Dream

-- Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the road
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Monday, April 27, 2015

NPM - Day 15

The motivation for the NPM series is to celebrate April 2015 -- the National poetry month (hence NPM in the title), by sharing a favorite poem of mine every day of this month, starting April 13, 2015.

This following poem by William Wordsworth is commonly known as Daffodils. This site maintained by Wordsworth trust has a nice article about its genesis and evolution. The third stanza especially seems to have been added by Wordsworth later, accompanying a series of revisions.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

-- William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud 
That floats on high o'er vales and hills, 
When all at once I saw a crowd, 
A host, of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, 
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine 
And twinkle on the milky way, 
They stretched in never-ending line 
Along the margin of a bay,
Ten thousand saw I at a glance, 
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they 
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee,
A poet could not but be gay, 
In such a jocund company,
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought 
What wealth the show to me had brought.
For oft, when on my couch I lie 
In vacant or in pensive mood, 
They flash upon that inward eye 
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills, 
And dances with the daffodils.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

NPM - Day 14

The motivation for the NPM series is to celebrate April 2015 -- the National poetry month (hence NPM in the title), by sharing a favorite poem of mine every day of this month, starting April 13, 2015.

Default and that too on a weekend!!! But hey, tomorrow is another day -- the immortal final words of Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind.

I do not remember how I came across this poem, but it has stayed with me with its haunting melancholy for one of those pensive days. You might recognize the famous first two lines which frequently find mention in the texts on their own.


-- Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all,
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

Friday, April 24, 2015

NPM - Day 12

    The motivation for the NPM series is to celebrate April 2015 -- the National poetry month (hence NPM in the title), by sharing a favorite poem of mine every day of this month, starting April 13, 2015. 


    Who does not know about Jungle book -- the "magical" tale of  feral child Mowgli, his friends Baloo and Baghera and foes like Sher Khan. A tale of such luminous fun that only Rudyard Kipling could have written. Rudyard Kipling was an Anglo-Indian born in Bombay, during an era when the Indian subcontinent looked quite different from today, with fewer fractures along international borders and in hearts of its people.

    My first introduction to Kipling was of course the famous televised version of Jungle Book that used to air on Sunday mornings on Doordarshan -- some thing all of us, who had enjoyed the childhood of nineties in India (and probably adults too!), used to wait religiously for. I remember singing along the quirky lyrics of the famous title song by Gulzar [Remember" Jungle jungle baat chali hai pata chala hai, Chadddi pehan ke phool khila hai, phool khila hai! :)], and noticing the credits mentioning "Based on Jungle book by Rudyard Kipling". Fast forward a lot of years -- I rediscovered Kipling's writings, living here in US, when I received my first tablet Kindle Fire as a gift from my husband. His collection of short stories "Plain tales from the Hills" was one of my first Kindle "purchases" guided solely by my recognition of Kipling's name amidst the titles available for free [1]. Each story had the same engaging simplicity, as the Jungle Book, and read more like diary entry of a traveler through the hilly towns of Northern India. I was hooked again!

    Forward a few more years, and I discovered this poem by Kipling that I am sharing today. It is my tribute to all those works by him that have enamored me in myriad ways since my childhood. And to a writer who still amazes me by revealing a new facet of his writing, every time we cross paths!

[1] Since then, I have gone much more reckless with my finances when it comes to e-books! It doesn't help that you are always only "one-click" away from your favorite titles.


-- Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

NPM - Day 11

The motivation for the NPM series is to celebrate April 2015 -- the National poetry month (hence NPM in the title), by sharing a favorite poem of mine every day of this month, starting April 13, 2015. 

Today I am sharing a creation by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, a famous Hindi author who penned the more well known Jhansi Ki Rani poem (JKR). I have special memories for JKR as my grandfather, who was fondly called "Daddy" by one and all including his grandchildren, called me "Chhabili" -- a nickname of Rani Lakshmibai (a.k.a JKR) :) -- and I remember wearing it proudly like a mantra which would make me as brave as her. I was so enamored of her story and her bravery, narrated multiple times to me by Daddy and depicted with unparalleled beauty by Chauhan in JKR, that I chose to recite it in the first ever poetry competition I participated in at school. After committing each stanza to my mind of this long poem I used to run and practice my newly-remembered lines in front of the mirror, complete with sword actions just like Rani Lakshmibai -- some thing I used to be convinced of at that time. 

 The poem which I am sharing today also formed an integral part of my childhood, in a much more sober way though :) One thing which sets Chauhan's poetry apart from other poets, for me, are the simple yet addictive rhythms she is able to infuse in her words -- which probably explains their long-lasting appeal and the reason I can still hum them effortlessly today, just like I used to do in front of that mirror more than 20 years ago! It also explains why it is even harder than usual to do them justice in translation, so I'll pass on that.

Yeh Kadamb ka Ped

-- Subhadra Kumari Chauhan

Yeh kadamb ka ped agar maa hota yamuna teere
Main bhi us par baith Kanhaiya banta dheerey dheere

Le deti yadi mujhe bansuri tum do paise waali

Kisi tarah neeche ho jaati yeh kadamb ki daali

Tumhe nahi kuchh kehta par main chupke chupke aata
Us neechee daali se amma unchee par chad jaata

Wahin baith fir bade maze se main bansuri bajata
amma amma keh bansi ke swar mein tumhe bulata

Sun meri bansi ko maa tum itni khush ho jaati
Mujhe dekhne ko tum baahar kaam chhod kar aati

Tumko aata dekh bansuri rakh mein chup ho jaata
Patton mein chhip kar fir dheere se bansuri bajaata

Bahut bulane par bhi maa jab nahi utar kar aata
Maa, tab maa ka hriday tumhara bahut vikal ho jaata 

Tum aanchal phaila kar amma wahin ped ke neeche
Iswar se kuchh binti karti baithi aankhein meeche

Tumhe dhyaan mein lagi dekh mein dheere dheere aata
Aur tumhaare phaile aanchal ke neeche chhip jaata

Tum ghabra kar aankh kholti par maa khush jo jaati
Jab apne munne raja ko godi mein hi paati

Is tarah kuchh khela karte hum-tum dheere dheere
Yeh kadamb ka ped agar maa hota yamuna teere.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NPM - Day 10

The motivation for the NPM series is to celebrate April 2015 -- the National poetry month (hence NPM in the title), by sharing a favorite poem of mine every day of this month, starting April 13, 2015. 

This funny fun take on not-so-fun-breakfast (!) appeared on Sheldon Comics (I know!) very recently, so technically I can't claim this to be my one of my long time favorites. But still quite enjoyed it, so here we go :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

NPM - Day 9

The motivation for the NPM series is to celebrate April 2015 -- the National poetry month (hence NPM in the title), by sharing a favorite poem of mine every day of this month, starting April 13, 2015.

Days 7 and 8 -- again slipped by amidst the frenzy of research. In a some what perverse way, defaulting on the NPM series is actually turning out to be an instructive way of gauging how tightly I am able to keep up with my daily schedule in general. Three defaults in 9 days!! -- not encouraging but I have not lost hope that things would get better from here (doing a PhD practically indoctrinates you with this mantra).

So, today continuing with native poets of Indian subcontinent, I am sharing one of the most well known patriotic pieces in Hindi. It is famous enough that almost 8 out of 10 years, this is solemnly recited by TV commentators covering the Independence day celebrations in New Delhi. A sign of the enduring quality of this verse!

Pushp ki Abhlasha

--- Makhanlal Chaturvedi

Chah Nahi Main SurBala Ke Gehano Mein Goontha Jaaun
Chaah Nahi Premi Mala Mein Bindh Pyaari Ko Lalchaaun.

Chaah Nahi Samraato Ke Shav Par He Hari Dala Jaaun
Chaah Nahi Dewon Ke Sar Par Chadhoon Bhagya Par Itraun.

Mujhe Tod Lena Banmali, Us Path Par Tum Dena Phaink
Matra Bhoomi Per Sheesh Chadhane,Jis Path Jaayen Veer Anek.

 I have included a translation below, but as is almost always the case, it is no where close to capturing the spirit of the original piece.

Desire of a Flower

I do not yearn to deck the tresses of a beautiful maiden
Nor to be in the garland binding two lovers

I do not desire to adorn the graves of great emperors
Or to take pride in honoring the gods themeselves

O beloved gardener, throw me on that path
Tread by the soldiers who renounce their lives for this motherland.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

NPM - Day 6

The motivation for the NPM series is to celebrate April 2015 -- the National poetry month (hence NPM in the title), by sharing a favorite poem of mine every day of this month, starting April 13, 2015.

A boat beneath a sunny sky

-- LewisCarroll

A boat beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July—

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear—

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

Friday, April 17, 2015

NPM - Day 5

The motivation for the NPM series is to celebrate April 2015 -- the National poetry month (hence NPM in the title), by sharing a favorite poem of mine every day of this month, starting April 13, 2015. 

Yes, so day 4 has gone by without me finding a few moments of solitude with my blog. The concerns of my research kept me busy but to make up for it I am giving a real treat this time and sharing a few of my favorite urdu couplets today. Hope we like it!

1. By Faiz Ahmad Faiz -- one of the absolute giants of Urdu poetry in the 20th century

Ek tarz-e-taghaful hai so woh un ko mubarak
ek arz-e-tamanna hai so woh hum karte rahenge

(They can continue to fancy the style of neglect
As for me, I will continue to keep alive my desire)

2.  By Ahmad Faraaz  --- the poet who wrote my most favorite ghazals of all time -- Ranjish hi Sahi, which was rendered immortal in the voice of Mehdi Hassan

Ab aur kya kisi se maraasim badaayein hum
Ye bhi bahut hai tujhko agar bhool jaayein hum

(Now why try and strike acquaintance with some one
It is already too much of an effort to forget you...)

3. By Gulzar, the famous poet and lyricist

Waqt rehta nahi kahin tik kar
Aadat uski bhi aadmi si hai

(Time does not stay still anywhere
It shares this habit with humans)

4. By Allama Iqbal --- Urdu poet, pilosopher whose wrote famous ghazals such as 'khudi ko kar buland itna', 'saare jahaan se achchha hindustaan hamaara', and is known for his similar motivating pieces

Tu shahiin hai parvaaz hai kaam tera
Tere saamne aasmaan aur bhi hain

(You are a bird with a duty to fly
In front of you there lie many skies..)

5. By Jan Nisaar Akhtar -- acclaimed poet and father of Javed Akhtar, the famous lyricist and poet in his own right

Quvvat-e-taamir thi kaisi khas-o-khashaak mein
Aandhiyaan chalti rahi aur aashiyaan banta gaya

(There was some strange power to create in the dry grass,
The wind kept roaring and the nest was conceived)

6. By Nida Fazli -- popular for modern Urdu poetry

Yaqeen chand pe suraj mein aetbaar bhi rakh
Magar nigaah mein thoda intezaar bhi rakh

(Have faith in the moon and trust your sun
But retain some patience in your eyes too)

7. By Firaq Gorakhpuri --- a prolific Urdu poet known for his subtle and romantic poetry

Bahut pehle se un qadmon ki aahat jaan lete hain
Tujhe ai zindagi hum duur se pehchaan lete hain

(Since long I know the tinkle of your feet
My life, I can recognize you from a great distance)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

NPM - Day 3

The motivation for the NPM series is to celebrate April 2015 -- the National poetry month (hence NPM in the title), by sharing a favorite poem of mine every day of this month, starting April 13, 2015. 


Still I Rise

-- Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

NPM - Day 2

The motivation for the NPM series is to celebrate April 2015 -- the National poetry month (hence NPM in the title), by sharing a favorite poem of mine every day of this month, starting April 13, 2015.

A Prayer for my Daughter

-- W. B. Yeats

Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on.  There is no obstacle
But Gregory’s wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind,
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.

I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;
Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come,
Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.

May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.

Helen being chosen found life flat and dull
And later had much trouble from a fool,
While that great Queen, that rose out of the spray,
Being fatherless could have her way
Yet chose a bandy-leggèd smith for man.
It’s certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone.

In courtesy I’d have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful;
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty’s very self, has charm made wise,
And many a poor man that has roved,
Loved and thought himself beloved,
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.

May she become a flourishing hidden tree
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,
And have no business but dispensing round
Their magnanimities of sound,
Nor but in merriment begin a chase,
Nor but in merriment a quarrel.
O may she live like some green laurel
Rooted in one dear perpetual place.

My mind, because the minds that I have loved,
The sort of beauty that I have approved,
Prosper but little, has dried up of late,
Yet knows that to be choked with hate
May well be of all evil chances chief.
If there’s no hatred in a mind
Assault and battery of the wind
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.

An intellectual hatred is the worst,
So let her think opinions are accursed.
Have I not seen the loveliest woman born
Out of the mouth of Plenty’s horn,
Because of her opinionated mind
Barter that horn and every good
By quiet natures understood
For an old bellows full of angry wind?

Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
And that its own sweet will is Heaven’s will;
She can, though every face should scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.

And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
Where all’s accustomed, ceremonious;
For arrogance and hatred are the wares
Peddled in the thoroughfares.
How but in custom and in ceremony
Are innocence and beauty born?
Ceremony’s a name for the rich horn,
And custom for the spreading laurel tree.

Monday, April 13, 2015

National Poetry Month (Day 1)

I am joining the party a bit late -- but better late than never! April is the national poetry month in the US. Keeping with the tradition of  "a poem in your pocket"  that goes with this month, I am going to observe a blog version by posting a poem every day on this blog starting today. I am not going to restrict myself to American poets, or only to English language, though. This is because I got introduced to most of the poetic works that have influenced me during my adolescent years in India, when I was picking up, touching and wondering about almost every work I came across in the world of poetry, much like a wide eyed toddler in a toy shop.

I am starting with sharing one of the favorites from my own recent writings I have posted on this blog earlier. This is a homage to those poets whose works have engaged, regaled and inspired me so deeply through the years, enough for me to have the audacity to attempt this myself.


Nostalgia lost 

by A. K.
Walking through this street
The memories elude me
I must have been here some time
Not sure when exactly...

Place to laugh with friends
And many words to say
I don't hear well like before
Silence drowns the chatter away...

Gone are the milky swirls in my coffee
And the little joint where I used to eat
Everything is better and new
Bit too strong, a bit too neat...

New retreats and new ways
Come forth and greet the known
Not the strange stranger
A wanderer on her own...

The day is almost over
I am tired and lost
A kind passerby tells me to find a bus
Pointing towards a new glass box...

Sitting here and closing my eyes
around a dirty brown recess of my mind
I find the street I was looking for
All over, and where I find...

The box empties and fills with voices
On the old street I now stand alone
Let me wander here a bit longer today
Let me never go back home...