The Making Of ‘Duets’ – Our Book Of Collaborative Poems


As the publication date for Duets draws close I thought of sharing how James and I wrote all the poems that are part of the collection.

Very often people say that writing poetry is a solitary art. For some it may be true but at the same time collaborative poetry also has a long history and now, especially in the days of the Internet, it has become easier to collaborate over messages, text, emails, or even working within the same document while living miles apart, sometimes the collaborators do not even know or meet each other before sharing the space in a book. The collaboration of visual art and poetry is also very exciting thing that we get to see now more often than before.

There are so many mediums to collaborate and so many ways to write the poems too. Renga in Japan and Renku in China are good examples of collaborative poetry forms. French Renaissance poetry was often a joint project where poets collaborated with their contemporaries.

The poems in Duet originated in the conversations between James and I on Facebook Messenger. The process was simple. We decide on posting the poems alternately. The one whose turn it was to post came up with a first line, and then we added lines alternately until one of us yelled stop. Then we each took the text and edited it into a form that we thought worked.  We then had two versions of the piece and decided which one we should post. Sometimes we didn’t agree and kept both the versions but it was rare. These poems can be termed impromptu as they were written and posted at the same time. Usually it took us an hour or three approximately to finish one poem and post.

When we began neither of us had thought it would come this far. We did it for fun and posted for friends to read and within a short span we had some twenty poems and then the number kept growing. It was then we decided to save them in a document file. We could see an opportunity of a book. James is a seasoned writer so this whole exercise was very exciting for me and a great learning process too. I think it was difficult than the usual process of collaboration where you have time to think and create once the other person has written his/her lines. Here we had no time. Once we sat down in front of the open chat window and the first line was posted it had to take shape of a poem. There was no escape or postponing. This kind of built a pressure especially on me as I am yet a student learning the craft but I must say it kicked me out of my comfort zone ..lol.. It also taught me discipline though James will laugh and say I still need a lot of it.. 😀

It is exciting and at the same time liberating to watch a new voice emerge as a piece develops. We were open to the poem leading us rather than one of us leading it and yet it was an intimate experience. Words are portals and we saw this during our writing of these poems. Suddenly a line would change the entire thought process and lead you to somewhere totally different. It was an exercise to be ready for a quick response to the wordplay that is not yours, a thought completely different from yours, to recognize another voice and be comfortable with its uniqueness and be ready to get startled by constant surprises. Sometimes not being in control gives you more strength to break mental barriers and create something beautiful and totally unexpected. The feeling is overwhelming. Sometimes frustrating too, which of course is human. We are conditioned to follow our thought process and this sort of intense exercise messes with the brain’s normal conditioned way of working. I can tell you that many times I would envisage a poem leading in a certain way and suddenly a line from James would change the coarse leaving me lost for words and ideas but he would patiently wait till I gathered my thoughts again and wrote my part. Many times I would try to steer it in a certain direction but then eventually the poem would take its own course. That is the beauty of words. They lead the way.

It is amazing how an impromptu collaborative work grows organically into a form challenging the roles like gender, age, personality, culture and other differences which usually mark your individual work.  Here all bets were off. We trusted each other and took the direction we were steered into without being judgmental. What we loved most about our work is how this exercise blurred individual lines. While reading the final poem one could really not point out who wrote which line and that was something beautiful.

The joy to create something together is irreplaceable. Time was a big challenge as both of us are writers with a tremendous amount of workload but we somehow managed to hold on to it and assigned a time to get online just to write a new piece and enjoyed our collaborative time together.  I think my creativity has grown with this collaboration.

The name ‘Duets’ is the brainchild of our mutual friend Sabine who was one of the regular readers of the poems as they were shared on Facebook. She began calling them Duets and the name stuck. Thank you Sabine for the love.

 

I asked James to give his side of the story and this is what he sent me :

 

I quote

I’m not totally sure how the collaborative poems between Tikuli and I came about. I think perhaps one of us said—and I’ll give the credit to Tikuli—“let’s write a poem together”, and so we did. Then we wrote another and another and another, and suddenly there were enough poems for our book ‘Duets’, even after leaving a few of the less good poems out of the mix.

 

For some time before we started collaborating, I had been using whatever expertise I have as an editor in trying to help Tikuli with her writing—mostly working on fiction, a long-form narrative, an as yet incomplete novel, and short stories.I think Tikuli came to realise that the best way to learn is often by example, and so she suggested that perhaps we could write something together. As I didn’t have the time to commit to writing anything of length, we began writing poems whenever we could find a bit of time to work together.

 

Writing is, by it’s very nature, a solitary occupation, so collaborating on the writing of poetry or anything else is not a natural process, but is instead a challenge, something to be mastered for no other reason than the determination to master it. In the finished work two minds have to come together as one. The writing must seem as fluid and natural as if it had been written by one person. This means compromise from both writers, without compromise nothing would ever be completed. Compromise was difficult when we both had fixed ideas in mind.

 

How can I describe the process of writing together? Think of it as being like a tug-of-war between two mules, for we both have a capacity for stubbornness. There’s a knot in the centre of a rope and a marker on the ground dividing the territories of the mules, then the mules pull in different directions until that knot passes into the territory of one mule or the other. That rope, of course, is woven from the alternate lines we wrote, the territories are the directions that we each thought the poems should turn towards. Sometimes we argued. Sometimes we discussed. Sometimes we disagreed. But always we remained amicable, for our friendship is far, far stronger than any momentary disagreement.

 

I differ with him on one point. It was his suggestion to start writing collaborative poems. Trust him for not taking credit. I wouldn’t have suggested at any cost ..lol.. I’m so jittery about getting into a new thing. I can tell now that it was worth all the fretting, nervousness and brain storming.

Here is a treat for all of you, a poem from the collection.

DINNER

only tears would clean the stains
hunger left on her face
as she tried to understand
what was wrong with the rich
and decadent food she ate
as unsatisfying as lost love
it left her gaunt and empty
her starved reflection stared at her
from the shine of her empty plate
absentmindedly her finger
traced the contours
of the plate’s cracked surface
as she dreamed of better times
twilight gathered in her eyes
and fed her inner darkness
soon the starless night would come
and invisible in the night
her empty plate might fill

( © Duets – collaborative poems by Tikuli & James Goddard)

Do pre-order your copies. The book releases on 19th of November. It will be available with all online book vendors.

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Crossing The Threshold – A Poem


 

 

in the half light of dawn the breeze-

laden with the scent of mango blossom-

drifts in from the courtyard,

calling her thoughts to the waiting river;

quietly she leaves her bed,

gathers her unkempt hair in a loose bun

then pauses for a moment,

listens to her husband’s measured breathing,

then silently tiptoes out,

tucking in the corner of her sari at the waist

she hastily collects the fallen Parijatak in her pallu

placing a few in her hair at the same time,

the red from their stalks rising to her cheeks;

beside the well the empty pitchers wait,

nearby the battered clay stove

recalls her own scars,

for a split second she wavers, then crosses

the threshold, her heart frantic with haste,

leaving behind the walls

that had risen around her brick by brick;

the river hears her hurried footsteps 

with rapt attention, at its bend

under the shade of the mangroves,

a boat and a promise patiently wait

ready to carry her away.

 

New Poem – The Convergence


she stands among the ancient trees,

hair fluttering protestingly over her full breasts,

strings of beads resting around her neck,

draped in red cotton her dark skin glistening in sweat,

her kohl eyes like fiery embers,

a sliver of sun on her forehead,

behind her, smeared in symbolic vermilion,

the Goddess sits cross-legged,

leaning against the matted roots of a tree,

defiant, wise, independent,

the power stemming from her womb,

non-conformist, non-submissive.

from a quiet corner I watch them,

fierce, unapologetic; both born of the soil,

somewhere beyond the hills a river turns red,

an embodiment of the eternal truth –

sa’ham asmi

the Aashad clouds gather

beating their ancient drums

as the earth receives its first rain

Poem – Where We Lived


I often visit the
abandoned house
off the beaten track
Its yard
no longer tended
Here
In the forgotten places
Littered with broken shards,
Rotting leaves, gnarled branches,
Entwined vines and
Dried unruly weeds
I follow the scent
Of unseen blossoms
I trace my fingers
On the ancient walls
Moist with night dew and
On which
Memory has turned mossy green
In places
I look through the dusty windows
That reflect nothing
The sadness of which
Speaks to me
Then, as the seasons change,
In the midst of decay
The tree of sorrow blooms
Night after night
Romancing the August moon

 

First published in ‘Collection Of Chaos‘. You can buy the book from any online book vendor.

Mini-Reviews And Some Other News


Le Zap

I never took writing fiction seriously. Someday I would just open a word doc and type furiously as if possessed by the very words I was writing and slowly a story would come to life.  El Pino Ruins is one such story that I am very proud of. It recently got published in the final edition of Le Zaporogue XVIII by various authors.  You can read it by downloading the ebook format free of cost from HERE  

This is what a fantastic writer friend Jerry Wilson had to say about my story

 

Jerry is one of the finest short story writers today and you must pick up his books. Just click on the link above.

Another writer/ columnist Kiran Chaturvedi also shared her thoughts with me.  You can read some of her articles by clicking the link.

 

Here’s the complete note.

“Dear Tikuli,

I read your wonderful El Pino Ruins short story today and enjoyed it very much. Loved the classic style and haunting mood. It has such a vividly evoked setting, and a rich narration that makes for a captivating read. You have paced the action fluidly and built the puzzle beautifully. You should write more prose and I suspect you are specially good at such other worldly story twists. “

Thanks so much Kiran.

Have you downloaded the free ebook? Please do by clicking the link above. 

 

Meanwhile, my second poetry book Wayfaring reached Sabine Pollack Merle in France. She sent me a very heartwarming note after reading the poems.

“I read your poetry book, Tikuli, and once again you have moved me with your words written here, and that you whisper in my ear…
Some of these poems have made me cry because they are so meaningful. 
It is such a precious one. 
I really can say but one thing, many people should read Wayfarer.
Tikuli, you are a beautiful woman. 
Brava !”

You can read her review on amazon.fr 

I posted these on Instagram earlier. You can follow me there.

Some copies of the book are up for review and I am eagerly waiting for more feedback. Do write to me if you are reading Wayfaring. The book is available with all online booksellers across the globe. Do get your copy soon.

Bhavana Nissima  is a fabulous writer, artist, educator and NLP practitioner. She is based in Hyderabad, India. I have always loved her writing. She is also a very compassionate human being and a friend I cherish. In last few months she unconditionally healed me from distance in one of the toughest phases of my life.  I am grateful to her for helping me connect with myself.

In August last year she did a wonderful write-up with one of my poems along with one another poet I admire. You can read it here –

#FridayLights — Issue2 

Thank you Bhavana for this generous gesture.

 

#superblurbloodmoon #shotwithOnePlus3T

 

The whole world watched the phenomenal #SuperBlueBloodMoon on 31st on Jan. I took these pix from my #OnePlus3T Sometimes I regret not having a good camera. The sight was enthralling to say the least, the rare convergence of a ‘supermoon’, a ‘blue moon’ and a ‘blood moon’. Thankfully Delhi weather didn’t play up that night and I was able to watch the total lunar eclipse.

I am writing some more of Hindi poems on Delhi and will soon start sharing. Last two months have been very hectic and I have been unwell too. Apart from a verse here and there I haven’t written much.

i

my soul
is impatient with itself, 
my inner – disquiet, 
my intellect – not satisfied, 
my heart – not still,
my mind – ruffled,
I’m restless as a
willow in windstorm.
If you are afraid to step into quicksand

stay away.

ii

mystery 
madness
chaos 
carnage 
passion
intrigue
phantasm –
landmines in poet’s mind 
tread softly

 

I am trying to get back into the rhythm and start reading more blogs from friends. Do keep giving the support and leave your comments if you visit the blog so I know you’ve been reading my stuff.

A small note to end the post –

We take people for granted. We feel ‘entitled” and this feeling of entitlement blocks us from giving or receiving and when we aren’t receptive to gratitude whether in receiving or giving then we may be lacking many other positive emotions.
Relationship becomes stronger and deeper when a little grace and humility is shown.
Great Relationships are precious gifts. Be grateful. 
Thank you for being part of my journey.

Love and Light.

Summer Of Love – A Poem


 

The sapling you planted
near the pond in the courtyard
has blossomed
The lusty boughs of your mango tree
are laden with pale green; ambrosia
is fragrant on the southern wind
The black bees flock to the nectar filled
mango blossom and fill the
pleasure garden with their songs
From a high branch a cuckoo
calls his mate, his song piercing
the shadows across my heart
Below, the sun flirts with the
water lilies as it warms
the cool waters of the pond
The swing, unused now,
moves gently when caressed by
even the lightest breeze
The days have lengthened
since the blossoming of our love
and summer is lonelier than ever
My hammock sways to music
I cannot hear, as I recall
Those fragrant, leisured days
Our joyful laughter and games,
our feet soothed by the
waters of the lotus pond
Twigs and flowers in our hair from
guilty afternoon naps in the grass,
books left upturned on our bellies
Seasons quickly change,
luscious fruits, long summer
evenings filled with birdsong
The blossoming of our love
in the pleasure garden
our first kiss, lying side by side
And then came the season for grief,
we parted in silence in the early morning
before the sun had dried the dew
Years passed and we were apart, but this year
the lane that leads to our garden
is fragrant with love
The lotus pond is brimming with pink buds
the courtyard is carpeted with golden petals
the air is filled with the cuckoo’s call
Won’t you come my love

From ‘Collection Of Chaos‘ my debut poetry book. You can buy the book from any online bookseller including amazon. Do check out my new collection ‘Wayfaring – Poems By Tikuli‘ that is available for pre-order now.

Exile – 2


Dissident Voice’s Sunday Poetry section. DV is a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice.

 

Broken Lives 

In the stillness of the old house
my fingers leave traces on the
dust-shrouded sepias of broken lives—
their names only half remembered—
parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins—
in the courtyard of our ancestral home,
or surrounded by vast areas of snow
that now weigh heavy on my heart
as I close my eyes and find a dream
in which the mist of old memories
veils the far distant hills and
bare trees that stand transfixed
like bleached skeletons,
their summer songs exorcised
the grey of sorrow clouds the sky
I recall a bright wood fire blazing
fragrant with the scent of my homeland
making figures like themselves
to celebrate the coming of new snow
but that was before innocence was lost
and the snow turned red with blood
as their sculptures gradually died
and vanished from sight forever
in the years since I last saw snow fall
winter has become a grisly metaphor
for the loss of life and hope
and things that will never be again

Exile


the sky that final evening
was smeared red with death,
and a tangible odour of fear
hung oppressively in the air,
by the half-shut windows,
blood had petrified in my veins

mother moved about the rooms
unsettling the unnatural quiet,
the few things we still owned
were in neat bundles beside the door,
slowly, on his artistic limbs,
baba mapped the contours of home

he absorbed the fading colours,
let memories settle on his skin
as fragile as a fine layer of dust,
in a corner grandma sat quietly
huddled with her kangri,
her gaze lost in a different world

the children had long forgotten time
and surrendered to exhaustion,
from my place near the window,
I envied their restive slumber
as I watched our topographies of pain,
trapped between somewhere and nowhere

the eerie wail of an ambulance sounded,
gunshots echoed through the air,
choked on dust and soot and pain
we waited, and watched the day reduce
to ash, then we passed into the night,
quietly, towards an unfamiliar sky

First published in Dissident Voice’s Sunday Poetry section. DV is a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice.

Broken Lives – Two Poems


I’ve been in a perpetual state of (un)belonging since childhood. It is difficult to imagine the pain of loss, the angst, the outrage and the constant longing of those who are yearning to return to their homeland. People who are displaced/ exiled for any number of reasons. Personally, the feeling of homelessness is the closest that can come to what a person may feel when he/she is forced out of his/her birth country. This sense of alienation, of despair seems similar to me. It is one thing to live in a house and another to have a home, to feel at home.

I feed on my dreams just as they do, longing for a home that is perhaps not even there, searching for my identity, my purpose in this world. For me exile is not just a geographical concept it is also an emotional, mental state of being. I will do a post on this very soon.

I decided to do poems about exile, displacement and my own desire for a home. The first two poems were published in Cafe Dissensus Everyday and the next two found a ‘home’ in this wonderful newsletter Dissident Voice’s Sunday Poetry section. DV is a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice. I am grateful to the Senior DV editor Angie Tibbs for helping me reach out by my poetry.

You can read both the poems by clicking the links below.

BROKEN LIVES 

EXILE  

I would also like to thank all my readers for constantly encouraging and supporting me as a blogger and writer.

Keep visiting and sharing your views.

Two Poems Of Exile


first published in Cafe Dissensus Everyday 

 

 

1

years ago I bid adieu to my homeland
the colours of autumn that stained my heart
have long faded and the rivers that ran
deep in the lines of my hands have dried

the place of my birth is a forgotten fragrance
a half-remembered dream whose ending is lost
but sometimes my sleepless nights are sheened
by the light of the winter moon I watched

leaning from the window of the bus I took,
the cool air awakens distant memories
it takes me back to a village
nestled between the mountains and streams

I run shoeless across the fields of saffron
chasing an invisible kite. the fiery chinar
warms my chilled heart, the bare silhouettes
of walnut trees spread their arms in welcome

on the steps of home you await my return
but as I reach out to you, you fade away
like soft summer light when evening comes
it’s been years since I last saw your face

maybe someday when you see the moon
reflecting in the quiet waters of the lake
and hear a boatman’s song echo in the breeze
I will be home never to leave you again

2

the spice shop perfumes the morning
in the streets of the old-city bazaar
as people hurry to private errands
a bangle seller displays his wares
promising good fortune to those who buy
at the tea stalls, people share stories
over a cup of hot masala chai
barefoot children chase imaginary kites
oblivious to the bustling crowd
a cow sits contemplating life
beset by flies it blinks its soulful eyes
women bargain with the grocers
for rice and lentils to feed hungry mouths
amidst traffic chaos people jostle for space
the late afternoon sun drifts towards evening
strings of lights twinkle like fireflies
laughter and singing echo everywhere
flavours and aromas fill the night
and the city – like a new bride
sashays dreamlike until the sun rises again.