Categories
Art Colourful poesia cubana poetry

Poetry for the Peeps! AfroCuban Poetry in Translation

The following three poems are by the contemporary Afro-Cuban poet and scriptwriter, Georgina Herrera, who has graciously given permission to share and translate her work . Author of numerous collections of poetry and radio and television scripts. I have done the English translations you see below. I’ve included a biography from Wikipedia, to give you some idea of the achievements of this great poet, who reminds me faintly of Langston Hughes.

“Georgina Herrera was born in Jovellanos, the capital of Matanzas Province, Cuba. She began writing when she was nine years old, and when she was 16 her first poems were published, in such Havana periodicals as El País and Diario de la Tarde. As Miriam DeCosta-Willis has noted, “Many of her later poems capture the pain and loneliness of her growing-up years”, during which she endured poverty, an absent father and the death of her mother when she was 14.

Aged 20, Herrera moved to Havana in 1956, and worked as a domestic; it was in the homes of her wealthy employers that she met writers, who encouraged her to publish. Early in the Cuban Revolution she became involved with the “Novación Literaria” movement, and began working as a scriptwriter at the Cuban Institute for Radio and Television.”

Wikipedia, Georgina Herrera

Eruption, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021

Esa Manera de Morir

Amor le llaman
los que a su sombra grande se tendieron.
Yo le diría:
piedra marina, donde
mi corazón de peces fue golpeado,
tierra
tremendamente dura
que le negó humedad a mis raíces.
Creo que despidió mi estrella
y la hizo errante.

This Manner of Dying

Love they call
it, those who shelter in its great shade.
I would call it:
sea stone, where my heart of fish was battered,
earth
tremendously hard
that denied water to my roots.
I think it bade farewell to my star
and made her a wanderer.

Shooting Star, Kaushalya Bannerji 2021
Ocean Sunset, Kaushalya Bannerji

Elogio Grande Para Mi Misma

Yo soy la fugitiva
soy la que abrió las puertas
de la casa-vivienda y “cogió el monte”.
No hay trampas en las que caiga
Tiro piedras, rompo cabezas.
Oigo quejidos y maldiciones.
Río furiosamente
Y en las noches
bebo el agua de los curujeyes,
porque en ellos
puso la luna, para mí sola,
toda la gloria de su luz.

That Obscene Bird of Night/Insomnia (With Thanks to Jose Donoso), Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021

Grand Eulogy for Myself

I am the fugitive
I am she who opened doors
Of the dwelling quarters and “headed for the hills”.
There are no traps into which I fall.
I throw stones, break heads.
I hear complaints and curses.
I laugh furiously
And in the nights
I drink the water of the mangroves,
because in them,
The moon shines, for me alone,
All the glory of her light.

Autorretrato

Between, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Figura solitaria transitando
un camino inacabable
Sobre los hombros lleva
su mundo:
trinos,
sueños,
cocuyos
y tristezas.

Self Portrait

Solitary figure walking
an endless road.
On her shoulders, carries
her world:
trills,
dreams,
glow worms,
and sorrows.

Dome, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021

Categories
Art music poetry winter

Solstice 2020

Today marks the shortest daylight in our hemisphere, and the arrival of winter’s official season. But as of tomorrow, the days will lengthen again imperceptibly, and for those of us who need the light, like morning glories or sunflowers, hope will gradually be born anew. Indigenous and pagan peoples celebrated and celebrate the energies and magic of this day when the darkness must be propitiated for the sun to rise again. I share a poem by Wendell Barry and some drawings I’ve been doing. I’ve added a musical interlude, Victor Jara’s haunting instrumental La Partida / The Departure. A gentle honouring of this moment in our earth’s revolution!

TO KNOW THE DARK BY WENDELL BERRY 

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
 
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

Victor Jara, La Partida
Messenger, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Northern Lights, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Winter Swans, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Night and Day, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Categories
Art poetry

Citizen Heart

there have been
so many armies
so many hungers
food, land, water,
the naming and naming of ourselves,
chanting out in slogans
the red, brown, black of us
the “not-you” of us.

there have been
so many citizens
so many subjects
kidnappings, rapes
buyings and sellings at auction blocks.
since then

ships and trains hurtling, planes gleaming
so many travellers
trading home for outsidership
trading belonging for hope
there have been so many.

there have been
so many hands
sowing, tilling, building, digging
so many feet
walking, standing till they drop, marching, running
so many hearts
holding so many.

Citizen Heart, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Categories
Art challenge Disability haiku

Why Now? Haiku

Another contribution from me to Ronovan Writes’ weekly haiku challenge. This week’s words were “mad” and “sane”. The haiku’s form provides structure. Our minds provide the creativity! The link is here: https://ronovanwrites.com/2020/12/14/ronovan-writes-weekly-haiku-poetry-prompt-challenge-336-mad-and-sane/. As a person with fibromyalgia and chronic conditions, I am always heartened to see the work of others like him who push through their circumstances to find humour and creativity. Girl, it’s not easy, as the women always say on the streets of Havana!

I have had mad thoughts
before the loss of hopeful
drove me sane. Why now?

Treibor Mawlong, A Routine, 2020

Covid’s mad scatter
burrows through hearts and people.
Shadow of sane selves.

Treibor Mawlong, Circles, 2020

Sane dreaming gets me
through. The mad call it lucid.
Art, words, tune, rhythm.

Bird of Peace and Power, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Categories
AfroCuban history, law, nation-building, racism Art Health Santeria syncretism

For Hope and Healing: A Visual Homage

On this 17th day of December, and in this year 2020, especially, I honour Babalu Aye, the great Yoruba Orisha of illness and healing.
Whether it be ourselves, our loved ones, this beautiful earth, the vast oceans and blue lakes and rivers, the air we breathe; they who invoke Babaluaye on this day, invoke transformative and curative energies.

His colours are purple and yellow and brown. He is often dressed humbly in burlap. Sometimes his fearsome diseased face is covered by it. He holds a staff in one hand and herbs in the other. He brings and takes away the scourge of mass illness and death. He was responsible for diseases like smallpox and pestilences! You may have seen renditions and depictions of him in Cuba and Brazil. In Catholicism he is portrayed as a lame beggar surrounded by starving dogs


This Orisha has been syncretized with San Lazaro, in Catholicism, who was brought back from the dead. December 17th is a day celebrating Saint Lazarus in the Catholic church, in particular celebrated by the tortured pilgrimages of believers in Rincon, Cuba. In Candomble religion in Brazil, he is Obaluaiê.

Below I share my series of paintings for Babalu Aye. May you experience healing! May you experience hope!

For BabaluAye, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
For BabaluAye 2, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
For BabaluAye 3, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
For BabaluAye 4, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Categories
Art challenge haiku

Haiku: Words and Worlds!

It’s my third attempt with https://ronovanwrites.com/2020/12/07/ronovan-writes-weekly-haiku-poetry-prompt-challenge-335-curl-and-paw/. The challenge is real, hahaha. Word prompts remind me of slam poetry, and the adrenalin of having to “come up with something”. And the more I delve into the haiku form, the more I see its possibilities. It’s spare and contained syllables contain worlds! This week’s words are “curl” and “paw”.

Portrait, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

seems like a paw, soft
curling nails that tear through flesh
but the words echo.

young shoots of grass green
like cats’ eyes. striped tiger prowling
her spring paws uncurl.

Tongue, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Curled and lonely, we
are not cats that lie heaped. paws,
whiskers akimbo.

Nightfall, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Categories
Art haiku poetry

The Wind Speaks Winter: Haiku

Once again, I joined in https://ronovanwrites.com , Ronovanwrites’ Haiku challenge based on the two words, “grace” and “slip”. I enjoy the exercise for my rusty brain. And for me, so much more enjoyable than writing essays! The Haiku form has been around for centuries. It’s very sparseness makes it alluring. It’s like the very distilled form of story telling. 90 proof! Salud!

Wind Speaks Winter

From grace we slipped to
precarity, alert, as
foxes who scent fear

Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Slip-sliding down life’s
branches, a squirrel’s grace is
visible through glass

Squirrel, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Love is a grace we
slip from like loosening of
hands. Wind speaks winter.

Behind the Wind, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Categories
Art Autumn, fall poetry Refugees

Poetry for the Peeps! Of Spiders and Refugees

Autumn is a time when spiders look for warm places to spin their webs and lay their egg sacs. I’ve always been terrified of large and hairy spiders but outside among the plants they design the most beautiful webs which catch the dew or frost of colder times. While, I’m not a fan of spider infestations, one or two small ones don’t terrify me. In fact Charlotte’s Web was a fantastic book from my childhood which probably had an indirect benefit of saving some spiders’ lives, if not the lives of pigs!

Fall is a time for hunkering down and gathering resources for the spring, like plants and animals. After all, we are animals too. But what if you have nowhere to call your own, like so many “migrant” and refugee populations? Brushed off like spiders, refugees are existing in dreadful conditions in camps and detention centers in countless countries. This piece below by Fady Joudah puts it simply.

Refugee Boat, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Categories
Art haiku poetry

Life, View, Haiku

I recently found a blog on haiku which also offers up writing challenges, by assigning words to construct a piece around. I hadn’t engaged in that sort of thing since high school. But I decided to try my hand at it. I learned that a) it’s harder than it seems and b) that it is fun to do once in a while. I hope you enjoy them!

  1. A view from here shows
    life, before this pandemic,
    was only illusion.

2. Life gives us views we
never chose.The scene from six
feet apart. Heart break.

Six Feet Apart, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

3. Viewed from on high this
world of ours, small and tender,
turns without reason.

The weight of this world, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Categories
Art coronavirus india Manabendra Bandyopadhyay memory Satyajit Ray Soumitra Chatterjee

My Father and Soumitra: Mourning and Memory

Soumitra Chatterjee, the quint.com

What a year this has been. After the loss of my father to covid 19, I watched a lot of early Bengali films that I had seen first with him. Although I started watching Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, I could not continue.
I remembered being a small Bengali girl in a white provincial Canadian suburb, harassed by passengers and bus drivers, as we went, in our “traditional garb” to distant movie theatres, dodging furious glances, and sometimes, spit.
In went the adults, looking forward to mother tongue, as a kitten does to it’s mother tongue. The corners and crevices of vowels, the cushions of soft consonants, were hiding places and barricades against this crazy colonial world of exclusion.
We were here in Canada, especial thanks due to the Commonwealth, the British Empire’s basket of plundered goods and destroyed worlds. We too, crossed the “kala pani” as adults sought their fortunes, safety, education.
But the film’s amazing cinematography and script, the tenderness of the camera, the unsentimental tragedy of Apu’s life, the unbelievable acting– all led to a tidal wave of empathy.
As a child, watching Apu’s life, Durga’s death, the ethos of a black and white nostalgia and memory–it was all too much. I was led by my poor father, sobbing and hiccuping to a dirty cinema lobby where popcorn and fountain soda had been temporarily replaced by tea and the even- then ubiquitous samosa.
There he soothed and comforted me, telling me that it was all a story. Apu was fine and grown up, Durga was alive, their mother too, and that they were acting. It was perhaps my first lesson in the power of story telling and the breaking down of the fourth wall.
Without my Baba’s intervention, holding my hand and smoking his cigarette, the perfect circles of smoke coming out of his mouth, I would have been disconsolate and lost in the story. For me, Satyajit Ray, Subir Banerjee, and Soumitra Chatterjee, are always intertwined in a pre-analytic moment of pure feeling.
Being only a few years away from India, nostalgia, sadness, half-memories, swirl with racism, and the always present sense of being unwanted and othered that haunted my child’s life in Canada’s public school system of the 1970s. Perhaps, since then, belonging has been tinged with both joy and sorrow. Rest in power, Soumitra.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/15/india/soumitra-chatterjee-death-covid-intl-scli/index.html?fbclid=IwAR1lEAAeOAKomv00xvTOV_VKhqmqI4JmmtEvTRmhR8YD_9P09bhN_uacaHU

Soundtrack from Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali

https://www.criterion.com/films/28021-pather-panchali

The Rest of the Trilogy
Great Kids’ Mystery Starring Soumitra Chatterjee, among others

Categories
Art Disability Fibromyalgia haiku Insomnia poetry reading

Late Night Haiku

Many people living with chronic illness, worry, and pain, experience insomnia. In fact, even children can experience it. It is a very insidious problem, and with the current state of affairs, I suspect that more people are staying awake than before. Paradoxically, even those with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia, may be unable to sleep, although they feel exhausted. Sometimes, after exertion, whether cleaning or shopping or laundry or even walks for pleasure, pain and fatigue hit like a ton of bricks. But at night, sleep can be elusive. Since I was a reader long before the internet, I often enjoyed reading at night. I still do. There is something magical about immersions in other worlds, while the world outside of oneself is sleeping and relaxed.

Reading, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

In Mexico and Cuba, the nights would be punctuated by rogue roosters, all of who seemed to suffer from insomnia, and never waited for dawn to start their proclamations! In fact, I began to wonder if the rooster- crowing- at- dawn trope was actually a myth. Or was it that ages ago, cities and countrysides were not as lit up throughout the nights, encouraging roosters to sleep?

Rooster, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2018
Insomnia, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Reading however is a great escape, if one can concentrate enough to enjoy it! I continue reading at night especially when I can’t sleep. With the closure of bookstores and my aversion to online shopping, the high-price of new novels, I have found online resources at the public library to be a great resource. I first realized that online reading was helpful in travelling, as so much weight was taken up by my books. But with the pandemic, I have resorted to online mysteries, biographies and children’s literature. Sadly, the last category is the weakest and a lot of stuff online for kids is really repetitive and badly written. Illustrated books for younger kids show a total reliance on cartoon culture and a lack of visual imagination.

The other night, while waiting for sleep, I went back to the haiku, a favourite form of poetry. After reading a few contemporary ones, I decided to try my hand at some after a long time. Here, they are.

Insomnia

  1. Late at night, breath’s sound

replaces the city’s corrosive hum

cat turning, finds core.

Cat, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

2. Insomnia is

a star, gleaming digital

more know her name than Capella’s.

3. Middlenight, riddle 

sleep. the sky holds her secrets

behind a veiled cloud.

 4. Insomnia’s leaves

are bookmarks, half-faded slumber

poems echo dream- like.

5. Insomnia, silent 

as that cat that crept in on

fog’s feet or vice versa.

6. Fog footed, insomnia’s 

friend to cat, bat, and the night

blooming jasmine.

The Reading Hour, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Categories
Art poetry

The Great Unknowing

Twilight, Kaushalya Bannerji, November 2020

I seek answers in the sky.
Astronomy. The stars hang like freshly washed clothes.
Around me cities writhe. Pandemics and empty promises
written in neon. When will they preen again?

Can you imagine our lives now?
Astronomy. Replicating the stars
Malcom lived by, Billie sang by. Harriet led by.
Stars made of the dust of a thousand footsteps.

Astronomy. Replicating the stars
that John Carlos held in his fist.
That Sandinistas, or Zapatistas, or all who steer by the stars,
used, to guide their guerilla flights.

I search the riddle above. Its colours promise answers.
Night darkens, astronomy. Replicating the stars.
Those first sailors across the bering strait,
dolphins who dance to feel their skin free.

Now refugees who pile endlessly onto boats,
repeating and repeating and repeating
to anyone who will listen. “I had to leave,
and now there is no land that will take me.”
Still flowing as humans have,
bones haunted and ashes in the mouth.

Long ago I was a girl and saw fireflies.
Astronomy of the fields and trees.
Stars we held, shared breath,
and let go. Astronomy. Long ago.

My eyes paint the urban sky visions and histories.
Astronomy. All of us, those who have left,
those who are here,those to come.
We are born of stars and to them we shall return.

Astronomy of the soil, the dust, the water, the fire, the flesh.
The great unknowing.

Astronomy, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Kaushalya Bannerji, Roof, November 2020