I wasn’t on a mission to find or research anything poetical, but I had an hour to kill before the reading that I wrote about in the post below this one. I’d been to the Poetry Library on Londons South Bank before, and so I had the advantage of knowing how not to get crushed to death between the huge rolling shelving system which holds the massive stock of magazines dating back to the 1950’s and possibly beyond.
On my first visit I had tried in vain to penetrate this impressive wooden concertina, wrenching at the revolving handle like a drunken pirate at a chained wheel, failing to realise that there is a locking system at about, in my case, knee height, perhaps more like shin height for a taller poet or pirate.
It’s hard to know what will catch the eye in the Poetry Library and where that eye catching item might take you next. I gathered up a few slim volumes by people I felt I should know about and sat with them for an indulgent half hour. I also had a copy of The London Magazine from nineteen seventy, which contained an article about record sleeves. This set me musing, doodling and drafting poems to do with the evolution of the album cover in those tumultuous revolutionary years of the sixties.
Then I slipped between a pair of whispering readers to skim the latest additions of poetry magazines. Finally I fell to checking that my own poems were still in the magazines that I was in last time I looked. Some of them looked suspiciously unread. Oh well.
On the shelf above I saw the plain beige spine marked of a magazine marked Kavya Bharti, 2000.
The last issue of this magazine that is held in the library dates from 2009, and the web suggests the last issue came out in 2010, so I’m not sure if the Study Centre for Indian Literature still publishes the magazine. The issue I took down was a special issue of poetry by Indian women. I was quickly lost in some astonishingly beautiful writing. It did seem to contrast starkly in its clarity, honesty and simplicity with some, although not all, of the unemotional and tricksy contemporary poetry I had just been reading in the latest western publications. Here is Laskshmi Kannan
A droplet of water
on a Lotus leaf
is said to symbolise detachment.
But see how
the veins of the leaf are magnified
through the pearl of water
the droplet turns
a radiant emerald on the leaf?
Water and leaf
even in their separateness.
Here is another poem from the magazine, this one by Meena Alexander
I write a poem and before it’s done
I set it in my notebook, the one with the blue lines.
A black hair from somewhere on my body
attaches to sticky tape and will not come off.
Outside this bare room
piled with papers: sunlight
clouds afloat, cries of young children.
My body is remembering you.
I’ve typed out one other longer poem from this magazine on the Favourite Poem of the week page of this blog.