First Lines Friday is a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author, or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?
Here’s how it works!
Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
Finally… reveal the book!
This is the journey of my cultural memory. The five elements -ether, air, fire, water, and earth, known as ‘Panchabhutas’ – have always fascinated me. In Sanskrit, ‘pancha’ means five, and ‘bhutas’ are the natural elements. As I begin to delve deeper into the ancient texts, I found that each of these elements was related to one particular sense.
And the book is…
This is the book I plan to read next:) Have you read it? What are your impressions? Anything you’d like to share?
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend Sampurna Chattarji’s poetry workshop conducted by Blogchatter on World Poetry Day.
Sampurna stressed on the importance of learning about poetry and its formats. She said the “perfect poem” is a mirage or chimera. She also said one must be confident about the nuts and bolts of the language one writes poetry in. One must “devour poetry” and study the craft. One must be able to take criticism, understand it, and equip oneself to be one’s own editor.
Sampurna has recently translated Joy Goswami’s prose poems. For those who love mathematics and poetry, she recommended Inger Kristenson’s book, The Alphabet, which is based on the Fibonacci sequence. She stressed that the best translators of poetry were other poets themselves. She also gave us a reading list and suggested we look up the first books of those we considered established poets. Incidentally, her first book was ‘Sight may strike you blind,’ which is currently unavailable. She read out a poem called ‘Evil eye’ from her first book. She suggested we pick up anthologies.
There’s so much more I learned from her during this session. I feel blessed to have attended it.
Before the long weekend gets over, I want to write about all that I read, listened to and absorbed over the last few days so that you can see if you want to check it out. If you’ve read any of it or listened to the audiobook, do leave a comment with your opinion of the work.
First, I finished the audiobook of ‘I heart New York’ by Lindsey Kelk on the storytel app. I’d started this audiobook a few days ago. The narration by Cassandra Harwood really brought it to life. Read more about it on my insta post here.
Next, I read a story from The New Yorker called ‘A doctor, a patient, and their poetry’ by Ofole Mgbako, from the ‘Annals of Medicine’ section dated November 10, 2021. It was about how poetry strengthened the relationship between a doctor and a patient and how “in some ways, writing was the best treatment”. (The section in quotes is the subtitle of the piece.) I enjoyed it for the many poetic references. Carl Sandburg, Walter de la Mare, Wole Soyinka, Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman and others are mentioned.
I finished reading Vikram Seth’s translation of ‘Three Chinese Poets.’ Wang Wei (699 – 761 AD), Li Bai (701-762 AD) and Du Fu (712-770 AD) “speak to us across a distance of twelve hundred years, and move us as it is rare for even poetry can do” (quotes from the inside jacket). This slim volume of 84 pages has about a dozen poems each by Wang Wei, Li Bai and Du Fu. In the introduction, Vikram Seth tells us about these three poets and their lives and times. This hard-bound beautiful volume is by Speaking Tiger books for sale in South Asia only. See my insta post for more details.
I didn’t do goal setting this year since I feel it puts extra pressure on me and to be honest, I couldn’t find my 2022 goal-setting document. LOL. That, and we have an omicron alert everywhere. ☹ I did, however, recap my 2021 in one of my numerous notebooks.
I’ve also been buying a LOT of books. I think I should go slow with that. You can check some of them out on my Bookstagram.
Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. All we can do is take one day at a time and try to live gracefully.
Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2022. May you find comfort in the things that mean something to you and have the strength to take on something new.
I read ‘Composition of a woman’ by Christine E Ray, a book of poems about womanhood and its attendant issues. ‘Composition of a woman’ is her debut collection of poetry that won the Reader’s Favourite Bronze Medal in Poetry in 2019.
Christine has covered topics such as fibromyalgia, depression, menopause, love, heartbreak, middle age, sexuality and vulnerability in her poems. She has laid bare her emotions on these pages unreservedly. Although dealing with complex emotions and topics, the book flows easily and will most likely have you returning to it to check out how a turn of phrase sits on the page or how something was described. The poet writes with candour and without a trace of self-consciousness or self-indulgence.
The collection is in free verse, but some of the work is prose-poetry.
In one of her poems, she wonders how “girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice”. She notes that some of them are mean girls!
Her ‘On becoming a poet’ encapsulates what it is to be a poet –
“Sometimes, adopting the names ‘writer’ and ‘poet’ led her to encounters with the most amazing minds connecting her with a larger community
At other times she thought that ‘writer’ and poet’ were the loneliest names she had ever called herself waking up every morning
To unzip her chest, her gut
And bare her truths to the world
Because like others of her kind
She was complex, messy containing
Multiple truths, not a singular one…”
Her sense of humour sparkles through some of the poems. Some of her poems are named after books by famous authors such as The Bluest Eyes, Bad Feminist, We should all be feminists, The bell jar etc. She draws from the canon of great feminist literature and weaves magic on the pages of this tribute to womanhood. Read it! It’s available on Kindle Unlimited for free.
I read ‘Chasing Sunsets: Poems and prose’ by Vaibhav Dange as a part of the HBB Book Review Programme. It is the author’s third book of poems, but the first one that I sampled. After reading ‘Chasing Sunsets’, I’m eager to read the poet’s other two books of poetry: ‘Letters from a stranger’ and ‘A walk on a burning bridge.’
The poet has dedicated ‘Chasing Sunsets’ “to every person who is torn apart in love and is grateful for it.” In the acknowledgements section, he has thanked the people who stayed and also the people who left. The book cover is designed by Dhriti Chakraborty.
The poems are divided into four sections or “chapters” as the poet calls them: Cyclic emotions, Denial, Breaking Point and Acceptance. The poems are written in free verse.
‘Chasing Sunsets’ has poems on depression, grief, fear, love, loss, inertia and even one poem on the pandemic. One of the poems mentions wormholes and the space-time continuum. Another poem carries “a message from the moon.”
The poems are deeply emotional and reflect sensitivity. They cover a range of emotions and these poems would appeal to anyone who has ever been in love and felt its joy and pain. I recommend this book to all lovers of poetry and to introverts and highly sensitive people.
Better editing would have led to a more pleasurable reading experience.
I recently read ‘Death is my only beloved’ by Laudeep Singh as a part of the HBB book review programme. The book has been published by Invincible Publishers. It is dedicated to “everyone who has a heart that bleeds and eyes that weep.” The cover design and the beautiful illustrations in the book are by the poet’s sister Shruti Singh.
The poet ends his acknowledgements section with “ I want to thank all my former girlfriends for stabbing me in the heart.” There is also a preface and a section where he quotes famous poets.
The opening poem “Conked out” is almost macabre, with the poet comparing broken dreams to underfed malnourished babies. A few poems later, there is “Purgatory,” which is more like the poet’s musings on the demise of a loved one. Some of the poems seem like ramblings. The poet also touches upon smoking and drinking in one of his poems, outlining his dependence on them. The poet also comes up with some strange musings “ If I ever tie the knot and if I ever have children, I want them to abhor me for two reasons. First, because hate is purer than love. Second, because if my children happen to love me, then they will never be able to live their own lives as they will always mourn thinking about all that their father had been through in his life, long after I perish from Earth’. The poet, in another poem, talks about teachers who picked on him in school. The poems are in free verse.
I was a bit underwhelmed by this book. The illustrations and cover art are, however, fantastic. Have you read either of these books?
I’m a part of the Himalayan First Draft Club and I’ve been attending their sessions with writers on Sundays. We had an initial kick-off session on Zoom with Chetan Mahajan, who owns and runs the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
So far, I’ve attended zoom sessions featuring Kanchana Banerjee and Vish Dhamija. I’ve watched webinars and Live Sessions featuring Kanchana Banerjee before, but this was my first time attending a session with author Vish Dhamija. Kanchana Banerjee’s novels include ‘A forgotten affair’( Harlequin) and ‘Nobody’s Child’ ( Harper Collins India 2019). She is working on her third novel. Vish Dhamija is an award-winning crime fiction writer who has written about 10 books, mostly legal thrillers. His debut novel was ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ ( Srishti Publishers). His next book ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ is releasing this month from Pan Mac Millan India. It is available for pre-order.
Writers from all over the country and some outside India, too, are a part of the April cohort of the Himalayan FDC. Many of them are a book old, while some have written short stories and poems. There is a Google Excel sheet where we are all supposed to enter our word count for the day. We are expected to write every day of this month. We are also part of a whatsapp group. I’m halfway through the programme and being in touch with so many writers has helped me stay motivated although I’ve been a silent lurker. I’ve been writing a poem a day, keeping with NaPoWriMo.
I’m also a part of a writers’ whatsapp group by Blogchatter called ‘Help me write a book’. I’d joined that a couple of months back and decided I would write poetry this year. I’d written three poems based on a different theme as a part of this group, but for NaPoWrimo, I changed the theme and I’ve been writing a poem a day on my new theme.
What have you been reading and writing? Do let me know in the comments section.
I read two books of poems recently: ‘Isolocation’ by various poets and ‘Hate that cat’ by Sharon Creech. ‘Isolocation’, a collection of 44 poems by various authors, is available for free on Kindle Unlimited. The book was published in October 2020. The poems are about isolation, quarantine, change, the socio-political climate, mental health, feminism etc. I particularly loved ‘Dear Tomorrow’ by Gayathri Viswanath, ‘Amygdala’ by Ishmeet Nagpal, ‘Hello, Goodbye’ by Ishmeet Nagpal and ‘Yellow’ by Anjali Singh. I know I will re-visit the book to re-read these.
Pic from Unsplash
I also finally got around to reading ‘Hate that cat’ by Sharon Creech, which I’d bought in November 2020. The book is meant for children of ages 8-12. Its companion book is ‘Love that dog’, which I have not read. ‘Hate that cat’ is about little Jack who attends poetry classes by his teacher Miss Stretchberry. He attempts to write poetry based on his lessons at school. Jack learns about symbols, metaphors, images, alliteration, onomatopoeia, etc., through the poetry of William Carlos Williams, Edgar Allen Poe, Walter Dean Myers, Christopher Myers, T.S. Eliot and others, in his classes. Some famous poems are also featured in the book. Jack records his observations through his poems, which form the book. ‘Hate that cat’ ends with a reading list of ‘books on the class poetry shelf.’ Two of the author Sharon Creech’s other books include ‘Walk two moons,’ which won the Newbery medal and ‘The wanderer’, which is a Newbery Honor Book.