A Poem for the month of May

The day the gutters overflowed / I left Kotapuram Port

I’ve dug out an old poem first published in 2012:

It was in May. The sky poured.

The day the gutters overflowed
I left Kotapuram Port.

Abandoned on the platform were black trunks and tan suitcases
forsaken to their drenching while the porters huddled
under the whipped red awning.
The long brown train awaited the flutter of the guard’s green flag
as with slick-wet hair, from the window I stared
at a shadow I thought was there.

Friends wrote after long silences to say they’d told you
I’d shed tears on a platform awash with water
Scraped on to the train and cried again.
It was too good not to repeat.
You were puzzled when you heard this
or that’s the version I received.

It wouldn’t have changed anything, you said
if you’d been there, if you’d spoken
It wouldn’t have erased the train timetable
or the date of leaving Kotapuram
If you’d said ‘best of luck in life, my friend’
or another farewell equally inane
I’d have lived exactly the life I have
it would all have panned out the same.
I would’ve left on the day the sky poured
the day the gutters overflowed
Even if you’d stood there
to say ‘Hello. Goodbye. I care.’

‘Tears?’ you’d asked, with perplexed brow when the story was repeated
of rampant lightning and umbrellas twisted by the storm.
Of the face squelched to the streaky window.
‘Tears, for what purpose?’

There were pillars on the platform
Posters on the pillars, imploring us to
Stick No Bills
The yellow of the posters was shiny-succulent, water-lashed.
The pillars were white and round, the sodden green flag was down,
the train slipped out, pulled away my stare,
away from the shadow I thought was there.

It was in May. The sky poured. The gutters overflowed.
I left Kotapuram behind. The trains ran on time.

First Published in The HarperCollins Book of Modern English Poetry [by Indians], edited by Sudeep Sen, July 2012;
Also published in The Yellow Nib, edition: Modern English Poetry by Indians, edited by Sudeep Sen, July 2012.

Reading the poem ‘It Was In May. The sky poured.’
At Stanza Springback at The Ship, Mortlake, May 2018.
Photo credit: Dino Mahoney

As always, feel free to write in with your comments on this poem.

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Scenes from Bucharest

Literature Translation Masterclasses, Bucharest University

The week flew by between long teaching sessions and evening events. In between, we were hosted at wonderful restaurants.

The full programme and plenty of candid shots are available on Facebook at the Lidia Vianu’s Students Translate page.

Bucharest in Spring & the Joys of Translation

On a drizzly spring day I’m looking ahead to next week in Bucharest teaching Literature Translation Masterclasses at The University of Bucharest.

I’ve been involved with the translation programme there since 2009 when I worked on polishing the English translations for some of the poems in the anthology “It Might Take Me Years” [Mi-ar trebui un sir de ani]. Then I worked on some of Dan Verona’s poems for the online publication of his selected poems in English, published in 2011 by Contemporary Literature Press. http://editura.mttlc.ro/

Three of my more recent poems, translated by Ana Maria Tone, were broadcast on Romanian Cultural Radio in 2015.

This will be my first visit to Romania. As I prepare to teach translation workshops I’m reminded of the lovely experience of Raincheck Renewed being translated into Romanian by Patricia Neculae, then a student at the MA Programme for the Translation of the Contemporary Literary Text (MTTLC) at the University of Bucharest. Not being able to speak a word of Romanian, I was no help, of course.

Here’s the link to the translation: http://revista.mttlc.ro/116/index.html

[If you are fluent in Romanian, do email and tell me how it reads/sounds in your language.]

And here’s an interview that Patricia conducted with me after she’d translated the book. She totally got it, that’s all I can say!

Alina Popa, another MTTLC student, also translated a few poems from Raincheck Renewed for the magazine Regatul Cuvantului in February 2012. I haven’t compared the translations. You can see Alina’s translations here.

Raincheck Renewed Cover

I look forward to meeting the dedicated students (I already know they all are ) of the 2018 masterclasses. The really interesting feature of this year’s project is that we’re helping to polish translations of short stories by young contemporary Romanian writers.

I’ll post details in a day or so about the new English-Romanian anthology of work by the visiting delegates (that’s me and my fellow writers) and the launch events planned for our week in Bucharest.

But first, my thanks to all these institutions and people for making our visit possible:

Prof. Dr. Lidia Vianu, Director, MTTLC and Contemporary Literature Press
Anne Stewart, http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/poetrypro.html
National Museum of Romanian Literature, https://mnlr.ro/
University of Bucharest, http://en.unibuc.ro/
Romanian Cultural Institute, http://www.icr-london.co.uk/; http://www.icr.ro/
British Council In Romaniahttps://www.britishcouncil.ro/en

100 Great Indian Poems

// how many paise for each brown glass bottle, how much for each tin can //

I’m delighted that my poem Kabariwala features in “100 Great Indian Poems”, now available to order. This anthology is unique for its selected translations of Indian poetry in 27 languages spanning 3000 years of literature.

Kabariwala is one of the few poems written originally in English.

The book is edited by Abhay K and published by Bloomsbury India.

Order 100 Great Indian Poems.

Kabariwala and a few other poems from the book can be read at Asia Literary Review here.

You can read an extremely well-researched and well-written review of the book at DesiBlitz. The article includes an interview with me about the story behind this poem: https://www.desiblitz.com/content/100-great-indian-poems-poetic-feat-feast.

OPTIMISM

One of the ‘firsts’ for me this year was the commercial installation of my short poem Optimism.
It has had the most amazing reactions. That’s made me look at the poem in a new light and read it to boost myself after disappointments. Considering I’d ignored this poem since it was first published in Raincheck Renewed in 2004, this installation has provided a new beginning in many ways.

An example of the response I’ve had:
A few days after the installation a neighbour knocked on my door. ‘Your poem!’ she exclaimed.
‘What?’ I wasn’t sure what she meant.
It transpired she’s been to the hairdresser to have her highlights done. ‘There I was, sitting at the shampoo basin, when I look up at the wall in front of me. Your poem! There. I read it – it was wonderful’.

Yes, my poem had ambushed her.

A view from the basin

Kavita with Thomas

This was the brilliant idea of the owner of the hair salon, Thomas Gaughan, who selected this poem as artwork for his wall. Thomas said he’d wanted something inspirational. He’s really pleased with the effect and says that his clients love it. “Great words from Kavita that lift you up when you need it most.’

I’m proud too, because as my first commercial poem installation, it’s sited where you least expect it. Where the words come to you when you’re not in a ‘reading’ frame of mind. The context is surprising, just the way I like things to be!
I’m really glad that so many people are having their spirits lifted at the shampoo basin.

Pictures are of the installation at the William Thomas Gaughan hairdresser in London.

Credits:
Graphic design by Tim Barnes of Chicken Print Design
Installation by Danillo Cooper
Vinyl cut wall transfer produced by Omni Colour

And a note about the project in the shape of a happy tweet or ‘life-sentence’ published in Mslexia December 2017:

From Mslexia Issue 76, December 2017