Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Creative Relief

My Engineering classes often drained me, and sometimes, the only courses that motivated and re-energized me were ones that had nothing to do with Engineering. I would take Shakespeare, Italian Cinema, Foreign Aid, International Affairs, and even The Study of Kosher and Halal Meat (yes, that was an actual course which primarily consisted of students eating meals cooked by the professor's wife).

Of all these, the one course that I absolutely loved was my Poetry class. I had a huge crush on my professor. He was an African American musician who would start narrating a poem in iambic pentameter, turn on some beats and start rapping the poem along with his own lyrics that he would make up on the spot, intertwining poetry and rap like the intricate weaves of a quilt. We were in awe of him and he was totally unaware of it.

I've included three poems that I had written in the course. I hope you won't find them too tedious to read.

The first poem was an assignment on writing an Elegy. I decided to write about one of my grandfathers who suffered from depression. He was not part of my immediate family but, as with any joint family with innumerable grandparents, cousins, et al, I was told he was family and that I should call him grandad. This was simply my perspective of him when I was a kid, so don't ( necessarily ) consider it an accurate representation of him.

My Other Grandfather

If you were to come back to that home;
Yellow smoke would stain the walls—
All because of him.

Those were the stairs he walked up
And walked down everyday at sunrise.
The ignorant would question the state of
His mind.

Uncle would title
Him the laziest man in town.
Uncle would make fun and ask
Him: “What was the hardest
Work you did today?”
He would smile and reply to Uncle,
“A lazy man does no hard work.”

You’d see
Him with his brown
Tobacco powder, shooting it up
His nose—coughing violently.
A lithe body lying limp,
Decaying on the bed.

His dark eyes would seek
Out your questioning gaze,
His mind observe your
Creased brow:
He would say, “Don’t frown near
Me. I was never heavenly.”

And then you’d leave him,
Your mind burning unhappily.

~~~~~~~ *~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~

I used to love writing Haikus. This one is about all the seasons of the (East Coast) year. You'll notice there are five stanzas even though there are only four seasons. I added an extra stanza for a season that I made up: that time of the year between winter and spring where you just can't take the harsh cold anymore and you're madly hoping for Spring to arrive. For me, that is my fifth season!

A Season of Haiku
Through sheltered windows
You see sultry morning sun
Beating down ill will.

Last splash of color
Before shedding of green leaves.
Leaves rustle to peace.

The heater is down
Midnight blue ice forms slowly
From last night’s iced tea.

Please pass winter blues;
Waiting for naked bare trees
To swell tender fruit. 

Sun slits through, letting
A flower bloom and a fruit
Retain spring juice again.

~~~~~~~ *~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~

Lastly, we had to write a Blues poem. I loved the overdramatic, melancholy nature of Blues. It forced even the most jaded people to become hopeless, lovelorn romantics. I remember going through several revisions of this poem and my professor would invariably come back disappointed in me because he felt I wasn't opening up enough. You can assume this was the last revision where he chose to give up on me.

Memory Lane
I keep strollin' down memory lane
And it drives me insane.
I stare 'cross lonely streets and remember
Burnin' desire on a blues winter night.
Now time’s gone and, baby, so have you.
I see the sun’s up and flowers've bloomed.
Ol' lady Winter’s left but my blues remain.
So I keep strollin' down memory lane
And it drives me insane.

Now, because my Blues poem isn't very good, I felt like I should leave you guys with one that is downright amazing.  By Langston Hughes, the below is an excerpt from his poem "The Weary Blues":

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
     I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
     He did a lazy sway . . .
     He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o' those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
     O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
     Sweet Blues!

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