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Collected Poems
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About the Book

 

An established classic, A.K. Ramanujan's Collected Poems represents the complex distillation of a lifetime of unusually rich sensitivity, intellectual rigour, and feeling. Best known for his pioneering translations of ancient Tamil poetry into English, Ramanujan made it apparent to modem poets and scholars that there was a wealth of poetry yet to be discovered in several Indic traditions.

 

About the Author

 

A.K. Ramanujan (1929-93) was one of the finest Indian poets writing in English and probably the most scholarly. At the time of his death, he was Professor ,of Linguistics at the University of Chicago, and was universally acknowledged as a leading authority on South Indian language and culture.

 

Preface

 

A.K. Ramanujan left at his death one hundred and forty-eight poems on three computer disks. Eight editors read the poems, and selected those they thought could go into a volume of collected poems. Poems that were chosen by all or most readers were included in The Black Hen, which was then arranged and edited by Molly Daniels. Many of the poems not chosen were clearly publishable, but they seemed more suitable for a volume of uncollected poems.

 

Ramanujan worked on these poems off and on for years, as was his habit. He often joked that poems were like babies, they dirtied themselves and he had to clean them up. He said it took him ten years to really finish a set of poems.

 

The earliest of the new poems seem to have been written in 1989, in Michigan, the latest in March or April 1993. Like many poets, A.K. Ramanujan began writing poetry when he was seventeen. At the time he was reading a great deal of English literature from his father's library, English being his third language. His initial interest was in writing plays for the radio. His favourite poets were Shelley and Yeats. While he always loved Yeats, in later life he preferred Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams.

 

The poems in The Black Hen are in some ways different from their predecessors. At first reading, they seem light, easy, some almost like exercises. After a few readings, a complete reversal takes place. When the poems are read in sequence, they seem entirely different. The ear begins to hear the voice as full, rhythmic, passionate, complex, changeable, and in a variety of voices, styles and forms. The poems are metaphysical and full of a frightening darkness. There is a sense of both a pressure towards this darkness and a simultaneous revulsion from it. The poems begin to seem denser and fuller than anything the poet had done before, the culmination of forty-seven years of writing poetry. It is almost impossible to avoid the idea that the poems seem to press towards death and disintegration and even beyond to transmutation, like lines drawn from different angles which converge on a single point, without apparent intention, and yet inevitably.

 

What is astonishing is that the idea of nothingness, of zero, occurs frequently, as in the following lines:

How describe this nothing we, of all things, flee in panic yet wish for, work towards,

build ships and shape whole cities with?

Salamanders

Ramanujan was very interested in Buddhism. (He tried to convert in his twenties.) I think there is here a Buddhist idea of nothingness, as well as perhaps an Existential one.

 

Animals appear everywhere in the poems, but the poems are not 'about' animals. They have a double vision. The poems are about life, death, cycles of birth, pain, and love. They are also about poetry. They are full of irony, humour, paradox and sudden reversals.

 

A volume of Collected Poems, which represents the best work of a lifetime, is a milestone in any poet's path. This volume, which was considered during A.K. Ramanujan's lifetime, is now being published posthumously. The Collected Poems consists of three previously published hooks: The Striders, Relations, and Second Sight, and a fourth, The Black Hen published within a book for the first time. Now, as Auden wrote, may the 'words of a dead man' be 'modified in the guts of the living.'

 

Introduction

 

When I first read A.K Ramanujan's last, unpublished poems several months ago, their impact as individual pieces and as a fortuitous group took me by surprise. In November 1989, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he had shown me the first few poems he had completed after the publication of Second Sight (1986), and in June 1992, in Chicago, he had asked me to read nearly forty poems that he wanted to include in a new collection. But these occasions, among others, did not prepare me for the large number of poems that turned up in his files in the autumn of 1993, or for their unexpected qualities and effects.

 

As readers of this edition of his Collected Poems will discover on their own, Ramanujan's final poems contain elements that are not present in the three volumes of poetry he published in his lifetime. These formal and thematic elements now alter our understanding of what the poet felt and thought, why he chose certain voices, images, and metaphors, what his conceptions of nature and culture were, how he re-imagined time and human history, where he located the conflicts and interdependences of society, family, and self, or how he resolved some of the ethical dilemmas of poetry in the late twentieth century. But even as the finished work enlarges and rearranges his poetic world, it reinforces the continuities between the various phases of his career over three or four decades. It thus creates a new imaginative whole in which late and early poems interact associatively with each other, and long-standing preoccupations combine echoes and resonances with variations and counter-points to achieve an integrity that is at once essential and ironic.

 

One of the recurrent concerns in Ramanujan's poetry as a whole is the nature of the human body and its relation to the natural world. This theme first appears in The Striders (1966) in an early sonnet called 'Towards Simplicity', which represents the body as a natural mechanism. The poem suggests that the body is a structure with organic as well as mechanical properties, and consists of parts like 'Corpuscle, skin, / cell, and membrane', each with 'its minute seasons / clocked within the bones'. The body's internal seasons, such as its 'hourly autumn', parallel the external seasonal cycles and establish a relationship of co-ordination between body and nature. But the body's processes are 'minute' and 'complex', while those in nature are 'large' and 'simple'. Besides, the body houses the mind, which possesses unique powers-'reasons gyring within reasons'-that seem to transcend the domain of nature. At the time of death, however, 'into the soil as soil we come', so the body finally subsumes the mind despite the asymmetries between them, and the earth in turn subsumes the body. Since external nature thus controls our internal organic processes and mechanical properties from beginning to end, it completely 'contains' our bodily lives.

 

Contents

 

Acknowledgements

xi

Preface by Krittika Ramanujan

xv

Introduction by Vinay Dharwadker

xvii

Book One: THE STRIDERS (1966)

 

The Striders

3

Snakes

4

The Opposable Thumb

6

Breaded Fish

7

On a Delhi Sundial

8

A Leaky Tap After a Sister's Wedding

9

Two Styles in Love

11

Still Life

12

This Pair

13

On the Very Possible Jaundice of an

 

Unborn Daughter

14

Still Another for Mother

15

Lines to a Granny

17

A Rather Foolish Sentiment

18

Looking for a Cousin on a Swing

19

I Could Have Rested

20

On Memory

21

Instead of a Farewell

22

Self-Portrait

23

The Rickshaw-Wallah

24

Which Reminds Me

25

Sometimes

26

Chess Under Trees

27

No Man Is an Island

28

Anxiety

29

KMn04 in Grandfather's Shaving Glass

30

Christmas

32

Conventions of Despair

34

A Certain Democrat

36

Towards Simplicity

37

A River

38

A Hindu to His Body

40

Excerpts from a Father's Wisdom

41

Epitaph on a Street Dog

43

Images

44

Still Another View of Grace

45

An Image for Politics

46

Case History

47

One Reads

48

Lac into Seal

50

The Fall

51

A Poem on Particulars

53

Book Two: RELATIONS (1971)

 

It Does not Follow, but When in the Street

57

Man and Woman in Camera and Out

58

A Wobbly Top

60

Of Mothers, among other things

61

THE HINDOO: he doesn't hurt a fly or a

 

spider either

62

Time and Time Again

64

Love Poem for a Wife, 1

65

Routine Day Sonnet

68

Army Ants

69

One, Two, Maybe Three, Arguments

 

against Suicide

70

One More After Reading Homer

73

Some Indian Uses of History on a Rainy Day

74

A Lapse of Memory

76

Eyes, Ears, Noses, and a Thing about Touch

77

The Hindoo: he reads his GITA and is calm at

 

All events

79

Poona Train Window

80

Time to Stop

82

Love Poem for a Wife, 2

83

Entries for a Catalogue of Fears

86

The Hindoo: the only risk

90

Real Estate

91

Any Cow's Horn Can Do It

93

When It Happens,

95

Small-Scale Reflections on a Great House

96

Small town , South India

100

Some Relations

101

Take Care

103

The Last of the Princes

105

Old Indian Belief

106

History,

107

Compensations

109

Obituary

111

Prayers to Lord Murugan

113

Book Three: SECOND SIGHT (1986)

 

Elements of Composition

121

Ecology

124

No Amnesiac King

126

In the Zoo

128

Questions

130

Fear

132

Astronomer

134

Death and the Good Citizen

135

The Watchers

137

Snakes and Ladders

138

Pleasure

139

A Poor Man's Riches 1

141

On the Death of a Poem

142

A Poor Man's Riches 2

143

A Minor Sacrifice

144

Alien

149

Saturdays

150

Zoo Gardens Revisited

153

Son to Father to Son

155

Drafts

157

At Forty,

159

He too Was a Light Sleeper Once

162

Highway Stripper

163

Middle Age

167

Extended Family

169

The Difference

171

Dancers in a Hospital

174

Moulting

176

Some People

177

Connect!

178

Looking and Finding

179

Love Poem for a Wife and Her Trees

180

Looking for the Centre

184

Chicago Zen

186

Waterfalls in a Bank

189

Second Sight

191

Book Four: THE BLACK HEN (1995)

195

The Black Hen

196

Foundlings in the Yukon

198

Dream in an Old Language

199

Shadows

200

At Zero,

202

Salmanders

204

Traces

205

Fire

206

Birthdays

208

Fog

209

One More on a Deathless Theme

212

August

214

Three Dreams

215

It

216

Not Knowing

217

On Not Learning from Animals

218

Blind Spots

219

LOVE 1: what she said

220

Sonnet

221

Mythologies 1

222

LOVE 2: what he said, groping

224

Turning Around

225

LOVE 3: what he said, remembering

226

Mythologies 2

227

LOVE 4: what he said, to his daughter

228

Mythologies 3

229

LOVE 5

230

Contraries

231

Engagement

232

The Day Went Dark

233

LOVE 6: winter

234

That Tree

235

PAIN: trying to find a metaphor

236

Fizzle

237

A Devotee's Complaint

238

In March

239

A Meditation Difficulty

241

Poetry and Our City

242

No Fifth Man

243

Bulls

246

Bosnia

247

A Report

248

As Eichmann Said, My Brother Said

250

The Guru

251

A Ruler

252

Poverty

253

Butcher's Tao

254

A Copper Vat

255

Museum

256

Images

257

If Eyes Can See

264

Elegy

265

Lines

267

To a Friend Far Away

268

Some Monarchs and a Wish

269

From Where?

271

Death in Search of a Comfortable Metaphor

273

Pain

274

Fear No Fall

275

A Note on The Black Hen and After by Molly DanieIs-Ramanujan

278

Index of Titles

282

Index of First Lines

285

 

Sample Page


Collected Poems

Item Code:
NAJ628
Cover:
Paperback
Edition:
2013
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
ISBN:
9780195640687
Language:
English
Size:
8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Pages:
328
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 320 gms
Price:
$20.00   Shipping Free
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About the Book

 

An established classic, A.K. Ramanujan's Collected Poems represents the complex distillation of a lifetime of unusually rich sensitivity, intellectual rigour, and feeling. Best known for his pioneering translations of ancient Tamil poetry into English, Ramanujan made it apparent to modem poets and scholars that there was a wealth of poetry yet to be discovered in several Indic traditions.

 

About the Author

 

A.K. Ramanujan (1929-93) was one of the finest Indian poets writing in English and probably the most scholarly. At the time of his death, he was Professor ,of Linguistics at the University of Chicago, and was universally acknowledged as a leading authority on South Indian language and culture.

 

Preface

 

A.K. Ramanujan left at his death one hundred and forty-eight poems on three computer disks. Eight editors read the poems, and selected those they thought could go into a volume of collected poems. Poems that were chosen by all or most readers were included in The Black Hen, which was then arranged and edited by Molly Daniels. Many of the poems not chosen were clearly publishable, but they seemed more suitable for a volume of uncollected poems.

 

Ramanujan worked on these poems off and on for years, as was his habit. He often joked that poems were like babies, they dirtied themselves and he had to clean them up. He said it took him ten years to really finish a set of poems.

 

The earliest of the new poems seem to have been written in 1989, in Michigan, the latest in March or April 1993. Like many poets, A.K. Ramanujan began writing poetry when he was seventeen. At the time he was reading a great deal of English literature from his father's library, English being his third language. His initial interest was in writing plays for the radio. His favourite poets were Shelley and Yeats. While he always loved Yeats, in later life he preferred Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams.

 

The poems in The Black Hen are in some ways different from their predecessors. At first reading, they seem light, easy, some almost like exercises. After a few readings, a complete reversal takes place. When the poems are read in sequence, they seem entirely different. The ear begins to hear the voice as full, rhythmic, passionate, complex, changeable, and in a variety of voices, styles and forms. The poems are metaphysical and full of a frightening darkness. There is a sense of both a pressure towards this darkness and a simultaneous revulsion from it. The poems begin to seem denser and fuller than anything the poet had done before, the culmination of forty-seven years of writing poetry. It is almost impossible to avoid the idea that the poems seem to press towards death and disintegration and even beyond to transmutation, like lines drawn from different angles which converge on a single point, without apparent intention, and yet inevitably.

 

What is astonishing is that the idea of nothingness, of zero, occurs frequently, as in the following lines:

How describe this nothing we, of all things, flee in panic yet wish for, work towards,

build ships and shape whole cities with?

Salamanders

Ramanujan was very interested in Buddhism. (He tried to convert in his twenties.) I think there is here a Buddhist idea of nothingness, as well as perhaps an Existential one.

 

Animals appear everywhere in the poems, but the poems are not 'about' animals. They have a double vision. The poems are about life, death, cycles of birth, pain, and love. They are also about poetry. They are full of irony, humour, paradox and sudden reversals.

 

A volume of Collected Poems, which represents the best work of a lifetime, is a milestone in any poet's path. This volume, which was considered during A.K. Ramanujan's lifetime, is now being published posthumously. The Collected Poems consists of three previously published hooks: The Striders, Relations, and Second Sight, and a fourth, The Black Hen published within a book for the first time. Now, as Auden wrote, may the 'words of a dead man' be 'modified in the guts of the living.'

 

Introduction

 

When I first read A.K Ramanujan's last, unpublished poems several months ago, their impact as individual pieces and as a fortuitous group took me by surprise. In November 1989, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he had shown me the first few poems he had completed after the publication of Second Sight (1986), and in June 1992, in Chicago, he had asked me to read nearly forty poems that he wanted to include in a new collection. But these occasions, among others, did not prepare me for the large number of poems that turned up in his files in the autumn of 1993, or for their unexpected qualities and effects.

 

As readers of this edition of his Collected Poems will discover on their own, Ramanujan's final poems contain elements that are not present in the three volumes of poetry he published in his lifetime. These formal and thematic elements now alter our understanding of what the poet felt and thought, why he chose certain voices, images, and metaphors, what his conceptions of nature and culture were, how he re-imagined time and human history, where he located the conflicts and interdependences of society, family, and self, or how he resolved some of the ethical dilemmas of poetry in the late twentieth century. But even as the finished work enlarges and rearranges his poetic world, it reinforces the continuities between the various phases of his career over three or four decades. It thus creates a new imaginative whole in which late and early poems interact associatively with each other, and long-standing preoccupations combine echoes and resonances with variations and counter-points to achieve an integrity that is at once essential and ironic.

 

One of the recurrent concerns in Ramanujan's poetry as a whole is the nature of the human body and its relation to the natural world. This theme first appears in The Striders (1966) in an early sonnet called 'Towards Simplicity', which represents the body as a natural mechanism. The poem suggests that the body is a structure with organic as well as mechanical properties, and consists of parts like 'Corpuscle, skin, / cell, and membrane', each with 'its minute seasons / clocked within the bones'. The body's internal seasons, such as its 'hourly autumn', parallel the external seasonal cycles and establish a relationship of co-ordination between body and nature. But the body's processes are 'minute' and 'complex', while those in nature are 'large' and 'simple'. Besides, the body houses the mind, which possesses unique powers-'reasons gyring within reasons'-that seem to transcend the domain of nature. At the time of death, however, 'into the soil as soil we come', so the body finally subsumes the mind despite the asymmetries between them, and the earth in turn subsumes the body. Since external nature thus controls our internal organic processes and mechanical properties from beginning to end, it completely 'contains' our bodily lives.

 

Contents

 

Acknowledgements

xi

Preface by Krittika Ramanujan

xv

Introduction by Vinay Dharwadker

xvii

Book One: THE STRIDERS (1966)

 

The Striders

3

Snakes

4

The Opposable Thumb

6

Breaded Fish

7

On a Delhi Sundial

8

A Leaky Tap After a Sister's Wedding

9

Two Styles in Love

11

Still Life

12

This Pair

13

On the Very Possible Jaundice of an

 

Unborn Daughter

14

Still Another for Mother

15

Lines to a Granny

17

A Rather Foolish Sentiment

18

Looking for a Cousin on a Swing

19

I Could Have Rested

20

On Memory

21

Instead of a Farewell

22

Self-Portrait

23

The Rickshaw-Wallah

24

Which Reminds Me

25

Sometimes

26

Chess Under Trees

27

No Man Is an Island

28

Anxiety

29

KMn04 in Grandfather's Shaving Glass

30

Christmas

32

Conventions of Despair

34

A Certain Democrat

36

Towards Simplicity

37

A River

38

A Hindu to His Body

40

Excerpts from a Father's Wisdom

41

Epitaph on a Street Dog

43

Images

44

Still Another View of Grace

45

An Image for Politics

46

Case History

47

One Reads

48

Lac into Seal

50

The Fall

51

A Poem on Particulars

53

Book Two: RELATIONS (1971)

 

It Does not Follow, but When in the Street

57

Man and Woman in Camera and Out

58

A Wobbly Top

60

Of Mothers, among other things

61

THE HINDOO: he doesn't hurt a fly or a

 

spider either

62

Time and Time Again

64

Love Poem for a Wife, 1

65

Routine Day Sonnet

68

Army Ants

69

One, Two, Maybe Three, Arguments

 

against Suicide

70

One More After Reading Homer

73

Some Indian Uses of History on a Rainy Day

74

A Lapse of Memory

76

Eyes, Ears, Noses, and a Thing about Touch

77

The Hindoo: he reads his GITA and is calm at

 

All events

79

Poona Train Window

80

Time to Stop

82

Love Poem for a Wife, 2

83

Entries for a Catalogue of Fears

86

The Hindoo: the only risk

90

Real Estate

91

Any Cow's Horn Can Do It

93

When It Happens,

95

Small-Scale Reflections on a Great House

96

Small town , South India

100

Some Relations

101

Take Care

103

The Last of the Princes

105

Old Indian Belief

106

History,

107

Compensations

109

Obituary

111

Prayers to Lord Murugan

113

Book Three: SECOND SIGHT (1986)

 

Elements of Composition

121

Ecology

124

No Amnesiac King

126

In the Zoo

128

Questions

130

Fear

132

Astronomer

134

Death and the Good Citizen

135

The Watchers

137

Snakes and Ladders

138

Pleasure

139

A Poor Man's Riches 1

141

On the Death of a Poem

142

A Poor Man's Riches 2

143

A Minor Sacrifice

144

Alien

149

Saturdays

150

Zoo Gardens Revisited

153

Son to Father to Son

155

Drafts

157

At Forty,

159

He too Was a Light Sleeper Once

162

Highway Stripper

163

Middle Age

167

Extended Family

169

The Difference

171

Dancers in a Hospital

174

Moulting

176

Some People

177

Connect!

178

Looking and Finding

179

Love Poem for a Wife and Her Trees

180

Looking for the Centre

184

Chicago Zen

186

Waterfalls in a Bank

189

Second Sight

191

Book Four: THE BLACK HEN (1995)

195

The Black Hen

196

Foundlings in the Yukon

198

Dream in an Old Language

199

Shadows

200

At Zero,

202

Salmanders

204

Traces

205

Fire

206

Birthdays

208

Fog

209

One More on a Deathless Theme

212

August

214

Three Dreams

215

It

216

Not Knowing

217

On Not Learning from Animals

218

Blind Spots

219

LOVE 1: what she said

220

Sonnet

221

Mythologies 1

222

LOVE 2: what he said, groping

224

Turning Around

225

LOVE 3: what he said, remembering

226

Mythologies 2

227

LOVE 4: what he said, to his daughter

228

Mythologies 3

229

LOVE 5

230

Contraries

231

Engagement

232

The Day Went Dark

233

LOVE 6: winter

234

That Tree

235

PAIN: trying to find a metaphor

236

Fizzle

237

A Devotee's Complaint

238

In March

239

A Meditation Difficulty

241

Poetry and Our City

242

No Fifth Man

243

Bulls

246

Bosnia

247

A Report

248

As Eichmann Said, My Brother Said

250

The Guru

251

A Ruler

252

Poverty

253

Butcher's Tao

254

A Copper Vat

255

Museum

256

Images

257

If Eyes Can See

264

Elegy

265

Lines

267

To a Friend Far Away

268

Some Monarchs and a Wish

269

From Where?

271

Death in Search of a Comfortable Metaphor

273

Pain

274

Fear No Fall

275

A Note on The Black Hen and After by Molly DanieIs-Ramanujan

278

Index of Titles

282

Index of First Lines

285

 

Sample Page


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I recieved my Mahavir pendant today. It is wonderful. I was recently in Delhi and as it was a spiritual trip visiting Jain temples in Rajasthan, Agra, Rishikesh and Delhi i did not have the opportunity to shop much. The pendant is beautiful and i shall treasure it. I have attached a picture of me in India. Your country and the people will always be in my heart.
Evelyn, Desoto, Texas.
I received my Order this week, It's wonderful. I really thank you very much.
Antonio Freitas, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
I have been ordering from your site for several years and am always pleased with my orders and the time frame is lovely also. Thanks for being such a wonderful company.
Delia, USA
I recviced Book Air Parcel(Nadi-Astrology). I am glad to see this book. Thankx. Muhammad Arshad Nadeem Pakistan.
Muhammad Arshad Nadeem
It is always a great pleasure to return to Exotic India with its exquisit artwork, books and other items. As I said several times before, Exotic India is far more than a highly professional Indian online shop; it is in fact an excellent ambassador to the world for the splendour of Indian wisdom and spirituality. I wish a happy and successful New Year 2017 to Exotic India and its employees! You can be very proud of yourself!
Dr Michael Seeber (psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Essen/Germany)
My last order arrived in a reasonable amount of time, regarding the long way it had to take! I am glad to find this and some other ayurvedic remedy, as well as books and much other things at your online-store and I am looking forward to be your customer again, some time.
Andreas, Germany.
Намаскар! Честно говоря, сомневался. Но сегодня получил свой заказ. Порадовала упаковка, упаковано всё очень тщательно и аккуратно. Большое спасибо, как раз подарок к Новому Году! Namaskar! Frankly, I doubted. But today received my order. We were pleased with the packaging. Everything is packed carefully and accurately. Thank you very much, just a gift for the New Year!
Ruslan, Russia.
Thanks for the great sale!! It really helped me out. I love Exotic India.
Shannon, USA
I have got the 3 parcels with my order today and everything is perfect. Thank you very much for such a good packaging to protect the items and for your service.
Guadalupe, Spain
Great books! I am so glad you make them available to order, thank you!
Yevgen, USA
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