Monday, March 3, 2014

Conducting a poetry workshop at Ramjas College

On the 28th of February, I conducted my first poetry workshop ever. :-) Not that I claim to know much, either in the line of writing poetry, or by way of conducting workshops. But it was nice of Ramjas College Literary Society students, who had seen some of my published poems as well as this blog, to take the initiative to invite me.

It was just a one and a half hour long event, in the middle of much rain. I began by reading some supremely bad poetry, which I had very wickedly collected from online journals and other people's blogs. So we talked about what was wrong with them. Thankfully, I had a group of people who could see that something was terribly wrong with them.

Then I told them about some of the things which have helped me learn to write, over the past few years, like the age old adage of "show rather than tell". We talked about line breaks, where to use repetition and where not to, stuff like that. Also Wordsworth's  "powerful overflow of passionate feelings recollected in tranquility" because to me that is what poetry is, an intense experience, thought or feeling which you later recollect,r reflect upon and put into words. Sort of.

Then I read out loads and loads of "good"poems to them, ranging from various themes such as love poetry, protest poetry, feeling poetry,nature poetry,place poetry. I went over some of the common pitfalls such as protest poetry often turning into a jingoistic sloganeering,or become dictatorial and pedantic, and the common traps of falling into blue skies and ethereal splendour while writing nature poetry. Constantly taking examples from the much "esteemed" poets I talk about in the next paragraph. Also how writing about "grief" for example works better when you write the Dickinson way (Or like me :P ) where you reflect and write about emotions of grief and pain in a universal way so that anyone can connect with it, without going into the specificities and particularities of your own situation.

So I read out all my favourite poets. :D  People loved the poets and poems I selected for the reading packet. I read out from Dickinson, Plath, Ted Hughes, Adrienne Rich, William Carlos Williams, Shakespeare, Gerard Manley Hopkins, e.e.cummings, to Indian poets such as Arun Kolatkar (my personal favourite from the slightly older post-Independance era), Imtiaz Dharker, to some of the very contemporary (the younger generation) of Indian poets whom I absolutely love and could not resist.

So, that was it. :-) I meant to ask them to write and then discuss their poems but it got too late for that. We started too late because of certain hassles. Well, so perhaps I spoke too much and gave them a whole overdose of poems in too short a time, and perhaps it could have been more interactive if we had more time, and as I said, frankly speaking, I don't feel I know so much about poetry, I mean, I definitely FEEL a lot but I don't KNOW a lot. :P 

But somehow, I managed. Toodle-oo folks!

'Flowers for Your Hair' in Northeast Review

'Flowers for Your Hair' was published,as I wrote earlier, in Northeast Review last month. The link is here. I am also putting the poem here below.

Flowers for Your Hair

These starry violets
with their thin green stems
and their aster-y white brethren
How would they look amassed
in the jungle of your long black hair
green stems tendrils intertwining
and stars shining? Or should I give you
a bunch of those gorgeous butterfly-
flowers- deep orange, red and yellow?
They would stand brilliantly
against the dense blackness of your hair.
There are some fake light orange ones
they look like plastic when the sun
shines through them, no, I’d rather
not give you those. There are some
fallen flowers. Would you rather
have those, or freshly plucked ones?
What would you say to a bunch
of snowdrops, with that stray curl
you tuck behind your ear?
There’s a wealth of azure blue-purple-
-pink tufts in the far corner
I could give you those, a bit
of the sky. I could make a chain
of these white daisies with
blue-purple centres and tints of orange
and garland you with it. They bloom
with the sun and close at sunset.
There are some blue exotica
with rings of orange. I don’t know
if you’d fancy ‘em. There are the
laughing orange and yellow nasturtiums
they droop. A bit flimsy for your hair,
I think, they might not stay put.
I wonder if you’d care for marigolds
in a bright and cheerful mood, on
a sunny day, there are pale yellow ones,
and orange ones ,I call them liquid gold.
There are way too many flowers here, I am
surrounded by them, scraggly pea-pods,
tall hollyhocks, foxgloves and what not
some mild, some tempting, some guarding
But if you’d wind that black mass
and tie it in a bun, I’d give you
just one single poppy, wicked-
crimson, intense-passion, its
pods bursting with black seeds
pregnant with opiate desire.