Wayfaring Review : A Journey Beyond the Baggage of Pronouns In the tradition of Hafez, Rumi and Al Arabi – Djelloul Marbrook


I have been absent from blogging since long for various personal reasons. Once the issues are resolved I’ll try to be regular. Meanwhile please keep showing love on my personal Instagram page. That’s where all the action is right now. 

This is the pre launch book review of my second book Wayfaring.  The website on which it was published is not working and many of my readers missed this exceptional piece of writing. 

Djelloul Marbrook is a friend and editor-in-chief of The Arabesques Review Magazine where the review was first published.

I am sharing this with permission from the writer.

Originally from Algeria, Djelloul now lives in the USA. An exceptional poet, writer, he’s someone I look up to as a student learning the craft of writing. I feel very honoured that he took time out to read and write such a glorious review for a book very close to my heart.

 Here is the full review:

A Journey Beyond the Baggage of Pronouns,In the tradition of Hafez, Rumi and Al Arabi

(Wayfaring Tikuli, Leaky Boot Press, UK, 134pp, $12.70)

You is the crucial word in this riverine collection of poems. In their often apostrophic poise they recall Louis Malle’s Phantom India (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_India), the 1969 film that memorably traces the bloodstream of the subcontinent.

When a poet says the I word once too often poems become forests of girders, obstructing our vision. But the poet Tikuli uses the word to stir the elements of nostalgia, melancholy and fragility until all are ennobled. That is the role of the word in her alchemical project. 

Those three elements in the wrong hands smudge the past, blur it, but in the right hands, in Tikuli’s hands, Wayfaring (https://www.amazon.com/Wayfaring-Tikuli/dp/1909849545) becomes a singular act of recollection, reminding us that the unrecollected life is a job left undone, a mission unaccomplished, a task reneged. 

I see him, I see him

standing there, a body trapped in soul, 

always watching

the memories and the rubble of our home….

the poet says at the beginning of “Ghosts of War.” The I is not about her, it’s about activating an elixir, about taking us to a bombed, ruined mosque, to a ghost.  

Tikuli’s use of the pronoun you, the second person, is Sufic when it least seems so. The You of this device is the Sufi dervish’s Beloved. A man or a woman or a child or some other living thing may stand in for the Beloved, but the Beloved, who may be addressed erotically or casually or conversationally, is always that “cloud of unknowing,” that divine idea into which eventually we disappear.

The love poem of the dervish may pass society’s inspection as a tale or an ode or an elegy or a sensual adventure, but at heart it’s always a prayer, a participation in a holy, a celestial project. 

Tikuli is a skilled plein air painter; her palette of words is spare, meticulously chosen and applied in a variety of metrical patterns that, while not avant-garde, are modernist and reliable. The reader is never required to study her metrics; her focus is on the act of recollection and its requisite imperative. She has stories to tell, portraits to paint, ghosts to address, and issues to redress.

The impulse to call Wayfaring a stately transit from irregular ode to free-form ballade is checked by Tikuli’s eschewal of standard metric schemes and rhyme, and to claim that Wayfaring is nonetheless just such a transit, as I do, opens the door to a brief discussion of rhyme in modern poetry. 

End-rhyme bears with it, unlike internal rhyme, a kind of closure, and that closure is not in concert with the rush of cyber-age information and the inquiries that rush requires. End-rhyme, unless it’s handled with extraordinary subtlety, the kind Sylvia Townsend Warner and William Butler Yeats possessed, tends to trip up and shut down inquiry. That’s why Tikuli and other modernists so often dispense with it, preferring assonance and other devices. But that makes modern poetry difficult to characterize without a new poetics. 

In singing of exile, loss, remembrance, grief, journey, Tikuli often uses the pronoun you as Sufi and other mystic poets used thou, to address, to praise, to love, to mourn, but, above all, to open the door to what can be recollected, what can be salvaged, learned, what can be turned into light in the same way a solar lantern collects sunlight all day to illuminate night. Such a lantern must be placed, as these poems are, in a certain order to create a path. That’s why at the very end of Wayfaring the poet says:

….until the sun explodes in my room

separating the night from dark

naked, I wait somewhere between

a lighter shade of white

and a darker shade of black

Tikuli is one of poetry’s antidotes to the fatal, calamitous insistence on being right that besets so many societies. That insistence turns a blind eye and a blank mind to the distinctions she makes in this passage, and in so doing it menaces us. Tikuli offers the eternal aspiration of the dervish to make something in praise of the holy whole to which we belong.

One of Wayfaring‘s triumphs is to give us a collection that, like prayer beads, progresses not only to a way of responding to what befalls but a way of enhancing our observation of what we encounter. Wayfaring‘s strung poems integrate peripheral with head-on vision: the sidelong glance is not lost to central vision, and for that reason in her work we see through much better than human eyes, sometimes the way a circling hawk sees the inhabitants of a field or wood. But the poems don’t merely report, they imagine the songs of people and place. They move like a pavane from the forests of I to the seas of you to the heavens of they, no small feat for any poet. 

Consider the last five lines of her poem, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nizamuddin_Auliya):

Two lovers completing each other

like reunited hemispheres.

It is this cosmos wherein exists

the inexpressible, visible only

to those with eyes which can see.

It’s the poet’s ambition to express the inexpressible. But to do that, ego must be divested. That’s at the heart of Sufism. It’s what the Sufi saint of the poem understood so indelibly. It’s what Hafez, Khayyam and Ibn al Arabi, among many others, understood. Finally, beyond the I, you and they is the holy of holies into which the wayfarer must disappear. None of the pronouns suffice, nor do our names and our possessions. 

Addressing the Beloved in poetry is rather like alchemy. To win the patronage of rulers, those coveters of wealth, the alchemists said they intended to transmute base metals into gold. But their real purpose, the best of them, was to ennoble the human soul by finding the elixirs that would ennoble the soul’s baser elements. That’s what is happening when poets like Khayyam and Hafez and Tikuli address you. This you is an elixir.

We wayfare to become the verb, to absolve ourselves of the profane pronouns and the nouns. Wayfaring is testament to this recognition.

                                                                         —Djelloul Marbrook

Two New Poems


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1. SOLITUDE

I linger unperceived
in the labyrinth of solitude,
not knowing the onward path
or the path of my return
I see a flight of stairs
a portal to a past forgotten
the contours of shadows
create a landscape of dreams
something forgotten stirs,
a lost memory returns
from between somewhere and nowhere
seeking something nebulous
that is always out of reach

 

Copyright Tikuli

2. INSOMNIA 

two a.m. on Delhi’s post-rain Sunday
I try to wash away the sleepiness
from my insomnia laden eyes
pick a fresh sheet of paper
spread clean water till it sheens
like fresh snow on a sunny day
clean and load the brushes with colours
drop and watch in wonderment
as the colours bleed and waltz
into the white stillness
the ripe colours of autumn,
a drop of sea, the harvest fields,
the washes of sunsets layer after layer
and a moon laid on lake waters
a tender breath of green
a river filled with apparitions,
here now—then gone
wet roads winding around echoing hills
the crisp autumn breeze
floating across the valley
steam rising from a coffee left at the deck
my eyes closed I feel the calm glow
of lights at the water edge
the silent shadows
the peace of the submerged river banks
I dip my brush again as the pigeons rise
followed by the squirrel
and the upstairs neighbour
pounding fresh ginger for morning chai
the trees rise, the day rises
night slowly walks towards summer morning

Lover’s Gifts by Rabindranath Tagore


“When the voice of the Silent touches my words. I know him and therefore know myself.” Tagore

Everyone knows about this great poet, song writer, painter and story teller. Gurudev has been an inspiration for me since childhood. Every poem, every story has left a deep impression. His poems are spiritual, sublime, simple and timeless at the same time.

He was awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.

I will be posting more of his work later.

Enjoy these beautiful gems from his collection ‘Lover’s Gifts’.

Lover’s Gifts LIV: In the Beginning of Time

In the beginning of time, there rose from the churning of God’s
dream two women. One is the dancer at the court of paradise, the
desired of men, she who laughs and plucks the minds of the wise
from their cold meditations and of fools from their emptiness; and
scatters them like seeds with careless hands in the extravagant winds of March, in the flowering frenzy of May.

The other is the crowned queen of heaven, the mother, throned
on the fullness of golden autumn; she who in the harvest-time
brings straying hearts to the smile sweet as tears, the beauty deep
as the sea of silence, -brings them to the temple of the Unknown,
at the holy confluence of Life and Death.

Lover’s Gifts XIII: Last Night in the Garden

Last night in the garden I offered you my youth’s foaming wine. You lifted the cup to your lips, you shut your eyes and smiled while
I raised your veil, unbound your tresses, drawing down upon my
breast your face sweet with its silence, last night when the moon’s
dream overflowed the world of slumber.

To-day in the dew-cooled calm of the dawn you are walking to
God’s temple, bathed and robed in white, with a basket full of
flowers in your hand. I stand aside in the shade under the tree,
with my head bent, in the calm of the dawn by the lonely road to
the temple.

Lover’s Gifts XLVIII: I Traveled the Old Road

I traveled the old road every day, I took my fruits to the market,
my cattle to the meadows, I ferried my boat across the stream and
all the ways were well known to me.
One morning my basket was heavy with wares. Men were busy in
the fields, the pastures crowded with cattle; the breast of earth
heaved with the mirth of ripening rice.
Suddenly there was a tremor in the air, and the sky seemed to
kiss me on my forehead. My mind started up like the morning out of
mist.

I forgot to follow the track. I stepped a few paces from the
path, and my familiar world appeared strange to me, like a flower
I had only known in bud.
My everyday wisdom was ashamed. I went astray in the fairyland
of things. It was the best luck of my life that I lost my path that
morning, and found my eternal childhood.

Lover’s Gifts XXVIII: I Dreamt

I dreamt that she sat by my head, tenderly ruffling my hair with
her fingers, playing the melody of her touch. I looked at her face
and struggled with my tears, till the agony of unspoken words burst
my sleep like a bubble.
I sat up and saw the glow of the Milky Way above my window,
like a world of silence on fire, and I wondered if at this moment
she had a dream that rhymed with mine.

The Evening Cloud by John Wilson


This is such a beautiful celebration of nature.


The Evening Cloud

A cloud lay cradled near the setting sun,

A gleam of crimson tinged its braided snow;

Long had I watched the glory moving on

O’er the still radiance of the lake below.

Tranquil its spirit seemed, and floated slow!

Even in its very motion there was rest;

While every breath of eve that chanced to blow

Wafted the traveller to the beauteous west.

Emblem, methought, of the departed soul!

To whose white robe the gleam of bliss is given

And by the breath of mercy made to roll

Right onwards to the golden gate of heaven,

Where to the eye of faith its peaceful lies,

And tells to man his glorious destinies.

John Wilson (1785 – 1854)

The Eve of St. Agnes by John Keats: Stanza XXV and XXI


The eve of St. Ages is one of the most sensuous of Keats poems and my favorite. I love the energy, the imagery, the Gothic element and the splendid language in the poem. It is a long narrative poem and I am sharing here two stanzas from the original forty two.

Excerpt from The Eve of St. Agnes

XXV

Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gules on Madeline’s fair breast,
As down she knelt for heaven’s grace and boon;
Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest,
And on her silver cross soft amethyst,
And on her hair a glory, like a saint:
She seem’d a splendid angel, newly drest,
Save wings, for heaven:–Porphyro grew faint:
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint.

XXVI

Anon his heart revives: her vespers done,
Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees;
Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
Loosens her fragrant boddice; by degrees
Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees:
Half-hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed,
Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees,
In fancy, fair St. Agnes in her bed,
But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled

John Keats (1795-1821)

The Song of Despair By Pablo Neruda


Pablo Neruda is a poet very close to my heart. I was introduced to his works way back as a teenager and I fell in love with his poetry instantly.

“Twenty Poems and a Song of Despair” and “The Heights Of Machu Piccho” are my favorites among Neruda’s works. I will share the other poems too.


The Song of Despair By Pablo Neruda

( from twenty love poems and a song of despair)

(Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Canción Desesperada)

The memory of you emerges from the night around me.
The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!

Cold flower heads are raining over my heart.
Oh pit of debris, fierce cave of the shipwrecked.

In you the wars and the flights accumulated.
From you the wings of the song birds rose.

You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!

It was the happy hour of assault and the kiss.
The hour of the spell that blazed like a lighthouse.

Pilot’s dread, fury of a blind diver,
turbulent drunkenness of love, in you everything sank!

In the childhood of mist my soul, winged and wounded.
Lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

You girdled sorrow, you clung to desire,
sadness stunned you, in you everything sank!

I made the wall of shadow draw back,
beyond desire and act, I walked on.

Oh flesh, my own flesh, woman whom I loved and lost,
I summon you in the moist hour, I raise my song to you.

Like a jar you housed the infinite tenderness,
and the infinite oblivion shattered you like a jar.

There was the black solitude of the islands,
and there, woman of love, your arms took me in.

There were thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit.
There were grief and the ruins, and you were the miracle.

Ah woman, I do not know how you could contain me
in the earth of your soul, in the cross of your arms!

How terrible and brief was my desire of you!
How difficult and drunken, how tensed and avid.

Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs,
still the fruited boughs burn, pecked at by birds.

Oh the bitten mouth, oh the kissed limbs,
oh the hungering teeth, oh the entwined bodies.

Oh the mad coupling of hope and force
in which we merged and despaired.

And the tenderness, light as water and as flour.
And the word scarcely begun on the lips.

This was my destiny and in it was the voyage of my longing,
and in it my longing fell, in you everything sank!

Oh pit of debris, everything fell into you,
what sorrow did you not express, in what sorrow are you not drowned!

From billow to billow you still called and sang.
Standing like a sailor in the prow of a vessel.

You still flowered in songs, you still broke in currents.
Oh pit of debris, open and bitter well.

Pale blind diver, luckless slinger,
lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

It is the hour of departure, the hard cold hour
which the night fastens to all the timetables.

The rustling belt of the sea girdles the shore.
Cold stars heave up, black birds migrate.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
Only the tremulous shadow twists in my hands.

Oh farther than everything. Oh farther than everything.

It is the hour of departure. Oh abandoned one.

Pablo Neruda (July 12, 1904 – September 23, 1973)
him

Poetry challenge : Old Begger Woman


Author and friend Kris Saknussemm gave this second challenge to write something which had rhythm.

I quote

“write something to that rhythm. Don’t use any metaphors to clue us in–EMBODY the rhythm. Don’t worry about “melody.” Worry only about the rhythm…and use ALL the words: CLAWS, WRETCHED, GRATEFUL, TORRENT, SEETHING & TOMORROW”
-Kris

Here is my poem

Old Begger Woman

Near the village square
A shriveled frame
in tattered rags
Squatting
Her mangled hair full of
tiny, dry leaves blown by the wind
Her wrinkled face
bursts into a toothless laugh
Along with the mocking kids
A dry weed, broken from its roots
Flung from shore to shore
by the torrents of abuse
Even with a seething heart
and mind mauled by
the claws of memory
She rejoices each moment she lives
Grateful for a life well spent
unconcerned about tomorrow
“Wretched woman they call me”, she laughs
“What about them?
Living but still not alive

Poetry Challenge : a learning excercise-1


My mentor and friend Kris Saknussemm gave me a challenge to write an extended poem, “relying on some of your more practically directed prose abilities that incorporates all of the following words and/or phrases:

Compulsion
Sacred
Mud
Disgust
Glass
Vacuum
Music
Orchid
Misunderstanding
Orgasm
Echo
The sorrow of dinosaurs”

a part of my learning process and an effort to improve myself and my writing.

Kris has been kind enough to take some time out from his busy schedule and teach me. It is an honor for me and I am deeply touched and thankful to him for all the advice, suggestions and critiques. each of his teaching is a precious gem to treasure.

As they say

When the student is ready the master appears

Thank you Kris for being my light, guiding and enriching my life. I won’t fail you for learning for me is a lifetime process.

Here is the poem I wrote

A life
gripped in a moment
Ecstasy, rapture
Release
Bodies consumed
A little death & then
rebirth

Pants, groans, gasp
Music to the ears
Throb, rise, fall
Curtains

yet another Faked orgasm

Crushed orchids,
Stained sheets
She rolls over
Disgust jets through
The Vacuum inside

What a performer!
Down to dawn
Non entity

Sex, a compulsion
Repulsive yet Sacred
A tool to feed
Four hungry mouths

An echo

The song of love for my Krishna


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This verse is dedicated to the love of my life ..

In the history of human consciousness Lord Krishna is the only incarnation of God who is so much in love with life. He fills the universe with the poetry of life, the music of love and the the divine dance of life.

He is my favorite Incarnation of Vishnu and much closer to humans than any other 36,000 known and 3.6 lesser known Gods and Goddesses of India.

His wooden flute is the symbol of life. The most beautiful of all the Gods, he stands in a dancing posture amidst the gopis( village girls),dressed in lovely attire with the flute touching his lips..
I find him sensuous and the dark limbed lover delights every pore of my being.

Ready to burst into a love song he resymbolizes eternal unconditional love. I am an atheist so few him as a great yogi who has tremendous balance in his life. An inspiration .. a joy to behold.. just like life ..

Here is my song for my Krishna .. my love of life

Keshava has returned
And the sky is brimming
With pure elixir of life

The thick monsoon clouds
Make my heart dance with delight
Lightning and then the thunder

A welcoming sign
For the swollen heart
To merge into my lord

The rain descends
Seeping into my very being
The cool breeze brings forth
The intoxicating fragrance of
The living pulsating earth
Fills me with you
O Krishna
We thrive in the passionate embrace
Of you and the life itself

The month of “shravan” is here
Pregnant with love’s sweet whispers
I have waited long
O dark limbed lover
To sing my songs and
Dance to the divine tune of
Your flute

My liquid eyes tremble with joy
The full berry lips await yours
Your fragrance drifts as I dance
In trance of your eternal love
O nimble footed Krishna

Your sensuous beauty
And our love
Spins me around with desire
And sends blood rushing
Through my veins
Yearning for your joyful touch

We draw into each other’s arms
Passion fills the universe
As I behold the face of my
Divine lover

Keshava is one of the 108 names of Krishna and it means the one with matted dark locks)
( image from internet)

Poetry : Drama In The Sky


Picture

Drama In The Sky is the second poem which was published in the Guntur National Poetry Festival Anthology. I wanted to share it once I got the book. It is called “A Posy of Poesy”. The poetry fest was organised by Nagasuseela and Gopichand who also edited the book. The book has some very good poems from poets across the nation. My Blogger friend Nabina Das also has two of her poems in the anthology.
My first poem Detritus is already in the poetry section and here is the link to it .

DETRITUS

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DRAMA IN THE SKY

A Gloomy day, definite nip in the air

The wind, strong and chilly

Golden yellow leaves of the poplar

Cling desperately to thin haggard branches

The silence is uncanny

Murky mist seeps through

The very core of my being

My thoughts are frozen in time

Memories close in like a blizzard of snow

The drama in the sky unfolds

A flash of lightning marks the brilliant opening

With thunderous applause it begins to pour

The trees, their heads bowed, cry ceaselessly

The wet sun struggles to release itself

From behind the heavy cloud cover

The spell is strong, possessed, I drift into a trance

The sounds of thunder & flashes of lightning cease

The curtain falls

Complete silence follows

Nothing moves, not even a single leaf

(Image courtsey Webshots.com Google search)