Thursday, July 28, 2016

100 Days of Poetry - Part 1

I started putting out my favourite poems across social platforms about 10 days ago, in a series called #100DaysOfPoetry. The reason was simple - the innate need to share which impacts you deeply, with a hope that it manages to impact and connect with a few more humans in the same manner. I was pleasantly surprised with the response this little daily initiative generated. On last count, four other friends had started sharing their favourite poems in a similar series.

This seemingly small number also feels grand, because it comes as a good answer for all those who consider poetry esoteric, elite and unreachable. It helps us know what people like us are connecting with. It helps us read great, time-tested poetry, in a period where all of us are just spewing out words under the delusion of being great writers ourselves. Don't get me wrong - I have no problem with people believing they can be great writers. My only problem is with poor reading, and lack of a desire to learn and know from where emerges our heritage of poetry.

So, while the series goes on, I also want to catalogue and chronicle the poems somewhere, lest I forget all the great words and great artists I came in touch with. Here are the first 10 of the poems I shared, compiled for a heart-warming reading rendezvous.

1. Dylan Thomas - 'Do not go gentle into that good night'

Context - I had watched the movie Interstellar. And how can anyone who has watched the movie miss out on this beauty!

Poet - Dylan Thomas was a Welsh poet, and also an extraordinary orator. He died prematurely, at the young age of 39. In this short life, he had acquired fame for poetry, and ignominy for his extreme drinking habits. Popular opinion remembered him as 'roistering, drunken and doomed poet', and while critics remain divided on how brilliant or abysmal his poetry is - I remain in love with two of his works. The one pasted below, and another titled, 'And death shall have no dominion'.

Takeaway - Don't accept doom. Don't accept darkness. Don't accept what others might call a definite down or a certain calamity. Stay alive. Behave alive.

2. Pablo Neruda - 'We have lost even this twilight'

Context - When I am even slightly mushy, and I want to read something which I know for sure will hit my heart, I randomly pick up Neruda. He never disappoints. 

Poet - Neruda was a Chilean poet, politician and diplomat. Interestingly, Pablo Neruda was only his pen name, but he later legalised this into his official name. His most beautiful collection of poems is in a book called 'Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair', and I cannot thank Dr. Saif Mahmood (Saif bhaiya to me), for gifting it to me last Diwali. Melancholy, love and eroticism effortlessly combine into his poetry, and dissolve into the soul of the reader. 

Takeaway - Vivid images and this warm, but sad feeling of love inside my heart. I draw no meanings from Neruda's poetry. I draw only love. And a calming despair. 

3. Akif Kichloo - 'Let us ignore the stars tonight'

Context - Chanced upon it some months ago. Kept it close to myself. Stumbled upon it just in time for sharing. 

Poet - I do not know much about him, except I know he is a contemporary poet and a product of digital postmodernism. He posts his poems on Instagram and has a steady following. Also, I discovered I have a common contact with him, and hence, I am dying to invite him to a future edition of a PC meet up!

Takeaway - The precision in the thought that 'lonely will always love you more'.

4. Strickland Gillilan - 'Watch Yourself Go By'

Context - I have no idea where and when I learnt this poem, but it has been a part of my childhood. For the longest time, I did not even know the name of the poet, but this was a good way of discovering. 

Poet - Gillilan is an American poet. Other than that, I have zero knowledge of him!

Takeaway - It helps sometimes to step out of your skin and see yourself as others would. Not to create pressure, but just to gain perspective to oneself. Try it. 

5. Walt Whitman - 'O Captain! My Captain!'

Context - 'Dead Poets' Society', what else? Duh! Immortal lines from a poet made immortal by an immortal movie. 

Poet - One of America's all time greatest poets, and a trailblazer himself. Sample his poems, any. If you're lost, pick up a copy of 'Leaves of Grass' and lose yourself to the 'power' of his words. His words are literally powerful, and that is why he ruled over 19th century poetry. Most importantly, he understood and advocated for a relationship between poetry and society, both potent of affecting each other positively. 

Takeaway - Reliving that last scene and feeling vigour run in my veins as I read it aloud to myself. Poetry is meant to be read aloud. Inspiring generations to action. 

6. Hoshang Merchant - 'Poem'

Context - I had picked up Merchant's anthology, called 'Sufiana', which compiled his poems written at different times in life. This poem, titled 'Poem', comes from there. 

Poet - Hoshang Merchant is an Indian English language poet, born, curiously, in the year 1947. About a year or more ago, I had heard him recite in the India International Centre, and I remember being serenaded by both, his presence and his recitation. I later learnt he is gay, and has edited India's first anthology of gay writings. Reading him left on me the impression of a poet rather well read himself, functioning within the strains of memory, identity and history - the rubric of postcolonial writings. 

Takeaway - Look at the imagery. Look at how the physical transcends to emotional, and leaves a sort of spiritual satisfaction in completing that journey to the earth. 

7. Thomas Hardy - 'A Confession to a Friend in Trouble'

Context - Found this on Twitter, shared by @Syddie. 

Poet - I could never cope with Hardy as a novelist, and had no inkling he wrote such wonderful poetry! Hardy the poet proved to be better than Hardy the novelist. His Victorian realism remains a struggle, but his poetry found a smooth way to my heart. 

Takeaway - I am analysing that still, but even at first reading, the poem left on me an impact of strength and hope. 

8. William Wordsworth - 'She dwelt among the untrodden ways'

Context - The Lucy poems are among my all time favourite and I often catch myself reciting them. Unaware. Like an old childhood melody. This poem just popped in mind. 

Poet - Wordsworth is, of course, the great Romantic poet. He is my favourite among all the Romantics, a view not favoured by the well-read and well-informed literary enthusiasts, but I cannot help falling for his simplicity time and time again. Nature, love, emotions find easy expressions in his poetry, and what I connect with is the nurturing solitude which recurs in his poems - as if worldly engagements are a contamination poets must necessarily keep away from. 

Takeaway - Beauty. Despair. Simplicity.

9. Elizabeth Bishop - 'The art of losing'

Context - Shared by Supriya Kaur Dhaliwal, a wonderful poetess herself, who began her #100DaysOfPoetry series with this!

Poet - Literally zero idea!

Takeaway - I once read that you are not made by the things you have, but the things you missed. This poem reminded me of that, and the depths to which art makes you go and investigate, even at the cost of generating chaos. 

10. Walt Whitman

Context - Rains! Random reading up on poetry on the rains led me to this beauty. 

Poet - Not even 10 days and Whitman is back on my list! Read up on him in poet number 5. 

Takeaway - An enhanced beauty of rains :)

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