3 poems| Indran Amirthanayagam

1. Dog Cull

First published in The Sunflower Collective

The parallels boggle me blind,
like a cliché the poem writes
on automatic pilot, 300,000 civilians
by the lagoon, among them
a smaller number of Tiger terrorists.
Bomb, bomb, bomb away
to eliminate the terror problem.

Now we have three million
stray dogs, sterilization
has not worked, we need
to cull, to limit the number,
under one hundred, of citizens
succumbing to death
from rabid animals, dogs et al.

So kill the canines. Don't think
about the unrabid roaming free,
and if the domestic pet escapes,
and wanders through
the neighborhood he too will see
his god. Let all dogs live in fear,
not advertise their residencies

in their respective compounds. One
never knows when the dog patrol
may rove behind the white vans.
In the end we will live happily
without terrorists or rabies
and more pliable populations
of Tamils, and of dogs.

2. Cheran

Reprint. First published in Uncivil War, Indran Amirthanayagam, Tsar Publications, 2013

He is writing history, where he lives, when he travels,
to Demark, Singapore, Tamil Nadu, Toronto. Edward Said
wrote about Palestinians, Rudramoorthy Cheran, Tamils.

News that my friend has suffered a mild heart attack
does not surprise me. His muscle has been strained
for more than thirty years.  From the Saturday Review

where he reported  the first days of rebellion in Jaffna
to more recent sociological study and dramatic writing,
the man, as scientist and poet, has let emotions hang

on strings strummed to a tabla’s beat. Wordsmiths
for Tamilians are as good as our instruments
and words are always enhanced by music. I recall

when we met in 1987 at the International Centre
for Ethnic Studies on Kynsey Terrace in Colombo,
where I moved as a kid when the house was home

and not yet a center dedicated to resolving differences
between people, the wounds of the1983 “Riots” were still
very fresh, and enthusiasm for resolution of long-standing

grievances of long-suffering Tamils strong, and nobody
thought we would allow democracy to fall into tyranny.
Neelan had not yet crossed the hairs of a Tiger,

nor even Premadasa, but the Indian Army were
landing in Jaffna, and resistance came soon after
that brief spring during which Cheran and I smoked

a cheroot and spoke poetry tinged with sadness
still for the murders of Black July and the suicide
of Sivaramani, whom we translated before the light

of an oil lamp in a thosai kaddai and thought
that, now we live abroad, let us recognize
at least that our spirits will not present passports

and our children, which we could not imagine
then, would wander about our new homes and
may one day think that to be Tamil is to be well-

prepared to write the essay on expulsion from
the garden, and to feed, dream and compose
that other promise too, called the right of return.

3. Executed Summarily

Reprint. First published in Uncivil War, Indran Amirthanayagam, Tsar Publications, 2013

The Sri Lanka Killing Fields documentaries remind us of what
took place while we manned barricades, carrying posters
and placards, shouting in the evening off Robson Square,

on Parliament Hill, in our far-away democracies. We are told
that the rest of the world, the United Nations, just wanted
the war to finish, inevitably, with government victory

while hoping that the largest possible number of hapless civilians
crouched in bunkers, running from shell to shell, would live
to prosper again. Forty thousand or more died while survivors

languished in detention camps, released now to live from scraps
without jobs in a vast territory full of monuments to the victory,
army camps, soldiers manning intersections, running investments,

rebuilding projects in Chinese and Indian hands, and stupas
erected beside kovils, new street names, and prohibitions
on singing a certain national song in Tamil, a mild suggestion

to help make peace palatable, that Tamils will be allowed
to sing in Tamil, even this remains to be adopted , yet how
to keep colleagues at work, friends informed when repressions

elsewhere have claimed their due rights,  inevitably,
to the headlines.  In Homs, Syria, Marie Colvin, was targeted
again by a government shell, this time she died.

Back in 2001 she shouted that she was a journalist, while
walking towards government forces in the Sri Lankan theatre,
and a grenade tore out her eye.  She survived, bore witness

to the war which in its moments of final resolution did
not allow entry even to the Red Cross, to pick up wounded,
deliver surgical supplies. We know now that captured

or surrendering fighters, as well as some civilians hiding
in bunkers,Tamils, even babies and old  people, whomever
soldiers found mopping up, were executed summarily.


'America' Tribute Series: Part I - Ishan Marvel

We plan to reprint poems inspired or adapted from Allen Ginsberg's America, by various Indian Poets. We start with an adaptation by Ishan Marvel. We are also happy to publish an original poem by Marvel which talks about the role Ginsberg played in his poetic journey.


(Adapted from Ginsberg’s America. First published in Vayavya, Summer Issue 2013)

India, I give you nothing, for I am nothing
Two balls and seventeen cigarettes. July 9, 2012
I’m beginning to enjoy my mind
But India, when will you fight another war?
When will you use that million-dollar bomb?
I can’t write my epic till you do something
India, when will you stop being a pussy and take off your clothes?
India, when will you be acidic?
When will you meet the eyes of your million Naxalites?
India, why are your bookshops full of shit?
And when will you stop making omelettes for America?
I’m sick of hypocrisies
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my lean dick?
India, when will you move on to the next world?
Your machinery is too much for me
You make me feel ashamed of being a saint
There is no way to end this argument
I can never get to the point

I refuse to give up my madness

India, start pushing, we’ve had enough of labour
India, the onions are rising
I haven’t read the newspaper for months, everyday somebody does something bad
India, I feel sentimental about the Maoists
I used to be a communist when I was a bachelor; I’m not sorry
I avoid marijuana everywhere
I sit at my desk for days on end and stare at the curtains
When I go out, I get drunk and never get laid
My mind is made up, we need some trouble
You should have seen me reading Freud
My analysis says I’m perfectly right
I won’t stand for the national anthem
I have cosmic visions and mystical vibrations
India, you should be ashamed of the drool when Uncle Obama came over

I’m undressing you
Are you going to let our imagination run by Delhi Times?
I’m obsessed by Delhi Times
I read it every chance I get
Its pictures tempt with me all the women I can never have
I read it with my morning cigarette and shit
It’s always telling me about fun
Businessmen are having fun
Movie stars are having fun
Everybody’s having fun but me
It occurs to me that I am India
I am talking to myself again

Yoga is rising against me
I haven’t got a chance
I’d better consider my national resources
My national resources consist of twelve cigarettes
Millions of shy genitals
An unpublished private literature that goes ten fucks a page
And eight hundred buffoons at the centre
I say nothing about my schools, or the millions of underprivileged who live in my pubic jungles under the light of zero-watt bulbs
I have killed half of Kashmir, the East is next to go
My ambition is to be President due to the fact that I’m useless

India, how can I write my grand epic in your silly mood?
I will continue like Salman Khan
My couplets are as funny as his driving
More so they’re all sexually confused
India, I will sell you cantos a lakh apiece, ten thousand down on your old canto
India, I am the BCCI
When I was thirteen, Ma took me to urban Buddhist groups
They sold us prayer books for hundred bucks, and the speeches were free and full of faith
Everybody was sincere and sentimental about prayer
It was all so sincere you have no idea how much I was brainwashed
Later, I almost cried when I realized I only wanted to be cool
Everybody must have been an asshole

India, you do want to go to war
India, it’s them Pakistanis
And them Bangladeshis, them Sri Lankans, and them Chinamen
And them Pakistanis
The Pakistan wants to fuck us dead
The Pakistan’s a sex addict
He wants to take our virgins on our kitchen-tops
Him wants to grab Kashmir
Him needs a Filmfare
Him wants our grass in Malana
Her, big bureaucracy running our brothels
That no good
Her sucks up to America
Her need big, black Tam-Brahms
Him makes us all abuse our wives

India, this is quite serious
This is the impression I get from looking in the television set
India, is this correct, or am I stoned again?
You’d better get right down to the job
It’s true I diss everything and write dirty rhymes, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway
India, I’m taking my bruised shoulder off the wheel


Remembering Ginsberg
it was the big fat book of collected poems on a friend’s bookshelf 
and dylan whining through the stereo down mandela road
all that talk of sex, hippies, and cigarettes, and the myriad ironies of our rat lives 
it was just the evening, and the time 
to remember that man with the crazy eyes
a big fat book of collected poems at the professor’s 
to remember how it felt reading the first lines of Howl for the first time
how the pages began to scream, drilling through years of bullshit, screaming:
boy, this is poetry too!
to remember being blown away by the reams of gibberish a madman had let loose
by cosmopolitan greetings!
the onslaught of associations and all that dope smoked in tribute
to remember the stupor of those days when I believed I could shock the world into changing
and above all, to remember thinking to myself:
man, this guy knows! this guy fucking knows!

but then, to have gotten over it
to talk of him as someone I met on a crazy trip years ago
to laugh and shake my head at the freshly ginsbuggered, and be all:
yeah, I had a phase too… yeah, he’s pretty amazing… yeah, rhythm rhythm, fuck, beat, buddha something, revolution… captured zeitgeist… kaddish and love… and howl, and love, and howl… and blah and blah and blah…
but today, I remember you, Ginsberg
that feeling
and the searing, heartbreaking, scrotum-tightening truths of your time and place you sang
that’s the least a bastard can give
* * *

Read other poems from the 'America' Tribute Series.


A Call for Return to Dilettantism in Poetry

'Is there any need for a new manifesto for poetry?'- learned friends will ask, we are sure. And if there is, at all, who are we to write it? And thirdly, what of those who feel the 'scene' is fine as it is? They are all fair questions and we shall try to answer them as honestly as possible. Let us tackle the second part first.

It is from the position of a dilettante – a word we intend to reclaim – that we write this manifesto, for the simple reason that we feel there is a need for poetry to relinquish or at least modify its newly acquired quasi-professional trappings.

This is not a moralistic position. It is not our case that poetry must be 'pure'. There is no such thing. Professional choices must be respected. Our concern is only this that too much professionalism in poetry does not bode well. For the simple reason that poetry as an art encompasses everything that might be anathema to the 'system'. If it becomes a 'system' in itself, it will lose out on what gives it its unique character.

The return to dilettantism in poetry, as opposed to its newly acquired professional character is only to preserve that which we consider to be its raison d'ĂȘtre: to seek epiphanies in overheard gossip and visions in day-to-day banality.

And still, dilettantism in poetry does not mean poetry for poetry's sake. It means that when the professional trappings are removed, it becomes free to focus on that which is really essential: to see, hear, feel that which is 'less' important, 'less' grand, 'less' exciting. To poeticise the everyday, as Rilke said.

Moreover, it seems to us that there is a little too much emphasis on formal sophistication these days. In itself, a greater knowledge of craft is welcome, but not at the cost of that which is truly valuable in poetry. For it is our case that too much attention to craft can smother its real purpose- which is to communicate with the reader at a different plane than what he or she is used to, to peer into his or her secret heart in way that it becomes known irrefutably, even if the meaning, as Agha Shahid Ali wrote, is delayed. To put it simply, in Namdeo Dhasal's words, there should be a stain on every shirt. Too much perfection is another kind of corruption. Folly is welcome, especially where language is concerned. In India, even English has different flavours. We intend to promote Indian poetry in English written by those who have not necessarily have been trained in how the elites use it. .

We would also like to point out that as admirers of the Beat School of poetry, we favour the “personal” because it adds to the uniqueness of the Voice and illuminates the Universal.

The need for a return to dilettantism in poetry is also crucial, we believe, because the new emphasis on its professional character is fundamentally exclusionary. As it is, to write poetry in English in India is limited to a very small section that had a commensurate education denied to most. To put further conditions on its practice is not encouraging for the marginalized sections.

We think the reasons for a manifesto have been provided. We have also tackled our own position, hopefully to the satisfaction of discerning readers. We do not intend to impose any diktat on any one, least of all poets who never work well under forced conditions.

Now, the question about what about those who disagree. They are most welcome to do so. It is not our intention to cause a confrontation. To each, his or her own. This is only a humble attempt to see things a little differently.