Poem Unlimited, Augsburg

Over the weekend I attended and spoke at the Poem Unlimited Conference at Augsburg. The venue, the Augsburg University, has a beautiful campus. The trees were in Autumn hues. I was narrated the story of a duck family in the University pond. A ledge was removed from one of the campus buildings so to lessen diving deaths in ducklings. The Augsburg University has its own resident cat with its Facebook page. A selfie with the cat is a must-do. I did see and pet the cat, however, missed taking a selfie.

Prof. Wai Chee Dimock gave the Key Note lecture on “Recycling the Gilgamesh.” The body was described in all its fragility. The violent element of death, and the processes we undertake to recycle the body were analyzed. The aggressive factor in recycling as an act of degradation offered a new way to look at biodiversity. After all, everything natural disintegrates, it is that which is man-made persists. What then happens to poetry as it ventures into art and theatre. In order to stay, we must recycle, to use again provides longetivity. But something, the person, object, aspect, gets lost in the act of recycling.

I enjoyed listening to talks about the Romantics, Czesław Miłosz, the African-American sonnet, and Walt Whitman’s Sufi side. I presented a paper on Agha Shahid Ali and Roger Sedarat’s ghazals, in which I explored how the beloved and witness lie entangled in their identity within the form.

The conference offered moments of insight and also a vision of what the future might hold. As we discussed and debated the transcience of physical matter, the regenerative spirit of nature, I left Augsburg sensing a hopefulness. Perhaps, the season, the theme, and my state of being mingled to create a mind that was prepared for Winter and the promise of a Spring – that always follows.

Friday Book Market at Spui

Every Friday there is a Book Market at the Spui, Amsterdam. On this day there is a peppy vibe to the place. Antique books, quirky books, second-handbooks, new books and forgotten books all find their way to stalls here. The keepers are friendly. People seem to have time. A certain stillness. Browse and be. No hard sell. No interruptions. The only contact is between you and the books. You touch, you flip pages, you read a page here and a blurb there, and you move on.

I come here to absorb the spirit. Often to remind myself why I made the choices I did. Words become dust motes. People fade to the background. Sounds filter to a muffled white state. I leave parts of myself in the corners. And I collect new ones that I want to carry.

Of all the things I have experienced in this city – this market is closest to my heart. Along with the OBA. That I will save for another day. When it’s not Friday. Till then you will find me here. 


Liars, Cadavers and Vultures

“The liar often suffers from amnesia. Amnesia is the silence of the unconscious.” (Rich, Adrienne. Arts Of The Possible: Essays and Conversations. 32)

Cadavers are Useful Things
Vultures in wake
Shoulders tense
Gawk, squawk
Peck, peck, peck
Delicious diseased flesh

Old World or New World?
Filled with acid
Leak, leak, leak
Urine over flying feet
Bald-headed giddy madness

A crocodile attacked a vulture
Picking on a putrid hippo
A sea of flies
Waves of maggots
Muddied waters

He tells me, “You must learn how to swim.”
“The Lake Isle of In-This-Free,” I laugh.
He rubs the back of my mind, “Sab theek hoga.”
I nod, “Zaroor.”

Dilruba Pe Dil Aaya

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I discovered Dilruba Ahmed’s poetry in the early part of this year and it has stayed with me.

The first poem I read was: “Snake Oil, Snake Bite” and it lingered over my days, making me smile at odd-moments as I remembered its tender irony.

Imagine my joy when I discovered she had written a ghazal. Each couplet such a nugget to carry around. Don’t miss the witty: “In Ramadan, we’ll break our fast with dates and wine— / Must we pray in one room and dance in another?” Well, must we?

[Click on the image to read the complete ghazal.]


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