Monday, July 25, 2016

BLOG OF THE WEEK ~ THOTPURGE

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.

DESIGN


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,
untouched,
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!

29 comments:

  1. This awesome to see Thotpurge here at poets united. Great poetry and especially the haiku of course. I am a haiku poet too and as Thotpurge says ... haiku is the inner path.

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    1. Maybe you will come and share some of your poetry with us? Every Sunday, in the Poetry Pantry, poets may share a link and visit others. (It is an open link, so any poem you choose.) And on Wednesdays Sumana and Susan offer a prompt at Midweek Motif. Lovely to see you here! Thanks for stopping by.

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    2. Thank you Kristjaan. So grateful to you for leading the way with CDHK. Have learnt so much there.

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  2. Thanks Sherry and Rajani for a great interview. Rajani writes with such finesse, like your style. Can be seen in all of the poems. Even in few words of a haiku yet beautifully executed!

    Hank

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  3. Thank you Sherry and Rajani for this amazing interview and the most beautiful poems shared here. Really love how you make us see the soul of a word in your lines Rajani. Your poems are a treat, always.

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    1. Thank you Sumana. You write with such a gentle touch.

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  4. A very good interview Sherry, I really enjoy your excellent writing thotpurge..

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    1. Thanks so much. Am so glad to have this forum that brings us all together.

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  5. I always enjoy the writings at Thotpurge. Lovely to get to know Rajani a little better. I particularly like the poem about the rainy city. Many thanks to you both.

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    1. Thank you Rosemary. Always look forward to reading your poems.

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  6. Always been one of my favourite poets Rajani - admire your way with words - conjuring imagery with such dexterity and throwing in the occasional line to startle your readers ..."a reluctant bride in a grey corduroy veil"
    P.s. Thank you as always Sherry - I wonder when it is your turn to be interviewed?!

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    1. Thanks so much Laura, you are too kind.

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    2. Ha, I have been featured, reluctantly on my part, a couple of times, kiddo, and Susan is threatening to out me again with a wolf poem feature, maybe in the fall. Stray tuned. Smiles.

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  7. ah, so this is thotpurge! so nice to know you. :)
    i find that your poetry breathes with a unique voice, especially when there are elements of mythology or darkness.
    i can relate to your poem, Weep, My City, coming from a tropical city myself. very well-crafted poem, with detailed imagery. "lifts her shirt to wipe her clotted nose", ah , i have done that too. :)
    and oh, those old movie love songs..

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    1. Thank you so much. And thanks to Sherry for this opportunity.

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    2. You are most welcome, Rajani. It was truly a pleasure.

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  8. It is such a joy to learn more about Rajni... her work bears an authentic, grounded voice. I’ve loved her poems ever since I started reading her poems.
    Thank you both, Sherry and Rajni, for bringing this interview to Poets United!

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    1. Thank you Panchali, always good to read your posts.

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  9. And I look forward to your poetry each week too Rajani. I adore the history and wildlife where you live....such a stunning spot. And I can see the influence in your poetry. Design is one of my favorites too!

    I was especially taken with your thoughts on haiku....

    '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.'


    Wow that is a perfect description...so many people think it is easy to write...I find it is a soul stretching experience. Thank you Sherry for another wonderful visit with Rajani!

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    1. Thank you Donna, your images from your garden are always so refreshing.

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  10. What a wonderful interview, Sherry. And Rajani, it is nice to know more about you. Your poetry is always so intriguing.

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  11. I'm so late to comment. Sorry. But I'm so glad I stopped by to read about Rajani and enjoy her beautiful poetry. You have incredible talent, Rajani. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Sherry, as always, you know how to bring out the best in people. Thanks.

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    1. Thank you Myrna, that's very kind.

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  12. I'm so late to comment. Sorry. But I'm so glad I stopped by to read about Rajani and enjoy her beautiful poetry. You have incredible talent, Rajani. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Sherry, as always, you know how to bring out the best in people. Thanks.

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  13. I too am a bit late but what a treat to read some of your work I had not seen before Rajani. I really loved the accounts of your city just as though the two of you were one. Thank you both for such a lovely interview.

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    1. Thank you Robin, always look forward to your soft and gentle poems.

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