Tag Archives: poem

Happy World Poetry Day!

Every year on the 21st of March UNESCO  celebrates World Poetry Day. A decision to proclaim 21 March as World Poetry Day was adopted during the UNESCO’s 30th session held in Paris in 1999.

For UNESCO, “the main objective of this action is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities. Moreover, this Day is meant to support poetry, return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, promote teaching poetry, restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music, painting and so on, support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art…” Link here

So, Happy World Poetry Day everyone!

Dragonfly Dreams in Red Dragonfly

All  you ever wanted to know about dragonflies … in haiku…in Melissa Allen’s blog Red Dragonfly.

It is a dream of a post with amazing poems, images/artwork. (Don’t miss the video of the dying dragonfly.) The links to the poets and their sites/work is an extra bonus, and I know it is much appreciated.

So, go over there and read! (Delighted that two of my own haiku are included! Thank you, Melissa!)



  1. Delighted to have three of my haiku included in Melissa Allen’s mushroom collection, on her site Red Dragonfly. Hers is a wonderful post with photographs, drawings, haiga and of course, lots of great poetry. Here is the address


  1. The Language/Place collection, issue #8 is out. Put together by Walter Bjorkman it  is a delight to read. Contributions from around the world!  My post Haiku from Lake Ammersee is included along with photographs, poetry, all different kinds of meditation on the spirit and the poetry of place. Visit and see! wbjorkman.wordpress.com

City Breath: A Breath of Fresh Air

I just watched a short youtube video trailer of a fantastic video poetry project, City Breath, bringing the poetry and art of South African cities to life! The link to this trailer is here

I was sent the following information about the City Breath project:

“Through their common city theme, these short video ‘gasps’ or ‘breaths’ of South African cities give voice to the private dreams and nightmares of local poets, dancers, performance artists and filmmakers. They interrogate, with or against rational logic, the way South Africans understand their cities and urban life. Rebellious in their nature, under 4 minutes each, the films represent a genre seldom seen in South African film and television.

“Inspiring, sometimes beautiful, sometimes challenging, and over-all very impressive.” (Trevor Steele-Taylor, Director of the National Arts Festival Film Programme)

The City Breath video poetry project was shown in several cities round the world – Johannesburg being the most recent, after Berlin, London, Cape Town, and Vancouver. Curator Kai Lossgott is looking for more venues and festivals around the world interested in showing the project. She can be contacted directly at info@kailossgott.com

Apart from selecting existing works, the CITY BREATH project has initiated and developed new collaborations in the areas of the video poem, screen dance and experimental film.”

For more information and a fab blog see http://www.citybreathproject.blogspot.com

I was impressed and inspired!

I happen to know the work of one of the poets quite well: the immensely talented Tanya van Schalkwyk’s work, fusing imagination with sensitive observation and dynamic expression.

But watching the trailer (a few times!) made me want to see the whole thing!

Tania’s contribution to the video project is her poem “The Electrician”  included in her book Hyphen. It can be seen here

Festival of the Trees


The Festival of the Trees is “a periodical collection of links to blog posts and other online sites, hosted each month on a different blog.” Bloggers, poets, writers with an interest in arboreal matters post related material on their own blogs and submit the links to the host of each month’s co-coordinator. This month’s host was Arati, of the Bangalore-based blog Trees, Plants and More.

My own contribution to this month’s Festival of the Trees, I wrote some time ago. In “If Trees, then Olive Trees,” I use the olive tree, a precious, almost sacred tree in the Mediterranean, western Asia, and northern Africa countries; a symbol of peace and hope, connecting to the “olive branch,” and the sighting of land after the biblical flood.

Short, gnarled and twisted, the olive tree even looks appropriately old. It is said to live for hundreds of years, as its roots are capable of regeneration even if the trunk above ground is destroyed. Radiocarbon dating has confirmed 2000 year old trees in several countries! A tree known to be situated in the grounds of Plato’s Academy, in Athens, lived till the 1970s. An olive believed to have been planted by Peisistratus, the tyrant of Athens in the 6th century BC, is still to be found in Athens. Even older trees have been found in Israel and Arab lands, dating from 3000 and 4000 years ago. The trees of the Garden of Gethsemane are said to be dating from the time of Jesus.

In literature too, we know of several millenary trees: Homer featured olive trees in his poetry. Remember Odysseus bed?

My own poem is about putting down roots, both literally and metaphorically. You can read it here.

My novel “Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree” is also set around a tree, and it includes a number of surprising uses for its fruit. Not long now till the book is out. Watch this space.

For instructions on how to submit to the next Festival of Trees here.


Seferis’ Houses


Seferis’ Houses


The houses he had owned

they took away from him..


Seferis carried his home

on his back like a tortoise.

Iron beds in empty hotel rooms

rang through his lines,

and the sounds of loneliness–

the silent screams of souls

left to themselves

in the dark.


The houses he had owned they

took away from him.


He used his poetry,

he strung words from the stars

stared at them from afar.

Flowers of Agapanthus

he nailed on his lines,

and crickets, beating time

for the machine.


Only briefly did he go back to Smyrni.


For he knew. Seferis knew. He knew

you have to talk to the dead.

Hades is full of whispers–

the house is always watching.

And waiting.


A version of this poem appeared in the “Word for Word” anthology Gathering Diamonds from the Well, London: New Gallery Books, 2007.

George Seferis (1900-1971), Greek poet, originally from Smyrni (now Izmir) in western Turkey, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature 1963.

20 October 2010


The poet Constantine P. Cavafy, or Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis, one of my favorite poets, wrote the following about his origins:


I am from Constantinople by descent, but I was born in Alexandria—at a house on Seriph Street; I left very young, and spent much of my childhood in England. Subsequently I visited this country as an adult, but for a short period of time. I have also lived in France. During my adolescence I lived over two years in Constantinople. It has been many years since I last visited Greece. My last employment was as a clerk at a government office under the Ministry of Public Works of Egypt.


I have pasted his poem Ithaca below – he knew what he was talking about. For more of his poetry and resources on the web, see the Cavafy Archive

The poem, quotation, and Wikipedia url can be found here


English Translation

When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
an angry Poseidon — do not fear.
You will never find such on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, and your spirit
and body are touched by a fine emotion.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
a savage Poseidon you will not encounter,
if you do not carry them within your spirit,
if your spirit does not place them before you.


Wish for the road to be long.
Many the summer mornings to be which with
pleasure, with joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase the fine goods,
nacre and coral, amber and ebony,
and exquisite perfumes of all sorts,
the most delicate fragances you can find,
to many Egyptian cities you must go,
to learn and learn from the cultivated.


Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your final destination.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better for it to last many years,
and when old to rest in the island,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to offer you wealth.


Ithaca has given you the beautiful journey.
Without her you would not have set out on the road.
Nothing more has she got to give you.


And if you find her threadbare, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.


For more of his work see the Cavafy Archive and here

They send light to Earth

Murnau Moor
Murnau Moor

I am delighted and  honored! My micro-poem They send light to Earth was chosen to be the first piece to be published by new e-zine @textofiction.

Brand new, “Textofiction is an online literary publication dedicated to bringing the best writing in under 140 characters.”

Read my micro-poem and think, it packs a lot in. Better still, let me know your thoughts about it! Read it here

Date of publication: 29 August 2010

One Sound, One World

Handmade Football 1

Photo credit: Jessica Hilltout

I wrote this poem during the 2010 World Cup, when everyone was talking about vuvuzelas. It appeared in escarp: ” a text-message-based review of super-brief literature,” 17 June 2010.

Big, tough fella

loud, racy lass

timid Cinderella

prodigy, alas

blow your vuvuzela

if you must.

See also my post: Whatever you think about football

Comment on “Suicide Note”

Anuradha Vijayakrishnan’s poem “Suicide Note” was published in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal

This poem is a suicide note addressed to a number of unusual addressees, leaving the content of the note to the reader’s imagination. It puzzled and haunted me for the last few weeks: its exquisite, lyrical tone, its mysteries and the ways it brings nature alive through its lines.

A Critical analysis by Tammy Ho Laiming and Jarno Jakonen appeared recently in A Cup of Fine Cha. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both, poem and analysis, and kept them with me for weeks, chewing on words, mulling over the subtle allusions.

Tammy Ho Laiming and Jarno Jakonen’s analysis of the poem, as well as the comments, provide a beautiful and multi-faceted context to the poem. There is whole list of addressees in this “Suicide Note”: “frog, cicadas, rain clouds, gardens, worms, grass, deer, curtains, noise, lights, glass trails, heart, hands, ink, bruises, rivers, summers, monsoons and thunderbolts,” which the analysis and the comments fully and thoroughly explore.

I have nothing to add, except one question: Where are the people? Where are the relationships with people? The nature described in the poem is giving, generous – though providing what is usually offered by humans: warmth is offered by glow worms, for instance. And as if to emphasize the point, neighbours and strangers appear only impersonally as in “the shining lights of the neighbours and their last ashen cigarettes.”

So, for me, there is so much loneliness and sadness in the persona pouring out every time nature stands in for the human touch: friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, or even kind strangers. What could be more indicative of sadness, and indeed despair, than the need to use “broken glass trails that will show the way to strangers”?

From this perspective, what if, in a well-encrypted way, we are led to ask: does the poem take the line of praising nature instead of criticizing fatal failings of the human heart?



I wrote this poem in response to the painting titled Woman by Robert Campin. The painting can be found in the National Gallery, London. Here is the link: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/robert-campin-a-woman

My poem, Girl, can be found in the print Journal Off the Coast, International/Translation Issue, Spring 2009.


after ‘Woman’ by Robert Campin, 1378-1444, National Gallery

She rarely smiles. A thick, white veil
frames her face, stops her innocence
from straying too far;
remembering the world outside.

Here she lives, here she is
and here she stays: four walls,
bench, Bible, rosary, Cross,
pair of clogs, glass, pebble,
compass, chair, table.

She would be lost, but
for her little pleasure:
a bowl of coconut ice
refectory Sister leaves
on her windowsill.

'Girl,' in Off the Coast

Other Writers

Here I collect notes, poems, articles, pictures, news I find interesting, exciting, thought-provoking – without necessarily agreeing with them.

New Poetry Book, Hyphen, by Tania van Schalkwyk

A wonderful meditation on origins, place and the spaces in between. Tania has the gift of writing poems that refresh the soul. Here is a link to her book:


Gabriel Josipovici, ‘Borges and the Plain Sense of Things’  in readysteadyblog. A great read:


Carol Ann Duffy’s poem 12 Days of Christmas makes my day, everyday. What an alive, current, all-encompassing ode to reality! Thank you Carol Ann Duffy!

http://www.radiotimes.com/content/features/carol-ann-duffy-the-twelve-days-of-christmas/ and article