Friday, April 29, 2011


I've lost the keys to my office.
That's all.*


*Only, not.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Poem in Spiral Orb

Several years ago, a couple of other poets and I wanted to collaborate on something. We weren't sure whether we'd be writing a play in verse, a series of linked poems - but we knew we wanted to write something together that would be more than the sum of our individual contributions.

I had just begun to step into the blog world and I was immersed (though I hadn't as yet started this blog). There were also so many journals beginning to accept work electronically and the possibilities seemed to multiply every time I looked.

So I suggested that we write a poem together that used the hypertextual nature of writing online. It was a basic kind of exercise in that kind of writing and the resultant poem - which used hyperlinks to strange, wonderful sites (or so it seemed to us at the time) - was rubbish and I'm glad we never placed it anywhere or I'd still be squirming.

All the same, I spent a long time thinking of collaborative work, the carefully designed serendipity of the links and thought how fantastic it could be if such a poem were written.

Turns out it can happen after all. Spiral Orb is where it does. This is how they describe themselves:

Spiral Orb is an experiment in juxtaposition, interrelationships, and intertextuality—a cross-pollination. This opening poem composts fragments from each of the pieces in Spiral Orb Three. Standing also as the table of contents, each line is embedded with a hyperlink to its original poem. Once at each poem, you will find links to the other poems in Spiral Orb Three.
Oh yes. This is what that poem could have been.

[Oh and I have a poem in Spiral Orb 3]. I'm not going to say which line leads to my poem. Go read the whole thing. I insist.

Friday, April 22, 2011

so much for the labyrinth

Flatness after the reading. (Yes, there was one last evening). Perhaps because I haven't read in years. Perhaps because everyone scattered in unseemly haste in order to begin their Easter weekend. Perhaps because discontent is the only useful spur for one's work.

So here I am, in the office, in an empty building, wrestling an idea onto the page.

For those who planned to come and couldn't make, there are ducks in compensation.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Pale King's New Clothes

For those who are not DFW enthusiasts, or those who (not without reason) think much too much is being made of a fragment, here's Steve Donahue's devastating take-down of both DFW and Tom McCarthy's review of The Pale King:

Wallace wrote a 1000-page novel in part in the smug assumption that such an act would protect him from any accusation of laziness – and yet he was the laziest American author since Sydney Sheldon. In writing as in life, laziness isn’t defined by how little you do – it’s defined by how much you’re willing to do to avoid work. Wallace buried his editors and publishers with hundreds of pages of ‘notes’ and ‘clarifications,’ buried his books in hundreds and hundreds of pages of pointless verbiage, but he didn’t do any of that for the reasons he helped the literary world to craft. There was never any of the ‘tortured artist with so much to say‘ involved in all that over-production … it, all of it, every page of it, was produced in order to avoid doing the actual work of writing, the shaping of plot and character and action, the whittling and revising and precision that are supposed to separate the novelist from the tyro. That’s epic, Biblical laziness.

And it prompts laziness in turn. McCarthy at one point is practically asleep at the keyboard when he writes, “The issues of emotion and agency remain central, but are incorporated into a larger argument about the possibility or otherwise of these things within contemporary fiction.” I’m not at all sure what any of that means, but I’d hazard a guess that “issues of emotion and agency” are central to pretty much every novel ever written. These are the kinds of things reviewers write when the grip of a celebrity season is upon them, and even Wallace deserves better.
even Wallace. Ouch. Sydney Sheldon. Double ouch.


AI Winter 11

Almost missed noticing here that Almost Island is now up. Am reading Mukta Sambrani and. Well, and nothing.

Go read.

Monday, April 18, 2011

'Was that sincere enough?'

Via TR, commenting on KM's post, the story of how Blood on the Tracks got made.


There's this bit:
Lighting was a big deal in the rooms. It was all about setting the mood for creativity. I turned most of the lights off. All was black except a glow over the flying-V mixing console. Once you blocked out all external stimuli and you were listening for endless hours, the space between the beats got bigger and bigger. You could hear inside the sounds all the way to their core.
And I found myself nodding. Oh, yes. Sound studios are magical in a way editing studios aren't. Editing studios are noise and repetition, they're flicker and blindingness. There's no spotlight and then darkness. There's no awe.

In sound studios, you're always on the outside looking in. There is austerity and exclusion (as with the image of Zbignew Herbert on the cover). You're always on the other side of the glass. It's cold. You might even need a sweater. There are mysterious words that you're allowed to hear once in a while. On the screen, the images play themselves out in silence. Sound recording is liturgy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The HarperCollins Book of Modern English Poetry by Indians

It appears that The HarperCollins Book of Modern English Poetry by Indians is out* and if it's arrived at home, I'm not there to see it.

Instead, I give you Kavita Jindal's selections from the book for the Writer's Hub. The selections of 14 poems (out of 400 odd, I believe, in the book) are accompanied by a short introductory note by Jindal, which is more an overview of the book rather than an explanation of her choices. And after all, what explanation need she give?


*I beg your pardon. It appears that it will arrive later this year. This must be a review copy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jacket2, dog-earred

Jacket is back now as Jacket2, and much joy it brings.

Just look at this*! If I wasn't scared of fines, I'd totally dog-ear the pristine copy of Ooga-Booga I'm currently reading to see what it would make. Or worse (better) the ancient copy of Looking Glass War whose pages are brittle and yellow and will becomes triangles of half-formed words if I do decide to vandalise the page.




*All the joy comes from having the humble dog-ear raised to a level of art. Me - I'm unapologetic about admitting I used to eat the corners of pages when I was a kid. Not to mark them but because they...were there?

You heard me.

'we have been here before'

I'm missing the on-the-ground-ness of what's happening with this whole Anna Hazare fast and his subsequent enthronement as arbiter of the good and the righteous. Not being surrounded by shrieking news reporters and anchors is, in general a good thing; I kind of like watching gardening shows and East Enders; but it's really, really hard to understand the sequence of events when you're elsewhere.

So, while I haven't been following the drama as it unfolded, I have been reading Kafila, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta's 'At The Risk of Heresy'*:

We have been here before. Indira Gandhi’s early years were full of radical and populist posturing, and the mould that Anna Hazare fills is not necessarily the one that JP occupied (despite the commentary that repeatedly invokes JP). Perhaps we should be reminded of the man who was fondly spoken of as ‘Sarkari Sant’ – Vinoba Bhave. Bhave lent his considerable moral stature to the defence of the Internal Emergency (which, of course, dressed itself up in the colour of anti-corruption, anti-black marketeering rhetoric, to neutralize the anti-corruption thrust of the disaffection against Indira Gandhi’s regime). And while we are thinking about parallels in other times, let us not forget a parallel in another time and another place. Let us not forget the example of how Mao’s helmsmanship of the ‘cultural revolution’ skilfully orchestrated popular discontent against the ruling dispensation to strengthen the same ruling dispensation in China.

These are early days, but Anna Hazare may finally go down in history as the man who - perhaps against his own instincts and interests – (I am not disputing his moral uprightness here) - sanctified the entire spectrum of Indian politics by offering it the cosmetic cloak of the provisions of the draft Jan Lokpal Bill. The current UPA regime, like the NDA regime before it, has perfected the art of being the designer of its own opposition. The method is brilliant and imaginative. First, preside over profound corruption, then, utilise the public discontent against corruption to create a situation where the ruling dispensation can be seen as the source of the most sympathetic and sensitive response, while doing nothing, simultaneously, to challenge the abuse of power at a structural level.

The whole thing reminds me a bit of the Jaago Re ads. (And the chutzpah of continuing with those ads post-Radia is breathtaking.)

Also see Gopal's photo post on Azad Maidan, and the other protests that didn't quite do it for the TV channels.


*'Heresy' is so apt. What with Baba Ramdev's backing, and Hazare wanting to touch his feet (in apology, I believe?), and people falling over themselves to defer to his choice of appointees. Guru-Sakshat Parabrahma Tasmai Shri Gurave Namah.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Where I am

Yes, ok. This is an unconscionably long time away from the blog and for the few of you who still check in to see if there's something new, I'm very sorry about the long silence.

The reason? I've been in Scotland, at the University of Stirling, since the beginning of this week and will be here for three months on a Charles Wallace Fellowship.

Writing plans aside, let me tell you why this compelled my silence: everyone knows by now that I'm a bit of a joke when it comes to travel. So there was plenty to do and agonise over in the last month before I left. But the real reason is, I guess I'm just superstitious about not talking about things too soon.

That only partly explains the changed nature of the writing on this blog. The other is, I've just become rusty at it. One indication to myself about just how rusty I've become: I've reconsidered nearly every word I've typed since I began this post ten minutes ago; nearly discarded it, returned and slogged on.

So yes, I will strive for some regularity, seeing as I'm not on Facebook, not (yet) on Twitter and have no intention of completely losing touch with any of you. But the other writing - the reason I'm here - is primary. If I talk inanities instead of sense, consider the blog my warm-up page and kindly excuse.

At least I'm back, yeah?