Thursday, October 14, 2010

Poetry Under the Lyre Tree

Wednesday afternoon following the tea break, we heard four presenters. They spoke in the Woodstock Tea Garden, an outside area where the Lyre Tree, symbol of Woodstock, stands.

Victor Banerjee is a well-known actor who has a home here in Landour. He is not a poet, but chose to read several poems by Gary Snyder. They all dealt with the trials of the Native Americans in the U.S. The shirt he chose to wear was a picture of Mount Rushmore with photos of Native Americans superimposed. Of the several poems he read, I was most affected by “Call to Four Sacred Winds.”

H. D. Bhatt, known as “Shailesh,” has written more than 40 books of poetry. He read in Hindi. Unfortunately, my Hindi is not nearly good enough to understand poetry. But he was very expressive and all of us could get a sense of what he was saying about nature.

The third presenter was Andre Bernard, who read haiku from the well-known Japanese poet of the 17th century, Basho. I especially liked this one:

Don’t worry, spiders; I keep house casually.

The most famous one is:

An ancient pond / a frog jumps in / the splash of water [1686]

The fourth reader of the afternoon was Arvind Mehrotra, who has written four books of poems. He read poems from the second century BC, short dramatic poems with a sexual nature, told from the woman’s point of view.

After the last reader finished, Victor Banerjee reappeared to remind us all that Himalaya is a collective noun and “Himalayas” is incorrect. There appeared to be some friendly disagreement among the various presenters about this statement, and some presentations in the following days continued to say Himalayas. By the way, especially for US readers, the pronunciation is not Him-a-lay'-a, but Him-all' -ya, with accent on the second syllable and no long a sound, whether pluralized or not.

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