“And as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name” (William Shakespeare, A Midsummer's Night's Dream,1596)
Like clouds float, words waft through currents of ideas and take shapes and forms. We celebrate poetry across the world, across space and time, with the greatest and the new… our homage in words to the past, present and future…
A paean to the skies, the Earth and empathy with nature sets the tone for this poetic treat. I offer you a translation/transcreation of a Tagore song, from the original lyrics penned by the maestro in Bengali…
The Star-Studded Sky by Rabindranath Tagore ( A translation/transcreation of Akash Bhora, Shurjo Tara, 1924) The sky replete with sun and stars, the Earth brimming with life, In the midst of this universe, I have found my abode. Spellbound by the plenitude, songs awaken in my being. The infinite, eternal waves that create planetary tides Resonate through the blood coursing in my veins. As I walk to the woods, I step on the grass. Heady perfumes of flowers startle me into a rhapsody. Benefactions of joy anoint the universe. I have listened, I have watched, I have poured my life into the Earth. Through knowing, I have sought the unknown. Spellbound by the plenitude, songs awaken in my being. (Translated/transcreated by Mitali Chakravarty on behalf of Borderless Journal,2021)
Poetry connects with eternal human emotions over space and time with snippets from old and verses from new.
Poets continue to draw from nature to express and emote. In empathy with the forces that swirl around us are poems written by moderns, like Jared Carter.
What is that calling on the wind that never seems a moment still? That moves in darkness like a hand of many fingers taken chill? (Excerpted from Visitant by Jared Carter)
Tagore wrote and painted. Here we have a poem about a painting done by the poet-artist herself, Vatsala Radhakeesoon.
An endless expanse swirls over the tropical island. At the foot of the Meditative Mountain, birds, bees and butterflies wonder -- who is this mystic blue? (Excerpted from Swirling Blues by Vatsala Radhakeesoon)
Separated by oceans and decades, were poets empathetic?
I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you... The smoke of my own breath,... My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs, The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and dark-color'd sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn, The sound of the belch'd words of my voice loos'd to the eddies of the wind, A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms, The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag, The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides, The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun. (Excerpted from Song of Myself, Walt Whitman, 1881)
And despite exuberance of poets and their love of nature, came wars from across continents. Here are some of the responses of poets from all over the world to war and the pain it brings…
A soldier and a poet, Bijan Najdi (1941-1997) wrote in Persian, he captured the loss and the pain generated by war on children for us. This has been translated by Davood Jalili for Borderless…
The world does not become bitter with the sword. It does not become bitter with shooting, cries and fists. The bitterness of the world Is not the deer’s necks And leopard’s tooth And the death of a fish... (Excerpted from Our Children by Bijan Najdi)
Maybe children have a special place in poets’ hearts. Michael R Burch from across the Pacific writes of their longings too…
I, too, have a dream … that one day Jews and Christians will see me as I am: a small child, lonely and afraid, staring down the barrels of their big bazookas, (Excerpted from I, too have a dream by Michael R Burch)
From Nepal, Manjul Miteri travelled to Japan to design a giant Buddha. While visiting the Hiroshima museum, he responded to the exhibits of the 1945 nuclear blast, a bombardment that ended not just the war, but many lives, many hopes and dreams… It heralded the passing of an era. Miteri’s poem was translated by Hem Biswakarma for us from Nepali.
Orimen*! Oh, Orimen! Mouthful of your Tiffin Snatched by the ‘Little Boy’*! The Tiffin box, adorned with flowers, Scattered and spoilt, Blown out brutally. (Excerpted from Oh Orimen! by Manjul Miteri)
Continuing on the theme of war, what can war weapons not do? Karunakaran has written a seemingly small poem about warplanes in Malayalam that embraces the nuclear holocaust and more. The words are few but they say much… It has been translated by Aditya Shankar for us.
No warplane has ever flown like a bird, has lost way like a bird, has halted mid-flight reminiscing a bygone aroma. (Excerpted from No Warplane Has Ever Flown Like A Bird by Karunakaran)
Click here to read No Warplane Has Ever Flown Like A Bird by Karunakaran.
From wars and acquisition of wealth, grew the greed for immortality.
Aditya Shankar writes rebelling against man’s greed, greed that also leads to war.
Through the tube, the world poured into that room with news of war and blood. (Excerpted from Human Immortality Project by Aditya Shankar)
Continuing the dialogue on discrepancies is a poem written by a visiting professor from Korea. Ihlwha Choi was in Santiniketan and just like Tagore found poetry in Krishnokoli, he found poetry in Nandini…
There was Nandini’s small shop along with fruits' stalls and the bike shop. Cows passing by would thrust their heads suddenly Into the shop thatched with bamboo stems.... ...There lived a flower-like little girl selling chai near the old house of Poet R. Tagore. (Excerpted from Nandini by Ihlwha Choi)
Poetry is about moods — happiness and sadness, laughter and tears.
Reflecting on multiple themes that mankind jubilates and weeps about is the poetry of John Grey, camping out in Australian outbacks, revelling in the stars and yet empathising with hunger… A few lines from his poem hunger.
Hunger can sing soft but compelling in the voice of the one who last provided you with three meals a day. That’s years ago now. Hunger has no memory but it assumes that you do. (Excerpted from Hunger by John Grey)
And now we introduce some laughter. A story-poem by Rhys Hughes, about an alien who likes to be tickled…
“Oh, tickle me under the chin, the chin, please tickle me under the chin. It might seem quite fickle or even a sin to make this request, to ask such a thing, but I must confess that to ease my distress there’s nothing so fine as a tickle. So please tickle me under the chin, the chin. Tickle me under the chin.” (Excerpted from The Tickle Imp by Rhys Hughes)
And here is a poem by Tamoha Siddiqui, jubilating the borderless world of friendship.
Yesterday I heard the sound of colourful feet to Indonesian beats, in the middle of Michigan: white, black, brown, all were one pitter-patter paces in a conference hall. (Excerpted from Birth of an Ally by Tamoha Siddiqui)
Concluding our oeuvre to jubilate a world without borders, here are lines from a poet who probably has influenced and united majority of writers across the world…another truly universal voice.
Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation. What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present. ... The dance along the artery The circulation of the lymph Are figured in the drift of stars Ascend to summer in the tree We move above the moving tree In light upon the figured leaf And hear upon the sodden floor Below, the boarhound and the boar Pursue their pattern as before But reconciled among the stars. Excerpted from TS Eliot's Four Quartets, Burnt Norton(1936)
The poetry of the historic greats are all woven by eternal threads that transcend man made boundaries. They see themselves almost as an extension of the Earth we live. Tagore, Whitman and Eliot write of the universe coursing through their veins. Shakespeare gives the ultimate statement when he brings in the play between imagination and nature to lift the mundane out of the ordinary. With inspiration from all these, may we move into a sphere, where poetry not only moves but also generates visions for a more wholistic and inclusive future.
PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL