On World Poetry Day

He was my first boyfriend. And he loved Walt Whitman. He made PPTs for me with his favorite quotes from Leaves of Grass.

Then came Daniel Ladinsky. And Hafiz. Hafiz and Ladinsky who threw my heart wide, wide open; who showed me that poetry has room for me and mine too.

Why do I love poetry? This:

There are others who welcome the transport poetry provides. They welcome it repeatedly. They desire it so much they start to crave it daily, nightly, nearly abject in their desire, seeking it out the way hungry people seek food. It is spiritual sustenance to them. Bread and wine. A way of transformative thinking. A method of transfiguration. There are those who honor the reality of roots and wings in words, but also want the wings to take root, to grow into the earth, and the roots to take flight, to ascend. They need such Ming and rising, such metaphoric thinking. They are so taken by the ecstatic experience—the overwhelming intensity—of reading poems they have to respond in kind. And these people become poets.

~ Edward Hirsch, How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry

Poetry, more than anything else, is the language of joy for me. It offers solace, reminding me often of what matters to me.

Poetry is this:

Absolutely Clear
Daniel Ladinsky & Hafiz, The Subject Tonight Is Love

Don’t surrender your loneliness
So quickly.
Let it cut more deep.

Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice
So tender,
My need of God

And also this:

If It Is Not Too Dark
Daniel Ladinsky & Hafiz, I Heard God Laughing

Go for a walk, if it is not too dark.
Get some fresh air, try to smile.
Say something kind
To a safe-looking stranger, if one happens
Always exercise your heart’s knowing.
You might as well attempt something real
Along this path:
Take your spouse or your lover into your arms
The way you did when you first met.
Let tenderness pour from your eyes
The way the Sun gazes warmly on the earth.
Play a game with some children.
Extend yourself to a friend.
Sing a few ribald songs to your pets and
Why not let them get drunk and wild!
Let’s toast
Every rung we’ve climbed on Evolution’s
Whisper, “I love you! I love you!”
To the whole mad world.
Let’s stop reading about God—
Jump to your feet, wave your fists,
Threaten and warn the whole Universe
That your heart can no longer live
Without real love!

I hope you encounter a few poems that find a resonance within you and help you start on your own poetic journey!

Introduce Yourself! BBAW Day 1

When two of my favorite book bloggers on the internetz co-host an event, I HAVE to be a part of it!


So here’s what you’re supposed to do on Day 1: Introduce yourself by telling us about five books that represent you as a person or your interests/lifestyle.

Let’s start with the newest one in this list—The Wee Free Men which I got around to reading after Ana’s heartfelt review of The Shepherd’s Crown, the last one in the Tiffany Aching series (The Wee Free Men is the first).

Why am I choosing this book? Because in Pratchett, and in Pratchett’s portrayal of Tiffany Aching, I have found a kindred spirit. Like I said in my review of The Wee Free Men: The Wee Free Men struck a deep and resonant chord with me. Its nine-year old protagonist reminded me of the girl I used to be though Tiffany Aching is WAAAYYYYYYY MORE smarter, and MUCH more put together than I ever was at her age! Even more, I felt this sense of familiarity that is hard to put words to. It was as if the nebulous mist that I carry around in my head had suddenly coalesced into words, and shapes, and forms! In Pratchett, I feel like I have found a kindred spirit.

the wee free men terry pratchettAlso, BOOKS! AREN’T THEY GIRNORMOUSLY AWESOME?!! I’m not a nine-year-old. Nor do I live on the chalks. Or have an army of tiny, blue tattooed fairies all around me. BUT oh, there is this sense of RECOGNITION, this feeling of the very depths of my soul being reflected in what Terry Pratchett writes that takes my breath away. (Did you notice how I carefully refrained from mentioning how I’m NOT a witch like Tiffany Aching is?)

Second is one of my favorite books of poetry by my favorite translator-poets of all time, Daniel Ladinsky: Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West. Ladinsky is famous for his translations, or non-translations according to many, of one of the greatest Sufi poets of all times, Hafiz. I’ve been reading his work for more than ten years now, and if Pratchett’s writings is my soul’s translation in prose, then Hafiz and Ladinsky are probably its poetic version. Here’s my favoritest of all Hafiz-Ladinsky collaborations:

all this time
the sun never says to the earth,

“You owe me.”

what happens
with a love like that—

it lights up the whole

The next one has to be Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. See, I’m the kind of person who thinks that life lies in the details of our day to day existence. I love celebrating the “big events” that mark our lives and ratcheting up words in their favor but what I love even more is finding the poetry in the everyday stuff of our lives. It just seems a tad stupid to me to leave happy feelings for only the “occasions.” The occasions matter of course but what about the morning sunlight, and the afternoon teas, and the quiet conversations and the deep breaths and that sort of stuff? Emily St. John Mandel agrees (Or so I think anyway!). And that is why I’m choosing Station Eleven as the third book that I think says something about me.

love poems from god daniel ladinskyFourth is The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I’m choosing this one because the tension that it depicts between Gogol and his parents struck very close to home for me. It’s not that Gogol doesn’t love his parents, nor that his parents don’t love Gogol, just that. . . there’s a weight of expectations, a lot of it stemming from the cultural milieu that is India, that puts them at cross-purposes with one another. Lahiri really captured the experience of generations of Indian parents and children in her book.

Fifth is not a book, but a poet, Mary Oliver. . . What do I say about her that is coherent and weaves together all my love for not only the images she paints but also the words that she paints them with? To say that she writes about nature would be to paint an incomplete picture. She talks about moments in time and often those moments feature oaks, and fishes, and herons, and “wild geese, high in the clean blue air.” But that’s not it. It’s what she does with those snapshots, mixing them up with her own essential self, that makes her poetry what it is. My current favorite from her is not even about nature. It’s just a four-liner that I often chant to myself:

Things take the time they take,
Don’t worry.
How many roads did Saint Augustine follow
Before he became Saint Augustine?

I also want to mention Walt Whitman though it’s only recently that I have started reading Leaves of Grass. I wish I could end every sentence that I write in relation to him with an exclamation point—such is Whitman’s exuberance and vigor. His vision and the all-encompassing largeness of it, and the generosity with which he proclaims from his poetic pulpit amaze and enthrall me each time that I dip in and out of his words.

So yes, that’s it from me. I would love to know what five books you think speak to who you are. And of course if you’re participating in BBAW, do leave a link to your own post!

Of being drunk on poetry

There is a review I planned
sitting half-finished

But I-
‘I am Blissful and Drunk and Overflowing’

This unexpected slight winter chill
in the balmy city of Mumbai
has made me think
of ‘a plain fired-clay cup,
the steam rising from a boiling teapot’
of that line that whispers itself to me often,
‘Everything is Waiting for You.’

I am thinking of those other winter nights
from years gone by
of sitting underneath the starlit sky
and of having my heart thrown wide open
where ‘Love
wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.’

I can hear David Whyte
and Hafiz and Daniel Ladinsky
And Mary Oliver and Jane Hirshfield

And I hear my soul
shouting back in recognition
rushing forward,
‘tripping over joy’


‘Everything is Waiting for you’ – David Whyte http://www.panhala.net/Archive/Everything_is_Waiting.html

‘I am Blissful and Drunk and Overflowing’ – ‘I heard God Laughing: Poems of Hafiz’ by Daniel Ladinsky

‘a plain fired-clay cup, the steam rising from a boiling teapot’ – Basho from The Heart of Haiku by Jane Hirshfield

‘Love wants to reach out and manhandle us, Break all our teacup talk of God.’ – ‘I heard God Laughing: Poems of Hafiz’ by Daniel Ladinsky

‘Tripping over Joy’. – ‘I heard God Laughing: Poems of Hafiz’ by Daniel Ladinsky