Tuesday, December 03, 2019

It's always nesting season for ants

In the silver oak, the black kites have begun nesting for the second straight year, but in the trees around this place, the fire ants are always nesting, regardless of season. They find trees with large leaves - even plants - and glue them into nests, even until the leaves dry and the trees shed.

I imagine these nests rattling the mild breeze that sometimes seizes the trees in this season.

The fire ants have colonised everything. They're in t he guava tree, all long the walls, on every creeper and vine. We've tried vinegar and oil,soap, all the things internet forums say work on fire ants. I think it was in Harini Nagendra's and Seema Mundoli's book, Cities and Canopies, that they talk about how an infestation of fire ants is a symptom of a micro-ecology out of whack. I don't know why that makes sense, but it does in an intuitive way.

Think of the government institute close by that plays music all day long and well into the evening, supposedly to help their employees with stress relief. Think of the LED lights, some of which strobe most distressingly when they're nearly done, that makes the night brighter than it's supposed to be for all creatures but urban humans.

That's not even taking into account the kinds of plants people keep - all green leaves, no flowers or fruits - and the lawns that need litres of water to maintain (and a ton of pesticide, for the termites).

I hate the ants. I don't know how to get rid of them without also destroying all the other insect and animal life the lives around our house, though. Cutting down the trees that host the nests? Large-scale pesticide application? Please!

If anyone knows how to keep the fire ant population down, please let me know!

Monday, December 02, 2019

The fictional self

None of these thoughts are original but I've been thinking them for a few days and since I don't want this blog to be only a graveyard of remembrances to people who've died, here's what's been on my mind:

Interviews with artists, writers, musicians - the whole category of people about whom you want to know more because you experienced a work you liked or lots of other people liked. And because curiosity is a collective, besetting sin.

How exhausting it must be to reveal something of oneself each time. How much easier to curate a handful of things - not untrue - to share, and share so many times that it becomes an ingredient in a recipe, a thing detachable, a fiction edited with a critical eye and separated from oneself so that the rest can remain one's own, unknowable.

Each creative person's way of giving nothing away to the people they meet, because they give far too much away of themselves in their work. Look for them there.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Sean Bonney, Tom Raworth

This morning I woke up to discover via Aaron Boothby that Sean Bonney had died. I knew his work only from the blog I've linked to, but have spent the morning reading screenshots others have put up on twitter, of texts from different works and things that are available to rad online.

Hopping from one poem to another, one poet to another, I was reminded of a post I'd made here some years ago. I thought the words were, Write six words, take away five and searched for that phrase, naturally turning up nothing. 

I googled it, with a vague feeling that it was Ian Hamilton Finlay. Nothing. 

Finally, I began to scroll through all the posts here tagged poetry. Of course I found it again, and of course I'd remembered it all wrong. It's Write six lines, drop five

And it's Tom Raworth, not Finlay. So much for memory.

Another lesson: save images on to your own computer, because web pages mutate and you get Dutch, literally, instead of the text/image you linked to years ago.

It's chasing that post down that also led me to find out that Raworth had died in 2017 and I never knew. So this morning, news of the death of two poets. 

Write six lines, drop five. What are you left with?

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Eleven: Absences

Last year's silence on this day is a gap through which a decade could be allowed to slip.

One year, in boarding school, we were on our way back from a week-long school trip. When we returned, the day after we were supposed to, all we wanted was to bathe and sleep.

Waiting for me in my room was a very fancy cake box with brownies, and a note from my father.

Maybe in the excitement of travel and the heedlessness of the teen years, I'd forgotten that he was to make a day visit. We demolished the brownies and did all the other things that were urgent on our list.

I didn't think then or later, that while we slept uncomfortably in a broken down bus, when someone started their period, when I brushed my teeth at a handpump in a field stinking of green but nasty things so the taste got in the mouth, that he would come, and wait, and write a note before leaving. 

All that indicated that he'd even been there was a bit of writing and a frilly paper doily half-transparent with butter. Those hours, these eleven years.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Me Today in Popula

It's unfair of me to announce the (month-old) arrival of Popula just when it's about to go behind a partial paywall, but there it is. They some excellent writing and if you can subscribe, you should.

I have two pieces on there, in a category they call Me Today. Just people around the world writing about the things that happen to them on any given day, the mundane, the fantastic, the sheer everyday-ness of living one's life.

The first one is about bees and the most recent one is about that eclipse in January.

I enjoyed writing these more than I have nearly anything else in the last year or so. I am grateful when the words come. 

Friday, April 20, 2018


Though you wouldn't guess it from visiting my blog, I feel a surfeit of everything: bad news, books, music, media, emotions, people. 

I've been stepping back everywhere; I don't know what's left to step away from. Yet it seems possible to withdraw just a little more.

A month from now, approximately, it will be another blog birthday. Then actual birthdays. Then departures. Tempus is fugiting away.

I mean, others work harder when they realise they don't have much time left. Me, I chew my nails with a little more dedication. 

It's not like I don't have things to do. They're just not very productive things. They keep the wheels of my life turning; that's all.

Looking at these lines, I feel like I've achieved a kind of Thirukural-like pithiness of line and length* so I'll stop right here.


* In drafts. On the blog it looks like someone chose to ignore Thiruvalluvar's line scheme. That's the line between intention and execution.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

All Fools Day

I looked forward to birthday month. It turned out differently. 

It turns out that there are more things I can't talk about than I can. 

What I fool I've been. What a relief that this month is over. What a long summer, long year ahead.

I don't know so many things, but I know I don't want to talk. 

So maybe until May or thereabouts. 


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Exit Man-Child

I watched Phantom Thread a few days ago. In the theatre! The last film I watched in the theatre was probably Nil Batte Sannata, but this was Daniel Day-Lewis' last, so I had to watch it on a big screen, etc etc is why I put myself through all that going to a mall to watch a film entails.

(That was a complicated sentence. I will keep it simple for the rest of this post).

In this interview with middle school girls, Anderson says that he wanted to work with Day-Lewis again, and so over the course of a few months, the two of them sat together and figured out the story they wanted to tell.

So here's the thing: this story of a grown man surrounded by women propping him up in all things great and small is the role Daniel Day-Lewis wanted to be his last, before he retires forever from cinema.

That is even more disappointing than the film itself.

I'm not going over the plot. It involves clothes, Day-Lewis looking quite hot, the women he dresses not so, and a weird twist in the tale in the last ten minutes that was - how shall I put it? - very difficult to stomach.

You'd think that a film where most of the speaking roles belong to women, where in fact, there are more named women characters than men, would be a good thing. Nope. Not if, in all their actions, the needs of this great big man-child are the only important thing.

He needs silence at the breakfast table. Scrape butter too loudly, crunch toast, pour tea from an unacceptable height, tell him he's expected to attend a wedding, and the man's a nervous wreck, his day ruined and his inspiration in shreds. He asks a woman out and talks about his dead mother the entire time. Worse: he removes her make up at a restaurant because that's how he likes to see her. 

And so creepy the way his sister grooms this woman he brings home to be his muse (someone said on twitter, men having muses is nothing more than a way to conceal an erection beneath an education): how softly she should eat, how she must not introduce the slightest variation in his routine, etc etc.

I think this is supposed to signify the man's fragile genius. 

Poor Daniel Day-Lewis. If he needs to remove every male character from the script (bar one doctor whom his character tells to fuck off), if he needs to play a man who has to have women mother him and protect him and stand like mannequins around him, and be jealous but not so jealous that they impinge on his life in any meaningful way, all in order to garner a final Oscar nomination, then that's just pathetic.

If he wins, I think I will be capable of one more level of disappointment. (Personally, I think Timothee Chalamet should win in this category).

(I had more to say but now I'm just bored with how silly this film is. Now that this is out my system, I hope I will stop saying, "Another thing about Phantom Thread' to myself at odd moments during the day.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Dancing at the Edge of the World: RIP Ursula le Guin

Ursula le Guin died last night. She was 88, and she lived the kind of life many would wish they had it in them to lead. 

I first said I wouldn't say much and instead spend the day reading her. Which I will, of course, but I am also awash with a feeling I am finding it hard to describe. It's not sorrow and gratitude doesn't come close. It is what it is and maybe I need to say these things aloud in order to notice this feeling properly and give it its due.

On a personal note: I started writing so very late in life that I feel some residual envy for those who are so accomplished so early in their writing lives. I feel also, as a sort of balance to that envy, a certain kinship with writers like Jayanta Mahapatra, who also started their true lives late.

Taking my first steps in poetry as much as into the world that the internet opened up, I found her website and spent a lot of time there. Then I found a post box number and instructions for fan mail (enclose a SASE; writers find it hard enough to make money, and Ursula walks to the postbox herself because her friend who acts as secretary comes in only once a week. Also, there were default dragons).

Naturally I wrote to her, as I have done to other people from time to time, with my heart beating loudly as I wrote. I  enclosed a SASE, stamped the envelope and went to post the letter. Naturally I expected no reply.

I had written to her about my beginning to write, and how her work had inspired me. I sent her a poem I had written that I thought she might like. It was short, just a few lines long. It would fit on twitter even in the 140 days.

Some weeks later, I got mail from Portland, Oregon and I knew instantly that it was from Ursula le Guin. Today, I looked for that letter, and I see that I had opened it so carefully that all the glue is preserved and the letter has stuck itself back as if it were still unopened.

I opened it carefully. Then and now. It's a typed letter, two paragraphs long, and is filled with warmth. But the words that I have held in my heart all these years are these: 

I love your poem. I'm going to put it up over my desk. And here is a poem from ancient China that a friend sent to me:
[poem from ancient China, with one correction and the name of the poet and translator, in her hand]
Looking for this letter, I realise that there were more. I can't imagine why I kept bothering her and why she was generous enough to reply, even if briefly. But I am grateful for her generosity and encouragement and for showing me a way to be with other writers when my time comes, if it comes.

Outside of the personal, there are so many things to link to, read, discover (even now. One word: podcasts). Most of all, there are the books. 

I found out recently that there is a box set of her entire Ecumen series. I added it to my wishlist on Amazon, and then I remembered her speech at the NBA

A week or so ago, I ordered her last book, No Time To Spare. Via Amazon, though (I am sorry), at a time when my mother was travelling and wouldn't realise that things were being bought for her birthday. 

My mother still doesn't know about the book. I still haven't read it, because she should get to read it first. Me, I am going to re-read The Word for World Is Forest starting today. 

The amazing thing is, how much there is to read and re-read. Her work will last a long time.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Placeholder for the new year

The new year will begin with a full moon, a migraine, a stomach infection. It will begin with a hive desiccating a little every day. It will begin with a hungry cat.

The new year will be smaller, with fewer things to do that will, all the same, appear to be undoable.

No. The new year will contain within it all the predictions that will fail, no better than they did before.

In a few hours, I will not magically begin to write, write better, more, more efficiently.

In a few hours from this beautiful morning, there will be another one that I might sleep through, but more likely that I will watch from out my window, as I usually do.

Happy 2018!