Saturday, June 18, 2011

White-napped woodpecker: its family time!!

You would mostly find White-naped Woodpecker in groups comprising mostly of siblings or parents, sometimes even unrelated young ones which they are known to tutor. Seen in well wooded country they are quite active and loud. I am getting quite lucky with woodpeckers and this one might be the seventh or eighth specie I am writing in this site. Since then I am able to gather one more information about Woodpecker and that is they tap the wood-a hollow sound, also to let know their territory. 

Eugenio Montale: Bring me the sunflower that I may transplant it

Bring me the sunflower that I may transplant it
in my saline burned ground,
and that it might display all day to the blue expanses
of the sky the anxiety of its pale yellow face.

Things that are dark long for brightness,
the bodies exhaust themselves in a flowing
of colours: these become music. To fade away
is therefore a chance among chances.

Bring me the plant which leads
to where the blonde transparencies appear
and where life dissolves like essence;
bring me the sunflower insane with light.

One of the website i visit atleast once in a fortnight is the Nobel Prize website. It’s about some amazing people. Awards may or may not be important and there may be many brilliant people who may not have got awards but the fact remains that Nobel Prize winners are mostly some very remarkable people, who have done some amazing stuff. In my younger days despite problems and craps one face in life one thing i kept an eye on was who were the Nobel Prize winners and what they have done and its implications, as also what they have to say. Many a times i used to keep paper cutting, now of course internet has made it easier. And yes their speeches became important reference points, as also initiating myself into refined reading. 

It is while i was visiting the website the other day that i came across this Italian poet (must add Swedish poet Martinson about whom i wrote in my earlier blog was also a find from this website). Eugenio Montale (1896-1981) served as an Infantry officer during World War I, when he was asked to join the Fascist forces during late 1930s he quit public life and devoted his attention to translate Shakespeare and Eliot into Italian, in the meantime he wrote some wonderful poems. Montale once remarked, "I do not go in search of poetry. I wait for poetry to visit me." 

The Lemons

Listen, the prize poets stroll
only among the trees
with uncommon names:
boxwood, privet, acanthus.
Me, I love roads that run out
among grassy ditches into
mud-puddles where kids
hunt skinny eels; lanes
that follow field-banks down
through beds of reeds and
end up in back gardens
among the lemon trees.

Best if the birds' chatter-prattle
is hushed, swallowed up
by the blue: then you'll hear
– clearer in the still air – the whisper
of companionable branches,
and catch a sense of that smell
that can't tear itself from earth,
drenching you in edgy pleasure.
Here, by some miracle, the battle
between one distracting passion
and another dies down, and here
even we who are poor
pick up our share of wealth –
and it's the scent of lemons.

Look, in these silences
which things sink into
and seem on the verge of
opening their closest secret,
you'd expect once in a while
to uncover some mistake
in nature, the world's still point,
some weak link, the loose thread
that leads us at last
to the heart of truth. Eyes
rummage in every corner:
the mind seeks agrees argues
with itself in this perfume
that floats – as day fades –
over everything; a silence
in which, in every dwindling
human shadow, a troubled
divinity could be seen.

But the image fades, and time
takes us back to the din of cities
where you see the sky only
in bits and pieces, off up
among the chimneys. Rain then
wears the earth out, dreary winter
settles down around the houses,
light grows miserly, the soul bitter,
till one day, through a half-
shut gate, you see
among the trees in someone's yard
the yellows of lemons –
and the heart's ice melts,
and with their music
the golden trumpets of sunshine
blow your bones wide open.

Do not ask us the word which in every way 

Do not ask us the word which in every way
our shapeless soul perhaps measures, and in letters of fire
may declaim it and shine like a crocus
lost in the centre of a dusty field. 

Ah! the man who goes away sure,
to others and to himself a friend,
and cares not about his shadow which the dog days
reflect across a plasterless wall!

Ask us not for the formula to open worlds for you,
only some syllable distorted and dry like a twig.
This alone is what we can tell you today,
that which we are not, that which we do not want.


I was giving a lecture
to the "Friends of Cacania"
on the subject "Is Life Likely?"
when I remembered I
was totally agnostic,
love and hate in equal parts and the outcome
unsure, depending on the moment.
Then I decided five minutes
were enough--
two and a half for the thesis
two and a half for the antithesis
this was the only homage possible
for a man without qualities.
I spoke exactly thirty-five sconds.
And when I said
that yes and no were look alikes
shouts and whispers interrupted my talk
and I awoke. It was the most laconic dream
of my life, maybe the only one not devoid
of "quality."

Often I have encountered the evil of living

Often I have encountered the evil of living:
it was the strangled stream which gurgles,
it was the crumpling sound of the dried out
leaf, it was the horse weaty and exhausted. 

The good I knew not, other than the miracle
revealed by divine Indifference:
it was the statue in the slumber
of the afternoon, and the cloud, and the high flying falcon. 

I recall your smile, and it is for me a lucid water 

I recall your smile, and it is for me a lucid water
Discovered by chance between the pebbles,
a meagre mirror in which to watch a reflection of the ivy,
and with it all I embrace a quiet white sky.

Such is my memory; I would not know how to describe,
or distant from your face as it expresses the free, innocent spirit,
Or are you a wanderer who challenges the evil of the world
and who carriers his suffering with himself like a talisman.

But this I can say to you, that the memory of your image
engulfs the animosity in a big, calm wave,
and which your image brings to my vivid memory
Openhearted like the tip of a young palm…

Winter lingers on. The sun is doled out

Winter lingers on. The sun is doled out
with a dropper. Isn't it strange that we,
lords and perhaps inventors of the universe,
to understand a piece of it, must trust
the charlatans and soothsayers mushrooming everywhere?
It seems obvious the Gods
are beginning to tire of their presumptive
children or wards.
Even clearer that, Gods or demigods,
they in turn have quit
their employers, if they ever had any.
But. . .

The Wall

To lie in shadow on the lawn
By a crumbling wall, pale and withdrawn
And spy in the weeds the gliding snake
And hear the rustle blackbirds make –
To watch in the cracked earth and the grass
Battalions of red ants at drill,
That break and form ranks, pass and repass
In busy marches on some tiny hill –
To catch, each time the leaves blow free,
The faint and pulsing motion of the sea,
While ceaseless, tremulous and shrill,
The cicadas chatter on the bald hill –
Rising, to wander in bewilderment
With the sun's dazzle, and the sorry thought
How all our life, and all its labors spent,
Are like a man upon a journey sent
Along a wall that's sheer and steep and
endless, dressed
With bits of broken bottles on its crest.

From my scribbling pad.....

Mishap with the shaving razor 

Scrapped skin pinch a drop
of blood out the throbbing vein
from the dreary task of oxygen carriers
nano matters that cleave life from death
ferrous ignited RBCs glisten under the bulb.

Aeons ago,
Time, Space and Matter encounter the laws of nature
meanwhile supernovas billions of light years afar
let itself die and condense into an
arrangement that let butterfly hold its colours.

Is it a star or is it divine
that dance in my blood?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Yellow-wattled Lapwing is not into demonstrations !

I am sure most readers of this blog are aware of Red-wattled Lapwing, a common bird that many might have even spotted, but Yellow-wattled though common in the peninsula is a difficult sighting partly due to the fact that it is much silent as also found in dry open country unlike Red-wattled -that is loquacious to an irritating level as also a demonstrative bird often sighted near water bodies. Smaller than Red-wattle Yellow-wattled Lapwings has obvious distinction of yellow colored wattle –a fleshy extension in front of eyes that meet above the beak. An interesting fact about this bird is their eggs are pyriform, that is, broad and obtuse at one end and sharp pointed at the other. So while hatching the pointed side is towards the ground thus taking minimum brooding space. 

Gerard Manley Hopkins: the words are wild! 

Nothing is so beautiful as spring-
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was a Jesuit priest who wrote poems, you would expect his poems to be on clichéd line, you know about religion-morality and so on, even this blogger did and was almost dismissive in the beginning until I got myself into his world. The quaintness of divinity reflected in all can be charming (reminds me of bhakti poems). Rarely have i read someone so experimental and innovative, he even created his own words, his own language, his “inscape”. Hopkin writes “...all therefore that I think of doing is to keep my verses together in one place- at present I have not even correct copies-, that, if anyone should like, they might be published after my death. And that again is unlikely, as well as remote... No doubt my poetry errs on the side of oddness. I hope in time to have a more balanced and Miltonic style. But as air, melody, is what strikes me most of all in music and design in painting, so design, pattern, or what I am in the habit of calling inscape is what I above all aim at in poetry. Now it is the virtue of design, pattern, or inscape to be distinctive and it is the vice of distinctiveness to become queer. This vice I cannot have escaped.” He writes somewhere else “....but take breath and read it with the ears, as I always wish to be read, and my verse becomes all right.”

It need be noted here that he achieved acclaim posthumously since he held the view that publishing the poems would violate the humility required from him as a priest. What enchantingly uninhibited poems these.... 

Spring and Fall
(to a young child)

Margret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

To Christ our Lord

I Caught this morning morning's minion, kingdom
of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend:
the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, -the achieve of, the mastery of the
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things-
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim:
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Caged Skylark

As a dare-gale skylark scanted in a dull cage
Man's mounting spirit in his bone-house, mean house,
That bird beyond the remembering his free fells;
This in drudgery, day-labouring-out life's age.
Though aloft on turf or perch or poor low stage,
Both sing sometimes the sweetest, sweetest spells,
Yet both droop deadly sometimes in their cells
Or wring their barriers in bursts of fear or rage.
Not that the sweet-fowl, song-fowl, needs no rest—
Why, hear him, hear him babble and drop down to his nest,
But his own nest, wild nest, no prison.
Man's spirit will be flesh-bound when found at best,
But uncumbered: meadow-down is not distressed
For a rainbow footing it nor he for his bones risen.

Another scribble from my writing pad...

Wild flowers
Who knows, what will become of us
perhaps it will be the seed dropped from the bird
that sprout into wild flowers
all senses capsulated
in a sway in the breeze

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Blackbirds of Nilgiris

If you been to Nilgiri mountains and surrounding chances are that you will encounter this bird so often that you will start to mistake it for myna. The Blackbirds of Nilgiris are lighter in colour than one found in Europe, they are ashy brown with a distinctive reddish-orange bills. They could be seen hopping on the ground I found this one while on a morning walk it was quite actively searching the place, just about the time it was getting suspicious of me i got clicking. Must say quite a strong flier this bird. 

Nicolas Guillen: Voice of Cuba

Yoruba i am, i weep in Yoruba
Since i am a Yoruba from Cuba,
I want to move up to Cuba my lament in Yoruba,
move up my happy lament in Yoruba
that goes out from me

Nicolas Guillen (1902-1989) a Cuban poet is considered as one of the outstanding poets of twentieth century, he is acclaimed in Cuba as National poet. His poems are innovative and rich in musicality (which i guess must have been lost in translation), he adopted a popular Cuban musical form: the son (that combines African and Spanish elements). Guillen’s father was a senator and editor of newspaper who was killed by soldiers (for protesting against Garcia Menocal who continued to occupy the presidency despite losing election). Unfortunately for him as Castro’s troop advanced towards liberating Cuba from repressive Batista he was arrested in Brazil for his political activities, and had to be in exile for six years until the revolution in 1959.

wears the name of Cuba
forever on his faithful chest
was the one who exalted soil
to the height of myrtle and laurel
the one who raised up a new homeland
without hatred, murderous crime or bitterness

Once back in Cuba Guillen had taken a full circle: it was soldiers who had killed his father and after two decades he dedicates to them. His tribute also includes poems on Che Guevara, Martin Luther King, Angela Davis, Nancy Morejon, Felix Varela and other Cuban Heroes. Guillen’s poems reflect the essential character of Cuban people, the developments that have impact on Cuban people framed his concerns.

I Don’t Know Why It Seems To You

I don’t know why it seems to you,
soldier, that i hate you,
since we are the same thing,

You are poor, so am i;
I am kept down, so are you;
how has it occurred to you,
soldier, that i hate you?

It hurts me that sometimes you
forget who i am;
caramba since i am you,
the same as you are me.

Wisp, Little Shoot...

Wisp, little green
shoot, in the dark earth:
of which miniscule forest
are you baobab, how many
bird-fleas nest
in your strong branches?
Wisp, little green
shoot, in the dark earth,
I, sleeping in your shade,
to dream, cast off
beneath the moon.

Calm Breeze That Hardly Moves...

Clamed breeze that hardly moves
the flower,
fine breath of the garden
that softly pass,
come and push my boat,
trapped in the motionless sea.
Carry me, powerful,
in your minimal wings,
oh, breeze, fine breath,
clamed breath that hardly moves
the flowers.


The black man
next to the cane field.

The Yankee
over the cane field.

The land
under the cane field

that goes out from us!

Problems Of Underdevelopment

Monsieur Dupont calls you uneducated
because you don’t know which was
the favourite grandchild of Victor Hugo.

Herr Muller has started shouting
because you don’t know the day
(the exact one) when Bismarck died.

Your friend Smith,
English or Yankee, i don’t know,
becomes incensed when you write shell.
(it seems that you hold back an ‘L’
and that besides you pronounce it chel)

O.K. So what?
When it’s your turn,
have them say cacarajicara,
and where is the Aconcagua
and who was Sucre,
and where on this planet
did Marti die.

And please:
make them always talk to you in Spanish.

Guadeloupe W I

The blacks, working
next to the ship. The Arabs, selling,
the French, strolling and resting,
and the sun, blazing.

The sea goes to bed
in the port. The air toasts
the palm tree... I shout: Guadeloupe!, but no one answers.

The ship leaves, ploughing the impassive waters with foamy noise.
There, the blacks keep on working,
the Arabs selling,
the French strolling and resting,
and the sun blazing.

Before i move out of this blog i recall buying a book Blackbird Bye Bye (April Bernard), probably the earliest of books i have bought most likely from Chennai. What events led me to buy this book i don’t recall. It couldn’t be with someone since i don’t prefer company while buying books. Intriguing since i wasn’t really much into English poetry those days...bit of Tagore and some Malayalam from some magazines while travelling were my indulgences, i was in my early 20s roaming around for job- quite far from nuanced world of poetry!!. Whatever may be the case this book has been with me for a long time now. And i am not complaining, it has some beautiful poems. The collection also has won Walt Whitman Award...i particularly like this poem

Satan Moves Mysteriously

We seek a slogan, and find only the old ones.
We need revolution, but settle
for bad manners. Who will be the one
to strip the uniform of its stars,
splash mud on the trousers of El Exigente,
while the state borders are ringed
by lethal picket fence posts?
A few men have been towering over us,
blocking the light in the city streets.
Meanwhile, hands are blown off, crops die,
Buildings implode, perishing, want, and sorrow follow.
Not enough left in my mouth to spit.