Monday 29 May 2023

How to read a poem


No use pining for days that can’t loop back -

when doves were haikus on the window sill

and sparrows wrote sonnets between two skies

traffic was a boat song. Birds have a knack

with poetry. All the centres must keep still

always at every turn, movement, sunrise.


The frames, the faces spin out of your range

you’ll find nothing is where you kept it last

they were emptied as you left, emptier

now – beakers, flasks, rooms, whole neighbourhoods. Change

doesn’t believe in notice, comes down fast

a hammer on a nail head. No birds here.

No haiku, boatsongs. A silence that breaks

rather than calms. Circles that throb and ache. 

If I try hard I know I'll be able to do it - write a sonnet with all its constituent parts intact, the anapestiferous or the iambic da-dumbing da-dumbing their way through the whole thing like one of those battery powered little toy band man when the triple As are finally failing. But I rarely try. The idea is to let the lines write themselves in whatever schemes and configurations that comes together. That feels more natural, so that's what I usually go with. 

Of course I can't specify how they are to be read - where to pause, where the voice should rise and pierce, just like a series of fireworks projectiles.  I don't want to. I don't want them to be fireworks.  I want my poems to be like a dandelion breath of words, whisper soft. No fanfare, no drama, no declaiming, just  normal speech that's felt rather than heard. That's my ideal, the ultimate dream - I don't know how close I've got to it. I feel I'm closer than when I started out, almost 12 years ago now. 

So yeah, that's what I'm telling you now. Read it however you want, you don't have to be able to declaim, recite, know the basic rules of elocution or rhetoric or anything else for that matter. You don't have to bother with iambic and enjambment and rhyme schemes or anything else. No contexts, no hidden meanings. Think of dew falling, or snowflakes, or autumn leaves rustling, the scent of wild grass.  That's all. Natural, unobtrusive, low key, like a friend's arm round your shoulders, supportive and welcome, there when you want it but not forceful,  a part of your own frame and universe, undemanding, super comfortable, easy going. Spontaneously removed the minute it feels you squirm.  Have the most wonderful week.

Saturday 20 May 2023



Photo by Krišjānis Kazaks on Unsplash

Love is fear. Seesawing with hope.

Strategising for ways to cope.

Love’s keeping still. Not moving an inch –

it’s got no space to fidget and flinch.

Love is faith. And following on

blind, groping through the known and unknown.

Love is steel. Mercury and lead.

Its colours are more than just blood red.

Love is a mauve bud and green thorn,

the crinkled hands of a new-born.

A pleated silk sea of sunset gold,

the drooping elbows of the old.

Love is bone white. Flesh-pink, sky-blue.

I’ve loved them all and they end at you.

The villanelle bug has left me, thank heavens. It's a lovely form and I'm very fond of it, but weeks and weeks of it buzzing around the brain gets a bit much. So yes, I was glad to write to it but also glad it's out of my system now. I'm back to my usual form. This one is the first part of a series of four, as of now. I don't think it's over yet, I feel a few more parts coming.


It started with a quote on my feed on Mother's Day. "All loving starts with the Mother." I don't know the source, it wasn't mentioned but it resonated completely. May has both Mother's Day and my child's birthday so it's a great time to ponder on both parenthood and love. Though any time is a great time, really. 

My mother's birth story was pretty much over in two words - normal delivery. She was never forthcoming on the subject, so all I know is that her labour was short, no complications and there I was, born a week before the due date. Was it painful? - slightly worse than the monthly cramps. That was that. If you pressed her, her standard rejoinder was - one forgets, I've forgotten, that's nature's way. It was strange that she was so reticent, because Ma wasn't especially reserved. Childbirth just wasn't something up for discussion those days. 

My own birth story has lots of words - 'preterm', 'footling breech', 'fetal distress', 'emergency caesarean', 'get this patient to the OT stat', 'neonatal convulsions', 'observe for 72 hours' 'low birth weight' and other similar medicalese. Terrifying. Quite the contrast to my mother's. And I've not forgotten, so that doesn't hold for all women. However, I don't like talking much about it either. I do appreciate and celebrate the resultant offspring, in May and in all other months because of dem words. More than 20 years later, the baby's turned 22 this month, love is still fear seesawing with hope. 

Have a wonderful week ahead. 

Tuesday 16 May 2023



You know someday you'll have to go without

a certain backyard, a tree. Or a person.

Going on without is what it's mostly about. 

Deep in your bones, your heart, not a shred of doubt.

You too will have to step out from this garden -

you know someday you'll have to go without.

Life's mostly lived under some passing cloud,

you'll want to run but there's just no option.

Going on without is what it's mostly about.

The loneliest place's hidden in the crowds

millions strong around the world and nation.

You know someday you'll have to go without.

You cannot find relief, inside or out -

you can't breathe even when the window's open.

Going on without is what it's mostly about.

You can't fathom how it's ending, so throughout

you startle easy, but still get the job done.

You know someday you'll have to go without,

going on without is what it's mostly about.

BYOT is not 'bring your own tipple,' btw. It's 'bring your own title' because I am terrible at them, the title is the hardest part of a poem for me. I couldn't come up with a single word for this one. Leave me your suggestions in the comments please.

I'm on a megabinge of nonstop villanelles. This one was inspired by a contemporary Indian  historian I follow - he posted about his father's passing and wrote that post-bereavement his mother is his remaining connect to his childhood, but that thought is fraught with the knowledge that he will lose the comfort of her presence too someday. That loss is of course the most wrenching of all, but life's generally peppered with losses - from the smallest to the humongous and well, taking it into one's stride and carrying on. 

We had yet another untimely family bereavement last month. My families have changed drastically in the last three years. In my blood-family, there are now only a handful of people left who've known me as a child. In many gatherings I've become the eldest generation present. It takes some getting used to, but that can be done. What is impossibly difficult is the untimely passing of someone. It is crippling to have to see young people in their 30s have to deal with parental bereavement.

Someone recently left a  comment on a blog I visit, which essentially said blogging is an escape from reality. They come to blogs to have their mood lightened and not have problems present or past thrown at them. It made me think about what I should post here, if I should compartmentalise better. Poetry is after all fiction, I don't necessarily have to post something dark here just because my offline life has been rather sombre of late. I could easily dig up something from 5 years ago when things were slightly lighter and easy-breezy. That conflicts with my write-it-as-it-comes thumb-rule though, and it felt a bit dishonest somehow? - so in the end I didn't. 

Life's a bit messy right now and that will continue in the foreseeable future. Whatever shape and colour it is - dark, uncertain, hard to navigate...I'm still grateful, still celebrating the mess.  Hoping your week is a celebration, and also a bit tidier. Have a wonderful one. 

Saturday 6 May 2023

The Universe is Always in Control...


Poetry is a comfort to the soul.

You read. You breathe. You fall asleep and wake.

The ocean shimmers. The tides rise and fall.

There's nothing which the poets don't console

no perplexity, no stress nor heartache.

Poetry is a comfort to the soul.

The universe is always in control

it finds a way to renew all that breaks.

The ocean shimmers. The tides rise and fall.

You read what you have to. You can't scroll

past your given texts, whatever it may take.

Poetry is a comfort to the soul.

In time this craft and you'll be remade whole,

this isn't for you to make or unmake.

The ocean shimmers. The tides rise and fall.

A time to read, a time to write it all,

a time to transplant or drive home the stake.

Poetry is a comfort to the soul.

The ocean shimmers. The tides rise and fall.

This one happened when I was in the middle of something as different from poetry as chalk from cheese, but I didn't want to open yet another tab (I'm not exactly a great multi-tabber or multi-tasker, can manage a task only if it's strictly single.) I thought I'll just scribble it down here so as to know where I put it. Cut paste later in the regular file. 

When I came back here to do that, it occurred to me that this is the first one I've written since March, so I thought I'll leave it here and didn't do the cut after all. A poem after a long time, a villanelle after years. That's a favourite form, btw,  I don't know why I don't use it more often. It's a relatively easy form to write to because of the line repetitions - you get the first stanza down and that's nearly 50% of your villanelle done. It's easy on the ear too, great rhyme scheme. If you like rhymed poetry you can't go wrong with one, writing or listening. 

Oh yeah, while I was busy with the A-Z and sundry other things, this piece of creative non-fiction over at The Daily Life Magazine got published...please click on the link and read. You know that in our digital/social media world the clicks, likes and shares are what count, everything else is quite irrelevant. :) Thank you, I do appreciate your support so very much. 

I'm still trying to cope with the stuff that April threw at me, but hoping to be back here as normal, max in a week. Meanwhile, you have a good one, I hope the ocean shimmers for you all through. 

Tuesday 2 May 2023

Winding up the A-Z


Most years I have done the theme reveal and the reflections posts – sometimes no theme reveal but still a reflections post. And because my normal size posts for A-Z are quite shamelessly beyond any acceptable word limits – I have usually done a long version and a short version. Options are essential in my book. Not last year though. No reveal, no reflections. This year again, I didn't do a reveal - I was in India, too much going on. I don't know if this can be classified as a reflections post.


Any which way it's sliced, my life is split down in the middle – I exist in two parallel worlds, all expats do, not just me. In Bengal the favourite idiom for this kind of split is ‘to sail in two boats with a foot in each.’ The halves are not reflections of each other though, they are not mirror images, there is very little in common in the two lives in fact. Watertight compartmentalisation might just describe it accurately.


The same thing applies to what goes on offline and here online at M-i-V. Two different halves which have no common axis of symmetry around which to coalesce. Since 2020, April has been a tough baby to tackle offline due to deaths in the family, also various other less catastrophic, but still major changes. This year was no different - April was the best of times and it was the worst of times as well. I logged in here and closed the door on my other life, the one that's a little more difficult to navigate right now - sometimes I wish I could just lift one foot off one of the boats and jump into the other one and stand squarely planted there, but of course I can't do that. The blog is the next best alternative and the A-Z provided structure, direction, relief, however temporary - a toehold on sense amidst the chaos elsewhere. Just that has been enough.

I did this A-Z a little differently from last year - my name was back on the master list and I started with the idea of visiting the entire list of participants at least once. I visited more than 95%, not a bad score. What it meant was, unlike other years, I wasn't able to visit the blogs I like as frequently as I wanted to. I read wide and not deep, I ended up visiting most blogs just once or twice. This doesn't agree with me as well as I thought it would.

I found it tiresome that quite a few people signed up and then dropped out after a couple of days, and their blogs remained on the list for other bloggers to click on even at the end of April. Several blogs I visited did not have the A-Z posts upfront and easy to find, one had to rootle around to locate them, I stressed and fretted, patience is not my strong suit - but felt I had to make an honest effort because of that arbitrary goal setting. This isn't something I'm doing again, no way I'm setting this cent percent visiting target. 

For the first time this year, I didn't use the graphics that A-Z provided in my individual posts. I did have the badge up top for the benefit of first time visitors. Didn't use the alphabet badges because 1) I had rather a lot of photos to share for most posts and I didn't want to make the site even slower by making it more image-heavy. 2) I miss the original 'postmark' graphics! They were unique and uniquely associated with the A-Z and it feels strangely odd replacing that with something so radically different. I miss Jeremy Hawkins' amazing work and sense of colour that made the A-Z badges extra special. I'm not complaining about the new graphics, honest, thank you to 'Anonymous' who did the badges. And thank you to the host team who do the work to keep the A-Z going. 

Did I have fun? Mostly, except the days when I was too heartsick and couldn't compartmentalise efficiently. I'd read, or write, and the the words would jump about like drunken grasshoppers and make no sense after a few lines. No matter how hard I tried to balance on the two boats, one of them would rock most unnervingly, I'd have to switch off from blogging and focus on riding that out. 

Will I be back next year? In the years past, I've answered with a resounding yes without any hesitations. Now I am not so sure. Who knows where I'll be, what things will be like, whether I'll have any headspace left for blogging challenges after coping with the offline challenges life keeps throwing up. I'm just going to leave that decision for next year, I'll make up my mind in March 2024. There's lots of time. We'll see.