Mohanakrishnan's poems are an absolute pleasure to read - and surprisingly deep, sometimes even surrealistic. A heady combination, like sweet wine whiMohanakrishnan's poems are an absolute pleasure to read - and surprisingly deep, sometimes even surrealistic. A heady combination, like sweet wine which can get you drunk when you don't expect it. For example, consider the following ode to an earth-mover (of all things)!
O machine which levels mountains When you scoop up earth with your hands If you see something like a ball, stop; Just give a hoot to inform us: For we had buried it long back In the hope that it will grow into a ball-tree.
The juxtaposition of modern machinery with childhood innocence is typical of this poet. In fact, a subtle pathos of lost childhood and that of a bullied child permeates his poetry.
Lord Krishna is also a passion with him (as with many Indian poets), but his take on him is unique. In the poem Jagadbhakshakan ("The World Eater"), he sees him as a universal consumer: as is logical, as Krishna, the irreverent stealer of butter and milk, is associated with food from childhood. The legend of Yasoda (his mother) seeing all three world's in the child's mouth, the legend of Krishna killing Putana the demoness by sucking out her life through the nipple, the legend of the Lord eating a single curry leaf out of Draupadi's pot and filling the stomachs of countless sages... all are mentioned here. In the end, the poet wills Krishna to come and steal from his heart.
Mohanakrishnan injects his innocence and humour into the discussion of serious social issues also. In his poem Ramanum Rehmanum ("Raman and Rehman" - a variant of the standard term, Ram and Rahim in Hindi, to signify the generic Hindu and Muslim), Raman is talking to Rehman, his childhood friend. The poem, which begins in chatty manner ("Hey Rehman! This is your pal Raman..."), goes to describe Raman's puzzlement at what makes them different. Various childhood exploits are remembered where both are seen to be more or less similar. Then he describes a masturbation competition (where both produced exactly equal amounts of semen) when they first discovered "that difference" between them! (The poet doesn't elaborate, but we can all guess what it is.) Then comes the last line, which packs a terrific wallop because of the childish way it's uttered:
Shall we cut that thing off? After all, we grew up playing together...
The ultimate way to make Hindus and Muslims equal - castration.
A terrific collection, to be read and savoured again and again....more
Like When We Were Very Young, this is also a terrific compilation. I love it when an adult can see through a child's eyes without losing his "adult-neLike When We Were Very Young, this is also a terrific compilation. I love it when an adult can see through a child's eyes without losing his "adult-ness". Milne's poetry is simple and beautiful, and his humour can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh need no introduction. Quite a few of the poems in this book are about the duo. Milne accomplishes the extraordinary feat of seeing from the realistic and make-believe viewpoint at the same time (something which comes as second-nature to children, but we lose it as we grow up): therefore, Pooh is a live character to Christopher, even when he knows that he is nothing but a toy (the poem Us Two and The Friend).
There are a lot of nonsense poems about silly grownups, quite a few of them kings and emperors, but behaving like spoilt children-a child's view of himself, maybe! (Or a rather uncomfortable thought - is it so childish? Don't dictators behave like spoilt kids on a rampage - with much deadlier results than Milne's characters produce, of course.) There are poignant poems of a child's world which so incomprehensible to adults so that they shoo him away (Come Out With Me). Also, there is the delight only a child can experience, such as a race between two raindrops (Waiting At The Window). There are even profound philosophical questions which plague a young mind (Explained).
But for me, the poem which captures the quintessence of childhood in this collection is Buttercup Days, about Anne and her man(!), especially these four lines:
What has she got in that little brown head? Wonderful thoughts which can never be said. What has she got in that firm little fist of hers? Somebody's thumb, and it feels like Christopher's.
Anne and Christopher, among the buttercups. Pure childhood bliss!
A sample of Ogden Nash (maybe not all from this book!)
A Word to Husbands
To keep your marriage brimming, With love in the loving cup, Whenever you're
A sample of Ogden Nash (maybe not all from this book!)
A Word to Husbands
To keep your marriage brimming, With love in the loving cup, Whenever you're wrong, admit it; Whenever you're right, shut up.
May I join you in the doghouse, Rover? I wish to retire till the party's over. Since three o'clock I've done my best To entertain each tiny guest; My conscience now I've left behind me, And if they want me, let them find me. I blew their bubbles, I sailed their boats, I kept them from each other's throats. I told them tales of magic lands, I took them out to wash their hands. I sorted their rubbers and tied their laces, I wiped their noses and dried their faces. Of similarities there's lots Twixt tiny tots and Hottentots. I've earned repose to heal the ravages Of these angelic-looking savages. Oh, progeny playing by itself Is a lonely little elf, But progeny in roistering batches Would drive St. Francis from here to Natchez. Shunned are the games a parent proposes; They prefer to squirt each other with hoses, Their playmates are their natural foemen And they like to poke each other's abdomen. Their joy needs another woe's to cushion it, Say a puddle, and someone littler to push in it. They observe with glee the ballistic results Of ice cream with spoons for catapults, And inform the assembly with tears and glares That everyone's presents are better than theirs. Oh, little women and little men, Someday I hope to love you again, But not till after the party's over, So give me the key to the doghouse, Rover.
I Do, I Will, I Have
How wise I am to have instructed the butler to instruct the first footman to instruct the second footman to instruct the doorman to order my carriage; I am about to volunteer a definition of marriage. Just as I know that there are two Hagens, Walter and Copen, I know that marriage is a legal and religious alliance entered into by a man who can't sleep with the window shut and a woman who can't sleep with the window open. Moreover, just as I am unsure of the difference between flora and fauna and flotsam and jetsam, I am quite sure that marriage is the alliance of two people one of whom never remembers birthdays and the other never forgetsam, And he refuses to believe there is a leak in the water pipe or the gas pipe and she is convinced she is about to asphyxiate or drown, And she says Quick get up and get my hairbrushes off the windowsill, it's raining in, and he replies Oh they're all right, it's only raining straight down.
That is why marriage is so much more interesting than divorce, Because it's the only known example of the happy meeting of the immovable object and the irresistible force. So I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and combat over everything debatable and combatable, Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life, particularly if he has income and she is pattable.
The Lord in His wisdom made the fly, And then forgot to tell us why.
The turtle lives twixt plated decks Which practically conceal its sex. I think it clever of the turtle In such a fix to be so fertile.
I could go on and on.
His poetry is available all over the net, so whenever you are in a depressive mood, just google "Ogden Nash" and read a couple. Perfect antidote for the blues!...more
I usually do not read poetry in translation, unless (a)it's a narrative poem or (b)it's translated by a poet who has essentially recreated the poem, rI usually do not read poetry in translation, unless (a)it's a narrative poem or (b)it's translated by a poet who has essentially recreated the poem, rather than faithfully translating word by word. In my opinion, poetry owes its beauty to the cadence of the language, a kind of rhythmic beat as the words trip over one another, which is well nigh impossible to achieve in translation. However, I bought this book against my better judgement because it was going dirt cheap at a garage sale, and I felt the need to expand my reading horizon to ancient China.
Well, I should have listened to my judgement, as the poems fell flat with me. Wang Wei seems to be a nature poet, and all his poems are full of descriptions of the landscape. No doubt they would be beautiful in the original Chinese, but in English they seemed repetitive and uninteresting.
My review is not a judgement on the book, author or translator: it is just my reading experience based on my personal preferences.
I am not rating the book, as I do not feel qualified to do so....more
I first read this as a child of maybe 11-12 and could make neither head nor tail out of it. But the book (which belonged to my great-uncle) had impresI first read this as a child of maybe 11-12 and could make neither head nor tail out of it. But the book (which belonged to my great-uncle) had impressive illustrations for each quatrain, and this drew me in. It was only much later that I could appreciate the beauty of Fitzgerald's language (yes, I am talking about the Fitzgerald translation, which I understand is almost an original work by itself).
Awake! For the sun in the bowl of night Has flung the stone which puts the stars to flight; And lo! The Hunter of the East has caught The Sultan's turret in a noose of light.
The moving finger writes, and having writ Moves on: neither all thy piety nor wit Shall call it back to cancel half a line Nor all your tears, wash a single word o'it.
Here with a loaf of bread beneath the bough A book of verse, a jug of wine, and thou Beside me, singing in the wilderness; And wilderness were paradise enow!
Childhood is a beautiful country, one which I was loath to leave but had to, all the same. It is the inevitable tragedy of the human condition. But wrChildhood is a beautiful country, one which I was loath to leave but had to, all the same. It is the inevitable tragedy of the human condition. But writers have the magic in their pens, using which they can take us back to that hallowed place. This is one thing that A. A. Milne does wonderfully well. No wonder his books for children have outlived his more "serious" works.
Reading these poems, I could visit Christopher Robin's pre-school world of late mornings, drowsy afternoons and exciting days spent in the nursery engaged in such momentous pursuits as naming a dormouse, catching a beetle or stalking a brownie behind the curtains. In this world, a chair can become a pirate ship or a lion's cage and one has to be very careful to avoid the cracks in the pavement while walking, so that the bears who lie in wait are kept at bay. It is a time when life is just one big repository of wonder, when time has not become the tyrant it will soon be, and one is not goaded by the devil of purpose.
Where am I going? I don't quite know. Down to the stream where the king-cups grow- Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow- Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.
Where am I going? The clouds sail by, Little ones, baby ones, over the sky. Where am I going? The shadows pass, Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.
If you were a cloud, and sailed up there, You'd sail on water as blue as air, And you'd see me here in the fields and say: 'Doesn't the sky look green today?'
Where am I going? The high rooks call: 'It's awful fun to be born at all.' Where am I going? The ring-doves coo: 'We do have beautiful things to do.'
If you were a bird, and lived on high, You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by, You'd say to the wind when it took you away: 'That's where I wanted to go today!'
Where am I going? I don't quite know. What does it matter where people go? Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow- Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.
Really, what does it matter where one goes? Ultimately, we all reach the same place....more
After a long and wretched flight That stretched from daylight into night, Where babies wept and tempers shattered And the plane lurched and whiskey splatAfter a long and wretched flight That stretched from daylight into night, Where babies wept and tempers shattered And the plane lurched and whiskey splattered Over my plastic food, I came To claim my bags from Baggage Claim
Around, the carousel went around The anxious travelers sought and found Their bags, intact or gently battered, But to my foolish eyes what mattered Was a brave suitcase, red and small, That circled round, not mine at all.
I knew that bag. It must be hers. We hadnt met in seven years! And as the metal plates squealed and clattered My happy memories chimed and chattered. An old man pulled it of the Claim. My bags appeared: I did the same.
The only poem I remember from the book. It was the first one, and had me hooked....more
This is an excellent effort - a novel entirely in sonnet format (including the chapter titles). I read this ages back, and was not very impressed. SinThis is an excellent effort - a novel entirely in sonnet format (including the chapter titles). I read this ages back, and was not very impressed. Since then I have become a fan of Seth's poetry, and I think if I read this now, it will go up by one star....more