Category Archives: Poetry

Writing Bhakti poetry- A first attempt

In our Indian Literature classes in College this semester, we’re reading a lot about the Bhakti Movement in India, reading the poems, talking about the poets, and diverging into various angles from here. My earlier post was about a Bhakti poem ‘The Paradigm’ that I really love, written by the Tamil poet, Nammalvar.

Our next exercise was to actually write a Bhakti poem. At the beginning it seemed impossible. We began by thinking what would be the craziest thing we would do if we were in love. No rules, no expectations, no holding back. It could be anything! What would you do?
There are a great many stories of what Bhakti poets did. They didn’t care about what the rest of the world thought of them, broke society’s expectations of gender, rules, and norms, creating their own relationship with god with no middle-man.

There is so much more to Bhakti poetry, and this post does no justice to the scope and beauty of Bhakti poetry, and the movement. Only reading about the poets, their lives, and actually going through the poems will give one a sense of what it has to offer, is my opinion.

I began writing, and within fifteen minutes, I wrote my first poem.
I wrote another one a few days after which I will post soon.
Here is the first:


At this moment. here and now.
Nothing can stop me.

Not the racing bikes.
Not the barking dogs at my feet.
No, not even the staring passers by.

I won’t stop running towards you,
for nothing can stop me.

Not my parents, not my friends.
Not the rules, the codes and expectations.
No, not even myself.

I won’t stop running towards you,
for I know nothing else.


The Paradigm

This semester in college, as part of our Indian Literature course we’re reading many Bhakti poems among many other things. It has been extremely interesting as I do know a few songs by Kabir and Mira, and I’ve always sung or heard them without really knowing what they mean. Also, I had never really stopped and wondered about what kind of people Kabir or Mira might have been, and reading their poems in class, we discussed these questions and more.

Here is a poem by a famous Tamil Bhakti poet, Nammalvar, addressed to Lord Vishnu.
What I really love about this poem is the fact that possibly everything one can think of as existing or non-existing, living or dead in this world or in our heads, is enclosed within these lines. Each time I read it, I try to think of something that wouldn’t fit under these categories, but it seems impossible.

The Paradigm

We here and that man, this man,
and that other in-between,
and that woman, this woman,
and that other, whoever,

those people, and these,
and these others in-between,
this things, that thing,
and this other in-between, whichever,

all things dying, these things,
those things, those others in-between,
good things, bad things,
things that were, that will be,

being all of them,
he stands there.

by Nammalvar
Translated by AK Ramanujan

Shake The Dust by Anis Mogjani

A friend shared this with me today. Listen. It’s fascinating.

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Here’ s a poem by Mary Oliver. I really enjoy reading her poems, and do it over and over again.
This is the first poem of hers that I read over three or four years back.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

by Mary Oliver

I do not love you- A poem by Pablo Neruda

Here’s one of my best loved poems. I find Neruda’s work very deep, and there are so many layers to his poems. Each time I read a poem of his, there’s something new that I see in it.

(XVII) I do not love you

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

by Pablo Neruda

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