TSC Interviews| Charles Plymell

Kevin Pennington Interviews Charles Plymell  for The Sunflower Collective.

Charles Plymell is a poet, novelist, and small press publisher. Plymell has been published widely. He has collaborated with many Beat poets, writers, and artists, including Neal Cassady, Herbert Huncke and William S. Burroughs.

Charles Plymell

Kevin Pennington (KP): First of all, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview. We would like to know your opinion on the relevance of the Beat Generation today?

Charles Plymell (CP): As compared to what? I don't know what is relevant. People do write about it as a scene that happened over a half-century ago.

KP: Beats have been criticized for the way they treated their female associates and for the lack of women writers in the group. How far are these allegations valid? 

CP: There’s lots written about this. Brenda Knight wrote a whole book about it. Our friend, Janine Pommy Vega was always complaining about it, though when in high school, she went with Herbert Huncke and Peter Orlovsky. The (sexual) identification of the group was homosexual, so what would you expect?

KP: Why do we need to read the Beats today? Do you think Beat Generation literature is limited to an idea of an era that has passed or, do  you see a growing influence of these styles among new writers/poets today?

CP: People like people who were/are interesting, I suppose. I lived most of my years as I pleased, not learning about them until later in life. Rt 66 was my commute when Kerouac discovered it as his epiphany. I don't read them much and have never read "On The Road" as I was on it since 1939, my first trip to California when I spoke my first verse. I drove all over the West by myself at 13 years old.  I guess "styles" are passed on. I never thought of myself as a Beat, but understood the old word as hipster Huncke spoke it first to Ginsberg & Kerouac. I had traveled as a rounder when they were going to school. Most of them I would have pegged as squares. Burroughs said that he never thought of himself as "Beat" too. He was part of the brand. I was associated with it.

KP: What was the Wichita Vortex? Why are so many  Hippies from Kansas?

CP: The Vortex is explained in my Tent Shaker Vortex Voice book published by Bottle of smoke press. With the help of an acquaintance at The University of Pennsylvania, Loren Eiseley, I found the voice of the Game Lord heard in Kansas. Others have a different, more analogous meaning of it as seen on here.

KP: Could you tell us more about the poetic process and techniques that the Beat poets used? (For example, Ginsberg had often mentioned  breath as a measure for line breaks)

CP: Yeah, he (Ginsberg) ran it to the end of the line for a line break. He liked spontaneity too. We were on my motorcycle once going to meet (Thelonious) Monk at Monterey Jazz Festival making poetry from words on signs through towns shouting them out.  His prosody has been written about by those more knowledgeable about that stuff than I.

KP: Can the Beat aesthetic exist without the musical form of Jazz?

CP: Kerouac had a good ear for jazz...Neal liked rockabilly & Chuck Berry. Ginsberg asked me about the Schubert Quintet I was playing once when he & Neal Cassady moved in with me in S.F. 1963. That was the time he first heard Dylan that I played for him. He kept on playing Dylan. I didn’t.

KP: Who were the Beats that you were in touch with? Could you tell us a little about your association with them, at a personal and professional level? 

CP: All of them. I felt closest to William Burroughs and Neal Cassady. I guess because they were middle westerners from St. Louis & Denver. I didn't know of any of them during my formative years in Kansas, nor any of their work. As a Kansas hipster & rebel, I read the poetry of Pound & the prose of Henry Miller, for example. I was mainly interested in philosophy.

KP: Tell us what made you interested in comics and graphic novel world. As the printer of Zap and other underground comics, what was the scene like back in those days?

CP: I first printed S. Clay Wilson in Lawrence, Kansas when we were living there. I printed the 1st Zap Comics on an old Multilith in S.F. Robert Williams did the cover of the Mother Road Edition of my Last of Mocassins first published by City Lights. I went to many Comix shows in NYC. One had lines two blocks long. It was too crowded to find Wilson whom I went there to see after some years. I found Robert Crumb talking to Allen Ginsberg. Allen turned around gesturing at the jam-packed room and said "See what you started!'" Where were the cameras! Ha! 

KP: What do you think about the women of the Beat generation? Tell us about their contribution towards the movement and their art and poetry?

CP: I didn't know any of them personally, except Janine Pommy Vega, a late close friend of Pam & mine. I knew Diane Wakowski & Anne Mennebroker, Lyn Lifshin, and Linda Lerner, but I don't know if they consider themselves Beat. Their poetry can be easily found.

KP: What are your thoughts on the future of Beat Poetry and the legacy?

CP: As I said, it happened over a half century ago. I guess its legacy has been written about quite a bit. I remained cordial with Allen Ginsberg, who I thought was always looking for a master. I think he found one, and with the help of the CIA set up Naropa for him. That's what he told me. I guess the Beat poetry continues at Naropa, an institution quickly to be assigned an accredited college? I wouldn't know, nor want to. It's an odd legacy for a Beat, I think. One time Burroughs was staying with us here in Cherry Valley when Peter Orlovsky came running in our place and asked Bill if he'd heard about Trungpa who was ill. Burroughs, with his English cigarette & glass of vodka, snarled "I don't give a shit if he lives or dies." So there you go, you want reality instead of virtual reality? That was a snippet.  


Note | Mohammad Aftab Alam

Disappearance of An Identity: Personal Memories and Public Events

At the very level of its essence and existence, JNU has been an embodiment of academic excellence, vibrant secular public space and constant debate & dissent. The idea of JNU was conceived to represent the very idea of India contained in its civilizational - constitutional idioms and ethos. In its geographical landscape with hostels named after rivers from different parts of the country, JNU is a miniaturized version of larger India cocooned in the Aravalli hills in its capital city.

My first encounter with this legendary institution was as a casual visitor from Aligarh in 1991 where I was pursuing my under graduation. Some of my classmates had joined the language course in JNU opting for Persian language in the wake of Amir Subhani topping the civil services examination in 1987-1988 having Persian as one of the two optional papers. That inspired a lot of Muslim students to follow the same path including my classmates. The purpose was to meet and catch up with those friends.

At the very first glance, JNU campus mesmerized me. It was refreshing to see its library, hostels, dhabas and a politically vibrant public sphere. It was a cosmopolitan feeling as compared to the small town setting of my beloved Alma mater AMU. Moreover, I was delighted to watch so many aeroplanes flying over my head. In my whole life, I had not seen so many aeroplanes as I saw in just a span of few hours. More than this, a very liberal campus environment and co-educational pattern – which my friends who had recently joined liked to flaunt -  compared to the restrictive, conservative and obscurantist nature of AMU campus was the main point of attraction.

At that point while meeting my friends and their friends, I felt that now they belonged to a different destiny much higher and intellectually superior than ours at backward AMU as they had greater chances of having girlfriends and cracking the civil services examination – which JNU students were known to excel at. Our poor academic and intellectual existence was looked down upon, pitied and derided. A sense of inferiority complex engulfed my psyche but at the same time, it engineered a new passion in me to come back to JNU not as a casual visitor but as a student. I finally succeeded in 1993, after joining the masters course in the prestigious Centre for Political Studies (CPS) of School of Social Sciences (SSS) after a tough all India test. These tags of CPS and SSS were like gold medals compared to the bronze of certain non-European languages known as HUPA- Hindi, Urdu, Persian and Arabic.

Joining JNU was a great way to escape from the closed environment and municipal existence at Aligarh. It was like moving from the periphery to the centre. I felt as if I had moved from a cage to freedom. I also thought that in JNU, I will easily escape and overcome any kind of ascribed identity .The radical political activism and secular academic environment have the potential to obliterate conventional social inequalities and identity differences. But in due course of time, it became clear that under this facade, in fact, those inequalities and conventional social hierarchies were reinforced and accentuated.

Back then, Kamandal and Mandal politics was at its peak. Ayodhya has just been orphaned one year before and Mandal commission recommendations were on their way to implementation after Supreme Court's nod in Indira Sawhney case. Between these two poles, JNU opted for a radical political space. But, here also beneath all the ultra-left and official left ideologies and politics, electoral-political engineering revolved around caste and religious mobilization.
Within this fake and pretentious radical secular existence, it was impossible to escape from being labelled as a Muslim. At the very outset, in the final result list pasted on a notice board at the Administrative Block, the names of all the selected Muslim candidates were suffixed with the term katuwa, denoting their severed private organ. It was a mischievous act done by probably some fun loving newly emergent cadres of the rightist party. But, this sense of hate, derision, labelling and distancing continued and manifested in myriad forms during cricket matches on TVs in common rooms of hostels, election results, atomic tests, 9/11, and other terrorist acts by Muslims.

In the current scenario, the disappearance of a Muslim student Najeeb from the JNU campus is the fall out of that long tradition of hate and phobia against Islam, now more firmly accentuated at a global scale and under the current national political dispensation, being presided over by a narcissist, loner and hate monger.

Poems | Miyah Poetry Series (Translated by Shalim M Hussain ) - Part I

Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing a series of poems that have come to be known as Miyah poetry (A resistance movement that grew up recently as a response to the threats faced by Muslims in Assam due to the #Dvoter issue ) 

Shalim adds:  
" 'A Charuwa's Proposition' (1939) is probably the first published poem from the Miyah/ Char-Chapori Muslim community of Assam. It is a little rigid and quite benign but it was re-discovered only recently and celebrated as the first self-assertive Miyah poem. 'I Beg to State That', published in 1985 in the aftermath of the Nellie Massacre and the coming to power of the AGP was the first true assertion of Miyahness and started the trend of protest poetry among the Miyah/Char-Chapori people."

An oil painting by Anil Karanjai

A Charuwa’s [1] Proposition (1939)[2]
Maulana Bande Ali

Some say Bengal is my birthplace
And gloat in this bitter accusation
Well, before they came,
My father and my mother and many others
Left their homes, became country-less
How many people belonged to countries then
Who now wear the crowns and masks of leaders?
They are trapped by greed, I know
I quietly observe the language greed speaks.
But I will not tear the plate that feeds me
My faith will not allow me.
This land that I live in
I will revel in this land’s well-being.
The land which my Aai, Abbajan
Left for the heavens
This land is my own, my golden Assam
This land is my holy sanctuary.
The land I scrape to build my house
Is my own land
These are words from the Quran
And in it there is no falsehood
The people of this land are simple, pure
The Assamese are our own
We will share what we have in our shared home
And raise a golden family.

I am not a charuwa, not a pamua[3]
We have also become Asomiya
Of Assam’s land and air, of Assam’s language
We have become equal claimants.
If Assamese dies, so do we
But why will we let it happen?
For newer tribulations we will build new weapons
With new tools we will build a new future.
Where will we find such love, such respect
Where will we find such a place?
Where the plough cuts through earth and reveals gold
Where will we find such a land of grace?
Mother Assam feeds us at her breast
We are her frolicking children
Let us sing in one tune- we are Asomiya
We shall not be Mymensinghia
We will need no ‘borders’
We will be brothers
And when outsiders come to loot us,
We will bar them with our bare chests.

[1] Charuwa- A word used for people from the chars.
[2] The original poem is written in the abab rhyme scheme.
[3] Pamua- Settler

 চৰুৱাৰ উক্তি
মৌঃ বন্দে আলী

কোনে বোলে বঙ্গদেশ মোৰ জন্মভূমি
             লভি যাৰ তিক্ত নিৰ্য্যাতন,
আহিছিল ঘৰ এৰি হই দেশান্তৰী
            পিতৃ-মাতৃ আৰু কতজন !
তেতিয়া আছিল ক'ত দেশৰ কুটুম
           যিসকলে দিছে নেতা ভাও,
বুজিছো সকলো ফন্দী স্বাৰ্থৰ কাৰণে
           তাৰো মাথো শুনি আছোঁ ৰাও
কদাপি নহওঁ মই খাইপাতফলা
           ধৰ্ম্ম মোৰ নহয় তেনেকুৱা,
যি দেশত আছোঁ মই সিখনি দেশৰ
          হিত চিন্তি হ'ম মতলীয়া
যিখিনি দেশতে মোৰ আই-আব্বাজানে
          দুনিয়াত লভিলে আস্মান,
সেয়ে এই মোৰ দেশ সোণৰ অসম
          ইয়াতোকৈ নাই পূণ্যস্থান। 
যি দেশত মাটি চহি ল'লো ঘৰ-বাৰী
          সেয়ে মোৰ আপোনাৰ দেশ,
পৰম পৱিত্ৰ ই যে কোৰাণৰ বাণী 
         নাই তাত অসত্যৰ লেশ।
ইদেশৰ অধিবাসী সৰল নিৰ্মল 
         অসমীয়া আপোন আমাৰ,
সকলোটি মিলি-জুলি এখনি ঘৰতে 
         পাতি ল'ম সোণৰ সংসাৰ।
নহওঁ চৰুৱা মই নহওঁ পমুৱা
         আমিও যে হ'লো অসমীয়া,
অসমৰ জল-বায়ু অসমৰ ভাষা
        সকলোৰে সমান ভগীয়া।
মৰে যদি অসমীয়া আমিও মৰিম 
        তেনে কথা কিয় হ'ব দিম!
নতুন উদ্যমে আমি সবাই যুঁজিম
         ভৱিষ্যৎ আমিয়ে গঢ়িম।
ক'ত পাম এনে স্নেহ এনে সমাদৰ
         ক'ত পাম এনেখনি দেশ,
হালৰ ফালত য'ত সোণৰ চপৰা
         নাই যাৰ মহিমাৰ শেষ।
চেনেহী অসম-মাতৃ দিছে স্তন্যধাৰা
         আনন্দতে নাচে মোৰ হিয়া,
গাওঁ আহা সমস্বৰে---আমি অসমীয়া
        নোহো আৰু মৈমনছিঙীয়া।
'সীমাৰেখা' প্ৰয়োজন নহয় তেতিয়া
       একে ভাই হ'লো একে ঠাই,
আহিলে বিদেশী কোননো আমাক লুটিব
        বাধা দিম বুকু ফিন্দুৱাই।

I beg to State That (1985)
Khabir Ahmed

I beg to state that
I am a settler, a hated Miyah
Whatever be the case, my name is
Ismail Sheikh, Ramzan Ali or Majid Miyah
Subject- I am an Assamese Asomiya

I have many things to say
Stories older than Assam’s folktales
Stories older than the blood
Flowing through your veins

After forty years of independence
I have no space in the words of beloved writers
The brush of your scriptwriters doesn’t dip in my picture
My name left unpronounced in assemblies and parliaments
On no martyr’s memorial, on no news report is my name printed
Even in tiny letters.
Besides, you haven’t yet decided what to call me-
Am I Miyah, Asomiya or Neo-Asomiya?

And yet you talk of the river
The river is Assam’s mother, you say
You talk of trees
Assam is the land of blue hills, you say
My spine is tough, steadfast as the trees
The shade of the trees my address…
You talk of farmers, workers
Assam is the land of rice and labour, you say
I bow before paddy, I bow before sweat
For I am a farmer’s boy…

I beg to state that I am a
Settler, a dirty Miyah
Whatever be the case, my name
Is Khabir Ahmed or Mijanur Miyah
Subject- I am an Assamese Asomiya.
Sometime in the last century I lost
My address in the storms of the Padma
A merchant’s boat found me drifting and dropped me here
Since then I have held close to my heart this land, this earth
And began a new journey of discovery
From Sadiya to Dhubri…

Since that day
I have flattened the red hills
Chopped forests into cities, rolled earth into bricks
From bricks built monuments
Laid stones on the earth, burnt my body black with peat
Swam rivers, stood on the bank
And dammed floods
Irrigated crops with my blood and sweat
And with the plough of my fathers, etched on the earth

Even I waited for freedom
Built a nest in the river reeds
Sang songs in Bhatiyali
When the Father came visiting,
I listened to the music of the Luit
In the evening stood by the Kolong, the Kopili
And saw on their banks gold.

Suddenly a rough hand brushed my face
On a burning night in ‘83
My nation stood on the black hearths of Nellie and screamed
The clouds caught fire at Mukalmua and Rupohi, Juria,
Saya Daka, Pakhi Daka- homes of the Miyahs
Burnt like cemeteries
The floods of ’84 carried my golden harvest
In ’85 a gang of gamblers auctioned me
On the floor of the Assembly.

Whatever be the case, my name
Is Ismail Sheikh, Ramzan Ali or Mazid Miyah
Subject- I am an Assamese Asomiya.

বিনীত নিবেদন এই যে
খবিৰ আহমেদ

বিনীত নিবেদন এই যে
মই এজন পমুৱা, এজন লাঞ্চিত মিঞা
যিয়েই নহওক কিয় মোৰ নাম
ইছমাইল শ্বেখ, ৰমজান আলি কিংবা মাজিদ মিঞা
জ্ঞাতব্য বিষয় মই অসমৰেই অসমীয়া
যিবোৰ কথা অসমৰ সাধুকথাৰ দৰেই প্ৰাচীন
যিবোৰ কথা তোমালোকৰ ধমনীত প্ৰবাহিত
ৰক্ত কণিকাতকৈও আদিম...
কোনো সহৃদয লেখকৰ লেখনিত মোৰ ঠাই নহ'ল
কোনো চিত্ৰশিল্পীৰ তুলিকাত চিত্ৰিত নহ'ল মোৰ ছবি
বিধানসভা অথবা সংসদ ভৱনত এবাৰো উচ্চাৰিত নহ'ল মোৰ কথা
কোনো শ্বহীদ বেদী অথবা কোনো সংবাদ পত্ৰত
ঘুণাক্ষৰেও লিখা নহ'ল মোৰ নাম
আনকি মোৰ কোনো সংজ্ঞাও পোৱা নহ'ল
মই মিঞা নে অসমীয়া নে ন-অসমীয়া
হৃদয় মোৰ নদীৰ দৰেই গভীৰ আৰু বহল
বৃক্ষৰ কথা কোৱা হয়, অসম নীলা পাহাৰৰ দেশ
মেৰুদণ্ড মোৰ বৃক্ষৰ দৰেই কঠিন আৰু অটল
বৃক্ষৰ ছায়াই মোৰ স্বাভাৱিক ঘৰ
কৃষক শ্ৰমিকৰ কথা কোৱা হয়, অসম কৃষি প্ৰধান দেশ
কৃষি আৰু শ্ৰমৰ প্ৰতি আছে মোৰ জন্মগত মহান শ্ৰদ্ধা
মই যে কৃষকৰেই সন্তান...
মই এজন পমুৱা,  এজন ঘৃণনীয় মিঞা
যিয়েই নহওক কিয় মোৰ নাম
খবিৰ আহমেদ কিংবা মিজানুৰ ভূঞা
জ্ঞাতব্য বিষয় যে মই অসমৰেই অসমীয়া
পদ্মাৰ ধুমুহাত মোৰ ঠিকনা হেৰাল যোৱা শতিকাত
বন্দৰ বিচাৰি বণিকৰ জাহাজত উজাই আহিলোঁ মই
চিৰদিনৰ বাবে আপোন বুলি সাৱটি ল'লো এই দেশ এই মাটি
তাৰ পিছত আৰম্ভ হ'ল মোৰ নতুন আৱিষ্কাৰ
শদিযাৰ পৰা ধুবুৰীলৈ...
ৰঙা মাটিৰ পাহাৰ কাটি সমতল কৰিছোঁ ভূমি
হাবি কাটি নগৰ কৰিছোঁ মাটি পিহি কৰিছোঁ ইটা
আৰু ইটাৰ পৰা অট্টালিকা
ৰাস্তাত শিল পাৰিছোঁ পিটচেৰে ক'লা কৰি দিছোঁ গা
কাৰখানাত কুলিগিৰি কৰিছোঁ পথাৰবোৰ সেউজীয়া কৰিছোঁ মই
মই নদী সাঁতুৰিছো নদীৰ পাৰত উবুৰি হৈ
বানপানী ভেটা দিছোঁ মই
এনেদৰে প্ৰতিদিন তেজ আৰু ঘামেৰে উৰ্বৰ কৰিছোঁ মাটি
বাপতিসাহোন নাঙলেৰে মাটিত লিখিছোঁ এটি নাম
চৰাইবোৰৰ দৰে চৰ-চাপৰিত নল-খাগৰিৰ বাহ সাজিছিলো
অনাবিল আনন্দত ভাটিয়ালী গান গাইছিলো
জাতিৰ পিতা যেতিয়া অসমলৈ আহিছিল
তেতিয়া মই লুইতৰ গান শুনিছিলো
সূৰ্যাস্তৰ সময়ত কপিলীৰ বোকাময় বুকু মই স্বৰ্ণোজ্জ্বল দেখিছিলোঁ
মোৰ তিৰাশীৰ জোৎস্নাপ্লুত ৰাতি
নেলীৰ বিধ্বস্ত বস্তি ভিটাত থিয় হৈ বিনালে মোৰ দেশ
মুকালমুৱাত মেঘাচ্ছন্ন হ'ল আকাশ আৰু 'ৰূপহী' 'জুৰিয়া'
মিঞাসকলৰ সেই 'ছায়া ঢাকা পখী ডাকা' গাঁওবোৰ শ্মশান হ'ল...
চৌৰাশীৰ প্ৰবল বন্যাই উটুৱাই নিলে মোৰ সোণবৰণীয়া পথাৰ
পঁচাশীত এদল বাজিকৰে নিলামত বিক্ৰী কৰিলে মোক
বিধানসভাৰ মজিয়াত
ইছমাইল শ্বেখ, ৰমজান আলী কিংবা মাজিদ মিঞা
জ্ঞাতব্য বিষয় মই অসমৰেই অসমীয়া
ক'বলগা মোৰ বহুত কথাই আছিল
স্বাধীনতাৰ দুকুৰি বছৰ পিছতো
অথচ নদীৰ কথা কোৱা হয়, অসম নদীমাতৃক দেশ
বিনীত নিবেদন এই যে
সেইদিনাৰ পৰা মই
সনাতন স্বাধীনতাৰ বাবেও এদিন আকুল আছিলোঁ
হঠাত কাৰোবাৰ কঠিন হাতৰ পৰশত উচুপি উঠিল

যিয়েই নহওক কিয় মোৰ নাম

Read the complete series here


Poems | Shloka Shankar

                                                 Artwork : Divya Adusumilli


Memories linger by the door
as eyes mark the shape
of cold darkness—
defensive, unscrupulous,

building up moment by moment
against a sky the color of
laundered-to-the-perfect-fade jeans.

Ask a stupid question:
the way it looks
is not the way it is.

A remixed poem composed from a series of first sentences of novels.

Rain Check 

There's no sign of life.
I'm stepping through the door

and there's nothing
I can do.

Days float through my eyes—
I've caught glimpses of
a million dead-end streets,

walks through a sunken dream.
I dance the blues, squawking
like a pink monkey bird.

The way you talk—
cold and long,

a rain check on pain.


A remixed poem composed from the following song lyrics by David Bowie:

. Modern Love
. Space Oddity 
. Moonage Daydream 
. Five Years 
. Life on Mars 
. Let's Dance 
. Fame 
. Changes

Undercurrent of Imperfection

We see through a glass darkly—
see more than we can understand.

Sacrifice symmetry
and a syrupy sentimentality

for the beauty of the living hour.
Pull the plug on it.

Look straight at the message—
the mess of faith and
commercially-packaged angst.


. The Power of Perception and Critical Imagination: Alfred Kazin on Embracing Contradiction
and How the Sacredness of Human Attention Shapes Our Reality
. Chapter 4 of Em and The Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto 


If I could be anyone,
who would I be?

It must be recognized quickly.
Looking for a black cat
in a coal cellar? Reporting
well-known faces?

Resolve the hook
of a random thought—
its redness.

Fortunately, there's a way.
I try to do whatever is best.


. The Complete Guide To Women's Golf, by Beverly Lewis (pg. 94)
. Medical Emergencies in Dental Practice, by Stanley F Malamed (pg. 171)
. The Singer in the Band, by Michele Breeze
. The Adventures of Sally, P.G. Wodehouse (pg.80)
. Mayakovsky's Revolver, by Matthew Dickman (pg. 58)
. A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking 
. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom (pg. 154)
. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde (pg. 180)
. 1,001 Symbols: An Illustrated Guide to Imagery and Its Meaning, by Jack Tresidder (pg. 235)
. Cosmopolitan, April 2016

Of Endings

A good ending leaves
a) you hanging
b) your senses benumbed
c) you slightly worse for the wear.

It can make your head spin
faster than the fastest top;

a maelstrom of emotions
that correspond to self-made
dioramas of the past.

It can be as conspicuously
inconspicuous as the w
in answer, or as dubious
as a new beginning.

I’ve always been wary
of that last kind.

Poems | Kripi Malviya

Artwork : Aakriti Kuntal


Kingfisher wing child
Radiant maa is in all my summers

Yearning water youth
the colossal empathy of hair rising for rover winter

Life created at the continent’s edge
Power lines running on skin

Both sides of my teeth
are acquainted with you

Keep the mountain in your mouth
Stop the anarchy of the forgotten


I, radical machinery
Conifer and concrete anatomy
Skylark motorcycle heat rising

I, triumph of barefoot wet streets
Mourning long hair and
Distant railway lines
Arched muscles
rapt quivering teeth

I, rearviewer
queer queen
Silent speed musician
Bone spear scream


Saturate awe
Endlessly touch the silent
Remember your groans

Keep the damp
You lone lifeberg
Sharply inhale dispersion

Trace your burns
Let them know your glow
Your flaking skinned fingers

The familiar light song
Imploding into mother
Learn the choke of home

The S bend

Staring at stranger

Of lines, hair
grinding teeth

Birds of prey
years of days

The united colours
of naked

In the darkening,
touch rejection

Homes are

Simultaneous ornate
recall associations

Fishnet skin
clouds lay bait


This street is a force
holding our spines in its derision
between muscles soaked in black oil

The unexpected loss of light from the eyes
is known to all rivers
as they declare their borrowed stillness
in our cupped hands

In the endless landscape of the senses
we learn the true unarming of our time


he is weathered man, hands burnt with powdered snow
she is learning to separate her bones from the bed sheets that hold blue panic

he is anger resembling the after currents of a seabed earthquake
she is red surging rage as if to cover the empty graves of the earth

he shoots feathered arrows for truths
she explodes for each silenced life

he answers five am cries of pain
she appears at the ankles of the fallen

he is water-colour of natural disasters
she is oil strokes of dis-proportionate scales

he is a taster of chemically induced despair caves
she is spontaneous rock formations found in violent aftermaths of life-death cycles

he is the resolution
she is the skin rising

he is the false evidence of justified crime
she is living of the impoverished edges of bloodlines 

Poems| Sameer Tanti (Translated by Dibyajyoti Sarma)

A painting by Anil Karanjai (late -1960s) / untitlted

On the moonlit night, I’ve seen you walk

On the moonlit night, I’ve seen you walk
towards the olive grove
ah, my heart aches!
The explosives destroy your gold-plated land.
In the spring’s water-mirror, like the old days you
can no longer see your face
the charm of your face, the face of your earth.
Is it blood on your face!

Oh, Federico, Federico, they have murdered you.

I have heard how the women of Andalucía wailed in sorrow.
All night the stars gazed at your face.
You did not open your eyes to see how God
had covered His face in shame.

Federico, Federico, who will play in the piano that tune today?

The sun too reads your poems. Walking by the factory
the morning said
the workers too had heard your speech.

My artist friends will draw a picture with your words.
You had said — we’ll have to defeat the eternal silence of death.

Federico, Federico, they have murdered you.

Civil guard, civil guard
even here is that ice-cold fear.
The tongue will be severed if you speak about water, soil and men.
Oh, my landscape painting, my fruit orchard, the magic
of my ballads with women and children

Federico, Federico, ah, my heart aches!

I have seen you all

I had seen you all in the middle of the killing field
silent and sturdy like ancient sal trees

When I think of it even today, my heart brims with pride

That uncompromising war and the incomparable courage of yours
filled the entire sky
as if indomitable, an independent flag

I looked at your faces
as if you all had shouted and said:
we will have to win over tyranny
for humanity and democracy

When I think of it even today, my heart brims with pride

Even today, I witness from afar
in paddy fields and in the peak of the blue hill
the charms of your faces
the songs of your victory

like the bells of dawn pure that sound
I hear even today
which spread all over like a birdcall.

Farewell comrades, we will see each other again
in a new world.

Subject: Famine

The date is approximately 3500 BC. It happened
before your birth, before the birth of your birth.
Hrikved was not born yet. Like men, animals were
plump, strong, agile. And soil was fertile like
beautiful women. Making the men boat women of night
crossed the river of desire. One drop of semen
even then was women’s potent corp. Drinks of barley,
ox’s heart, life was an everlasting celebration.
Blessed is my Lord of Beasts, Pashupati.

Yes, it happened. It was destined that it would
happen. Rainfall of day, night’s moonlight. Lost soldiers.
In the city of bricks, nights were the luxury of amour. Time
passed, ebbed in water. One night an animal with long beard
screeched. And like a ripe orange fell an old woman,
she, who was Sindhu’s mother, the Goddess of Mohenjo-Daro.
Looking into a cauldron’s face, no one knew about food.
No one understood Sindhu.
That night was the night of famine.

Verses of the three magicians

Let me tell you about the three magicians.
All three are blind
the roads through which they walk are blind
the night they carry with them is blind too.
They know the meaning of three-crore-year-old light
they known many a healings and magic
how darkness turns into light
how one mistake can correct another
whatever you and your friends may want to know
you will get every answer.
All three are companions to each other.
All three of them ban each other.
The clouds in which they drench are blind.
The wind that takes off their garments is blind too.
From the days of wandering to civilization
they have the count of each day
and count the possibilities of pain of life and death.
Wherever they go, they create tales
whatever they say are myths.
The three do not have addresses
the three are nomads from elsewhere.
The river water they touch is red.
The leaves that float in the water are red too.
The kernels of their favourite fruits are red.
The beginning and the ending of the day is red too.
When silence takes hold of noise
they kiss the stone images
coiling on their feet serpents pray.
The serpents’ prayers bloat into blood.
All three are their own will.
They say hunger is the faith of the hungry.
In hunger even god fades out.
When they travel, they pray for the dead.
The living is the dead’s protest.
When there is conflict of soil against soil
break minarets, temples, airports, assemblies.
They know the mystery of bidden, forbidden
also about conspiracy and confusion.
All three secretly touch us
and check our blood pressure.
In their flute cries barren men-women.
In their sorrow stars shed tears.
In an animal’s cry breaks the entire millennia.
In hundred years not a single man appears.
Words look for word’s support.
Words turn into a long procession.
When they walk, stones break
the heat sharpens the thorns.
All the three magicians stand in third party.
In third party, there are no chances of telling lies.
When man falls below humanity
then only the skull can be seen.
No skull carries mind, intelligence.
Intelligence-less life is the modern life.
They know the end of a dictatorial regime
also know the results of punishment and pride.
When they talk about betrayal
they talk about our uncertainties.
All three are three ages.
All three are names of void
neither in nor out
neither above nor below thirst
lost dreams look for dreams
the knuckles of the hand sparkle in the pupil of the eye.
They know all the scripts
all the events that took place in all ages.
All those books are blind too.
Their creators and narrators are all blind.
With them there ticks a clock
until the ending of light, water, darkness.

Poems| Bhaskar Chakraborty ( Translated by Brinda Bose) 3/3

Artwork : Matthew Bialer 


কে না বোঝে বন্ধুত্ব ব্যাপারটা?
কবিতা, আমি বলছি-
মানুষকে আনন্দে বাঁচিয়ে রাখার শিল্পই হচ্ছে কবিতা।
কবিতা লেখা সত্যিই সেরকম সহজ নয় যেরকম ভঅবেন আপনি।
না, সিগারেট ধরাবেন না
সাদা একটা কাগজে লিখুন: বন্ধু
লিখুন: বন্ধু বন্ধু বন্ধু।
আমরা হতভাগা।
বন্ধুত্ব দিয়ে আমাদের সম্পর্ক শুরু হয়
শেষ হয় খিস্তিখেউড়ে।


Who does not understand this friendship business?
Poetry, I say –
the art of keeping humanity joyously alive
is poetry.
Writing poetry is really not as easy
as you seem to think.
No, don’t light that cigarette
on a white piece of paper, write: Friend
Write: Friend Friend Friend
We are the wretched
Our relationships start with friendship
and end in smearscurrility


সকাল দশটা হবে হয়তো এখন ।
আজ রোদ্দুর নেই ।
বর্ষার হাওয়া শর্তহীন শুধু উড়ে বেড়াচ্ছে ।
জীবনের ভুলত্রুটিগুলো নিয়ে
আমি মাথা ঘামাতে চাইছি না আর ।
কে যেন বলছিল কাল সন্ধ্যাবেলা
‘প্রেমের কবিতা লিখুন ।’ আজ
ডুমুর গাছের কাছে ফিরে এসে আমি দেখছি
পাতাগুলো আরো সবুজ হয়ে আমার কাছে
আসছে, মনে হচ্ছে
যেন-বা স্বপ্ন ওরা সব; যেন-বা
সকালবেলার দুপুরবেলার
সন্ধেবেলার রাত্রিবেলার কবিতা

Garland of Moments

It is perhaps about ten in the morning now.
No sunshine today.
Only the monsoon winds flying about unconditionally.
About life’s mistakes I no longer feel like
worrying my head.
Who was it who said last evening,
‘Write love poetry’. Today
returning to the fig trees I see
that the leaves, turning greener, are coming
toward me, it seems as if
they are dreams, all of them; seems as if they are
poems of the morning, the afternoon,
the evening and the night

আঠাশে মে, আমার জীবনের

আঠাশে মে, আমার জীবনের সুন্দরতম
দিন হও তুমি
এই সাতাশে মে-র সন্ধেবেলা আমি
অন্ধকারে বসে লিখতে চাইছি
তুমি কুয়োর বালতির মতো নাচতে নাচতে
নীচে নামো, আর আমার জন্যে নিয়ে এসো
মসৃণ পবিত্রতম জল
নিয়ে এসো অভিমান পুরস্কার আর পতাকা

28th May, In My Life

28th May, be my life’s loveliest
On this evening of the 27th I
sit in the dark and wish to write
that you, like a bucket dancing
as it lowers in a well
go down and bring for me
water smooth and holiest
hurt, prize and flag

যদি ভালোবাসা থাকে

এখন একলা আমি দিনরাত
ভয়ে ভয়ে
থাকি । সবকিছু
কীরকম ভাঙাচোরা ।
যাদের প্রেমিকা আছে
তারা শুধু
ঘাসের ভেতর দিয়ে
কোথায় যে চলে যায় রোজ... ।
আমার এ হাত আমি
বাড়িয়ে দিয়েছি-
যদি ভালোবাসা থাকে
মানুষের মতো যদি হও,
টান দাও,
বাজুক সেতার ।

If There is Love

Now day and night all alone
I sit in trepidation. Everything
seems to lie about in fragments.
Only those who have lovers
disappear through the grass,
who knows where, everyday…
I am offering my hand –
If there is love
If you are of flesh-and-blood
Pull it,
Let the sitar play.


কী খুঁজে বেড়াচ্ছো তুমি সারাদেশ জুড়ে?
---- রুটি, শুধু রুটি।
দিন নেই রাত নেই ঘুম নেই
খোঁজা শুধু খোঁজা---
কী খুঁজে বেড়াচ্ছো তুমি সমস্ত জীবন?
---ভালোবাসা শুধু।

Without Preamble

What are you seeking all over the land?
--- Bread, only bread.
No day, night, sleep
searching just searching ---
What are you seeking throughout your life?
--- Love, merely.

More poems of Bhaskar Chakraborty translated by Brinda Bose :

Part 1/3

Part 2/3


Prose | Sophia Naz

Walking in Whitman’s Wake
Artwork : Divya Adusumilli 

I arrived in New York City from Bangkok in November of ‘88. Winter’s icy fingers had just begun to file her wind-borne nails into sharp instruments of torture. I was 24-year-old and had never experienced such bitter cold in my life. Moreover, the abrupt change of temperature from tropical Thailand, coupled with the loneliness of a newly transplanted existence in Manhattan, plunged me into deep depression. The windows of my tiny walk-up apartment on MacDougal Street all faced brick walls; only the tiniest knife-thin sliver of sky glinted from the bedroom window. The only remedy was to spend as much time outside that claustrophobic space as possible. Fortunately, I lived above Cafe Danté, where both the cappuccino and the tiramisu were excellent. One day, as I was easing into my favorite spot at the café, I noticed that someone had left a book on one of the chairs. It had a well-worn grey hardbound cover. The title, printed in green ink, read Leaves of Grass. Like many of my peers schooled in an Anglophone manner, I had been brought up on a diet of Shakespeare, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth and the likes. Who, or more precisely, what, was Walt Whitman? I opened the book at random onto these lines:

Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son,
Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding.

Through me many long dumb voices,
Voices of the interminable generation of prisoners and slaves,
Voices of the diseas’d and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs,
Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,
And of the threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and
     of the father-stuff,
And of the rights of them the others are down upon,
Of the deform’d, trivial, flat, foolish, despised,
Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.

Those were the lines, that was New York and there was gobsmacked me, a throbbing atom in Walt’s cosmos, landed in that selfsame Manhattan, plunging headlong into God and “rolling balls of dung” jostling cheek by jowl!  I flipped back to the beginning of “Song of Myself”…

Morning was thawing to a tepid noon. Seized by a sudden desire to explore Manhattan with Walt, I still felt a twinge of guilt at taking the book with me instead of leaving it at the café in case its rightful owner came to claim it. Finally, I wrote a note to the owner with my phone number on it and gave it to Grace, a Maltese waitress at Dante that I had befriended. Thus began the first of my many journeys walking in Whitman’s wake. 

Going north on MacDougal Street, the first left turn onto Bleecker Street brought me to  Father Demo Square. In those days, the West Village was still a very Italian neighbourhood. I sat down on a bench and continued reading Leaves of Grass. In between, I would stop and write my own lines. “Father Demo Square” is a long poem I wrote, inspired by Whitman’s “blab of the pave”. Here are  brief excerpts:

Father Demo Square

No neat square this, tiny tangled triangle, fat-cat trash cans, black-dressed matrons, bag ladies plastic bellies glint-clinking transient occupants of green park benches where
the last pale coins of winter afternoon sun are counted one by one while beggars hold out paper cups
the Angelus bells at Our Lady of Pompeii 
day’s end, all return to concrete coops
while pigeons roam the hexagon cobblestone

These lines are not remarkable by any means but they are the very first that I wrote in the open air, sitting in a public place attuned to my environment. Until I encountered Walt, I had been habituated, since my early years, to write a very different kind of poetry. My lines were necessarily clandestine, written in a closed room, always at night. They were the mute cries of a suffocated self, flapping wings uselessly in the confines of my room. I don’t believe I had ever read my lines out loud, even to myself. When I was 22-year-old, I ran away from my oppressive life in Pakistan to Thailand. The departure was liberating but in my poetry another kind of sadness, that of exile, took over. Reading Walt broke me out of my poetic shell, as I became aware of not just his unabashed pan-sexuality but the un-zippered, rambling, almost-prose-like quality of his lines: no perfectly measured iambic pentameters, no odes on Grecian urns, just the messy sweaty world and words, words, words tumbling out at a breathless pace -
I have no chair, no church, no philosophy,
I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange,
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
My left hand hooking you round the waist,
My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public 

Not I, not anyone else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.

I would get overwhelmed, close the book and walk some more. New York and Whitman were beginning to grow on me. I began to discover the grittier neighbourhoods of the Village, the meat-packing district, with its worn-out cobblestone streets, the gay pick-up scene and homeless drug addicts. The Florent was an iconic restaurant open 24-hours-a-day. It was there, taking a break from a long nocturnal stroll that I met Carmen and Umberto, a Spanish couple who were making a film on Cuban music. Noticing the book that rested open on the bar, face up at “I sing the Body Electric” with my scribbled poem partially covering the text, they asked if I knew that the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca had also visited New York and had similarly been entranced by Walt. I replied that the only Spanish language poets I knew were Pablo Neruda and Octavio Paz. The next thing I knew, we were at their fifth-floor walk-up on Gansevoort Street and Umberto was reading Lorca’s “Ode To Walt Whitman” in sonorous Spanish followed by Carmen’s free-form English translation:

Not for a single moment, Walt Whitman, lovely old man,
have I ceased to see your beard filled with butterflies,
nor your corduroy shoulders frayed by the moon,
nor your thighs of virgin Apollo,
nor your voice like a column of ash;
ancient beautiful as the mist,
who moaned as a bird does
its sex pierced by a needle.
Enemy of the satyr,
enemy of the vine
and lover of the body under rough cloth.

Many glasses of sangria later, we watched the dawn ascend over the Hudson like Lorca’s “circumcised rose” as the electric synapses of streetlights jacked off, one by lonely one.

The next summer, I enrolled in the Summer Program at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Leaves of Grass travelled with me to Naropa. One day, on a class picnic, a bald, bespectacled man with a salt-pepper beard noticed me reading Leaves of Grass. He introduced himself as Allen Ginsberg, a poet who loved Walt Whitman and asked where I was from. When he found out that my parents came Allahabad and Bhopal, he grew animated: he had been to Bhopal and had fond memories of the city and also of the Buddhist stupas of Sanchi. It was  only after returning to New York that I read the Beats and Ginsberg and it was some 27 years later, after I enrolled in ModPo, U Penn’s amazing free massive open online course on Modern and Contemporary American poetry, taught by Al Filreis, that I  read  “A  Supermarket in California” in which Ginsberg invokes Whitman like Khizr, the traveller’s patron saint:

Where are we going, Walt Whitman?  The doors close in a hour.  Which way does your beard point tonight?

During my nine years in Manhattan, I read Leaves of Grass many times over and walked most of New York City’s streets and avenues, and like Whitman grew fond of her hordes. No one ever came to collect the book. I like to think that it was a gift from Walt himself.

Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.


Poems | Shiv Kumar Batalvi ( Translated by Sartaj Ghuman) | Part 2/2*

Photo : Lee La


i am a sentence in a song incomplete
a journey of the footprints not made by any feet

of all the havoc that love has wreaked
of those ravages i am the peak

i am a lamp in your gathering that’s snuffed out
i am an allusion that from your lips leaked

that has death alone as its cure
i am the anxiety for such a life worth just a week

she, who saw me and looked away
i am the mute gaze of her eyes deep

my own face alone have I seen
what a strange man in this world I have been !

someone heard shiv say yesterday, sorrow’s
left me well known in this world bleak


people worship god
and i, your longing
it’s a hajj to a hundred meccas
oh your longing!
people say I have become the sun
people say i shine gloriously
what kind of a fire it lit me with,
oh your longing!

behind me is my shadow
in front of me, my darkness
my arm it mustn’t let go
oh your longing!

no soil of the body in it
nor garbage of the mind
i sifted it on a winnow
oh your longing!

whenever times of sorrow came
bringing pain and loneliness in tow
i called for it to come sit by my side
oh your longing!

it gets me to dye words sometimes
and sometimes makes me weave songs
a thousand crafts it’s taught me
oh your longing!

when pain fell at my feet
and swore by my perseverance
the whole world turned up to see
oh your longing!

through my passion i gained some standing
people came to congratulate me
and embracing me freely wept,
oh your longing!

i am a fool with no sign of sagacity
this the world told me
on a pedestal it’s put me today
oh your longing!

it’s a hajj to a hundred meccas
oh your longing!

*Thanks to TSC friend Taseer Gujral for her editorial suggestions


Poems| Omair Bhat

Photo : LeeLa


Your absence has become my permanent home.
I wish I could demolish it.

Arrival of the Night 

Night arrives whispering curses
to the curfewed streets.
Night arrives, in the absence of the local transport, on horseback in our country.
Night arrives in the bylanes of Srinagar,
in the Old city, or elsewhere, in the North, in my valley of despair.
Night arrives in the rundown house it owns, before which it pauses briefly.
The enemy soldiers on patrol walk past.
The house is empty. Its inhabitants missing.

The doors are swinging wildly on the hinges. The doors, in wind, are threatening to fall apart.
The windows bear the marks of violence.
The words have been plucked down, from the ceilings, and taken away for interrogations.
The poems have been arrested, in a nocturnal raid, in the courtyard.
Night throws
its immense arms in air.
Its face
turns to the colour of death. The foliage of old moon, under a walnut tree, breaks into a shriek.
It's only then that, to our surprise,
Night reinvents itself in the curfew.
Night redraws its dimensions.
Night no longer remains still and
quiet, no longer
does it sing psalms to the rain.
Night mortgages its grief to buy a boat of hope, which
Night rows upstream, against the current, in the river of time.
Night searches its disappeared like Gelman, till dawn, only to find them dead on a certain morning, in October, after years.
(Night frightens occupations like El Che.)
In the morning, however, Night dies like Lorca.
The firing squad ties the mythical hands of night from behind, blindfolds it,
so the night (even in its death) wouldn't scare the nation of rats anymore.
Night scatters
itself, then,  all over us, like light,
when we prepare for its funeral
so we could pick up,
contrive (for another revolution)
reproduce and disseminate again what
we have lost in the ebb of its voice.


Say now that my memory of you is elusive. It's the cloud hanging low over a tree in your courtyard.
Say now that my memory of you is an abandoned cave (where no one has ever lived except for the memory itself)
Say now that my memory of you is the invisible border between your memory
and my memory of you. There your memory is the sign post which blatantly warns me against an infiltration bid.
Say now that my memory of you is the smell of your hands on my hands.
Say now that your memory of me is ridiculous. It's there, but I cannot see it. Say now
that my memory of you is black. It only traverses darkness. It doesn't
know anything of light.
Say now that my memory of you is the subversive territory of love. I will bear your provocations. I will tell you
your memory is my eternal abode. Your memory is what keeps me alive. I will live to see it fall apart in crumbs.


Poems | Shiv Kumar Batalvi ( Translated by Sartaj Ghuman) | Part 1/2

Photo : LeeLa

borrowed song

oh sweet lord
lend me another song or a half
my fire’s going out please
give me another spark

in my early years of infancy
i’ve laid all my hurt to waste
for the season of my youth now
please lend me more pain chaste

give me a song like my youth
dusky, mystically beguiling
like the red of the day at dawn
sets aglitter the whole tank
or like in a treeless land
at twilight the first star
in my land too it’s getting dark
give me another star or a half
or like the redness fiery
in the lake dissolve me
without a lover i can spend days long
but not, o lord, without a song
a lifetime anyone can squander
a fortunate few are fated pain
and lord, is every shore graced
by a doe sipping at the lake
drain away the untouched waters then
of my lake too unclaimed
or the songs that you got me to write
take those too back again

let me not extol beauty
that as an equal to fire doesn’t stand
and not praise the eye, o lord
whose tears are but bland
let me not sing songs that aren’t in pain steeped
or say words that aren’t fragrant scented sweet
if not fragrant my words happen to be
break them off the branch
or like my youth lend me
another song or a half

in my early years of infancy
i’ve laid all my hurt to waste
for the season of my youth now
please lend me more pain chaste


virtuous father dear

when the cotton does flower bear
o virtuous father dear!
buy me that season of the year
o virtuous father dear!
i lost a song in this season of yore
that of longing a garland wore
its face pockmarked with sorrow such
its eyes full of water from a ruined well
a song that when by the lips touched
sends the heart fluttering along
o virtuous father dear!
buy me that song
o virtuous father dear!

one day me and my song
in this season bewitched beguiling
the heart’s soil we ploughed
and dreams pure we sowed
with a million tears we irrigated it
no flower it bore however
o virtuous father dear
buy me just one flower
o virtuous father dear!

what use all your land
if daughters are to wither so
what use your mansarovar
if thirsty the swans go
to what end your scattered crumbs
against pearls weighed
o virtuous father dear!
if you can’t buy me that season of the year
o virtuous father dear
when cotton does flower bear
o virtuous father dear!


of dealing with sorrow, i’ve learnt the art
learnt to slowly cry and distract the heart

it’s best that you are someone else’s now
it's put an end to worries of making you mine somehow

oh you who breathe, but for this one fear i’d readily die
they sell for money even the land to light the pyre

my friends, lend me not these breaths
for i have not the courage to repay the debt

don’t try and drive shiv’s sorrow away
the treacherous rascal has a mind to cry today