‘Contemporary poetry’ is a misnomer. Poetry of one age does not cease to be so for another age. True poetry stretches itself beyond the charts of time. As it never withers, the poets are blessed with perpetual youth. Old poets visit us through new faces. They sing old ballads in new rhymes. And then we name them ‘contemporary poets’ (even though we know how absurd it is).
Today on World Poetry Day, three members of our reading club talk about three such ‘contemporary poets’ whose words have tossed their minds like pines caught in a wild storm.
Sudip Bhattacharya on Charles Bukowski
I love reading Bukowski, because that dirty old man needs to be remembered and perhaps not exactly loved, but admired. The man could write a poem about his damn cat’s balls, for gods sake. But I suggest “Purple Glow”. He goes to a strip club and thinks about Christ.
“she dances so fiercely now in
the purple glow,
purple does something strange to me:
there was a night
30 years ago
I was drunk, true, and there was
a purple Christ in a glass box
outside a little church and I
smashed the glass, I broke
the glass, and then I reached in and touched
He was only a dummy and I heard the
sirens then and started
and yes, I am not kidding, Bukowski has a poem called “Staring at my Cat’s Balls”. Give it a read.
Arkoprobho Biswas on Eugenio Montale
In this world of agony and anxiety what one runs after to find in a poet? A little looking back? A little recapitulation of what we have lost throughout? No, the business doesn’t end here, there is more to it, after a shriek of a battle cry one needs silence to speak for itself- silence, that is the beginning of the story. When I chanced to leaf through ‘Il limone albero’ (The Lemon Tree), I chanced to regain a fresh air which scents just like the beginning of the story- where it all started. You know, what I mean by ‘It’?- The ‘Becoming’ of a poet, in a sacred world of nothingness. Yes that’s the world we are often left with when a war ends. We are left not with a shore but with silence! From then on I have been a fan of Eugenio Montale, a poet to charm you with his sense of association between the Sicilian natural beauty and what goes on inside us.
The poets laureate live in a world
Of plants whose names we’re not likely to say.
But the roads I love
Lead to weed-thronged gullies where a boy
Can catch an eel sometimes
In a shrinking puddle:
Narrow paths that wind around the hills,
Drop through clumps of cattails
And enter an orchard, the rows of lemon trees…’’
Yes, no one wants to make it explicit. Read it, you will know..!!”
Suman Mukherjee on Warsan Shire
I came to know about Warsan Shire like most of you did. Her popularity soared high after poem ‘Home’ became famous when the Syrian mass migration reached a critical position. A facebook post caught my attention
“you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.”
These lines struck me so hard that I came twice awake. Thus, it began with ‘Who is this Warsan Shire?’ Such unflinching honesty and power of expression could hardly be found. And she never invents contexts, she has lived through every word she wrote.
She is someone whom I can call ‘poet’.