The relationship that a shadow has with the sun. Their playfulness. Ebb, and flow depending on the nature of the sundial. The position of the sun. The role, that clouds choose to play. The shape and size of the surfaces the shadow may traverse. In deliberation. Or accident. The agility or its lack of the “shadow-bearing being” and the angle at which the sun may caress their bodily selves will often decide the fate of the shadow. Sundrian. A point of no return where the almost-violent breaking apart of a single thought, a sundering, into oppositional halves or scattering into infinite pieces causes an “upheaval”. A disturbance. Both apparently negative words. But do not be fooled into denying them “virtue”. The “placid” needs to be visited by its opposite for language to find utterance. Particularly in poetry.
The ebb(ing) of shadows like the receding memory of a newborn plucked from a fast- disappearing world. One that you cannot return to. Shadow-less by nature and yet safe with, within, and even, in Nature. As is perhaps the nature of the womb. Even as the flow, into a newness, from the moment of the first cry, begins to gather-assimilate the noise of the world. Driftwood that would soon find utterance as language. In Time and in time the “drift” that suggests the random will begin to appear as a tightly-knit word filled with meaning. The birth of a “new” memory. Is also. The moment of no return. This time of “almost-limbo” between these two “worlds” – one where the erstwhile is still in the process of erasing itself and the newborn memory has yet to make its presence felt is in fact the moment most fertile for poetry.
The nature of the poetic. A hesitant tango. Between the “erstwhile” and the “unfolding of the immediate”. The apparently “real” and the magnetism of that which is “imagined”. Text that resides in the image and finds a way to be “born”. Even “borne”. Nothing is redundant. Every bit of memory returns in one form or the other to allow the poet insight into the nature of the poetic. In-sight. Implying an inward seeing. Turning inwards towards a hidden choice of words. An almost involuntary – intuitive? – drawing of breath and giving it language. Like a sign that lasts. Or an echo that has found its voice. An exhilaration drawing its inspiration from an inner melancholy.
This unique and “individual” voice is what matters. One that derives inspiration from one’s passion. The kind that resides in the heart. No amount of skill and artifice can achieve this singularity of voice. A strength gained from silence. Almost a “courage” that allows the poet to bear witness. To one’s own conscience.
Often this is experienced as suddenly as the “unexpected”. The nature of that which is not expected is sudden. Like driving down a mountain steepness and suddenly hitting the brake at an unexpected curve. Finding yourself hurtling towards a real abyss. Not just the imagined one. In those few seconds of near-death, you rethink an entire life. Involuntary and unexpected. Causing an upheaval of immensity. Your car skids to a halt and you breath all over the steering wheel. This moment of ‘rebirth’ is located within the nature of poetry. This immediacy of what Pascal Quignard calls the “afterwards” or “suddenly afterwards” actually finds the vocabulary of the poetic.
Elegies. The poet as a grieving being. One who suffers as she records. The paradox of simultaneously being at a “loss for words” – as in watching helplessly the demise of a loved one, in this case, our burning planet – and being full to the brim with grief that has no choice but to pour over and find vocabulary. Imagine our situation when the sheer exhilaration of innocence can no longer be easily expressed. We are all compromised in our “bystanding”. “I let it happen”.
The virtue of “upheaval” and “disturbance” in any act of creativity. Churn memory. Yours and mine. The role of memory. The role that “luck” plays in contextualising the “meaning” into both the particular as in “this line in your poem speaks to me” and the universal; a collective chord that rings both in your head when you write that line and mine as a reader who recognises my moment of synchronicity with the thought. That is the kind of “poetic” luck one aspires to!
“Befriending loneliness” as a writing being.
unfurl the umbrella hit out at the noon sun pierce light step into your own shadow
I see a coffin over my shoulder as I turn to leave the police station opposite St Xavier’s
There has been a jailbreak at the Park Street cemetery
‘You can’t hear the whistling of the police bullet, can you now?’
stretched corpse-like in a morgue
smother the nostrils
of the woman her god-eyes frozen in mid-shrug
unblinking street light
the night spread-eagled
blinks once twice three times
sticks out its tongue
sucks in a passing shadow
mistaking it for a horse fly
the blind man with the stick
and no dark glasses
the black paper alligator
on the intersection where Free School Street curves into Park Street a procession of white dhotis chanting hare Rama hare Krishna
sleep filled eyelids
their dancing bodies
as the beat heatbeatheat
to a halt
its jostle and jistle
its dilate and gyrate its
and even its blues
languid the flames
4 red capsicums 2 yellow capsicums 1 green zucchini 1 small iceberg lettuce 100 grms rocket leaves 2 heads romaine lettuce 100 grms snow peas 200 grms cherry tomato 2 bok choy 2 packets mushrooms 1 avocado 50 grms parsley 50 grms basil 1 leek 100 grms baby carrots 100 grms baby corn 1 small red cabbage 1 kg large potatoes 1 kg small potatoes 2 beetroots 1 kg large baigan 1/2 kg small baigan 1 kg taroi 1/2 kg Bhindi 1 small lauki 2 bundles Palak 300 grms pumpkin 1 small cabbage 1/2 kg kundru 1/2 kg laU saag 3 capsicum 1 bundle Lal saag 1 bundle kalmi saag 200 grms dhania patta 100 grms pudina patta 1 kaccha aam 12 nimbus green chillies 1 watermelon
between the red of the capsicum and the red of the exploding watermelon all that remains of the shopping list is an empty plastic shopping bag
Hard this. Difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when a thought decides to implode within and allow your writerly self to gather the “debris” into words. Into poetry.
Naveen Kishore read this at ‘Invoking the Muse: Poetry Hour’ at the Jaipur Literature Festival on February 2. He was in conversation with poets Arundhathi Subramaniam and Ranjit Hoskote.