Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category



I’m feminine, I’m masculine.

I’m fearless, I’m scared.

I love reds, I hate reds.

Adventures seize me, adrenaline drives me.


I nurse, I ignore.

I care, I neglect.

I am, I am not.

Snakes I like, millipedes I dislike.


I love with viguor, I hate with choice.

I am mother, I am father.

I throw away, I hoard.

Friends adore me, others turn sour.


I do, I do not.

I’m impulsive, I think hard and long.

I love all, I look back at none.

I cower in remorse, I stand up.


I am feminine. I am masculine.

I am woman.



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Rating: 9.8/10 (4 votes cast)

Loneliness Squared

Review of Songs of a Solitary Tree: Graphical Verses of Sublime Snippets; Arun M. Sivakrishna, Partridge Publishing India 2014; pp 104
– Shana Susan Ninan

As the anthology’s name suggests, most of the poems in this book seems to stem from a solitary person. Words such as ‘lonely’, ‘alone’, ‘loneliness’ and ‘solitary’ abound on the pages. Even when we are surrounded by friends and family, are at work with a team, we tend to feel lonely. It’s a state of mind that we often find ourselves in, for varied reasons.

Sivakrishna’s words are evocative and are intense with Imagism. Symbols and metaphors are plenty – one I liked was ‘haunting memories are birds with clipped wings’. The first paragraph of ‘Shaken Skies’ reads:

It was a grizzly sky indeed
So dull and drab
The Kind, that reminds you of a
Middle aged mistress, deeply in despair
Puffing up a ballooned put.

Each poem is an unfinished feeling, a life that the poet still lives at times. There are a few photos that go with some poems. Some of the entries read like a part of a journal. ‘An eventful Day, Sometime Back’ starts off with:

Had marathon client meetings,
Productive, some not so great and
Towards the end of the day a reluctant
Revisit to a very difficult customer.

The strength of the poems is paused when a longish sentence creeps in, leaving the reader almost holding her breath, pondering over the meaning of the poet’s words. But, the clichéd symbolisms and general neglect of punctuation mars the reading. Not to mention skipping over typos. Unlike prose, poetry should flow, seamlessly almost.

Poet Arun M. Sivakrishna is a management professional, a cricket and motor sports enthusiast, who’s also interested in photography and travel. Based in Mangalore, his poems tell of severance, pain and agony. And he has done it well.


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Rating: 8.1/10 (8 votes cast)

Two Women and A King

Review of Radhika Santwanam; Muddupalani; trans. Sandhya Mulchandani; Penguin Classics 2012; Rs 250; pp 166

– Shana Susan Ninan

I’ve read and taught epics from many countries. But a sringara prabhandam – erotic epic – is a first. Radhika Santawanam is the most recognised work of 19th century poet and courtesan Muddupalani. Two strong women – one, the author and then, the lady who resurrected the poetic work and brought it to light – are credited with sharing this erotic narrative poem with the world.

This autobiographical work shows us the lives of the famous courtesan and literary connoisseur, Muddupalani, Maratha King Pratapasimha who ruled Tanjore and made her his queen-consort, and her grandmother Tanjanayika. When two people’s (in this case, three) love story won’t be freely accepted by society, just throw in the names of Gods and Goddesses as protagonists, and everything’s solved. Tanjanayika introduced young Muddupalani into the world of the courtesans, and to Tanjanayika’s patron King Pratapasimha, who later took Muddupalani under his wings. The love triangle between Radha, Krishna and Ila is an apt framework for narrating the story of Tanjanayika, Pratapasimha and Muddupalani.

Even though the British banned it in 1920, the whole text of Radhika Santawanams, also known as Ila Devyamu, is now available for the public. I drew many similarities between this narrative poem and the Song of Songs from the Bible. Celebrated stanzas dedicated to describing a lover woman’s anatomy, her willingness, the man’s urge to conquer her body and their union all find points of reference that are common.

The 163rd stanza of chapter three:

O moon! Carry on your waxing and waning

Till my round-faced lady arrives.

O Malaya breeze! Your gentle wind works

Only till my lady love sighs.

O drunken parrot! Wait until you hear her lovely voice.

O peacock! Your preening will stop when she combs her long hair.

O nightingale! Your song is good only till she speaks.

O swan! Your gait looks good only until she walks towards me.

O bee! Your sounds are melodious only till my lover looks at me.

O Kamadeva! Your conceit will vanish when my beloved arrives.

Referred to as devadasis, devaradiyal, bhogam, kalavati, gudisani and nagara shobhinis, the courtesans of the 17th and 18th century shone in the fields of art, dance, music and other literary pursuits. The erotic poem contains 584 verses, complete with poetic symbols, passionate rhymes, sexual references and subtle innuendos. Radhika’s strong presence in Krishna’s love life and her unabashed initiation of intercourse, Ila’s coy introduction into the world of lovemaking and Krishna’s creative cavorts.

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Rating: 7.6/10 (11 votes cast)

Picked up, Here and There

Review of Musings of a Wandering Ministrel; Ravi Trivedy; Patridge India 2013; pp 80

– Shana Susan Ninan

Poet Ravi Trivedy stays true to the heading that he’s given to his eclectic collection of poems and sketches, in Musings of a Wandering Ministrel. Drawn from real and imagined people and situations, the poems vary in size, form and tone. Definitely written at different times, when in diverse moods, they reflect slices of life experienced.

There are mixtures of short- and medium-sized lines, small and large paragraphs, rhyming and metaphors. Some poems are very symbolic – take, for instance, the great giving bosom of a tree and its shade. The picture that comes to minds is an all-giving mother.

Themes range from an ode to Ogden Nash, a poem on Bjorn Borg the Tennis great, a lost wanderer in a desert, loathing and derision, temptation, Bombay streets, awakening, youth in America… the last section on humour was refreshing.

The poet’s ability to touch a chord with his readers can be best seen in this piece of the poem, ‘A Traveler Grieves’:

Friends and selves,

left by the wayside.

Swept by tides,

of time and distance.


Had I seen you,

standing by the road,

we could have travelled

a few miles together.


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Rating: 7.0/10 (4 votes cast)

Lonely Man, Surely

Review of Ninmah’s Lonely Man; Sanjiv Bhatla; Crabwise Press 2013; Rs 150; pp 81

– Shana Susan Ninan

The musings in the long poem, Ninmah’s Lonely Man are those of a man who’s seen, felt and personally experienced the city of Mumbai. Down to its very core. And no one better than Sanjiv Bhatla to do the same. The narrator talks about old friends, colleagues, fond memories, delving into the lives of the other person, as well. He notices life around – from workers at a construction site to prostitutes lining the streets at night.

In this four-part long poem, sandwiched between the personal ramblings on the soul are his thoughts on the existence of God, or rather His non-existence, at times. But I noticed that in the initial pages of the book, the presence of the Father is very much there, with even rhetorical questions addressed to Him. A master of literary imagery and tools, in ‘Dry Sea’, Sanjiv uses the jigsaw puzzle as a metaphor for the Earth, a puzzle that the Father gives his Son to play with and figure out. In a few lines, we see the question (in a different tone) that the biblical Christ had asked God, on the cross: “Where have you gone… why have you left me alone, Father…?”

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Rating: 8.0/10 (7 votes cast)

A Little Bit of This and That

Review of Rose Gardens and Minefields – A Literary Bhelpuri; Vivek Pereira; Virgin Leaf Books 2010; Rs 95; pp 64

– Shana Susan Ninan

Yep, Vivek Pereira has whipped up a literary bhelpuri with his poems, short stories and essays. The author introduces his book to us with the lines, “The world we live in is full of beautiful rose gardens and dangerous minefields… In this book, rose gardens represent anything that is good, beautiful, pleasant, loveable and inspirational. Minefields, on the other hand, represent everything that is evil, ugly, destructive, demoralising and fearful.

And so his book shares with you thoughts and lines on life, love, dreams, wars, plight of women, terrorism and other problems. The first poem is about the economist Adam Smith trying to enter heaven. The poem on husbands is something we can all relate to! Vivek has also written a poem that can be sung in rap – quite interesting, actually.

His short stories are a pleasure to read – one has an undercover angel sent on a mission to Hell by God. The mission is to continue portraying Hell as the oft-pictured burning purgatory. But the angel finds it isn’t so, and decides to stick on there, without returning to Heaven. We can see an out of the ordinary take on corruption in the Heavensgate Scandal short story. In his work, the author believes that the fate of the Indian woman is in her hands itself, as she moves out from the kitchen to pursue independent careers.

Other topics covered are secularism, Maoist rebellions across India, terrorism, communalism and sports in the country. Vivek’s words are lucid and one reading is enough to get the gist of what he’s saying. In fact, he deals with topics that are commonplace and well-understood. The cover is a clutter-free one with soothing colours and fonts – something I love.

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Rating: 9.4/10 (32 votes cast)

Representing India in Poems

Review of Portraits of India; Sanjay Yadav; Worldwide Books 2011

– Murli Melwani

Writers like to experiment with the format in which they wish to present their musings. Vikram Seth’s novel in verse, The Golden Gate (1986) was a bestseller. There have even been autobiographies in verse. Swati Ganguly’s translation of the Chinese treatise of Thirty Verses on Consciousness, on an aspect of Buddha’s teachings, is an interesting experiment.

Now comes Sanjay Yadav with Portraits of India. This is a political treatise in verse.

I found the introduction where Yadav talks about the various types of meters an interesting refresher’s course. It was right of him to explain to the reader both the form of meter he chooses and his reasons for his choice.

In the first section, Yadav gives his poetic summing up of the qualities of various political leaders, past and present. Not everyone will agree with his assessments of the leaders India has had.

In the next section Yadav gives us his take on the state of the country and what ails it. These are the timeless problems that are found in the editorials of newspapers.

Most people will find Yadav’s opinions in, “Locals and Outsiders”, restricted in an age where there is a lot of social and professional mobility between people of different states and ethnic backgrounds.

The last three sections deal with places of Hindu pilgrimage.

The verse on Manmohan Singh exemplifies Sanjay Yadav’s approach and style:

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Rating: 6.2/10 (5 votes cast)

“Fill My Within With Songs”

Review of Penumbra Of Indian Verses; Sonnet Mondal; Sept 2010; pp 92; Rs 150

– Juhi Chowdhury

Penumbra of Indian Verses by Dr Sonnet Mondal, internationally acclaimed young Indian English poet, honoured several times and the pioneer of  ‘21 lines of fusion sonnet’ is such a delicious dish for the literature-hungry minds, where readers will find every ingredient in appropriate quantity and pure essence flooding with the verses surpassing all punctuations. His ink flows like never dammed  water wetting every corner by bemusing emotions, powerful desires, alluring imageries, vistas of present society, spark of science in the midst.

This book contains 75 poems penned mostly at night. This book is marked as an instance how the blind darkness can radiate powerful beams of high intensity and of high frequency after dispersing through the poet’s lensing heart of high resolution. Innovative contrasts, sound, beautiful comparisons like-‘Her arms lay across her breasts/As if two water lilies lying across two lotuses!!’(“The Dying Beauty), dilemma, diction cart the lines from imaging-sensing-realizing arena to intellectual inventing-hypnotizing-subduing field freeing ropes of inertial hypocrisy of mind with a poignant relish.

Poet’s discerning brilliance is sighted at-

“But, poetry lies in decimals; never in the air

That is fully balanced, for it’s just the medium towards completeness of                                           desire.”

…………. (My Mentors and  my Poems)

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Rating: 8.1/10 (12 votes cast)

The Joy You Give Me

– Shana Susan Ninan

i long to hold you close,

taking in your sweet, comforting smell.

i know i can wake you up in the middle of the night,

knowing that you hear my innermost thoughts.

i’ve loved you like none other, lorded over you

when all else perished.

i love you, my Friend,

my Book.

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Rating: 7.2/10 (5 votes cast)

Sonnets With A New Twist!

Book Review of 21 Lines Fusion Sonnets of 21st Century; Sonnet Mondal; Sparrow Publication Kolkata; pp 160; Rs 295

–  Koketso Mokgobi Marishane

Dr Sonnet Mondal in his latest book, 21 lines Fusion Sonnets of 21st Century, has introduced a new genre of 21 Lines Fusion Sonnets. The sonnets have strong sharpness with satire, irony to life using metaphorical puns to assert allusions which could at a larger point be mistaken for idioms but proverbs. Though nature has always been naturally right, Sonnet’s sonnets offer sufficient pathos with an in-depth insight into the modern day society that we’ve for so long cast out. Although it may be argued that Sonnet’s sonnets should carry areas of his observation, creation and participation, which are seemingly peculiars from the path of philanthropically peaceful habits, or which admonishes such practices from reaching the ultimate desire of the mind, body and soul, still, it’d be arguably rational to entertain these observations engaged him within the peace and camaraderie charges.

Although it’s commonly accepted by the global environment for sonnets to be in fourteen (14) lines as we’ve been trained by the ancient literary makers to stick to the rules and regulations as guideline servers, Sonnet’s sonnets have, however, exceeded. Sonnets in English are usually of 14 lines that rhyme divided between an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines) with a break in the sense and the lines are in iambic pentameter.



The octave will then introduce the idea (theme) to tell about the content of the whole poem.

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Rating: 7.8/10 (10 votes cast)