Monthly Archives: February 2014

Sonnets from Omkareshwar

After writing my last blog, I began to make the switch from erudite scholar to dashing sonneteer. This particular India trip has seen only a handful of new sonnets, which just leapt out of my mind after the Dionysian fashion. As I travelled, however, here & there I observed possible potential, sonnet subjects & being too endrenched in Jesus took notes accordingly to await a more salubrious day in the future to compose. That day, then, was today.

First I had to get to Omkerashwar, which involved an all night bus ride, which deposited me over the state border into Madhya Pradesh, on the outskirts of Indore at 5AM. There, in the blackness of pre-dawn, a kind police officer on the way to his ‘duty’ squeezed me into his car, which dropped me off 50 k away at Omkereshwar Road train station. A few minutes later i was the last man on a packed bus, clinging to safety at the doorway as we rumbled the last 15k to my destination.

omkareshwar

After taking pleasant rooms in the tourist-only Ganesh guest house, I began to compile the notes for 6 sonnets upon three sheets of paper, & this morning took them with a notebook to do some old fashione Apollonian composition. As opposed to the Dionysian – which is pure inspiration – the Appolonian method sees a proffessional focus on creating poetry, but poetry that feels lke it was inspired – a plastic muse if you will. When composing their long epics, poets such as Homer & Dante could not count on being inspired in every moment, & had to develop the ability to create poetry from sheer technique & willpower.

Taking breakfast in the main square of Omkeraswar, I observed two goats engaged in a head-butting duel. This prove the catalyst for the days work, the spark that lit the poesis that had built up in my banks of creativity. The holy town of Omkerashwar is spread over two sides of a river, connected by two lofty impressive & modern footbridges, lined with beggars & men charging 10 rupees to take a photo of you & print it out. Over the bridges, one comes to a tranquil island, formed from the meeting of the mighty Narmada & Kaveri rivers. Wandering the island, I tossed off 4 sonnets by 10 AM, & another an hour later, after which my poesis for the day have dried out. 70 lines wasnt a bad effort; but in the full throes of Axis & Allies I could do 200+ lines a day without feeling tired.

800px-Omkareshwar-Jyotirlinga

After writing yesterday’s blog, I began to make the switch from erudite scholar to dashing sonneteer. This particular India trip has seen only a handful of new sonnets, which just leapt out of my mind after the Dionysian fashion. As I travelled, however, here & there I observed possible potential, sonnet subjects & being too endrenched in Jesus took notes accordingly to await a more salubrious day in the future to compose. That day, then, was today.

Yesterday I compiled the notes for 6 sonnets upon three sheets of paper, & this morning took them with a notebook to do some old fashione Apollonian composition. As opposed to the Dionysian – which is pure inspiration – the Appolonian method sees a proffessional focus on creating poetry, but poetry that feels lke it was inspired – a plastic muse if you will. When composing their long epics, poets such as Homer & Dante could not count on being inspired in every moment, & had to develop the ability to create poetry from sheer technique & willpower.

Taking breakfast in the main square of Omkeraswar, I observed two goats engaged in a head-butting duel. This prove the catalyst for the days work, the spark that lit the poesis that had built up in my banks of creativity. The holy town of Omkerashwar is spread over two sides of a river, connected by two lofty impressive & modern footbridges, lined with beggars & men charging 10 rupees to take a photo of you & print it out. Over the bridges, one comes to a tranquil island, formed from the meeting of the mighty Narmada & Kaveri rivers. Wandering the island, I tossed off 4 sonnets by 10 AM, & another an hour later, after which my poesis for the day have dried out. 70 lines wasnt a bad effort; but in the full throes of Axis & Allies I could do 200+ lines a day without feeling tired.

You could really see & feel the poverty of Omkereshwar, & just as I was leaving the island, I was accosted by a couple of kids asking for some rupees, which I obligingly gave seeing as Omkereshwar is an extremely cheap place to be. However, just as pigeons flock & flutter to a spot where a generous human scattered bread crumbs, I was suddenly accosted by 30+ kids asking for rupees. I solved the problem by marching them all to the nearest sweetshop, lining them up in a row, & distributing three different kinds of sweets to their little outstreched hands. The whole thing cost me 90p, & I think the best money Ive ever spent – I mean 30 happy children for the price of a double snickers!

So, I returned to my guest house, perched high on the cliffs with a glorious view of the area, typed up my sonnets & wrote this blog.. I find that when returning to the poetic arts, one must not only learn to fall in love with poetry fall once more, but to fall in love with ones own poetry. For me, the past few hours have been a lovely validation of my vocation & I do hope you enjoy my morning’s efforts.

OMKERASHWAR

One morning in the bustling JP Choke
That serves Omkerashwar’s most sacred space
Of rivers, lingams, islanders & Ram,
I heard a solid thud & turn’d to see
Between the unused spearheads of their horns
Two proud white street goats crack each other’s skulls
Then rear again as if them did salute
Each other’s prowess in the arts of war.

A gather’d crowd stood wincing at each blow
Until the loser stagger’d from the bout
To ten yards later find some unshell’d peas
These I stroll’d past, quite bridgewards, to the isle
Where Kaveri & old Namarda meet,
& Jyortirlinga lifts the married mind.

1947

Nineteen Forty-Seven, an Imperatrix sighs
Framed by broad blue heaven from Red Fort’s rampart flies
India’s solution to all its civil pains
External compution unlocks, unlinks its chains
Hard-won independence shall thunder thro’ the land
As Nehru sits & senses wide all about him stand
The ghosts of all those brutal brave uprisings fought
When Redcoats thought crude looting, rape & murder sport;

Stood chiefs of Saurashtra, Diwan Velu Thambi,
Oudh & Maharashtra, Gujurat’s proud Koli,
Whose native destiny bled for a foreign power.
But now, at last, the great adventure may commence
Entrusted with her fate, dauntless before th’immense
Responsibility that comes come freedom’s hour

TWO LAUREATES

The Kolkatan will say, “My city makes me proud,”
For only yesterday, foot-picking thro the crowd
Two Nobel avatars had gelled with days on earth
Descended from the stars, imbibed by mortal birth,
Remarkable Tagore, from whose prolific pen
Words order’d to restore lost dignity to men
Thro’ poems, plays & song, short stories & ballets
He entertain’d the throng, for minds he made essays,
Grey dryad of Bengal, no praise of ye enough,
Now her morning stroll, a woman goes, grown tough
To dressing rancid sores, to scrubbing at gangrene
She opens up her doors to any libertine
Whose inscrutable pain, makes newer nurses faint,
Teresa, dress’d so plain, our gutter-dweller saint.

AGRIOPERATIONS

Sometimes this land to me feels too unreal
Here broken flip-flops make a toy-car wheel
While men hand outside carriages jam-pack’d
Lucky to take the train-tunnel intact

But this is India, her instinct sees
Survival in the leaf-fall of the trees
& under every duress makes amends
Surfing the roll & swell of bucking trends

To agriculture is this instinc due
Where mogri pounds the moonj, while the mastu
Pounds sugar, & the hacking gandasi
Cleaves bushels for the levelling godi…

Spend an hour in the fields of Haryana
My boy, ye shall crave to be a farmer!


THE BALLAD OF THE JALLIANWALLA BAGH

To Amritsar have new god’s come, think Nanak quite unkempt
Under-the-thumb, bullet & drum & floggings with contempt.

Stan Rowlatt is no Indophile, sending the suspicious
To prisons vile, & without trial, blaming them seditious

Hindu & Muslim merge as one, & protest here in peace
By setting sun shall British gun the dogs of death release

Without warning General Dyer flings a thousand bullets
O ruthless fire that host entire decimates in minutes

A dozen dozen fill the well, a thousand others strewn
On such foul hell sheer grief befell beneath a witches’ moon

The soldiers dropp’d their lances down & did whate’er they could
Their lesson sounds all through the town, ‘Your protest drowns in blood!’

Tagore recoils in clear disgust with influential friends
British blood lust has breach’d his trust, him back his knighthood sends!

Omkerashwar
25-2-2014
(one week til my flight home)

Bonus Bit

So this morning (the 26th) I was up before Dawn again, waking to a damp but refreshed Omkeraswar. Last night a wild storm had raged all round, roaring winds & monsooons & constant flashes of electric light, that after the power-cut lit up – if only for a second or so – Omkeraswar as if ’twere day. I had decided to compose the sonnet I left yesterday – plus another one I had in mind, a transcreation of a Vedic hymn.

Crossing the bridge to the island once more, I headed for its eastern tip & found myself at a fabulous, millenium-old Chola temple, just as the red orb rose out of the very confluence of the Narmada & Kaveri; a lovely poignant moment that justified getting up so early again. I’ve realised that if I want to create a great poem this summer, I need to start writing poetry every day – if only a little – in order to undam the vast potential in poesis that has been building up for a year or two now. Anyhow, here’s those two new sonnets;

THE LAST MUGHAL

Already old when to the throne he came
An emporer, yet only one by name,
Whose palace pack’d with princes penniless
& empty treasury, alieving stress
He pass’d his days perfecting Urdu rhymes
Alas, this not the zeitgeist of his times,
For Indians have seen with open eyes
The British are but bandits in disguise
“Uprise & fight!” “Be free!” amidst the dead
An ancient man becomes the figurehead
That for a while the changing world defied
Til Delhi fell, with nowhere left to hide
He found his sad life exiled in Rangoon
Approaching death, whistling an ustap’s tune.

TRIVIKRAMA

Sweet Soma-juice I sup Vishnu to praise
O! steed-bourne lord who stands on lofty hills
Let us winess his three Earth-measur’d steps
Three widely-striding paces thro the spheres
& laud him like some wild, steep-scouring beast
For midst those steps all creatures must abide
Yes! Vigour give to Vishnu, many-hymn’d,
Who set himself apart & carv’d three worlds
Three sweet & imperishable places
& holds aloft, alone, all elements
His mansion to attain midst happy gods
Let us up to his highest footstep strive
Where down on humblest oxen in the home
His bull-light showers joyous benefits!

The Perfect Ten

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Well, that’s me finally out of Goa. I took an all-night bus up to Pune, arriving there at 6.30 this morning. Not wanting to linger, I was off before the sun was up, on a 5 hour & 200 k journey north through the Deccan plateau, past rows of beige-green tablet-top hills, to the city of Nashik. The reason being is there’s some Agastya stuff to look at in the area I can squeeze into my Jesus Jigsaw Book, which apart from tomorrow’s late additions, is finished!

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All alone in Keri it took me about 7 weeks to write, & I’m chuffed with the results. My time in Keri also saw me driving in the 8k to Arambol to DJ Tinky Disco every Saturday night at a beach-side joint called Coco-Loco – I got paid to play & I’ve been improving & digitising mi disco set along the way – there’s gonna be some proper funky happenings when I get back!

Victor Pope left India on December 17th, but three weeks later Al Roberts – Tinky Disco’s bass player – turns up with his guitar slung over his shoulders. Cue gigs & drugs & jamming on his rooftop with all & sundry. Also with him were two Scottish lassies I know; Teri, who joined me Djing, & Lorraine who was in India for the first time. A few days later it seemed like the rest of Scotland turned up, swelling our numbers to about eight, to which number was added Cornish Stella, 67-year old Canadian Brian, Irish Martin (with one leg) & a Yankee called Geoff.

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Inevitably our little tribe splintered, & Terry & Al went down to Patnem, staying in the Magic Garden, to which I tooed & froed on a few occasions, playing gigs with Al & even djing on Valentine’s Day at Mickey’s Bar. The reason I didn’t stay down there is the fact Ive been shacked up with this red-hot Russian bird for the past few weeks.

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Her name is Albina, but at first she was number eight, as in the eighth girl I’ve slept with since my ex dumped me! The first two were back in Edinburgh before I left, the next three in Patnem over a space of 5 days in December, & then 5 more in Arambol making the perfect ten.

My Albina
My Albina

Mi Mojo’s definitely working at the moment. Anyway number 8… I mean Albina… was just too much fun to ignore & so we shared domestic bliss until yesterday when she flew home to Russia, & I set off to Delhi. I need to be there by 9am on March 4th for my flight to Manchester, & have decided to go overland, charge myself up on the Indian chaos & land in the UK running…

Nashik_during_1989_Kumbh_Mela

Nashik
21-2-14