For a long time I wished to write about the two of our friends who have visited Hyderabad Literary Festival and contributed to its major successes by their unique contributions. William Wolak had brought Hafiz with him from Persia, flowing with tunes of sitar and Gabriel Rosenstock brought Ireland with its sounds and scenes and plays and music. Both had their astonishing poems and many books that found places in the hearts and collections on their shelves. They mixed with us personally and by interviews to media and more importantly encouraged young poets in the workshops. Muse India has remained favourite for them and also a prestigious introduction to Indian literature that they have carried to their countries. These two articles are on two selections of their several books that they had brought with them.
Do not tell them at what price you have earned the confidence to sing
Leonard Cohen who recently passed away represented youth not only of America but the whole world. In the words, music, performance and travelling around he had a parallel in his contemporary Bob Dylan who got Nobel Prize. Cohen also was equally popular. But Cohen’s distinctiveness was celebration of erotic in human relationship and melancholy of separation.
In the decades of abundant affluence after the Second World War and during the years of Vietnam War many dissenting voices extended. Along with the anger of the Black Panthers, violations of traditions by Allen Ginsberg, vagrant and blithe beatnik bands and boundless consumerism the alternatives of love for the ordinary lifestyle of common man and fervent pursuit of beauty also emerged. Cohen was a cognoscente, a lover of beauty. Bill Wolak was an adolescent then with dreams in his eyes. In his recent collection THE LOVER’S BODY on the very first page he quotes Cohen’s words:
When he puts his mouth against her shoulder
she is uncertain whether her shoulder
has given or received the kiss.
All her flesh is like a mouth.
The issue is when does Erotic become Love.
Procreative erotic union is a must for the Nature to protract and propagate life. Mostly ecstasy and to some extent pain and ruin also are related with the erotic. Both the extremes are essential for the endeavour to continue existence, as evidenced at the moment of birth and death. Death provides for the space for a new birth. But if, the pleasures of life before the death are bequest then pain also is a pointer to the end result. The nature has planned the sexual intercourse in a rhythm of provocation and guiding. Hues and fragrance of the flowers, flavour of the fruits, amazing calls and bodily displays of the insects, birds and animals, sounds, seasons, geographical facilities and thus in various ways courtship, togetherness and breeding are intermingled. In this continuous celebration the nature allows all the beings to experience climax after climax. The evolution of the senses also occurred similarly.
It would be a surprise if the poet does not celebrate erotic in manifold motions and stances before the mirror while being variously in tune with the rhythm of the nature. Along with vociferous, solemn too occupies the centre. Within the perimeter is the body. A variety of stimulations and motions escort the reader to the erotic experience. How does this erotic turn into love? Love is on a dynamic and cognisant pane independent of the intentions of the nature. And this love is not only evident in humans; many other life-forms also share it.
In Bill’s poems intensely erotic is transformed into venerable love. Let me give some illustrations:
You slide your tongue slowly
between my startled fingers
and smile with the sky
waiting in your eyes
To remember means still feeling
the sunlight’s warmth where
someone’s hands or thighs
first caressed your flesh
With your body bent over pillows,
your skin glows in the bed’s caress
with honey’s thirst for daylight.
And when you held me
open as water,
you brought moonlight
In your flesh I first felt
what the mist keeps hidden
deep ii the distances
Now when I need to remember you
I stand in the shower under the hottest setting
And in the gushing, burning surge
I can feel you once again
pressed against me like roots
suddenly tightening in a tree
split by lightening
In the first four and a half stanzas of remembering bathing together, to disrobe, to stand under hot shower are meant for provocation. But in the memory of the coital climax when alone the image of a tree transforms the dimensions. And the extreme explosiveness of lightning strike expands joy and pain both to the highest level. What leads to this intensity is the rhyme between lightening and tightening.
I miss your blue eyes
where I lost the sea
and your broad shoulders
pressed against my back
while I dreamed
But I miss you the most
in the silence
between love songs
You drop the moon in a black guitar case
into the empty courtyard of night
and turn to me with your naked body
covered in fireflies so that I can bite the sun
you rub your underworld
like a sandstorm
straddling an earthquake
open as song
When love ends
your body slams shut
like a door
that still dreams
of becoming a window
Breathless as a whirlpool,
you hold me with the grip of rain.
Your body irresistible
as a waterfall’s perfume
He enters her
more gently than a whisper,
like a snowflake
balanced o a pine needle
What bonds these fragments is LOVE.
The passage from amour to adoration is multifaceted and mysterious. Loneliness, solitude, coming together and amatory union are private situations. Sensual diversity, fleeting exhilaration, repetitive delight, transcendence from the limits of the self and expanding in the other, finale in the infinity are individual marvels. But the search of allusions in nature for personal encounters was the challenge proposed by Rilke in the beginning of the last century. A poet who finds accord with the nature experiences the universal effortlessly. This experience of universality, known as SATORY in Zen philosophy and a miracle for us is merely a moment of bliss and of eternity in an instant. Who has not experienced this wonder in orgasm!
Thus by employing several poetic devices like simile, images, symbols, allusions, puns or by direct statement at times Bill displays movement, intensifying velocity and arriving at the focal point. In this process, with the alchemy of Word, momentarily amative turns into lasting affection. This transformation does not deny or disregard the original experience. The process is not of diminution. In the DNA of love all the refinements, details, features and the possibilities of carnal are stored unaffected. Thus the felt and expressible becomes mysterious wonder of our existence.
Love is radiance, lightening, darkness, snow, fireflies, soft sunlight, dense moonlight, unspoken word, vibrating ensemble, sea, sand, avian footprints, bird flights, tongue, ears, skin, nose, lastingly open eye in darkness and light and is the dream behind the closed eyes. Love is the body with organs.
Consenting with your every imagination of love, Bill steers you to countless inconceivable.
The remaining life remains as it is. In this correspondence numerous forms of love in human relationships are everyone’s destiny. Brother-father-son-mother-friend or stranger may all be related in love. Bill tells this in his last poem for his friend Dileep during his difficult time, putting a hand on his shoulder. In this poem are pain and empathy both. But keeping that poem unquoted and intimately personal let me take you to the words of Bill for Maria perhaps, to whom he has dedicated the book.
The nakedness you seek
is gentle as a blue heron
stepping backward in river mud
fragile as a morning glory
opening at day break
fragrant as a perfume
of lychee sea
THE LOVER’S BODY
ART WORK by TUSHAR SHINDE
PUBLISHED by CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATIONS
MERRICK. NEW YORK.11566-4725 USA
Published in 2014
Becoming still one must be alert
Who is Sasquatch?
Sasquatch is a monster from mythology, roaming in the woods on the land bordered by the Pacific Ocean in the north-east, a huge, hairy and hiding primate. Seeing his large and broad footprints in mud and snow sundry trailers had differently pictured this ancestor of ours. Prehistoric dwellers in igloos built with snow or in tepees of wooden poles and animal-skins added several stories to hush crying children or scare the naughty ones.
Who is Gabriel Rosenstock?
A poet born in distant Ireland and nearly 200 of his books must have been published. He has been to country after country of this world making friendship with countless people. He knows many past and present civilizations. He has special affection for India, china and Japan. So in his endless wanderings he must have made acquaintance with Sasquatch and a friendship must have between the two. Drinking only a few sips of wine with fellow poets since last several decades, Gabriel at one time was pure Irish emptying bottles of pure Irish malt. Getting Sasquatch drunk on whisky Gabriel must have listened to his poems from his mouth. Afterwards jotting down over 50 in Irish along with their English translations he published a book in 2013. On the last cover page his friends from six different nations have made their remarks (I am one of them). Today I cannot decide whether the poems are of that creature or Gabriel’s or made by you!
What is Poetry?
How is poetry recognised? How to differentiate between a poem and a non-poem? Leaving behind such so called fundamental questions a reader feels poetry as a surprise from fragments getting linked with each other and at times becoming a whole. Afterwards there remains no disparity between a part and totality. Gabriel does something like this while introducing Sasquatch in bits sticking to each other one by one. Depicting by imagination the attributes of an absence he actually creates Sasquatch in reality. This is POETRY.
A Sasquatch died last night. None of his ilk survives to weep for him. The Sasquatch looks at himself in the water, does not know what he sees or who he is, never saw him as anything- anything in particular. The Sasquatch sees a bird in flight. When it disappears, something inside him says, you too will disappear. How, when why, he knows not. When the colours of heavens reflect those of earth, the Sasquatch roams freely, invisibly.
Did you see the poetry? This is connecting of four poems of the beginning. The metal in each is different but in the constant and dazzling fire of consciousness they blend with each other to become one. Allusions to Narcissus- Echo and the wanderings of Odysseus also come to mind.
Slowly the stage opens to reveal the incessant movements of Sasquatch who is invariably absent. From the chest the poet draws out coins after coins of gestures and scatters them or puts back in the treasure-box. If discovered again, their worth would change. As such there are manifold depictions of Sasquatch but somewhere he is the spectator of his picture. When the poet’s account is not acceptable to him, he puts across something that astounds us. Pointing a finger to himself he introduces us to some stranger in whom suddenly we see ourselves. Watch this:
The Sasquatch saw a creature
seated on a chair
reading a newspaper
smoke coming out of his mouth
a glass of blood beside him
This utterly simple poem of six lines as against voluminous tomes of descriptive and analytical writings on political, sociological and behavioural themes is more significant. But in the conscious of the poet Justice is a multidimensional term. Let whatsoever may happen to the blood. Once the reference changes, Justice gets a new identity:
is smelling him
Again a construction of mere four lines with only nine words, but read by linking the both. The result will be ninety nine carats, and your stroke will make it a hundred.
When he first
plucked a flower
the sasquatch wanted
more than anything else
to give it away
but to whom?
If this Sasquatch were not a primitive he would have clapped and cavorted and crooned this flower furnishing act before a full audience. This affair would have strayed in the labyrinths of rhymes. But the poet free of craving is himself a flower plucked to no avail. In this way Gabriel elucidates the attributes of poetry and poet.
the sasquatch lies on his back
allowing the day
to paint his mind
no day is ever like another
Again, in four lines a fresh coat of paint!
Thus, the sasquatch counts the stars and counted by them, gazes, listens, smells, wanders in the woods and pastures, seeing the clouds chasing other clouds and merging with each other, perplexed, retraces his steps. Again, on seeing the flowers, muses:
Flowers again today
for me, he asks
the mountains are silent
So is he.
Dear readers, these are five poems actually. A pearly necklace formed of epigrams may sound like an antique statement. But-
When a path branches
to the left, to the right
the sasquatch turns back
knowing only one path
These constructions are like independent stanzas of Ghazal. If linked together, a precise composition would emerge. But when a single stanza by itself is a whole poem then even a quatrain would become a volume! When an escape or pursuit of a deception is simultaneously possible, the task is weighty for a poet. But a poet is one who tosses the burden off to turn free. Gabriel has been composing Haikus since decades. In Japan he is much admired. But what is important here is not awe but control. Gabriel has undergone much training. His partner in surname, Ron Rosenstock is a magnificent photographer from USA. Even in these days he still captures pictures in black and white! He photographs this living earth, oceans, skies, forests, mountains, seasons and ruins. Humans have a space in these photographs as spectators! Gabriel writes very short poems under these photographs rolling beyond words, beyond language. Gabriel calls these poems Haiga. He keeps sending these images and verses to his friends. Nearly 5 years ago a heavy and priceless book HYMN TO THE EARTH was published. Till then the photographer from America and the poet from Ireland had not seen each other! But, while creating a dialogue with the eyes, the duo had already merged with each other in words and pictures. So the creator of entire from a fraction, Gabriel reveals Sasquatch in full to us because he knows what has been even before becoming a dream.
He knew places
they could never dream of
Saw their dreams before they were formed
Bright and early
the sasquatch vanished
into the woods
shouting and hollering behind him
trees lined up quickly in his defence
Once, sensing a tee
about to fall
lean on me, he whispered
lean on me
For a second
the sasquatch thinks he is changing
into a bird
he looks down at his heavy feet
Thus, in mere four liners Gabriel knows to bring about boundless changes that become poetry. After making a painting he draws a curtain over it. In the end remains some question. Exploring this space what the reader is finds is a poem. The poet makes a rhyming game and breaks it in the last line. Why? In searching for the answer what one finds is the poem. For simile or a clue by employing a familiar but nebulous or polymorphous image like clouds or flowing waters for the sasquatch to emerge, vanish or enter afresh in a new space.
In these poems are the beginnings of civilisations and end of environment. With the grace of living relations and empathy there is a permanent bond with nature. What is existence and what is death? For such weighty questions, there are answers that only a poet can give. So in the end Gabriel says, which is also an end of THE SASQUATCH himself:
Clouds moving across clear blue waters
drawing him away
out of this world
out of himself
into blue silences
silences stretching over silences bluer still
stretching to a breaking point
his spirit’s blue flame dancing in the waters
in the sky
by GABRIEL ROSENSTOCK
Publisher: ARLEN HOUSE. 42, Grange Abbey Road, Baldoyle, DUBLIN-13. IRELAND.