Monday, July 25, 2016


This week, my friends, we are careening through the busy streets of Bangalore in a rickshaw. It is monsoon season, so we are being liberally splashed with rain from above, and spattered water from below. The scenery is spectacular! We are on our way to visit Rajani, who writes at Thotpurge: Incomplete Thoughts. She also has a new second blog called Phantom Road with a mix of poetry and prose. Rajani has some chai tea and beautiful poetry to share with us, so hang tight, we will be indoors and dry very soon.

Sherry: Rajani, so nice to be speaking with you again. You live in one of my favourite countries. Can you tell us something about the area where you live, in Bangalore?

Rajani: Sherry, thanks so much for featuring my poems on Poets United again. 

While there are historical records going back at least a thousand years, the modern city of Bangalore perhaps originated in the 16th century. Parts of the fort captured by the colonial British army in the 18th century still exist, as do spectacular palaces, busy markets and round-the-clock traffic snarls!  

Bangalore Fort

Located in the centre of peninsular south India, we are just hours away from the beaches on the east and west coasts and even closer to the hills and forests that mercifully are still home to rich wildlife that includes tigers, elephants, peacocks and leopards. Of course, none of this matters when a place is just home and all you want is a cup of tea and somewhere quiet to think and write!

Nagarahole National Park

Sherry: I am enchanted by the idea of tigers, elephants and peacocks strutting about. Would you like to choose a few poems to share with us today?

Rajani: Picking poems to share here was a challenge, and as I waded through previous posts, I could sense changes in my approach and writing that seem to have quietly occurred over the months. 

Last time we talked, I mentioned that writing more honestly about my own life, my feelings against the canvas of my culture, was something I hoped to do eventually. Am still a long way from there, but every now and then ordinary life around me can mix with personal experiences and mythology and flow into a poem. I picked “Design” which references a woven saree motif of a mythical bird that apparently could separate milk and water, perhaps a metaphor for good and bad.


she let her fingers slide
over the rich silk brocade,
the saree that had belonged to her mother;
for ten years
it had sat in her cupboard,
bitter memories
still hidden in its folds.
she stared at the border
of mythical birds,
woven in delicate green and gold,
their eyes an all-knowing blue;
she would wear it tonight
to her daughter’s wedding,
it was time.
she threw one end
over her shoulder,
sixty years ago
someone had sat for hours
on a handworked loom,
and breathed life
into yard after yard
of silent birds,
that now stared at her
with her mother’s eyes,
with perfect sadness.
perhaps she could
gather the moments,
caught in the creases on her face,
iron them out,
so they would glow
like the peacocks
in the hotel’s lowlight;
outside, in the hallway,
she heard her daughter laughing.

divine birds
that could separate water from milk,
the old weaver
hadn’t thought to give them
wings to fly;
she held the soft pleats for a moment
against her thickening waistline;
in the mirror
the birds looked away.
thotpurge December 2016

Sherry: This tells a fascinating story: the mythical birds whose eyes looked away, the memories of her mother, her daughter's wedding. One of my favourites of your poems, Rajani.

Shivanasamudra Falls

Rajani: Last December I followed a month long prompt at another site which traced Basho’s journey to the Deep North, as documented in his masterpiece Oku no Hosomichi. To say something extremely simple in very few words, in a way that draws the reader into that experience is a huge challenge. 

The poet probably has to be overcome entirely by the sensory experience of that moment. But writing Haiku, I discovered, is more of an inward journey that forces you to look at things with renewed focus. Like an over-eager novice, I am enjoying the learning experience.

Say Goodbye

like a horizon
splitting two worlds
this goodbye
now what does it matter
that the blue moon
will rise tomorrow
the goodbye
fallen between us
whose is it now
thotpurge December 2015

A 10th century temple
Sherry: I love the idea of a month-long following of Basho's journey. And your haiku are very beautiful! Let's take a look at your third offering.

Rajani: When steel and chrome jungles replace verdant gardens and people throng by the millions to lucrative job centres, the city expands, slowly loses its green cover, the temperature begins to rise and the infrastructure begins to fall apart under the disproportionate stress. And yet for those who have lived there long, for whom it was always home, old memories are hidden away in the tiny hollows of new concrete building blocks. 

Rain can be a joy, a relief after a brutal summer, but also a traffic, power and drainage nightmare in an overgrown, under-prepared metropolis. This poem was born sometime in the forced darkness of an embattled monsoon night.

Weep, My City

My city wears a sullen look today;
a reluctant bride in a grey corduroy veil,
dragged down a flooded aisle
to kiss her unyielding groom;
her mud splattered dress held high
over shivering stalagmites,
that impale the moulding piety,
trying to puncture the soggy mask
of the unrepentant sky;
Just watch how my city
pouts her ash smeared lips today;
her concrete bosom,
her reinforced waist,
sagging in the incessant rain;
she gathers her wounds
weighs them in mountainous heaps,
do you know you can make offerings,
oblations of sugar or gold or bananas
equivalent to your weight,
to appease the gods?
But you aren’t here. She trembles alone.
This city wrings her hands today
bleeds frothy brown liquid debris,
that rushes in search of the ancient lakes
entombed alive by glass and chrome,
the dregs of the monsoon
lapping her under belly,
on them the footprints
of another time
that spilt marigold rain
on moonlit terraces,
when onion fritters tasted of longing
and old movie love songs.
But this isn’t about us. How can it be?
Come hear my city moan today,
the cry of a mammoth in pain,
she calls me to nest in her matted hair,
taste the nimbus in her murky eyes,
howl aloud with the wind
that lifts her shirt to wipe her clotted nose;
my city that wore magnolia crowns,
bird song ringing from her anklets as she swayed,
watches the train of black umbrellas
and weeps for warmth.
I hold her.
I hear her.
I watch the black umbrellas.
I see you leave bare headed
walking into another rain. Another day.
I sink into her potholed arms
and weep with her for a sun ray.
thotpurge June 2016

The State Library

Sherry: I especially love the stanza where the city moans, "the cry of a mammoth in pain". The imagery in this poem is very vivid.

Is there anything you would like to say to Poets United?

Rajani: This community has been so good to me this past year and I am extremely grateful. There has been such a positive effect on my poetry but more importantly it has given me the opportunity to make new friends whose style and voice I now recognize and look forward to each week. Greetings and love to all from India.

Sherry: We are happy you are among us! Thank you, Rajani, for your beautiful poems and for your faithful participation at Poets United.

I always enjoy a visit to India, don't you, my friends? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Poetry Pantry # 312

Tofino Skies and Beaches

by Sherry Blue Sky

Morning Beach

Tofino Skies

Coastal Mist

When Nature Is Art

Wickaninnish Waves


Sunset Variation

Sunset at Chestermans


Hello, fellow poets! I'm pinch-hitting today to give Mary a well-deserved day off. I am sharing some photos of my beloved beaches with you, from my place of heart, Tofino, B.C., on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, in Canada. You can see why I love it so much. I spent ten glorious years there, where, on a daily basis, my eyes could not believe the spectacular beauty I was living in. I just kept saying to myself, "I'm here! I'm really here!"

Did you catch Rosemary's feature on Friday? Do check back, if you missed it. Rosemary always has interesting poems and poets with which to enlighten us. Tomorrow I have a special visit for you with a poet who has been with us for quite some time. I know you will enjoy what she shares with us. And on Wednesday, Sumana asks us to write on the topic of Acceptance, an intriguing subject to contemplate. 

I hope you will enjoy the work of your fellow poets today. For those of you who are new, welcome! All you need to do is link your poem with Mr. Linky, visit others, and enjoy being visited in return. Let's dive in! 


Friday, July 22, 2016

I Wish I'd Written This

What to Do with Objects
By Robert Bly

A little snow. Coffee. The bowled-over branches.
The wind, it is cold outdoors, but in the bed

It's warm, in the early lamp-light, reading poems.

These fingers, so rosy, so alive, move
About this book. Here is my wide-traveling palm,
The thumb that looks like my father's, the wedding ring.

It's time to prepare myself—as a friend said—
"Not to be here." It will happen. One day
The dish will be empty on the brown table.

Towards dusk, someone will say, "Today
Some rooms were busy, but this room was not.
The gold knob shone alone in the dark."

No breath, no poems, no dish. And the small change
Will go unnoticed by the snow, the squirrels
Searching for old acorns. What to do with

All these joys? Someone says, "You take them."

From "A Week of Poems at Bennington", published in Best American Poetry 1998. New York, Scribner, © 1998.

The recent deaths of poets I've known have me reflecting on my own mortality – as Bly was when he wrote this, for whatever reason. 

I like the simple directness of the poem (what Wikipedia calls his 'plain, imagistic style') and the ease with which he dwells on various small things that are important in the moment. In the end, despite the title, it is not the physical objects he dwells on so much as the joys they inspire – and not, I think, the dish and the small change so much as the squirrels, the snow, the warm bed, the book of poems, his own hand, the wedding ring.... 

And how can one 'take them'? And who should do that? It's open to interpretation, but I think he means that he himself must take them with him when he dies. If so, it seems to me the only way to do that is to fully experience them while he is alive to do so. And then it becomes not just a message to himself, but to each of us – live fully, don't waste what time you have, savour the joys. The recently deceased poets I am thinking of did that!

Bly himself is still with us, at nearly 90 years old. He has been an important and influential American poet, widely known also in other countries. He has been involved in numerous translations into English from the literatures of other cultures; he has created a specific activism of poets and writers, e.g. during the Vietnam War; he became deeply interested in the Goddess, the Divine Feminine, and this in turn led to the formation of the Men's Movement; both these explorations have included delving into myths and fairytales, as well as Jungian archetypes. 

He has also produced many volumes of poetry and several non-fiction books, as well as editing a number of poetry anthologies. You can find pages of books by and about him at Amazon.

He was born in Minnesota of Norwegian ancestry, has lived most of his life there, and became its first Poet Laureate in 2008. He has received various awards, including the Robert Frost Medal in 2013.

The most comprehensive source of information about his life, work and aesthetics is probably his website. In addition to his bio, details of his books etc., this includes both an extensive interview and details of a film about him, A Thousand Years of Joy. The film, we are told, is available on DVD and can be ordered online.

You can also consult the Wikipedia link above, and similar material (plus poems) at The Poetry Foundation, PoemHunter and Academy of American Poets. The latter includes audio presentations of some poems. There are also readings and lectures on YouTube.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Photo SpangleJ, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0