It's time for the first challenge of the Write...Edit...Publish blogfest for 2016, hosted by ubercool bloggers/authors Denise and Yolanda. This month's prompt is naturally themed on Valentine's Day and celebrations of love. I am back with some poetry and a...well, a rant, but don't worry, it's a mild one :)
If there is any form that positively leaps into my mind when anyone says 'love' it's got to be the sonnet. The sonnet is a fourteen line poem, a 'little song' that originated in 13th century Italy. Over time it was adapted into English, and many English poets wrote sonnets using love as the theme, the most notable being Shakespeare, of course. A Western form that has been widely associated with love, its object, and its celebration, so it feels super-apt to use it here.
Love turned out much simpler than I had thought,
there was no blindness, no madness, no raves.
It was the tranquil landfall of a boat -
firm underfoot at last instead of waves.
It didn’t need to speak even a word
just moored into place but without a sound.
The waves murmur, the oceans can be heard;
but there’s hardly a whisper from the ground.
You offered your hand, I took it in mine
as if I’d held it for countless lives and known
each knuckle, each nail, each whorl, every line
across centuries, as closely as my own.
Love’s turned out simpler than it’s supposed to be.
In this birth and others. As you’ve come to me.
This is part of the same theme that I wrote to in an earlier Valentine's post - the idea of the universe being cyclical, eternal. And that extends to lesser thing as well - life, karma, love. True lovers never die, their souls meet in the garb of different bodies in various reincarnations, their need for each other also eternal and undying.
As the Western sonnet is to love, so is the Eastern ghazal. The word ghazal is based on a root-word which means 'talking to women,' and traditionally it is themed on love, earthly and divine both. A form which originated in Arabia and diffused through Iran to India, where it remains an extremely popular form to recite and to sing. I have written on ghazals and to the form many times. The rules are somewhat fiddly, but we needn't bother with technicalities here, so long they are adhered to broadly. My second offering is written to this form:
Each day’s a celebration with you, my love,
the smallest things I say or do, my love,
though my hands are draped, still, across my lap
and the stillness sits a bit askew, my love.
Some days you tuck wildflowers into my hair
but even when you don’t, it’s true, my love.
Sometimes the city itself is a darkness
your presence in it the open blue, my love.
On sleepless nights you gently kiss my eyelids
and you’re my rest that’s overdue, my love.
What’s a season worth, a day, a calendar?
Time stops at your wrists, the world does too, my love.
(WC - 466)
Well, love is a staple for poets, right? Valentine’s Day being the issue it is, and Mars being Mars and Venus being Venus, a stand between fab and frivolous is almost mandatory. And if you’re from India, then God and godmen, businessmen, politicians and policemen have also got into the act, no way you CANNOT have an opinion!
But. The truth is - Valentine’s Day was unknown in both the countries I grew up in, this was a long, long time ago, so I was spared the angst of who bags what - how many cards and gifts and legions of the opposite sex scalped. Phew!
V-Day became popular in India following economic liberalisation in the 90’s. However, it's had a rocky ride, drawing flak from right wing groups as an ‘attack’ on Indian culture, and from the left as some kind of terrible capitalist conspiracy to nab the last coins from harried middle-class hands, frittered away on heart-shaped cupcakes instead of bread.
Ancient India celebrated love, including romantic/sexual love, without undue prudery. There is the demigod Kamadeva, who goes around with a bow made of flowers shooting his hapless victims and making them fall in love, sounds familiar, yeah? There is the treatise of Kamasutra written 2000 years ago, a manual of relationships social and sexual.
There are the ancient Indian poets like Kalidasa and Jayadeva with their exquisite and explicit Sanskrit erotic verses. The thousand year old temples where the Maithunas are depicted, a man and a woman becoming part of the Divine through their spiritual and physical union, Shiva and Shakti united. The love stories of the gods – Radha-Krishna, Sita-Rama, Shiva-Parvati are celebrated in countless ways in daily life, in literature and the arts. The deep Shiva-Shakti philosophy is beyond me, but the message seems clear - love and its expressions are life-affirming, divine, beautiful, blissful. What’s with all this ill-tempered moral policing?
Every year there are sanctimonious groups hectoring young people about V-Day, and on the other side there are campaigns using pink knickers and public kisses and other defiant gestures in protest. Excuse me? I mean, the world is falling apart. In so many spectacular ways. And all you're worried about is how V-Day fits in, or not? Pick your battles, peeps.
Personally, I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day with the usual markers. Every day is an opportunity to love and be loved and express that in whichever manner suits the moment. That’s my two p's worth, two of my poems here are actually titled 'Love's not a Christmas thing' and 'It's not a Valentine's thing either,' so...
But if flowers and cupcakes are somebody’s thing, then hey, they're welcome. If some folks want a card, who am I to interfere? Live and let live, love and let love - that's the general mantra around here. Anything else leads to ulcers, wrinkles in awkward places, and possibly a broken nose.
(WC - 1003)
Read the other entries here.