For Dad

It’s Father’s Day, that one day out of 365, usually observed on a third Sunday of June in over 111 countries and it’s quite a thing, so says the internet.

I sent a great deal of virtual love to my dad like I do everyday 😄 but the day being Father’s Day and all, I would like to re-blog a poem I wrote for him nine years ago. The poetic style, my punctuation etc etc makes me cringe but the sentiment remains the same. Those were the days of Skype.

Skypeing; is there even such a word? I thought it was a word then 😂

Skypeing with my father (July, 2012)

All conversations aren’t worded,

When I Skype with my father.

We are just comfortable in our own silences,

While he catches a game on the TV,

Knowing I’m at the other end of the line.

As I punch out my assignments,

He hears a furious click click click,

Sometimes a monosyllabic grunt

Acknowledging each other,

While he’ll pose a random query

And I give a delayed answer.

But there is no hurry,

As he watches men rush behind a ball

And After a while I say,

“Dad, I’ve got to go, will talk tomorrow”

Or perhaps share another comfortable silence

Then again, all parents aren’t cut in the same cloth. Here is a brilliant poem by Sylvia Plath (possibly) about her father. I have always wanted to write a poem analysis for this but I will simply share the poem link for now. Plath’s lyricism and poetic style are an absolute treat.

Edit: I had to rewrite some of this post given that I recently learned about a home maker poet in India whose poem about the Ganges went viral and became extremely politicized by the various political factions in the country, divided along religious and party lines. I felt , poets get subsumed into controversy not because of the poem itself but due to the mood of the populace using the words either as anthem or a rallying cry to rabble rousing. I think Plath’s poem is similarly powerful and of an event that is now public memory. I admire her for writing her mind in this, although I have come to suspect that writing ones mind isn’t without it’s inherent drawbacks, as it proved to be for the Indian poet, harassed and trolled that she was all over Indian social media.

Daddy
BY SYLVIA PLATH (excerpts)

Stanza 1
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.


Stanzas 5,6
Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

Stanza 12

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

I think Plath is simply brilliant in this poem. Do read it in it's entirety at:https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48999/daddy-56d22aafa45b2

Edit: The poem is too long to reproduce on this blog and has some strong language and disturbing imagery; I've added a link to Plath's recitation of it, below.

Andrew Spacey has analysed it quite nicely at:https://owlcation.com/humanities/Analysis-of-Poem-Daddy-by-Sylvia-Plath

I’m listing some other resources for my own reading further on:

Analysis:https://www.modernamericanpoetry.org/poem/daddy?page=1

Analysis:https://poemanalysis.com/sylvia-plath/daddy/

Listen to Plath recite the poem:

Colourful Weekend

Just thought to post something simple today; I shared these on my Insta handle this morning.

Here are a collection of photos from the mural ‘Know thy selfie’ by Canadian artist Donald Robertson, that was displayed at ‘The Shops’ near Hudson Yards, NYC. Also featured today are an excerpt of the poem ‘Necessities’ by Lisel Mueller and the poem, ‘A Physics’ by Heather McHugh. I took them from the collection ‘100 essential modern poems by women, selected and edited by Joseph Parisi and Kathleen Welton’. I find this compilation so illuminating in terms of the poets featured and the poetry selected. The authors have provided some interesting footnotes and biographical information on each poet as well. It makes for a very pleasurable read.

Spotlight on: Para Os Braços da Minha Mãe by  Pedro Machado Abrunhosa, for Mother’s day

Isn’t it everyday that we remember our mothers ? I do. I  reassured myself yesterday when I told my Mother, she was to be my mother for the rest of forever. Growing older brings better perspective on parents that you begin to appreciate, for while they grew older with you, they too learned life, as they taught you to live. It’s the self centeredness of offspring, that we feel entitled to parents as agents to our making. Yes, no one asks to be born, yet life is really the forging of facets, through aspects within these filial relationships that create us all.

A place where we definitely do remember Mother is when we are at our bleakest, when life contorts us into a foetal display of sorrow, real or imagined. It was the same for Pedro Machado Abrunhosa perhaps, when he wrote this beautiful poem/song that I have blogged about today. A Portuguese singer, songwriter, musician and composer, he is also the co-founder of the Jazz School of Porto, and this song is not so much about his mother, as about his need of her in a dark melancholy.

The song (translations from Portuguese below), is evocative of Saudade, a nostalgic longing for a time and place the poet wishes to retreat to, when at his lowest. The word itself is quite indefinable, untranslatable, yet as described here at NPR [1], the concept has many definitions, including a melancholy nostalgia for something that perhaps has not even happened. It often carries an assurance that this thing you feel nostalgic for will never happen again. The author recounts her favorite definition of Saudade, as by Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo: “a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.

The song, Para Os Braços da Minha Mãe, rings in the melancholy similar to Fado, it sings of Saudade. It is as beautiful as the leaves of fall drifting down in the logical aftermath of an autumnal senescence, but makes sense only to the poet in us all, that we see colour, Saudade and poetry, making everything so abstract and illusory, complex and so human.

Pedro Machado Abrunhosa speaks eloquently of his poetic process, of his songwriting : ‘For me, an album is more and more like a book; a continuous narrative of mixed-up stories which come together in the music I write, the characters I create – sometimes tormented, other times content – and in the feelings of loss and defeat that a lot of people can relate to. I speak about myself through the voices of others but I substitute myself for them using my own voice. Ever since becoming a musician, I always looked to improve the simplicity of that which truly fascinates me: writing songs. Whatever music I make is just that: my life expressed though lyrics and harmony. If listeners can relate to it too then my job is done and I can hit the road with the next album in mind.’ [2]

Pedro Abrunhosa – “Para os Braços da Minha Mãe” com Camané (Gravado ao Vivo)
Into My Mother's Arms

I reached the bottom of the road
Two leagues of nothing
I don't know what strength keeps me
Germany is so gray
And I miss you so much
And summer never comes again
I want to go home
Embarking on a wing stroke
Stepping on the red-hot earth
That night is coming
I want to go back
Into my mother's arms
I want to go back
Into my mother's arms

I brought some soil
Smells like pine and saw
Flying doves
At the eave
I turned twenty on the floor
Amsterdam night
I bought love
By the newspaper
I want to go home
Embarking on a wing stroke
Stepping on the red-hot earth
That night is coming
I want to go back
Into my mother's arms
I want to go back
Into my mother's arms

I came in a bullet pass
A diploma in the suitcase
I left my love behind
It's so cold in Paris
I am already memory and root
Nobody leaves where there is peace
I want to go home
Embarking on a wing stroke
Stepping on the red-hot earth
That night is coming
I want to go back
Into my mother's arms
I want to go back
Into my mother's arms

Translated at Google Translate

I am not one for nostalgia, being embedded too far away into the future that isn’t here yet. My poems though, do speak of memories that are past but I never reminisce as a way to bring them back as much as to appreciate them. Unfortunately, beautiful memories are like gemstones we adorn ourselves with, but painful ones are like wounds that scar into tissue, we carry along with us into the present. Is that the reason for human discontent I wonder, wounds and scar tissue. There are many ways people deal with scars, painful experiences or even a bleak present. They wear it like a badge of honour, or a sacrificial sack cloth, sometimes patch it over with foundation, blush or simply deny it even exists. They rush to retreat, cling, forgive, forget or transmute, even as they reach for God, or a hallucinogen or a hobby/work/passion. It intrigues me, how poetic it all really is. I find this beautifully lyricized in the way Abrunhosa speaks of longing for the comfort of his mother’s arms as he comes of age on a bathroom floor perhaps, a fledgling leaving the nest yet yearning for a foothold into the past, leaving love, looking for love, embracing an inevitable future, leaving the safety of mother, the womb, the salient beginning for a nebulous hereafter. The present in his song is cold, hazy, full of endings and a red hot earth at night. I love the poetry of this piece, accompanied by the sound of Saudade in his voice. It does not require much translation, the human voice that tunes in melancholy across the varied tongues of Babel.

Para Os Braços da Minha Mãe,

Cheguei ao fundo da estrada
Duas léguas de nada
Não sei que força me mantém
É tão cinzenta a Alemanha
E a saudade tamanha
E o verão nunca mais vem
Quero ir para casa
Embarcar num golpe de asa
Pisar a terra em brasa
Que a noite já aí vem
Quero voltar
Para os braços da minha mãe
Quero voltar
Para os braços da minha mãe

Trouxe um pouco de terra
Cheira a pinheiro e a serra
Voam pombas
No beiral
Fiz vinte anos no chão
Na noite de Amsterdão
Comprei amor
Pelo jornal
Quero ir para casa
Embarcar num golpe de asa
Pisar a terra em brasa
Que a noite já aí vem
Quero voltar
Para os braços da minha mãe
Quero voltar
Para os braços da minha mãe

Vim em passo de bala
Um diploma na mala
Deixei o meu amor pra trás
Faz tanto frio em Paris
Sou já memória e raiz
Ninguém sai donde tem paz
Quero ir para casa
Embarcar num golpe de asa
Pisar a terra em brasa
Que a noite já aí vem
Quero voltar
Para os braços da minha mãe
Quero voltar
Para os braços da minha mãe

Original at LyricsFind

Watch and listen:

References:

[1]~https://www.npr.org/sections/altlatino/2014/02/28/282552613/saudade-an-untranslatable-undeniably-potent-word

[2]~https://www.abrunhosa.com/en/biography

Stained to a blur in a cut-away marsh and a note on Patrick Kavanagh

I began work on this article and poem a few days earlier, never quite finishing it, but the weather is the tint of silver and grey, the roads have been licked by showers, the same as on that day when I heard, once, twice, thrice more, Pádraig Ó Tuama, a poet from Ireland speak about Patrick Kavanagh, a poet from Ireland and it inspired me to pot my poem into place, like a herb at a windowsill gazing at rain. There was magic in this Irish voice [1] lulling me into a rainy day stupor in words that were meant for April, for marshes, and I would have liked to say for love, but how do you describe a poem that is love.

Patrick Kavanagh, was the self taught son of a shoe maker with an incoherent life view and philosophy [2] , some say, the greatest Irish poet since William Butler Yeats, but this isn’t what brought me to read about him, it was simply Tuama reading his poem, ‘The one’.

There were thunderstorms predicted that day. I’m not afraid of showers or a stronger breeze. In fact I had the car fuelled to capacity in case there was a miraculous flood and it needed fuel to coast away to safety … inane thoughts course like random particles in days of inexplicable lightening … incongruous as the fifteen varieties of eggs in the section for hens, which is next to fifteen varieties of milk in the section for cows and five varieties of egg whites in the section for eggs that didn’t quite yolk in a sunrise …

Tuama echoes my thoughts entirely when he says, in introducing Kavanagh’s poem, “But more often, these days, I’m turning to poetry when it makes me smile as I read it because the words are delicious, because it’s describing something of great delight, of great simplicity, and of great lightness of being”.

Cattails or Bulrushes

It is sometimes the beauty of voice and words too, that fuels a walk through aisles of produce in a store, like a musical secret between the one that speaks to you while you listen, for he speaks of poets, of childhood, of meanings and you listen, not once, but twice, then thrice, as you caress an avocado, slip tomatoes in a basket, ponder awhile at smiling citruses and blackberries. Then, for a while, I stay still to contemplate the labels that divide the plant kingdom into classes, much after Linnaeus, in terms of those raised by fertilizer, pesticides and ones that are organic through sheer will perhaps, or is it the fallaciousness of words that drags us into an abyss of untruths, darkened corners of commercial illusions, and how does all this matter, I ask, as I think about layers of food, that the lack of a label made much less edible somehow. Was food purer back then or was it an illusion too … Tuama spills a beautiful voice to say that one always returns to the hollows we carry inside, which is why we revisit poets of the past.

On a Marshland
The One by Patrick Kavanagh [3]

Green, blue, yellow and red –
God is down in the swamps and marshes
Sensational as April and almost incred-
ible the flowering of our catharsis.
A humble scene in a backward place
Where no one important ever looked
The raving flowers looked up in the face
Of the One and the Endless, the Mind that has baulked
The profoundest of mortals. A primrose, a violet,
A violent wild iris – but mostly anonymous performers
Yet an important occasion as the Muse at her toilet
Prepared to inform the local farmers
That beautiful, beautiful, beautiful God
Was breathing His love by a cut-away bog.

I tried modelling a poem in continuation of this one by Kavanagh. ‘The One’ which is a loose sonnet of sorts, with a couplet at the end, is a lyrical encapsulation of Kavanagh’s own view, as he observes in his ‘Self Portrait’,
“…the things that really matter are casual, insignificant little things ….” and he asserts that “in the final simplicity we don’t care whether we appear foolish or not. … We are satisfied with being ourselves, however small.”

Stained to a blur in a cut-away marsh ~ davina e. solomon 

That beautiful, beautiful, beautiful God
by a cut-away marsh, was breathing His love
and silver, and grey tints skies above,
floating in place under a lightning rod ...

and I am misted by the softest spray.
The tint of rain is a creamy green
hid in avocados, deep within,
as wanton herbs glisten a sweet array

of marsh grass, undulating fur on a pet
in a thunderstorms sweet caress.
Startled birds raise like a dress,
metal cars, stray shoppers ... mudflats all wet.

Cilantro macerated a fragrant apology
to a bloodied tomato, an onion grated to tears
to further press an avocado, reveal its fears
in lime to a wound. Here's a salty astrology

of a heaven strung in voices, in hope
streaking marshlands in the wet of rain
billowing hair, breezily dry, partly pain
reining love like a braided rope.

As I queue, it's clear these specks of colour
plan a future meal. I hear a cashier speak
both of us tinted in poems, a brazen leak
on a pastoral painting, stained to blur.

Process:

The stanzas follow the rhyming sequence of quatrains , each stanza a different sequence from the previous one. The stanzas alternate between engagement with store produce in the real and the imagining of the weather, outside. The entire article itself is an attempt at visual storytelling using prose poetry and free verse. I wove in the recipe of guacamole after Kavanaghs fist line of colour in ‘The One’.

A simple way to Guacamole:

A simple way to Guacamole
A couple of ripe ready avocadoes, a tomato, half an onion and a green lime. Grate the onion and tomato, chop some green chilli and coriander, mash lightly the avocados with a fork, squeeze a lime ... add salt ... serve with sourdough bread or simply, without.

References:
[1]Patrick Kavanagh A Poem About the Beauty of Home ~https://onbeing.org/programs/a-poem-about-the-beauty-of-home/
[2]Patrick Kavanagh 1904-1967 ~https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/patrick-kavanagh
[3]The One by Patrick Kavanagh ~https://www.saltproject.org/progressive-christian-blog/2020/3/30/the-one-by-patrick-kavanagh

Torte and the layering of love

I find myself so enmeshed in philosophical musing in my poems that it surprised me when my husband asked that I write him a poem for a change 🙂 In fact, he requested for an entire collection. Well, here goes, trying to be my romantic best.

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Years layer on like Sachertorte / milled flour and the chocolate of strange lands together / we grew like cake / layered in sands of every shore the seas caressed / where people sang the syllables of love in tongues / possessed of the depth of oceans / Malaika, nakupenda malaika / You learned to understand the nuance of a Swahili love / and I the ways of an angel / or it may have been the other way around / teaching each other the beatitudes of love in simply loving / layering it like torte / in the design of sweet intentions of serving the bounty of a gracious heart / always giving / You have been most generous my love //

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It’s been years; sometimes I have to be reminded to be still to notice life and love around me ❤️ Descartes may just have to wait another day 😉

The ambiguity of a reciprocal love ~ a tribute to Simone de beauvoir

I mentioned in an earlier post the podcast I listened to on Simone de beauvoir, where guest speakers discussed on how she came about the premise for her book, ‘The second sex’; I’m reading a newer translation of her work these days and was inspired to write a poem for her. So much of the book still rings true but that’s for another day, another poem. A lot many poems there will be too, given that I enjoy reading the works of contemporary philosophers.

There was reference in the podcast, to the relationship between Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, which according to experts, defined her work and life. It is interesting in that, no philosophy discussion on de Beauvoir is complete it appears, without an allusion to their liaison. In her own views on love and relationships, Beauvoir believed that men remained ‘sovereign subjects’ in love – love for the women they valued was only a part of their life along with their other pursuits. In contrast, for women, love was expected to become their whole life, a total abdication for the benefit of a master.

In her relationship with Sartre, which was polyamorous, she tried to live up to her ideal of a reciprocal love. I am unclear, whether, despite the many interpretations of her letters and her autobiography, she truly had a reciprocal relationship with Sartre as she had perhaps, with her one time lover, the American novelist Nelson Algren. Sartre set the terms of their connection and caused her a great deal of emotional pain. This explains possibly, the contradictions in her views and her writing. It brings me to thoughts on authenticity in love as well as reciprocity, themes Beauvoir wrote about, for I cannot reconcile her philosophy with how she actually lived.


The urge for procreation, sexual pleasure and companionship are rooted in the biological, but the views on how  women and men are defined  alongside their innate urges, appear to be constantly evolving, away (I hope) from a narrow patriarchal lens. Needless to say, I find Beauvoir’s view, on women’s abdication of themselves in love compelling yet, quite disturbing. I do admire her immensely, as a philosopher, writer and I imagine the relationship she had with Sartre in this poem.

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In Babel, the intellect of a strange passion / snaking like a kundalini rising / to a merging of minds exiled from Eden thus / Yahweh hadn’t discovered your dualism / You hadn’t found Yahweh / It’s a Dewey decimal that conjoined at the hip/  a spine to spine misplacement, on wooden shelves mulling existence / in a contrived  synchronicity of ivory sluice gates / alongside a tributary of refined thought// 


Emotional floodplains were of poetic silt / He seeking a place in the book of tidal songs / You, looking to punctuate his aphorisms of shimmering wit / Turbid waters, settling in existential poems / Strange thoughts festered in those saline tears / like crustaceans that couldn’t quite make up their mind / where they wished to be / Was it in the depths of an ocean trench / or the flowing arteries of sun kissed lands//


Such spiritual devotion, yours, my lovely / coursing with the sweetness of a ripened apple /  shiny and real as a fertilized ovum / pulped within exocarp / red paper weight on sheaves that framed the ancillary sex/ living your authentic out of body experience / feelings of love displaced like the pip of an afterthought / His book of pleasures / as true as his eyes sought light at daybreak / where hidden passions found clay in the moulding and manipulation of your mortification / A cold code of ethics he spilled on your sentient longing but you wrote it for him//

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Beauvoir was a passionate woman beneath it all and the terms of their relationship were set by Sartre, which caused her a great deal of pain. She did imply that her intellectual and emotional connection with him defined her as well as her work. I find that it contradicts on occasion what she stood for as a feminist writer (even though she refused to be labelled one before her sixties).

On a separate note, given that we celebrated women on the 8th of March, is her liaison with Sartre the only lens we wish to use when speaking of an accomplished philosopher like de Beauvoir, the lens she used as well? It does give a distinctly human touch to someone when their work is described in the shadow of their relationships, and most women are seen to be described thus ( as mothers, lovers, daughters etc). I am not averse to this but would it not be an equality of the sexes in principle, if the same lens were used on men too, instead of only glowing accounts of their accomplishments in light of their professionalism, (detached from home and hearth as we are wont to see them described). After all, it is both sexes that are yoked to the humanity of the species and not just one that has taken the responsibility of being authentic. It brings to mind the three Swiss newspapers that described the recently-elected director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as a 66-year-old Nigerian grandmother. De Beauvoir seems as relevant today as in the last century.

Note: Authenticity, ambiguity, existentialism are recurrent themes in the collective philosophy of de Beauvoir and Sarte. They met while studying together and each had an indelible impression on the other in their work. De Beauvoir also wrote ‘the ethics of ambiguity’.