BOOK REVIEW: Careless Whispers: Pritish Nandy Recreates the Best of Sanskrit Love Poetry

Careless Whispers: Pritish Nandy Recreates the Best of Sanskrit Love PoetryCareless Whispers: Pritish Nandy Recreates the Best of Sanskrit Love Poetry by Pritish Nandy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

This is the third in a series of [at least] three short, illustrated collections of love poetry. As with the others in the series, the poems are said to be based upon the work of historical poets though not – strictly speaking – translations of these poets’ work. The books were release in 1994 by Rupa & Co. with the sub-subtitle of “Classic India: Images of Love.” This book is different from the preceding volumes in a couple of ways that result in it having a different feel. First, the poems anthologize from the works of various poets rather than having a single inspiration. Second, they changed artists, and the artwork bears little resemblance to the previous volumes except with respect to being erotic in subject matter.

The book begins with a short introduction by Nandy that seeks to both introduce the reader to the anthology which serves as the basis for the poems included, as well as to explain that the poems are not translations but rather work with the gist of that poet’s verse to create new works, and why he took that approach. The source matter is said to have been originally anthologized by a Bengali Buddhist scholar named Vidyakara.

Beyond the introduction, the 50-ish pages are covered with poems and black and white line drawings. The poems are sparse free verse poems. Unlike the previous collections, it is quite clear where one poem begins and the next ends because these are attributed to different authors.

The artist who did the drawings is M. F. Husain. The drawings are not only monochrome, but are more crudely drawn and stylistic. (I’m not suggesting the artist is less skillful. They may well be purposely cruder, intending to reflect a historical artistic style rather than being modernistic like the previous volumes. The previous volumes’ art was very 1980’s.)

Despite the campiness of the titles, which are based on American pop tunes or romantic pop culture references, these books have insightful moments amid language that can sometimes drip with cliché and bland – if lustful — imagery.

If you read love poetry and run across a copy of this book, it’s worth a read.

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BOOK REVIEW: Unchained Melody: Pritish Nandy Rediscovers the Love Poems of Amaru

Unchained Melody: Pritish Nandy Rediscovers the Love Poems of AmaruUnchained Melody: Pritish Nandy Rediscovers the Love Poems of Amaru by Pritish Nandy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

This is the second in a series of [at least] three short, illustrated collections of love poetry. As with the others in the series, the poems are said to be based upon the work of historical poets (in this case, Amaru) though not – strictly speaking – translations of their work. The books were release in 1994 by Rupa & Co. with the sub-subtitle of “Classic India: Images of Love.”

The book begins with a short introduction by Nandy that seeks to both introduce the reader to Amaru and to explain that the poems are not translations but rather work with the gist of that poet’s verse to create new works, and why he took that approach. Amaru was a Sixth Century poet and anthologist. As for why Nandy rewrote, rather than translating from the Sanskrit, he offers an Italian quote that says that poetry translations are like women, “the more beautiful, the more unfaithful.”

Beyond the introduction, the 50-ish pages are covered with poems and colorful drawings. The poems are sparse free verse poems, and it’s not always clear where one is meant to begin and another end. Because the topic throughout is love, sex, and romance, and the imagery thereof, the poems often flow together — whether that was intended or not is not clear. One can choose to read them as short pieces or as a longer flowing pieces.

The artist who did color drawings (the look to be colored pencil drawings) is Samir Mondal. The plates are always erotic, sometimes symbolically so, but in most cases explicitly so – involving nude figures or sensuous lips.

Despite the campiness of the titles, which are based on American pop tunes or romantic pop culture references, these books have insightful moments amid language that can sometimes drip with cliche and bland – if lustful — imagery.

If you read love poetry and run across a copy of this book, it’s worth a read.

View all my reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Untamed Heart: Pritish Nandy Rediscovers the Love Poems of Bhartrhari

Untamed Heart: Pritish Nandy Rediscovers the Love Poems of BhartrhariUntamed Heart: Pritish Nandy Rediscovers the Love Poems of Bhartrhari by Pritish Nandy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

This is the first in a series of [at least] three short, illustrated collections of love poetry. As with the others in the series, the poems are said to be based upon the work of historical poets (in this case, Bhartrhari) though not – strictly speaking – translations of their work. The books were release in 1994 by Rupa & Co. with the sub-subtitle of “Classic India: Images of Love.”

The book begins with a short introduction by Nandy that seeks to both introduce the reader to Bhartrhari and to explain that the poems are not translations but rather work with the gist of that poet’s verse to create new works, and why he took that approach.

Beyond the introduction, the 50-ish pages are covered with poems and colorful drawings. The poems are sparse free verse poems, and it’s not always clear where one is meant to begin and another end. Because the topic throughout is love, sex, and romance, and the imagery thereof, the poems often flow together — whether that was intended or not is not clear.

The artist who did color drawings (the look to be colored pencil drawings) is Samir Mondal. The plates are always erotic, sometimes symbolically so, but in most cases explicitly so – involving nude figures or sensuous lips.

Despite the campiness of the titles, which are based on American pop tunes (except this one which appears to be taken from an American romantic comedy film), these books have insightful moments amid language that can sometimes drip with cliche and bland – if lustful — imagery.

If you read love poetry and run across a copy of this book, it’s worth a read.

View all my reviews

Sea Haiku


liquid metal
shape-shifting silver seas
ribbed and rippling

 

tiny crabs
writing alien script
high tides erase

 

turquoise water
bound by brown patches
a tidal maze

 

tiny limpid fish
braver than your bigger peers
drifting as they dart

 

tsunami swamped
moments under water
forever changed

POEM: A Certain Madness

there’s a certain madness
running through this world
times of tiding gladness
lightning bolts are hurled

discombobulation
in the soul of state
riding tides of nation
as we’re dodging fate

singing songs of nowhere
drumming beats of now
stumbling down the upstairs
counting whys and hows

subcutaneous drum beat
sinking to the bone
sitting in the fire seat
deflecting all the stones

so many without sin
or so they seem to feel
tossing stones on whim
sharpening their steel

Crazy Wisdom Sonnet

one can’t get to that sacred place direct
one must pass through a station called CRAZY
your mind and that wild line don’t intersect
and the path between is dim and hazy
you’ll find there is no you, you can detect
as you flicker in and out, mind-phasing
til on the far side emerges perfect
a mind that fires bright and remains blazing

beware he who values his sanity
above the wisdom of this space-less place
flashing sane is just a passing vanity
but madness brings a timeless kind of grace

It’s venturing through the dark that steals will,
but venturing through the dark steels the will

POEM: Half a Hundred Hungers

1.) nose hunger happens when you leave the building in the predawn hours and the scent of bacon or baking bread cinches against the stomach

2.) hunger of social convention is when one eats a slice of granny’s pumpkin pie because one can’t be rude, even though one just scarfed down a burrito moments before

3.) the desperate hunger of the lanky kid I once saw in a cafeteria snatching waste food off strangers’ trays as they moved down the tray return conveyor to be washed

4.) eye hunger upon seeing the foodie’s perfect plate: clean, geometric, and heeding the proper balance of white space — though only vaguely looking like food

5.) the savage hunger of bared teeth seen in North Korean villagers when the famine got so bad that people’s bodies self-cannibalized the fatty tissue of their lips

6.) dilemma hunger in which one must decide whether to feed the body or some impulse beyond reason

7.) hunger for affection: a drive to feel loved sometimes expressed through the presentation of cookies and cake

8.) hunger for attention: a drive to be noticed sometimes expressed by how many grapes one can fit in one’s mouth

9.) hunger gone automatic is observed when one’s hand puts a candy  in one’s mouth before one’s conscious mind is even aware one has done so

10.) hunger for oblivion: when one east the poison, knowing it will kick one into the abyss

11.) hunger for comfort is seen when one craves any familiar food

12.) hunger for the exotic is seen when one craves anything but the familiar

13.) sexual hunger is displayed by one who looms over his food, lustily partaking of it while loosing himself in waves of euphoric pleasure

14.) jealous hunger: when one loves a food so much that one suffers pangs of envy upon seeing someone else order it

15.) over-the-hump hunger is the phase of fasting during which one no longer believes one will “literally, die of hunger,” but during which there remains a vague and persistent hunger of which one can be readily distracted

16.) sensational hunger: when a hunger becomes a mere sensation, devoid of value assignment

17.) stupid hunger is experience when the brain says, “no more thinking until I know that blood glucose is rising”

18.) hulking hunger occurs when low blood sugar sends one into furious rants about inane topics such as wallpaper patterns and the sales tax on a pack of chewing gum

19.) empathetic hunger is experienced when you see someone who looks like he is starving, even though you are fully fed

20.) ice cream hunger typically takes place when one is stuffed, but when one is confident that there are voids and crannies in one’s food pile into which the ice cream can melt, and that, furthermore, the cold, creamy goodness will somehow lubricate one’s digestive track to provide a discernible benefit

21.) mineral deficiency hunger: when you see a salt block out for cows or deer and think, “wonder if it’d be alright if I got up on that?” Eww! But seriously, it’s when you’re jonesing for a bag of chips

22.) calculated hunger: when one isn’t hungry but concludes that one should be hungry based on the when and what of ones most recent meal

23.) travel hunger is when you aren’t hungry but you know a sandwich on your budget airline will give you ptomaine and that by the time you get to the hotel you’ll have shifted into hulking hunger [18] — it’s generally a rationalization for having a brownie from the Costa Coffee

24.) breaking bad hunger is the point at which one is so hungry one will resort to thievery

25.)  requited hunger is the rare hunger for foods, such as crocodile, that can be equally hungry for one

There are so many hungers I don’t think I’ve ever known:

thick hungers  [26]

thin hungers [27]

wanton hunger [28] (full disclosure: I’ve had wonton hunger [29], which is a hunger for little Chinese dumplings)

wishful hunger [30]

troublesome hunger [31]

burdensome hunger [32]

wild-eyed hunger [33]

intransigent hunger [34]

there are the unnameable [35] and unknowable [36] hungers that I don’t know whether I’ve experienced and can’t have had, respectively

and there’s dead hunger [37] that I’ve definitely not experienced

there are others that I’ve known:

sweet hunger [38]

sweet and sour hunger [39]

umami hunger [40] but not edamame hunger [41]

42.) forgetful hunger occurs when one was too busy — or distracted — to eat

43.) time contraction hunger is a desire to eat lunch not because one needs calories, but rather because one really wants the workday to be at least half over

44.) homicidal hunger: like “breaking bad hunger” [24] this is the point at which one would murder someone for a french fry

45.) first date hunger happens after one eats that salad designed to create a good impression only to find one is still starving

46.) six-second hunger occurs when you are so hungry that you consider the five-second rule null and void and will eat food off the floor no matter how long it takes you to pick it up

47.) pizza hungry is when you are only hungry for one food — pizza — and will opt not to eat if only other foods are available

48.) “Man vs. Food” hungry: this is not what it might seem. It’s when one is so hungry that one could still eat after having watched an episode of this show — a show which usually shines an ugly light on hedonistic culinary impulses

49.) pet food hungry is the level of hunger sufficient to make one willing to eat pet food

50.) physiological hunger: the urge one has to eat in order to supply calories and nutrients to one’s body

10 of My Favorite Books from 2018

10.) Here is Real Magic by Nate Stantiforth: A professional magician, disillusioned because he has lost the sense of wonderment that it’s his job to create, travels to India to look at magic anew.




9.) Superhuman by Rowan Hooper: An evolutionary biologist examines how extreme specimens of humanity got to be that way. How come some people easily manage fluency in a couple dozen languages while some of us stumble on just our native tongue? Why is it that some people can run 100 miles non-stop when the average person’s body would start disintegrating before 20? What is the role of genetics and epigenetics versus practice and will?




8.) Anarcha Speaks  by Dominique Christina: A collection of poems formed into the story of a slave woman used for medical experimentation by a man many have called “the father of modern gynecology.” The books is a rare mix of story, history, and poetry, but it isn’t a narrative poem in the usual sense of the term.




7.) The Book of Chocolate Saints by Jeet Thayil: A womanizing poet and painter living in New York returns to his native India for a final show of his work. Along the way, the reader is presented with a host of fascinating characters.




6.) The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories ed./trans. by Jay Rubin: This collection of Japanese short fiction includes works by Haruki Murakami, Natsume Soseki, Yukio Mishima, Banana Yoshimoto, and Akutagama Ryunosuke and covers a swath of the timeline from the days of the samurai to the meltdown at Fukushima Dai Ichi.




5.) Milkman by Anna Burns: A young woman tries to brush off the attentions of a mysterious character known as the Milkman, but is really in a fight to avoid becoming the center of attention generally.




4.) How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan: Pollan, best known for his works on food such as “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food,” tells the story of a resurgence of interest in psychedelic substances such as psilocybe mushrooms, LSD, and Ayahuasca for medicinal use as well as for mental and spiritual development. Included are descriptions of his experiences with mushrooms, LSD, Ayahuasca, and even a pyschoactive substance milked from the glands of a toad.




3.) Circe by Madeline Miller: This book tells tales of Greek Mythology with a lesser-known goddess at the fore. Circe is a daughter of the powerful sun god, Helios, but is an underdog character herself, which makes her stories all the more gripping.




2.) A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa: This is the story of a man who fled North Korea, leaving his family behind, during the famines of the 90’s. Ishikawa had a Japanese mother and a Korean father, and his father moved the family to rural North Korea in the late 1950’s under a “repatriation” program designed to gain workers for a war-torn North Korea while allowing Japan to offload some of the Koreans it’d forced to move to Japan as laborers during the Second World War.




1.) The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris: A love story set in the Nazi death camp in Poland. Based on a true story.

POEM: Avian Game Theory

a murder of crows harasses a hawk,

out to steal the meal that wriggles in its talons.

the hawk giving its all to fighting crow will lose its squirming prey.

no crow is match for a hawk,

but no hawk is match for the murder,

and so all birds go hungry.