Book Reviews Literature Poetry

The Poems of Tishani Doshi

I came across my volume of Doshi’s poems, Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, in the Oxfam shop and retired to the Cinema’s attatched bar to peruse it. leaving aside the huge question of how we should finance our poets- surely another test of our degree of civilization- I was delighted to acquaint myself with a new poet whose website may be found at

Monsoon Poem

Because this is a monsoon poem

expect to find the words jasmine,

palmyra, Kuruntokai, red; mangoes

in reference to trees or breasts; paddy

fields, peacocks, Kurinji flowers,

flutes; lotus buds guarding love’s

furtive routes. Expect to hear a lot

about erotic consummation inferred

by laburnum gyrations and bamboo

syncopations. Listen to the racket

of wide-mouthed frogs and bent-

legged prawns going about their

business of mating while rain falls

and falls on tiled roofs and verandas,

courtyards, pagodas.

Best places in Munnar to visit to watch Neelakurinji flowers bloom after 12  years | Lifestyle News,The Indian Express

The flood of insistent images together with their sounds strikes the reader as with heavy persistent rain. This type of rainfall seems charged too with eroticism from pendulous mangoes to rutting frogs. Throughout this poem this type of rain is held in contrast to the earth itself. It indicates how in one experience and its associated feeling, another mode of being may be temporarily forgotten. It does this with beauty and subtlety.

It ends by speaking of dreams and old poems we forget that –

led us to believe that men were mountains,

that the beautiful could never remain

heartbroken, that the rains arrive

we should be delighted to be taken

in drowning, in devotion.

Old Vintage Postcard With Seascape And Space For Text Stock Photo, Picture  And Royalty Free Image. Image 20607974.

Here is the start of another Doshi poem which is engaging:-

Jungian Postcard

Dear Carl, the days here are impossible:

all silence, and the sea. Yesterday we saw

the horizon unstitch itself from the sky

so delicately, and further down the beach,

two stray dogs materialised like lost souls

from a genie’s lamp. I just had to cry.

Our anima and animus! My love cried,

being philosophically inclined and impossible

to argue with. But the way those bony animal souls

took ownership of us – one black, one gold, and saw

fit to flex their paws on that deserted beach,

unmoved by the disentangled sky

that had banished all its birds. The sky

that slumped so languidly into the sea. I had to cry

for all my complexes.

The poem sets up an intuition of homelessness and alienation which only can be overcome by an inner resolution with the poet’s lover.

Literature Poetry

Found Prose Poem from the LRB

The London Review of Books is a wonderful fortnightly pleasure. I am particularly drawn to articles that have maps and also to any item which elucidates the background to a problem in the world which has escaped my previous attempts to understand it. The problem in this case being the distressing war in Nagorno~Karabbakh. However, in reading this article by Abdul~Ahad, I came across a few lines which I found deeply poetic.

Nagorno~Karabakh Nagorny is Russian for ‘mountainous’;Karabakh Turkish for ‘black garden’~is a region in the South Caucasus with a predominantly Armenian population. It was a province of ancient Armenian kingdoms before coming under the successive suzerainty of Sassanids, Muslim Arabs, Turkmen tribes and the Persian Safavids with pockets controlled by Armenian meliks, prices who used outside powers to bolster their claims to authority. In the mid~18th centuary following the decline of the meliks, a khanate was established with Persian support by the Javanshirs, a Turkic Karabakh clan, who built the city of Shusha. The region was absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1813 after the first Prussian war, and Persia ceded the rest of the Transcaucasus to Russia a decade or so later.

Karabakh maintained a strong Armenian religious and cultural identity through the centuries, but like all frontier regions it was a place where cultures and peoples converged. Armenian, Persian, Arabic and Turkic influences produced a unique cultural heritage, manifest in food, music. art and architecture. Armenian churches and monasteries dotted the hills while Azerbaijani composers and writers flourished in Shusha. Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Kurds both Yazidi and Muslim, lived side by side in towns and villages set among pine and birch forests, orchards, vineyards and highland pastures, Mulberry groves supported thriving silk industries.

Having just typed it in maybe it is not exactly a poem but it reads very elegantly to my ear. This appeared in an article entitled Each rock has two names in the London Review of Books 17th June 2021. You can read more about this prize winning journalist at

and besides this informative article the tragic situation is outlined at

The poet/photographer/journalist talks movingly below:~

Art and Photographic History Art Exhibition Reviews Poetry

Thoughts about René Magritte – The blank signature, 1965

May be an image of 1 person, horse, tree and outdoors

I don’t understand why I like this painting so much on first glance. The most disturbing element, I suppose is the strip where the horse has simply disappeared giving it the appearance of being a light transparent trunk itself. This, I think adds a joking quality to the overall work which I find a kind of magical forest. The sort that you might well find in a fairy tale or an adventure. The rider does not seem discombobulated by this wooded environment. Indeed she seems to have a sense of purpose and direction quite at variance to the seeming dissolution of her means of transport beneath her. The colours or palette seem to add to a jolly effect and the canopy of branches seems protective.

Art and Photographic History Art Exhibition Reviews Literature Poetry

The Charming Paintings of Pietro Antonio Rotari(1707-1762)

Next to my laptop propped against the now never used printer is a postcard which I bought at the remarkable Musée JacquemartAndré. This lovely gallery is grandly situated in the Boulevard Haussman in the 8th Arrondissment (huitieme). The postcard shows what a Scotsman might have called a fair bonny lassie.

Pietro Rotari

This Italian Baroque painter was born in Verona and died in St Petersburg. His paintings are remarkable for both their astonishing beauty but also for their realism as can be judged from the following clip.

Looking at these lovely paintings gives me the same feeling as reading this-


Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

Art and Photographic History Literature Poetry

Housman on The First of May


The orchards half the way
From home to Ludlow fair
Flowered on the first of May
In Mays when I was there;
And seen from stile or turning
The plume of smoke would show
Where fires were burning
That went out long ago.

The plum broke forth in green,
The pear stood high and snowed,
My friends and I between
Would take the Ludlow road;
Dressed to the nines and drinking
And light in heart and limb,
And each chap thinking
The fair was held for him.

Between the trees in flower
New friends at fairtime tread
The way where Ludlow tower
Stands planted on the dead.
Our thoughts, a long while after,
They think, our words they say;
Theirs now’s the laughter,
The fair, the first of May.

Ay, yonder lads are yet
The fools that we were then;
For oh, the sons we get
Are still the sons of men.
The sumless tale of sorrow
Is all unrolled in vain:
May comes to-morrow
And Ludlow fair again.


See also

knight, dame laura - Penzance Fair | Knight art, Art, Knight
Corpus Christi Fair by Dame Laura Knight

Classics Literature Poetry

The Mad Pomegranate Tree

I had recently been perusing Cavafy – particularly reading the essay on him written by that doyen of Dons, Maurice Bowra in his book, The Creative Experiment. Bowra, of whom it has been said, ” …..either the most distinguished or the most notorious Oxford don of the early twentieth century. Classicist, poet, wit, raconteur extraordinary, and Warden of Wadham College for over thirty years, he met nearly everyone of consequence in the worlds of literature and politics” He remarks of Cavafy’s abilility to find pathos in quite simple situations and quotes, The Melancholy of Jason  poet in Kommagini, a.D. 595

The aging of my body and my beauty
is a wound from a merciless knife.
I’m not resigned to it at all.
I turn to you, Art of Poetry,

For the whole poem please see

Then having lost my copy of Four Greek Poets (Penguin Modern European Poets) read a lovely poem by Odesseus Eyletis

Odysseas Elytis - IMDb


A view of a pomegranate tree | Download Scientific Diagram


Inquisitive matinal high spirits
à perdre haleine

n these all-white courtyards where the south wind blows
Whistling through vaulted arcades, tell me, is it the mad pomegranate tree
That leaps in the light, scattering its fruitful laughter
With windy wilfulness and whispering, tell me, is it the mad pomegranate tree
That quivers with foliage newly born at dawn
Raising high its colors in a shiver of triumph?

On plains where the naked girls awake,
When they harvest clover with their light brown arms
Roaming round the borders of their dreams — tell me, is it the mad pomegranate tree,
Unsuspecting, that puts the lights in their verdant baskets
That floods their names with the singing of birds — tell me
Is it the mad pomegranate tree that combats the cloudy skies of the world?

For the whole poem please see

Art and Photographic History German Matters Literature Poetry

Fernsucht nach Berlin

Fernsucht ist das Gegenteil von Heimweh. Die Krankheit ist auch unter den Synonymen Fernweh, Reisefieber und Travel Bug bekannt.

With thanks to
Literature Poetry

Lawrence Durrell and his Coconuts

Many people will have seen the excellent portrayal of Larry Durrell by Josh O’Connor in the TV Series “Meet the Durrells“. However, my personal encounter with this fellow was at least 50 years ago when I read “The Alexandria Quartet“. I probably was not sufficiently well read at the time to make much sense of these books but much enjoyed their exotic atmosphere. A few years later I saw the film of the first volume, “Justine” (1969 with

Recently searching for a Penguin Poetry book on Cavafy and three other Greek Poets I came across Volume 1 of the Penguin Modern Poets first published in 1962 -price 2/6 (12 and a half New Pence!!) and at an initial glance enjoyed reading a poem by Lawrence Durrell called “Green Coconuts”– then I looked more closely. The first stanza commences:-

At insular café tables under awnings

Bemused benighted half-castes pause

To stretch upon a table jawning

Ten yellow claws and

Order green coconuts to drink with straws.

I had coconut water every day and THIS is what happened - Times of India

I gather from perusal of the net that this poem was inspired by his own visit to Rio with his wife, Eve who tasted the coconuts. Here however, it is the “be-mused benighted half-castes” which sounds more than a little racist to me. Peter Porter has written of Durrell’s poetry  “Always beautiful as sound and syntax. Its innovation lies in its refusal to be more high-minded than the things it records, together with its handling of the whole lexicon of language.”

Picante and picturesque perhaps but bypassing the infantile fantasy of a “great tree of breasts” we arrive at the third verse-

Lips that are curved to taste this albumen,

To taste with some blue spoon among the curds

Which drying on tongue or moustache are tasteless

As droppings of bats or birds.

Now this general tastelessness suggests in association with beastmilk might suggest all kinds of projections going on here. Does one generally taste with the lips or moustache? Perhaps I am being pedantic but the final verse that returns to yellow mandibles and suggests, it seems to me, that the half-castes have become via reference to Darwin and ends with the lines-

Green coconuts, green

Coconuts, patrimony of the ape.

Well, at least in this poem, Durrell has exceeded Kipling in a sort of distasteful and racist bombast.

Classics Literature Poetry

Musings on Catullus, Housman and Stoppard

From Catullus 64

Peliaco quondam prognatae uertice pinus
dicuntur liquidas Neptuni nasse per undas
Phasidos ad fluctus et fines Aeetaeos,
cum lecti iuuenes, Argiuae robora pubis,
auratam optantes Colchis auertere pellem
ausi sunt uada salsa cita decurrere puppi,
caerula uerrentes abiegnis aequora palmis.
diua quibus retinens in summis urbibus arces,
ipsa leui fecit uolitantem flamine currum,
pinea coniungens inflexae texta carinae.
illa rudem cursu prima imbuit Amphitriten.
quae simul ac rostro uentosum proscidit aequor,
tortaque remigio spumis incanuit unda,
emersere feri candenti e gurgite uultus
aequoreae monstrum Nereides admirantes.
illa, atque haud alia, uiderunt luce marinas
mortales oculi nudato corpore Nymphas

It is said that formerly pines sprung from Pelion’s peak
swam the liquid waves of Neptune
To the waves of Phasis and the lands of Aeetes,
When the chosen youths, the strength of Argive manhood
Choosing to run away with the Golden Fleece from the Colchians,
They dared to traverse with swift ship through the salty waters,
Sweeping the azure sea with fir oars,
For whom the goddess herself occupying the citadels in the highest cities
Made the flying chariot with a light wind,
Fitting the pine timbers to the curved keel.
She first stained inexperienced Amphitrite with sailing;
But which likewise plowed the fickle wave with curved ship’s beak
And the water, twisted by the rowing grew warm with foam,
Aquatic Nereids emerged their faces from the white eddies
Admiring the apparition
On that day, and hardly any other, mortals saw with their own eyes
Marine nymphs, with naked body,

I had just been reading the Stoppard play about Houseman in which this passage is referenced called “The Invention of Love”.

In a recent discussion at Jewish Book Week 2021, Hermione Lee mentioned that this was Stoppard’s favourite play. It was first published in 1997 and given it’s themes I wondered if it’s writing had any connection with Stoppard’s feelings about Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. This very interesting play can be viewed on You Tube but sadly the quality of the sound is not very good.

I think it is interesting that Stoppard who appears not to have had a University Education appears so interested in the minutaie of recondite and eclectic matters such as logical positivism (Jumpers) or textual analysis as in this play.

Isn’t it interesting how the road not taken, so to speak, may become so interesting one’s later in life. This was seemingly the case about higher education with Tom Stoppard who has become so formidably well read and erudite. I was thinking too of James Callaghan a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979. He became so very interested in Education and seems to have engendered the changes that resulted in the National Curriculum.

The other major figure that springs to mind is George Orwell. However, my most recent encounter with Orwell portrays him rather more as the man of action and not perhaps very interested in University Education as that of describing authoritarian atmosphere of the minor Prep school. I was reading fairly recently an account by Rayner Heppenstall in his engaging account Four Absentees which mentions the time the author spent with Orwell in their Camden flat-

It is difficult to imagine what Orwell might have chosen to read had he gone to University and then again he was young at a time well before the expansion of University Education. Perhaps, he is now studied under the area of Media Studies. There appears to be considerable debate about his writing. Personally I found his diaries which I think appeared in Penguin around 1988 absorbingly interesting.

Darcy Moore's Blog |ORWELL COLLECTION - Darcy Moore's Blog

Orwell and Stoppard are both concerned with language and truth. When looking at this play, there is a debate about the relative merits of poetry and academic scholarship as well as the human relationships. Houseman the classicist obsessed by the scientific and heterosexual Jackson. Obsessed too with such close textual analysis that he seems to missed his first in Greats. How might he be diagnosed or labelled nowadays one wonders.

After recently reading Three Rings by Daniel Mendelsohn (A tale of Exile, Narrative and Fate) I have been tempted to explore diversions and must now return to the text above.

The first two lines above do not appear to make a great deal of sense in English. My Heinemann edition translated by F.W.Cornish (Erstwhile Vice-Provost of Eton) 2nd Edition 1914 gives-

Pine-trees of old, born on top of the Pelion, are said to have swam through the clear waters of Neptune to the waves of Phasis and the realms of Aeetes, when the chosen youths, the flowers of Argive strength, desiring to bear away from the Colchians the golden fleece...

Now the obvious difficulty in getting the poetry here is the number of allusions with which the text is crammed. The sort of associations that in Keats time many were familiar. Looking them up…..

Pelion is simply there as a mountain today and looks gorgeous too.

Pelion: the forgotten Greek peninsula with alpine treks and sandy beaches –  but no tourists

Phasis appears to be beautiful -The Rioni river, as it is called in classical sources.  Ancient Greek Φᾶσις as it says in Wikitionary! Aeetes may be found at, an ancient King of Colchis who has been represented thus:-


“The flowers of Argive strength” is rather lovely and associated with gladiolus flowers which suggest not only strength but honour and moral integrity. Gladius being Latin for sword. Argive refers to the ancient city of Argos and obviously not the on-line delivery store! Argos (Ancient Argos, located in the Peloponnese in Greece, was a major Mycenaean settlement in the Late Bronze Age (1700-1100 BCE) and remained important throughout the Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman periods until its destruction by the Visigoths in 395 CE)

The full import of Catullus 64 may be found at

Finally, there is a little possible alternative at line 14 where freti might replace feri above and seems to mean narrow-anyway freti candenti sounds rather nice though I cannot quite make sense of it. It seemsto refer to a white narrow watery space I am told. See and according to Cornish might instead mean “wild visages” of the emerging Neriads in the spume of the churning oars. Houseman and probably Stoppard would doubtless be intrigued by these codd. (Codices) Referring to the different manuscripts. Cornish in my book -1st Edition 1912 refers to 7 different manuscripts- one of which is in the Bodleian and one of which is no longer extant but 6 of the others are derived from it. Codex Veronensis.

Classics Literature Poetry

World Poetry Day-Ovid in Exile -from Tristia Book 3

Barbarian Incursions

Hero And Leander by Granger | Leander, Art, Hero

If such waters had once been yours, Leander,

those straits would not be guilty of your death.

Since the dolphins can’t hurl themselves into the air,

harsh winter holds them back if they try:

and though Boreas roars and thrashes his wings,

there’s no wave on the besieged waters.

The ships stand locked in frozen marble,

and no oar can cut the solid wave.

I’ve seen fish stuck fast held by the ice,

and some of them were alive even then.

Whether the savage power of wild Boreas

freezes the sea-water or the flowing river,

as soon as the Danube’s levelled by dry winds,

the barbarian host attack on swift horses:

strong in horses and strong in far-flung arrows

laying waste the neighbouring lands far and wide.

Some men flee: and, with their fields unguarded,

their undefended wealth is plundered,

the scant wealth of the country, herds

and creaking carts, whatever a poor farmer has.

Some, hands tied, are driven off as captives,

looking back in vain at their farms and homes.

some die wretchedly pierced by barbed arrows,

since there’s a touch of venom on the flying steel.