Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lamakaan reading with Jayanta Mahapatra cancelled

The reading tomorrow (28th July) at Lamakaan has been cancelled.

Jayanta Mahapatra is unwell and will not be able to read. Do please pass the word on to those who intended to come to the reading.

Many apologies.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

weekend reading

1. While we're still talking about A Free Man, here's Supriya Nair's review in Mint Lounge.

2. Rahul Bhatia in Open says The Injured Are Everywhere. Every blast conjures every other blast.

3." I think there is nothing more distracting than a head of gorgeous hair." All 'autobiographies' should be about Magneto (via SN).

4. John Ashbery's three word contribution: "Alice was tired.'

5. If you feel like contributing to this display of laziness, feel free.

6. Those of you in Hyd, come for at least one of Jayanta Mahapatra's readings!

My three words: that is all.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jayanta Mahapatra in Hyderabad 25-28 July

Jayanta Mahapatra and Rabindra K. Swain will be in Hyderabad next week. There will be several readings; most them them are open. Do come, save the dates, let people know etc.

Monday 25th July 1pm-4pm: University of Hyderabad, Department of English.
Readings by; Jayanta Mahapatra, Rabindra K. Swain, Hoshang Merchant, Subhashini Kaligotla, Sridala Swami.

Tuesday, 26th July, 3pm-5pm: OUCIP, Osmania University
Readings by: Jayanta Mahapatra, Rabindra K. Swain, Hoshang Merchant, Subhashini Kaligotla, Sridala Swami.
Wednesday, 27th July 6pm (please check the time & location, if you're a member of the Poetry Society of Hyderabad): Poetry Society of Hyderabad

Readings by: Jayanta Mahapatra.

Thursday, 28th July, 6.30pm-8.30pm: Lamakaan, Off Road No. 1, Banjara Hills

Readings by; Jayanta Mahapatra, Rabindra K. Swain, Hoshang Merchant, Subhashini Kaligotla, Sridala Swami.

A Free-to-Misread Man

I don't know what is more hilarious: that Palash Krishna Mehrotra read an entire book under the impression that it was fiction and reviewed it as such or that the books editor at the HT printed it without question.

Oh. Here's what I'm talking about.

Excerpts from Aman Sethi's book can be found here and here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Word of the Quarter: Haecceity

This word had been sitting on my desk on a yellow post-it, with mysterious numbers whose purpose I have now forgotten, for the last three months. Somewhere in a folder, among other post-its that I swept off my desk, it still sits half-stuck to another chanced-upon word.

I don't know where I read it, but I recognise it every time it reappears now. We smile faintly at each other in acknowledgement.

No we don't. A word like 'haecceity' is not whimsical. It just - how do I put this? - is. Which is why to even begin a sentence with 'a word like' and then follow it with 'haecceity' seems wrong.


There comes a moment while reading a collection, when my attention snags and then I really begin to read the poems. With me, this is never with the first few poems, which pass by the way a Films Division documentary passes.

Reading Roddy Lumsden's new collection, Terrific Melancholy, the first poem that sinks its hooks in is the 22nd one: 'Duology'. This is not the fault of the collection but mine. My attention is scattered and hard to rein in. But once I've been caught, I find more and more lines and poems I want to savour. 'Duology' has the word of the quarter. Two poems on I find my Word of the Day.


The Word of the Day is selvage. In my mind, it's always said by my mother, or some lady like my mother, as a word in the middle of a sentence in Tamil. For a long time it sounded like self-edge, which makes complete sense and is total nonsense all at once. It's most frequently heard at the tailor's and comes with a smell of new cloth and starch, of dark corners and bins full of odd-sized, bright tangles of left-over bits.

Nobody says selvage anymore. It's been stiched up by the picos and the falls and has fallen silent.

And is given voice again in Lumsden's'The Sign of O': 'that which dallies/ at the selvage of our apprehension, blinking/ seldom, as the Titan arum lily blooms;'

Or maybe not.


by Roddy Lumsden

Le jeu lugubre - not one of Dali's lighter pieces:
autoerotic, omnisexual, a spandulous whorl
of heads and hats and hands. Translated
by bottom feeders as The Lugubrious Game,
by the enlightened as Dismal Sport, the former
sends the arrow close to its quiddity, the latter
pins its haecceity to the canvas.
                                                    The way we dress
is beyond determination, gene-gleaned:
one girl looks a fool in a gown, another glides
into the nightlife in a catsuit; one lad squires
in his homodox jerkin, another skives in a flat cap
he knows is a black fib. History's dayjob
is to usher us closer to its shady marquee.
And so we age: easier to love, harder to desire.

from Terrific Melancholy, Bloodaxe Books, 2011.

This must be one instance where looking at the image which triggers an ekphrastic poem has done nothing for me. Maybe I'm done with Dali.

Give him a word, someone, and send him home.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

RIP Mani Kaul

Mani Kaul died yesterday in Gurgaon. He was only 66.

I remember watching Nazar for rather dubious reasons: there were a bunch of us applying to the MCRC in Jamia and we thought that was exactly the kind of place that might ask us questions about 'art' cinema. So we watched Nazar, Kasbah, Thoda Sa Roomani Ho Jaayen and a couple of other films, in the common room of our hostel. Other girls who were not applying to Jamia resented the taking over of their space for entertainment.

I remember the antique shop in the film as the one that is (I think) opposite the Regal in Colaba. The female lead was Kaul's daughter, and a friend from school. In one scene (I think) she jumps out of a window. And jumps and jumps and jumps. It also had Shekhar Kapur. It was the oddest sensation to watch someone you knew acting as the wife of someone you knew as famous.

Later, at film school, I watched Uski Roti and even later, The Cloud Door at IFFI, Mumbai. That was probably the biggest audience a Mani Kaul film ever had: the film was one of those commissioned for the Erotic Tales series and naturally people were falling all over themselves to see erotica for free in a theatre. I'm guessing they were disappointed - the film was beautiful, poetic, the best of the three they showed that time, but it suggested more than it showed. Kaul was the only one who understood that the erotic was about possibilities and not about fulfilment.

If this sounds nearly as vague and ungenerous as the Hindu's obit for the man, it is my ignorance speaking. This was a man who studied under Ritwik Ghatak and had a completely different - and therefore valuable - view on cinema. He was theoretically rigorous, widely read and, from the very little I've seen of him, curious about everything. And I don't remember much more about his films.

One time in school, when he was visiting, he gave a talk to the teachers and the senior students must have been cinema, but to me it seemed like it was about music. He had just finished, or was just about to finish, work on Siddheshwari and as I remember it, all his talk was about Hindustani music. He set up the backs of  many teachers when he stated that Carnatic music was more rigid and uncreative than Hindustani. Remember, we're talking about the school where ML Vasanthakumari lived and taught (Carnatic) music to children. He had his reasons for his opinions, not least his total immersion in the music of Siddheshwari Devi, and it isn't unreasonable that he held these views.

For a long time afterwards, though, remembering this talk, of which I retained nothing else but his pronouncement, I also thought that Hindustani music was more flexible and deep than Carnatic music. Ignorance. And the natural tendency of the young adult to strike poses.

It's time, I think, to revisit Mani Kaul. I wonder what I'll make of him post- Kiarostami, Tsai Ming-Liang, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Bela Tarr.

Here's Khalid Mohammed's obit. Here's Upperstall's tribute.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

3 Down. Cryptic

You should know that the stone I was attempting to roll Sisyphus-like is now behind me. I chose to walk around it. It's a kind of freedom, both yours and mine.

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Return of the Spaniard

If I had moustaches, they would be wilting and drooping. Where are the rains?! Is this any way to greet a returning heroine? This afternoon a few drops of rain rearranged the dust on the leaves. Where's the malhar? where're the kale megha? where are the peacocks dancing for joy? Where's all the exotica that's I have grown used to? ([vegetarian] Haggis. Highland sheep [to look at]. Deep-fried Mars bars.)


There is loot. There is nothing but loot, since I left all the warm clothes behind in London in order to make place for other, more important things. If you pressed me, I couldn't tell you why these other things occupied all the space in my baggage (or even what they were), seeing as I'd posted nearly every book I bought. I suppose you could say that I just never learned and kept buying more. I could name some folk who would be happy at my evident lack of control.

So the loot. I can't possibly name every book I bought. Among them are the books of friends I met/made, including Kathleen Jamie, Kona Macphee and Rob Mackenzie. Some were given to me and I wouldn't dream of refusing. Others were like a keeda in my head until I had acquired them. A couple were bought based purely on how amazing the poets reading their own work were.

In no particular order:

The Tree House and Findings  Kathleen Jamie

Perfect Blue  Kona Macphee

The Opposite of Cabbage  Rob Mackenzie.

Taller When Prone  Les Murray

Selected Poems, Revised and Expanded Charles Simic

The Heavy Petting Zoo and Changeling  Clare Pollard

Terrific Melancholy  Roddy Lumsden

Poems J.H.Prynne

And that's just the poems. Other stuff includes Creeley's The Gold Diggers, that Perec (which everyone seems to think I must already have), The Periodic Table and assorted other fiction and non-fiction of varying degrees of seriousness.

But wait for the next part.


I came back home to find that two friends of mine had sent on a belated birthday gift chosen from a  rather extravagant wishlist I'd sent out before I left. I had assumed - as any sensible person would who doesn't expect to see bookobssession in others - that they would choose one, maybe two books from that list.

They chose five.

Which five, you ask?

Pale Fire

Words in Air


The Emperor of Icecream and Other Poems

Poems J.H.Prynne.


Two copies of Prynne. Anyone who wants to buy one off me may mail me.


Speaking of Prynne, I was sitting at the window of a cafe in Cambridge, chatting with a friend, when she said, 'There's Prynne.'

And indeed, there he was, walking past, looking right then left before crossing the road. I felt fangirly in a way that I can't explain. Rather like a film student with a rapt look on her face who in a hushed, reverent voice says, 'There's Svankmajer!' to a general film-going audience that looks on with indulgent bemusement.


Anyway. Too lazy, too wilted to italicise and provide links to the books, poets etc. They're windmills and you're welcome to tilt at them if you wish.

How have you all been?