Friday, September 02, 2005

The Times In House Poet (Somini Sengupta) offered new verse Friday

Community member P.J. (Professional Journalist) as usual caught what I missed in today's New York Times, the return to form of the Times own in-house poet: Somini Sengupta.

The Times poet laureate teams with Hari Kumar to offer a free verse, tome poem, "Unending Civil Conflict Makes Life Grim in Indian State," from a fugue state (state of mind, people, state of mind -- the physical dateline reads India):

A garland of red hibiscus
adorned the dead man's portrait,
and provisions for the afterlife
were laid out
for the mourners to see:
new slippers and towel,
a white undershirt,
dessert plates
piled high with bananas
and sugar-cane

Rameshwar Ahanthem, 26,
a day laborer
mistaken for a guerrilla,
was beaten to death
by Indian troops.
His killing came
under the aegis of a law
that gives Indian troops
extraordinary powers
to quash
ethnic insurgencies
in this part of the country.
His funeral rite
on a midsummer afternoon
offered a snapshot
of the routine,
gnawing anguish
of daily life
in the remote
and forgotten
state of Manipur.

P.J. notes that among the poetic license taken is the brush off/dismissal of two-hundred deaths a year:

The conflict here is more remarkable for its stamina than its death toll: roughly 200 people a year have been killed in the last few years, according to official statistics, far fewer than in Kashmir, for instance.

I like to think of it as toying with concrete examples to make the intangible even more obscure.

More Sengupta poetry can be found in "Somini Sengupta, the New York Times in house poet" and "Clubbing with the New York Times."

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