Art music poetry


These haiku are inspired by music from the 1940s onward. I used to love listening to “latin jazz” and afro-cuban jazz. Years ago, when I had a radio spot, finding music to share was a delight, especially since it was long before the Internet!

Chano Pozo revolutionized American jazz at a time when it was increasingly open to global influences, while at the same time, changing Cuban music forever, with Bandleader and tresero/tumbadora player, Arsenio Roriguez (1911-1970), You can hear him here:

Arsenio Rodriguez, Rumba Guajira

In 1942, Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo collaborated on “Manteca!”, one of the first latin jazz tunes to survive and thrive in the crossover market with mainstream music.

Chano Pozo’s Drums


We can’t help but marvel

each time that syncopation

beats air to feet


Skintalker, Chano

talks to the wood and skin

our feet answer back

Chano Pozo’s Drums, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Merceditas Valdes ( 1922-1996)

was a singer who popularized AfroCuban music both in her home country of Cuba and throughout Latin America. Colloborating for many years with Grupo Yoruba Andabo, she also worked with Canadian flautist and bandleader Jane Bunnet. I even got to see her perform, though she had slowed down quite a bit! Merceditas Valdes got her start at the end of the 1940s and performed until shortly before her death.


Old breath of mourning

morning’s arrival takes me

into light, shadow


Your voice like your hands

warm, brown, wrinkled motion

rhythm of the fading havest

Merceditas Valdes, Homenaje a Oshun, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Merceditas Valdes, Oshun 2, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Art poetry

I like mine neat! More Haiku!

Feathers 1, Kaushalya Bannerji 2019


they want us to hate
ourselves easy to dismember
flesh bone memory

Ether/real Chamber

the internet is
not yet full with dead minds
the haul must be greater

Feathers 2, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Politricks in the age of Electronic Voting Machines/DREs

Press that button quick
hackers must work wonders all
hail the motherboard of lies

Feathers 3, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019


they have a gated 

world to which they let in the

world. online shopping

All Haiku on this page copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji

Art poetry

Rainbow/Arco Iris

The colour Red is a bird with wings that shine.

Yellow, turns into a sunflower.

Grey, the colour of rainy afternoons

when bodies love.

Green, hope yet unreachable.

Blue, the clear melody that cleanses everything in its wake.

Pink, the tongue of a black cat.

And Black, the open arms of night,

although no-one, but the stars,

takes notice.

Arco Iris

El color rojo es un pájaro con alas que brillan.

El amarillo, se convierte en girasol.

El gris, color de las tardes lluviosas

Cuando los cuerpos se aman.

El verde, la esperanza aun inalcanzable. 

Azul, la clara  melodía que deja todo limpio a su paso.

Rosado, la lengua de una gata negra.

Y el negro, los abrazos abiertos de la noche

Aunque nadie, mas las estrellas,

Se da cuenta.

Kaushalya Bannerji, 2016

Art poetry

Be Like Water

(Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019)

flow, like water

wave, like water

cry, like water

rage, like water

rain, like water

dry, like water

still, like water

one drop, like water

becomes many.

B like Water # 1, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
B like Water # 2, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
B like Water # 4, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
B like Water # 5, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Art music poetry Social Justice


Duende is the word flamenco practitioners and enthusiasts use to name the unnameable— the gooseflesh or shiver that you get when you experience the outpouring of passion and soul that is flamenco…But the soul of flamenco is rooted in its nomadic beginnings in India and its route through West Asia to its hold on Southern Europe, particularly Spain, and even influencing the Fado music of Portugal.

The soul of flamenco is never static. It is both a life giving tree to the Romani communities of France and Spain, under whose shade, their hearts flower, and simultaneously, the blood spilt in hundreds of years of exclusion and journeying, which gives flamenco its poignancy as outsider culture.

Concha Buika y Javier Limon

In the shadow of this

dark and divine night

Over the barrenness

which populates my awakened soul

There sounds a lament,
like a prelude to the dead hours,
hours that pass with the agonies of a slow death.

Silence returns to clothe me in gold, my saint,
the memory of my grandmothers returns
to sweeten my wait,
the records that taught me to adore music return,
my father returns, after 20 years.

Ah! if you returned,
if you returned I’d clothe you in gold, my saint.
I’d quiet everything
so that you could hear my desperate song.

If you returned I’d clothe you in gold, my saint.
I’d quiet everything
so that you could hear my desperate song.
If you returned I’d clothe you in gold, my saint.
I’d quiet everything
so that you could hear my desperate song.
If you returned I’d clothe you in gold, my saint.
Let the world stop turning,
so that you can hear my despairing song. (Buika)

Oro Santo, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Flamenco’s tormented history is part of Spain’s twentieth century struggle between fascism and the rich inclusivity of anarchist and communist dreams for a new Spain. Flamenco is a contrapunto to the corporatist development of Catholic fascism, a liberatory act under the constraints of a militarized state and racist hegemonic culture, in spite of the Spanish state’s efforts to co-opt it.

Latcho Drom, 1993, Excerpt

In the 1990s, I travelled in Barcelona and its outskirts, taking in the magnificent beauty of the architecture, the beautiful Museu Picasso, the colourful patterns of Antonio Gaudi. But the most fantastic experiences were on street corners and plazas, hearing and seeing the flamenco of the streets! I have not heard more beautiful and spine-tingling music than the unexpected howl of the Cante Jondo, in a glimmering twilight full of pigeons, tourists and street performers near the Ramblas.

I got to hear the famed Chico and the Gipsy Kings once many decades ago and was amazed to see the Romani community of Toronto show up in full splendour and with unforgettable duende. The dancing, singing and clapping of the audience was as much part of the performance as “the band”.

Duende then is dialogue, it is call and response and the feel of the soul’s tug in a riff, a step, a rhythm, a voice. Flamenco speaks of loneliness but is never alone, for its very expression needs another– to hear, to interject, to dance, to play, and sing. And it is when this spark catches fire, that make moments of flamenco heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

Romance Sonambulo/Sleepwalker’s Romance by Federico Garcia Lorca

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain.
With the shade around her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
Green, how I want you green.
Under the gypsy moon,
all things are watching her
and she cannot see them.

Green, how I want you green.
Big hoarfrost stars
come with the fish of shadow
that opens the road of dawn.
The fig tree rubs its wind
with the sandpaper of its branches,
and the forest, cunning cat,
bristles its brittle fibers.
But who will come? And from where?
She is still on her balcony
green flesh, her hair green,
dreaming in the bitter sea.

–My friend, I want to trade
my horse for her house,
my saddle for her mirror,
my knife for her blanket.
My friend, I come bleeding
from the gates of Cabra.
–If it were possible, my boy,
I’d help you fix that trade.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
–My friend, I want to die
decently in my bed.
Of iron, if that’s possible,
with blankets of fine chambray.
Don’t you see the wound I have
from my chest up to my throat?
–Your white shirt has grown
thirsy dark brown roses.
Your blood oozes and flees a
round the corners of your sash.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
–Let me climb up, at least,
up to the high balconies;
Let me climb up! Let me,
up to the green balconies.
Railings of the moon
through which the water rumbles.

Now the two friends climb up,
up to the high balconies.
Leaving a trail of blood.
Leaving a trail of teardrops.
Tin bell vines
were trembling on the roofs.
A thousand crystal tambourines
struck at the dawn light.

Green, how I want you green,
green wind, green branches.
The two friends climbed up.
The stiff wind left
in their mouths, a strange taste
of bile, of mint, and of basil
My friend, where is she–tell me–
where is your bitter girl?
How many times she waited for you!
How many times would she wait for you,
cool face, black hair,
on this green balcony!
Over the mouth of the cistern
the gypsy girl was swinging,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
An icicle of moon
holds her up above the water.
The night became intimate
like a little plaza.
Drunken ‘Guardias Civiles’
were pounding on the door.
Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea.
And the horse on the mountain.

Translated by William Logan

Original Spanish

Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montaña.
Con la sombra en la cintura
ella sueña en sus baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fría plata.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Bajo la luna gitana,
las cosas la están mirando
y ella no puede mirarlas.

Verde que te quiero verde.
Grandes estrellas de escarcha,
vienen con el pez de sombra
que abre el camino del alba.
La higuera frota su viento
con la lija de sus ramas,
y el monte, gato garduño,
eriza sus pitas agrias.
¿Pero quién vendrá? ¿Y por dónde…?
Ella sigue en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
soñando en la mar amarga.

Compadre, quiero cambiar
mi caballo por su casa,
mi montura por su espejo,
mi cuchillo por su manta.
Compadre, vengo sangrando,
desde los puertos de Cabra.
Si yo pudiera, mocito,
este trato se cerraba.
Pero yo ya no soy yo,
Ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
Compadre, quiero morir
decentemente en mi cama.
De acero, si puede ser,
con las sábanas de holanda.
¿No ves la herida que tengo
desde el pecho a la garganta?
Trescientas rosas morenas
lleva tu pechera blanca.
Tu sangre rezuma y huele
alrededor de tu faja.
Pero yo ya no soy yo.
Ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
Dejadme subir al menos
hasta las altas barandas,
¡dejadme subir!, dejadme
hasta las verdes barandas.
Barandales de la luna
por donde retumba el agua.

Ya suben los dos compadres
hacia las altas barandas.
Dejando un rastro de sangre.
Dejando un rastro de lágrimas.
Temblaban en los tejados
farolillos de hojalata.
Mil panderos de cristal,
herían la madrugada.

Verde que te quiero verde,
verde viento, verdes ramas.
Los dos compadres subieron.
El largo viento, dejaba
en la boca un raro gusto
de hiel, de menta y de albahaca.
¡Compadre! ¿Dónde está, dime?
¿Dónde está tu niña amarga?
¡Cuántas veces te esperó!
¡Cuántas veces te esperara,
cara fresca, negro pelo,
en esta verde baranda!

Sobre el rostro del aljibe
se mecía la gitana.
Verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fría plata.
Un carábano de luna
la sostiene sobre el agua.
La noche se puso íntima
como una pequeña plaza.
Guardias civiles borrachos
en la puerta golpeaban.

Federico García Lorca

Flamenco, Kaushalya Bannerji , 2019
Tony Gatlif, A fantastic Film

Art poetry

More Haiku!

Loving the haiku today! What a fantastic form. I thought I would share the classics. Here is my favourite, the tender and whimsical Kobayashi Issa:

O snail
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!

Autumn Snail, Kaushalya Bannerji , 2017

Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) is another great haiku master:

I want to sleep
Swat the flies
Softly, please.

After killing
a spider, how lonely I feel
in the cold of night!

Spider 2, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Basho, recognized for centuries as the great haiku exponent, says,

An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.

Autumn moonlight-
a worm digs silently
into the chestnut.

In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus –
A lovely sunset.

A River Runs Through It, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2017

and Kobayashi Issa again,

Everything I touch
with tenderness, alas,
pricks like a bramble.

Prickly Pear, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2018

And no hypocrisy from these old masters either. I wonder what they would think of the ways in which religions have been commodified and weaponized and devoid of compassion in all corners of the globe. Issa says,

All the time I pray to Buddha 
I keep on 
    killing mosquitoes.

Buddha, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Steve McCurry
Art poetry


I love the centuries-old tradition of Japanese haiku. Its economical style and breadth of material — observations on the natural, philosophical, and social world are astonishingly profound, and often, wry. It’s refreshing to see the power of seventeen syllables in an age of verbosity with so little to say. While my introduction to haiku has always been in translation, Matsuo Basho and Kobayashi Issa are two of those haiku masters whose poems evoke so much with so little.

The following haiku are by me!


All the words we say
sting like angry
bees. Nectar of rage.


Treacherous syrup
We dove into without war-
ning. Endless bottom.


Encircled liquid
Protected without mercy
with indifference.


Fear into dream world
faces everywhere with the same
bones gaping. Help!

Way to Winter

Witches’ Sabbath moon
black cat in my warming lap
outside October

Witches’ Moon, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Public Night

Man following with smile
But these days could just as
Well be loaded gun


Who among us has
not cast the first resentful
stone flying dead true


flounders at the crossroads
Ethic of hope still

Worksong II

Hear the voices friends,
never turn down the proffered hand
sleek switchblade disguised.

Flame, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Art music poetry

Alfonsina y el Mar/Alfonsina and the Sea

I often find the combination of music and drawing irresistible. Sometimes, the visual expression has nothing to do with the music, and at other times, the song may inspire the images. My drawings are an illustrated backdrop to this powerful lament.

I have been drawn to this song since I first heard it as a young person of thirteen! Getting to see the incomparable Mercedes Sosa perform it a couple of times was also pretty awesome! The song is a homage to Argentinian poet Alfonsina Storni (1892-1936) who gave voice to the burgeoning creativity of women in the modernist movement across the Southern Americas. She also spoke to the stifling exclusion of women’s voices in literary and artistic spheres.

For a look at some of her poetry online, you check out:http://

It was written by Argentinian poet and historian Felix Luna and musicalized by composer Ariel Ramirez, popularized by Mercedes Sosa and covered by countless others!

Alfonsina and the sea by Ariel Ramirez

Across the soft sand that the waves lick
Her small footprints are not coming back anymore
Only one path made of sorrow and silence
Reached the deep water
Only one path made of untold sorrows
Reached the foam

Only God knows about the anguish that accompanied you
And about the old pains your voice never told
That caused you to go to sleep, lulled by the song
Of the seashells
The song sung in the depths of the dark sea by
The seashell

You’re going away, Alfonsina
Along with your loneliness
What kind of new poems did you go looking for?
An ancient voice made of wind and salt
Is shattering your soul and taking you away
And you go there, like in a dream
Asleep, Alfonsina, dressed with the sea

Five little mermaids will escort you
Through paths made of seaweed and corals
And phosphorescent sea horses will sing
A round, by your side
And the aquatic dwellers
Will soon play by your side

Dim the light of the lamp a bit for me
Let me sleep in peace, nurse
And if he calls don’t tell him I’m here
Tell him that Alfonsina is not coming back
And if he calls never tell him I’m here
Tell him that I have left

You’re going away, Alfonsina
Along with your loneliness
What kind of new poems did you go looking for?
An ancient voice made of wind and salt
Is shattering your soul and taking you away
And you go there, like in a dream
Asleep, Alfonsina, dressed with the sea

Alfonsina y el Mar 1, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Alfonsina y el Mar 2, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Alfonsina y el Mar 3, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Alfonsina y el Mar 4, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Art environment poetry Social Justice Uncategorized


Ouroboros: The Snake Who Eats His Own Tail

I’ve been thinking alot about the state of the earth lately. We are not living here, we are holding the planet hostage. And the ransom is too little, too late… In Greek mythology, Ouroboros symbolizes completion, wholeness, even the infinite.

For me it has come to symbolize the cannibalism of capitalism, the ways in which all species and forms of being have become implicated and contaminated by a logic and ways of living they never chose.

The implications of the current climate crisis are staggering. And the absolute lack of accountability and remediation are ushering in an era of open eco-cide. Since we humans are also nature— we are also being affected.

Disaster refugees, increases in auto-immune disorders, chronic illness, chronic and environmental illnesses— all of these are consequences of the paths our rulers have chosen. Factory farming, big pharma, factory medicine, fracking, mining and logging practices, deep sea oil exploration, cell phone/microwave radiation, exploitation of children and women in specific industries, and sexually— all of these are parts of the web which ties a system of exploitation and exclusion together.

Apathy can feel like the answer when the choice of what shampoo or pair of jeans to buy preoccupies us more than our exclusion from making decisions about what really matters. These are indeed dangerous times.

Climate justice implies placing the most vulnerable first when we make policy and implement it. It means thinking of the global good— not the particular profit. But we are a long way away from recognizing that people in the colonized world or that people of colour and poor people in the Americas and Europe merit a human and humane quality of life.

Young people have started organizing for a response to the climate crisis. And their participation means the difference between a future and being eaten by the snake…


Afternoon crept slowly
through the window.
From this high perch
you see dreams floating
like clouds against the clear spring of sky.

Around you, Europe in all its nostalgia.
Magrebi workers in all their anonymity
walking eyes averted
like so many unwilling brides.

In this world
we must choose our place.
If our eyes are blinded
we must smell feel taste
the way we make our lives.

Grey transparency of rain
unbidden and unloved
on lands where cities hunch.

Ouroboros of progress,
how close the distance
from devouring mouth to tail.

Kaushalya Bannerji, Copyright, 1993

Koyanisqaatsi, 1982
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Koyanisqaatsi, 1982
Sebastiao Salgado, Serra Pelada Gold Mine, Brazil, 1985,
Sebastiao Salgado, Mumbai, 1996
Domestic Workers Organizing in Peru, 2002
New Orleans, July 10, 2019
Dead Whales Beached in Tasmania, 2018
Flooding, Kerala, 2018

Ouroboros, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
Art poetry Refugees

World Refugee Day June 20

Refugee production continues to be caused by war, ethnic cleansing, class warfare, narco states, apartheid, climate change and collapsing economic conditions. In 2015, the world was horrified by the searing image of Aylan Kurdi (3 years old), drowned on a Mediterranean beach, but the commitment to stopping the creation of refugees has not been matched by the supposed outrage. Since 2015, the heartbreaking image has been imprinted in my consciousness, a call to arms that has been ignored. World governments continue to turn to violence within and without their borders on a daily basis. The return of concentration camps and the deployment of the word “migrants” are obscurantist techniques which hide the conditions of misery, misogyny, and dehumanization.

The following is a work in progress honouring fallen refugees such as Aylan Kurdi and hoping for a world in which refugees may be treated with humanity and consideration of the contexts that create them. Ultimately, I dream of a world without refugees and people fleeing conditions of inhumanity…

In Memory of Aylan Kurdi,


In Memory of Aylan Kurdi, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
In Memory of Aylan Kurdi, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
In Memory of Aylan Kurdi, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
In Memory of Aylan Kurdi, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji

A poem by George Seferis, from Mythistorema
What are they after, our souls, travelling
on the decks of decayed ships
crowded in with sallow women and crying babies
unable to forget themselves either with the flying fish
or with the stars that the masts point our at their tips;
grated by gramophone records
committed to non-existent pilgrimages unwillingly
murmuring broken thoughts from foreign languages.
What are they after, our souls, travelling
on rotten brine-soaked timbers
from harbour to harbour?
Shifting broken stones, breathing in
the pine’s coolness with greater difficulty each day,
swimming in the waters of this sea
and of that sea,
without the sense of touch
without men
in a country that is no longer ours
nor yours.
We knew that the islands were beautiful
somewhere round about here where we grope,
slightly lower down or slightly higher up,
a tiny space.


An Old Poem for New Times

Wasafiri Magazine, Issue 21 Spring 1995

Art poetry

Dirge for Amerikkka (Panic Attack Remix)

black child goes out into the day

mother’s afraid for him today

he brings the only skin he’s got

while a white cop fires the final shot

to take it all away

i can’t breathe

brown woman goes to work

white boss tries to force her with just one phone call to someone who

he’s sure will deport her

some wonder why some are afraid of “Immigration”?

White unions asking”what’s the fuss?

Why all the commotion?”

i can’t breathe

brown men flying

must undergo “special measures”

so that corporations and their reigns

can strip their dignity at their pleasure

meanwhile divide and rule abounds, 

while profit is their treasure

i can’t breathe

sonic weapons, special tanks

loads of money in the bank

on native land, on foreign shore

amerikkka screams for more and more

with special gases and pepper spray

they keep the force of change at bay

i can’t breathe

©copyright December 2014 by Kaushalya Bannerji

Power, Copyright Kaushalya Bannerji, 2014