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« Of Summits and Ethics | Main | Heard This One Before! »

May 27, 2006


It's been a while since I've read poetry. I remember my school days, when pencil in hand, we would go over every line, trying to extract all possible meanings, scribbling notes furiously in the margins. Now, nothing seems to sink in on first glance, and I have to mentally annotate the words, tackling it like some kind of puzzle.
I found the middle verse to be especially powerful-for some reason, the word "souls" jumped out at me- but haven't the souls fled the bodies? Why did the poet use that word?
Curiously, on my internet meanderings shortly afterward, I opened up the Huffington Post link to this photo a sort of grim echo of the poet's words.

I completed my 10th under aegis of the I.C.S.E. board, and we studied quite a bit of poetry, apart from short stories and drama, even at that level. Most of it was by the Romantic poets and I guess that would explain my preference for the rhyming type of poetry that has a fixed meter, to the free verse kind.

Apart from that, I feel I just haven't read enough of it to be able to appreciate the new forms, which a lot of people find to be more liberating mediums, since they can concentrate more on the content of the poem than its technique.

And I have a question for the poet as well: In the line, "Out of live tree trunks," isn't the word "live" misplaced, since the tree couldn't have been alive if its trunk was being used? Or am I just reading it out of context?

Former ICSE/ISC(year12) student here too. Did you learn "The Night of the Scorpion"? That was one of the few modern poetry pieces that we had to do,after all the Shelley,Blake, Tennyson,etc. Despite the lack of rhyme, I found it a very powerful piece. You can read it here.

Sujatha, yes I did! Did you also have one called "A River" by A.K. Ramanujan? I remember this one, since it had a line that went, "and a couple of cows named Gopi and Brinda as usual," and my younger sister is named Brinda and I used to find this hilarious at the time!

Do you remember what your book of poems was called? I think ours was "Panorama."
Then we had Julius Caesar for the play and a book of short stories also.

I changed over to the Delhi /CBSE board for my 12th and found it to be really lacking in its syllabus for English. I guess you can't have students wasting time, reading plays and poems, if you want them to be able to compete in various entrance exams.

Don't ask me about poetry! It is a long, distant memory - although I have read and enjoyed (and had to memorize) my fair share of it.

I guess an artist leaves a bit of his /her "soul" in every work of art. And the tree trunks were live "before" they were cut down to make the sculptures. Who knows? I am a prosaic person. I will ask Sukrita to explain.

But that picture of wrapped bodies Sujatha has linked to, is priceless. I am copying it on the main page!

Yes, if the word "souls" jumped at you, Sujatha,that perhaps in a way explains its presence there. The line between death and life collapses here when the soldiers standing stiffly in gunny bags,are nearly dead even before the bullets strike them,while their souls are held in their bodies yet.
"Live" tree trunks, simply because the trunks are not uprooted in these sculptural "artifacts". As the tree grows slowly the artist keeps manipulating its shape gently...The gallery actually had two such "growing pieces of art"!
Thanks a lot for the visual, so apt for a poem like this one-

'Panorama'- that was the poetry text, along with the book of short stories, of which I remember the "Accompanist" most vividly. My batch had Merchant of Venice in 10th std.
I remember the 'River' and the line about cows named Gopi and Brinda- something about how the river gets in spate and carries away people?
Also the lines from the Tennyson poem about the death of Arthur "The old order changeth, giving place to new, Lest one good custom, should corrupt the world."- quite apt for the time of flux we live in.

So you decided to put the photo next to the segment of the poem. I wonder if a photo is available for the 'live tree trunks' referenced in the third segment. Perhaps you could check with Sukrita about the artwork that inspired the poem.

Thanks for the clarification, Sukrita. I see that I had a rather different interpretation from what you had meant- but isn't that one of the charms of poetry and abstract art? It can mean many things to different people, or even the same person in varying states of mind.
The 'living' artifacts sounds like a very intriguing concept.Kind of like bonsai, especially with the level of control the artist would have to exert to direct the growth.
May I ask which gallery you visited in DC? I would love to look out for those the next time we go there.

Sorry, Sujatha, while these pieces left their sharp impression on my mind, I'm afraid I lost track of where I saw what. I was a part of the International Writers' Group that was taken to a row of galleries, including the Smithsonian.

Okay, put up a photo of "live tree art" and a link. Also a visual for the first poem about "shadows", using one of my own paintings. Thanks Sukrita, for the poems and clarification.

One of my friends' husband does a form of "live art." He is an ardent gardener who has a lovely orchard of tropical fruit in Houston. I have enjoyed guavas, lichees, sugar cane, succulent bamboo shoots, lemon and lime from his garden. In one patch of the garden, he grows squash. Some of those squash he manipulates during growth to take on shapes - usually animal and bird forms. When the squash has ripened and hardened, he plucks them, paints and lacquers them. He presented me with two very convincing looking penguins from his collection.

Another UFO idea for you, Sujatha!

Sujatha, yeah, that's the poem. And Mrs. Kumar, thank you for the clarification. It makes sense now. But I imagine the trees mustn't have been too big in size or were they permanent exhibits?

Another gallery is evolving out of the poem! This is what I call intra-art dialogue!

the middle poem grips me thge the light of body bags coming home and the sheer waste of human souls for a totally cooked up cause..the Iraq war..
"chests waiting for bullets"
sounds so sad and appropiate..

Today is Memorial Day in the US - the day the nation honors its war dead.
I have a short post on the very issue of "waste" of young, promising lives which are lost when "older" men choose to fight useless and unnecessary wars.

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