Monday, October 06, 2014

The Sideways Door: October Prompt

This fortnight, The Sideways Door invites submissions after a prompt. The column is up over here.

Per usual, I can't post the whole column up here until some time has elapsed, but this bit I can post, since it's all about deadlines and so on.

Please keep your poems under 20 lines. Send your poems, written to this month’s prompt, to by October 20, 2014.

 Yeah, I guess that's it for now. But please spread the word, submit, etc?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Sideways Door at The Daily O

I have failed spectacularly at updating this blog and I don't know that I should apologise for something I am so good at.

Anyway, there is News.

I have been invited by India Today's web-only magazine, The Daily O, to contribute a fortnightly column on poetry. It was meant to be a curatorial column, where I trawl the web and social media and find poems that I curate into a column; but I heard the phrase 'social media' and I shuddered, baulked and felt faint all at the same time, so the editors sat me down, gave me hartshorn and burnt some feathers under my nose and asked me what I wanted to do instead.

I thought I'd do something like the Guardian's Poetry Workshop. I miss it, I miss the poems that the curators found through it.

So that's what I thought I'd do: I'd offer a prompt in one column, and invite contributions which I'd sift through, pick a few and talk about in the next.

I don't know why I am saying all this here, because this is what the first column is more or less about, and you may as well read that, right?

As always, the Naming of Cats and Columns is a Very Important Thing. I think I explained (in the column) how I got to The Sideways Door as a name. Maybe I didn't. If I didn't, tell me in the comments and I'll tell you what other names I considered.

Am I forgetting something? Oh yes - the link to the column: The Sideways Door.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Half a loaf of rock & Turtle

I visited Rishi Valley recently and nothing recharges my batteries quite like an early morning climb along the Sliding Rock ridge, to discover formations I never knew when I was studying there, and to return home with not just pretty pebbles, but a entire rock!

If I'd written this a week ago, I might have said more. Instead, there are photographs.

The owl - they are a pair, actually - lives in the rafters of the senior school. One evening, when the senior school was specially opened up, I caught sight of both of them. One of them cocked her head to look at me, all puzzled. They were adorable. This one was taken one morning, when I was waiting for some teachers.

Turtle Rock from the other side looks like a gun. But on the principle that turtles are better than guns, this is the view you get.

On our way down, we had our eyes peeled for stones we could take back (we hunt stones like they were fugitives from justice). We admired green stones that were actually paving the path we were on, so we had to reluctantly leave them be.

And then we found this one. It looked like nothing so much as half a loaf of artisanal bread just lying there. We picked it up and discovered the rich red inside.

Of course I wanted it. I brought it back, too, all the way from that hill to our room, and then from RV to Hyderabad. Considering that I was also bringing back a great, big wooden chair in its two separate pieces, all bubble-wrapped and tied with rope, I think this is a piece of - what's Marie Antoinette's word for it? - cake.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Launch of Escape Artist: 8th August 2014 at Kitabkhana, Bombay

My book, Escape Artist, gets its official release next Friday, the 8th of August, at Kitabkhana, courtesy the bookstore and the Jehangir Sabavala Foundation, with whose support the book was published by Aleph Book Co.
Ranjit Hoskote and Jerry Pinto will be in conversation with me. I am super-excited and also nervous because though I've read from my work a lot in the last year, this will be the first time it's from the book. Officially
I plan not to think about it at all because otherwise the butterflies will take up permanent residence. Instead, I'm thinking about what to wear.

Event listing here, but basic details below.

invite you to the launch of the book



Date: Friday, 8 August 2015
Time: 6 pm
Venue: Kitab Khana, Somaiya Bhavan, Flora Fountain, 45/ 47 MG Road, Bombay 400 001
If you're in Bombay, do come if you can.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The One Star book Review Guessing Game

There's a tumblr that picks the best of Good Read's one star reviews (there must be a tumblr for everything). It is GOLD. No, I won't link to it just now because then you'll know which books these reviews refer to.

What I want to do is to play a guessing game. We'll start with something easy:

"Maybe my main issue with this book was just that it wasn’t lighthouse-y enough.”

Ok, you got that (surely you did?). Try these:

“I wish I could meet a lifelong love by vomiting through his window.”

“Even if you read this book 500 times, it has always the same plot line.”

"it might be a satyr and all but I did not like it."

“not interested in books about Satin.”

And from my top 5:

“I didn’t really get the cookie thing.”

“I don’t know if my book was incomplete or if this whole thing was some kind of weird joke.”

“Reading this story is like taking a cold bath with someone you dislike.”

“A 24-foot dirty old man creeps down the streets late at night, when all the grown-ups are asleep, peering in through little children’s windows. No, not the subject of a court case, just a momentously popular piece of fiction by the much beloved [name redacted].


Okay: you can start guessing now.*


*Answers here


The end of June and all of July is like a ferris wheel that slows down as it reaches the top, is immobile for a minute and then hurtles back down.

July is like the stairs that remain to be climbed.

I can't wait for the rest of the year to begin.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Reading over, reading back

For most of last year, I faithfully kept a journal. I didn't write in it every day, but I made a concerted effort towards putting my thoughts and observations down on paper (yes, paper; not screen). There were off days - even weeks - when I didn't write a thing and hid the journal from myself so I didn't feel guilty about my slacking off.

At intervals, I wondered how I'd ever be able to find anything if I should want it later. I devised a method by which quick ideas, lines I wanted to use in poems and so on, could be identified. All obvious strategies, but not having kept a journal in years, I needed to reinvent the wheel.

As it happened, I never looked at anything I wrote again. Until this morning. I wasn't looking for anything specific; I was idling through those old pages. I admired my writing which, out of respect for this shiny new object called a journal, was immaculate; I noticed mood shifts and how they related to gaps in writing days; I noticed I'd left myself allusions to things I refused to even put on paper at the time of writing.

It was and is an interesting snapshot of a person at a moment in time. If I was anyone of any importance, I could imagine that my journals would be an invaluable resource. I realised afresh, that I would have to devise a time frame and method by which this object could be destroyed before it found its way to other people.

If reading over and reading back casual writing can make me squirm - as it invariably does - then it can only be useful as catharsis*. Yes? Or am I to understand by it that I shouldn't be so involved with and tied to the production of my persona? Sometimes I feel one way and sometimes another. (I also know that while I might leave the blog be, I will definitely destroy the journals.)

What do you lot think?  


*It occurred to me that photographs also make me squirm. The closer in time they are to the present, the more I dislike them for not coinciding exactly with my self-image. For instance, I can now look at the big hair, big glasses and pleated jeans and the quantities of plastic jewellery of my teen years and not turn a hair, horrific though those images are. I've never kept any letters I wrote from that era - that is to say, the parents didn't - so I have no way of knowing how I'd react to words from another decade. I suspect I'd be tolerant enough. 

Call no woman happy until.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

6 Down (Cryptic)

Once again it's a Thursday.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Goosebump Test*

I am reading Seamus Heaney's Finders Keepers and it is lovely so this means that I dip into it one essay at a time, sometimes less, take a break to breathe and/or make notes (Tessa in Magic Flutes: 'Breathe!" said Tessa, shocked. "I don't need to breathe when I am with you!"**).

Today's reading is an essay called 'Learning from Eliot'. Now, Eliot is an influence impossible to elude in one's early poetry writing. But before writing, there was reading and - because Donne and Dante weren't our modern poets, though they were his - impossible to measure the impact his poetry had on all of us late-teens.

Heaney was prescribed 'The Hollow Men' and 'Journey of the Magi' for his A levels and, as with all students of poetry at that age, the study of Eliot was a wildly different thing from the experience of Eliot. (Just as an aside: we also had 'Magi' but we had 'Preludes' instead of 'The Hollow Men', arguably 'easier' from an exam point of view).

Upon his first encounter with 'The Hollow Men', Heaney describes his reactions thus: "What happened within my reader's skin was the equivalent of what happens in an otherwise warm and well-wrapped body once a cold wind gets at its ankles."There's a lot more that's quotable and you should just go read Heaney.

But the bellwether body as a tool of experiencing poetry is an idea that I am totally on board with. Someone should theorise it and I can habeas my corpus as evidence any time someone reads a certain kind of poetry that is my own particular, antique flute.

I mean, long before it is time to extract what Heaney calls 'the pacifier of a paraphraseable meaning', it is the body that experiences poetry, or the poetry in writing. I call this the Goosebump Test and it has nothing to do with R.L.Stine, I assure you.

Symptoms may vary, but anything that induces chills, fevers, hair standing on end, unspecified liquefactions, the inability to stay still and the illogical desire to embrace the entire world or hurl objects at people or things in order to discharge some excess - all of this and more, I include in the Goosebump Test.

(Needless to say, it is applied when you or someone else asks the question, "Yes, but is it poetry?" Caveats include the acknowledgement that not all poetry can be detected by the application of this test.)

Anyway. Back to Heaney, to whom I also owe my Word of the Day: 'simony'.


*Variations that include the words 'pimple' or 'flesh' just don't work. The first makes me giggle, and second - though sumptuous - is a little too avid for accuracy.

**Ok, fine. So I've been re-reading Eva Ibbotson and can quote without referring to the book. Is that a problem?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

EA back on the Aleph site

Sorry about pulling the previous post. I changed my mind about having temporary moods out forever online.

In other news, as promised, Aleph has sorted out their web issues and Escape Artist is back up on the site.

To all those whose comments I haven't responded to, I'm a terrible person these days and thanks for the congratulations and for bothering to go through two layers of verification for a wall of silence.

Okay. Enough abjectness. Here's a cute donkey instead: