September 3, 2006

Of crapometers and poems

Miss Snark is currently running her semi-regular 3rd annual Crapometer where she reads your query letter and the first page of your manuscripts and tells you what you did right (or wrong). I sent in my entry but never received a number and by the time I got around to even thinking about contacting Miss Snark about it, she’d already posted the winners. You snooze, you lose :p Ah well, her comments about other participants still makes for interesting reading though and the comments themselves should help anybody figure out how to craft a good query letter. So go take a look 🙂

I’ve not written much recently since I wanted to put writing on hold for a bit so that I could spend my writing time on reading Simon‘s "Hal Spacejock: Second Course" 🙂 I’m enjoying the book and will post a review once I get done but it’s slow going at the moment (not due to any fault of the book) but because I’ve not been feeling a 100% recently. But I’m halfway through the book and this is an even better read than the first one – some writers, like wine (not that I have any experience mind you :p), get better with time.

Though I’ve not been working on "Hunt for ‘Read October’", I’ve actually been writing a bit of poetry after ages. I thought I hadn’t written much in the way of poetry for close to 20 years, but going through my archives here, I notice that I had indeed written a few poems during the time this blog has been existence. These new poems however, are slightly different in that they have a central them and are part of a series 🙂 But more on that tomorrow (perhaps). For now, let me just post the first poem.


Light and dark, day and night,
People walking in daylight bright.
Deeds foul or actions right,
Nothing ever is black or white.

Do you wonder ’bout the world of grey,
That often is just a thought away?
If you would bother to open your mind,
A different light you would find.

Where rights and wrongs are blown away,
And might does not ever hold sway.
A world of thought before deed,
With nary a hint of lust or greed.

A world where humanity really thrives
And towards excellence forever strives.
Like a sunflower opening its face
To the sun’s blessed life-giving rays.

May 14, 2003

Of fiction and futures …

Do androids dream of electric sheep,
Or for lost humanity do they silently weep?
Lost in this stupor should I continue to sleep
When all of humanity in me their trust keep?

I composed the above poem while riding to work today. The first line is simply a short story title which I thought at that time was Harlan Elison’s but later realized was Philip K. Dick’s (in fact, I was reminded later on researching that this was the story that became "Blade Runner" :p) The title came to mind just as I left home and for some reason, the poem followed. The strange thing was that as I rode to work, the poem was followed by almost a vision of the setting for the poem and that in turn evolved in to a story outline – a story that I would like to write … but maybe not right now :p

The idea that came to me based on the poem was of a far future – future in which humanity has gone back to a savage sort of existence. This had occurred not due to some catastrophe or nuclear war or anything but simply because humanity had been locked out of all access to technology. And *that* had happened because at one point in time mankind had scaled the heights of technology to such a level that they’d entrusted all technology to the care of androids. The androids had been so advanced that they were able to repair themselves and maintain all the complex machinery necessary to keep human society functioning smoothly. The androids however realize that humanity is losing its essential "humanity" by being so cloistered and cosseted by technology and that they are kind of withdrawing into their own individual shells and so shutdown all technology so that mankind can rediscover itself without technology.

Fast forward a couple of hundred years and we come back to the time when my poem was written. The protagonist is a member of one of the numerous tribes that can be found on Earth. He’s discovered an old building from the high-tech days and he slowly begins to realize what happened to humanity. (Bear with me here as to how all this happens since I don’t have a fully outlined plot yet .. just ideas) He also discovers one of the shutdown androids and comes to the conclusion that the androids would wake up again and restore all technology if humanity could show it somehow that it had regained it’s humanity. That’s as far as I got … and yes, the story is going to need a lot of work :p But that’s for another day …

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Posted by Fahim at 7:52 am  |  1 Comment

April 24, 2003

Prose, Poetry and Philosophies …

I’ve actually become kind of stable again – and that’s a scary thought in and of itself :p I’ve had a better night of sleep than I’ve been having for the last few days, realized why exactly my slumbers have been so restless and have also come out with all of that if with no new insights but at least with the confirmed conviction that we have to treat the world simply as with the outlook that "people are people", that each one of us is different and has different reasons for doing what we do and while we might understand the actions of others, that it never pays to try to define an analogue between ourselves and another person and try to define their reasoning that way :p

However, the preceding nights of sleeplessness did allow me to think and during one of those long hours of lying in bed willing slumber to come to me, I began thinking of all those things that have influenced my philosophy about life and I realized that to a great extent my life has been shaped by stories. OK, now I’m mixing things up – at that point, the thing I realized was that there was a lot of poetry involved in my philosophy, the bit about stories came later when I thought more about it but it made better narrative sense to begin with stories :p Ah well, let me do it the way I originally thought it out – to heck with narrative sense :p

Poetry has always had the power to inspire me, to make me think and to define how I conduct myself in life. There is Rudyard Kipling’s "If" which has given me lines such as "walk with kings nor lose the common touch", "make one heap of all your winnings and risk it on one turn of pitch and toss, and lose and start again at your beginnings and never breathe a word about your loss" to follow as axioms in life. I just quoted those from memory since once I knew the whole poem by heart but have just gone back and re-read it and see that there are many more lines but that I might also have fallen down on some of the advice. But the poem is beautiful and it has made a lot of sense to me in the past and it still does. But there are others like James Henry Leigh Hunt’s "Abou Ben Adam" which defined my thinking about religion, God and humanity; Percy Bysshe Shelley’s "Ozymandias of Egypt" (and of course, it’s prose counterpart that I always remember as "This Too Shall Pass") and Robert Frost’s "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" has defined how I try to meet problems and perceive myself and what I do; and of course Robert Frost’s "Mending Wall" which defines my relationship with most people – though I might have taken the words slightly differently than Frost intended them to be :p

I was thinking about all of this later and I realized that stories had influenced my course in life as much as poetry had – stories like the ancient tales of mankind in the forms of Greek/Roman, Norse, Hindu mythology; stories from books that I’ve read, movies and heck even comics – "with great power comes great responsibility" 🙂 This makes me wonder though, when you base your whole life on works of fiction, does your life become a fiction too? :p

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Posted by Fahim at 7:35 am  |  No Comments

April 21, 2003

A bit of poetry …

I wrote a cryptic, meandering, incomprehensible entry today in the morning from home but could not post it due to the fact that my host server was down. I feel like making a post today but can’t think of all the stuff I wrote earlier (plus, I can republish that from home tomorrow anyway :p) and so I decided to put up this poem that I wrote today for the newspaper page that I edit. It seemed to sort of come together pretty fast and while I don’t think of it as “real” poetry, it did flow well and so I’m putting it up … or something …

The Song of Lanka

First came the Aryans to this island fair,
With the heir of the clan from the lion’s lair,
They drove off her native sons,
To the jungle where the wild river runs!

Then came those from the Indian South,
Who some claim had entered the lion’s mouth,
In search of lands to plunder
Or just places to live, they here did blunder.

In to this mix was thrown the Arab traders,
Who some now claim were invaders,
They came to trade
But liked the climes and stayed.

All three races lived, allied and fought
Till the day they sighted the first boat
Of a new race to enter the books of Lankan history,
The Portugese were this new race of mystery.

The Portugese took over the sea ports
But in turn were driven off by the Dutch cohorts,
Who themselves wanted a beachhead
On this island paradise of the sands red!

As seconds turn to minutes and minutes into hours,
So do invaders get thrown out by even higher powers.
The British followed the Dutch to the Indian sea,
And took over this land in its entirety.

After a century and more of British rule,
We gained our independence with a roar, not a mewl
But since then instead of living in harmony
We’ve bickered and fought, called each other enemy.

After all the bloodshed, all the pain
All that we went through to, our independence gain,
Why can’t we learn the lessons of history
And learn that amity is the way forward for you and me?

Posted by Fahim at 11:51 am  |  No Comments

April 15, 2003

Of verse and worse …

A conversation I had with a friend about Byron led to a whole journey through a full spectrum of poetry today 🙂 The talk about Byron made me want to re-read Alfred Noyes’ "The Highwayman" – how did I jump from Byron to Noyes you ask? It all has to do with the peculiar way I associate things :p Lord Byron led me to another lord – Alfred, Lord Tennyson and from there to to Alfred Noyes was but a hop, skip and a jump. I’ve always been haunted by "The Highwayman" (no pun intended … really :p) and re-reading the poem just made me feel melancholy since I find the imagery in the poem to be very tragic and moody. So I wanted to read some more poetry to get "The Highwayman" out of my mind.

I started out with William Cowper’s "John Gilpin" which made me smile – I’ve enjoyed "John Gilpin" since my school days but have not read the poem since then either <g> I then read a bit of Sir Walter Scott by way of "Flodden" and then went on to Lord Byron’s "The Prisoner of Chillon" which while having some beautiful lines – "A frantic feeling, when we know, that what we love shall ne’er be so", "For I had buried one and all who loved me in a human shape; And the whole world would henceforth be, A wider prison unto me:" – made me sad again. So I moved on to tarry a bit with Keats’ "The Eve of St. Agnes" before moving on to Robert Browning’s "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came".

Now this is a poem which has a lot of significance to me because I know of at least two series of books which are based on the poem – one is Stephen King’s "The Dark Tower" series whereas the other is Gordon R. Dickson’s "Childe Cycle". I love the imagery in that poem but it has been a while since I’ve read it – in fact, I’m not sure if I’ve read it fully before. I’m currently reading the "Childe Cycle" and am on the last book and am reluctant to finish it since the cycle remains incomplete due to Gordon R. Dickson’s death. In fact, that other cycle, "The Dark Tower" is yet incomplete as well but I digress … I did learn something new since my anthology of poetry had a note to see Edgar’s song in "King Lear" at the beginning of "Childe Roland .." and so I went in search of my copy of the complete works of Shakespeare. I hunted through "King Lear" and found these lines "Child Rowland to the dark tower came, His word was still Fie, foh and fum, I smell the blood of a British man". Now, I have no idea if this is the only reference to Childe Roland in Shakespeare (I’ll have to do a more detailed online search tomorrow …) but I was fascinated since I’d never known of the reference before and also because of the whole "fie, foh, fum" bit which I’d always heard as part of Jack and the Beanstalk <g> I didn’t know that it had been used by Shakespeare too – now I’ll have to look into the roots of that too :p

By this time, I was tired of weighty matters poetic and wanted something light and so turned to my omnibus edition of Edward Lear. I always find Lear to be amusing and fascinating and a few minutes spent with the "Pobble who has no Toes" and "The Quangle Wangle’s Hat" made me feel much better. I was reminded of Lewis Carrol’s "Old Father William" by a Limerick of Leare’s (funny the associations you make ..) it goes something like this:

There was an Old Man of Port Grigor,
Whose actions were noted for vigour;
He stood on his head,
Till his waistcoat turned red,
That eclectic Old Man of Port Grigor.

I would have liked to have completed my poetic journeys with some stuff by Lewis Carrol – maybe "The Hunting of the Snark" or "Jabberwocky" – since I enjoy Lewis Carrol almost as much as I enjoy Lear and my appreciation of the former is as old as my appreciation of the latter but I couldn’t find my edition of the complete works of Lewis Carrol either – wonder what’s happening to all my books? (Speaking of which, I just discovered that I have a 1935 reprint of the first edition of Dickens’ "David Copperfield" – some of my books are more than twice my age :p) I think my appreciation of "Jabberwocky" – Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimbal in the wabe … sorry if I misspelt anything but I’m quoting from memory and some of that is just made up anyway .. I mean by Carrol, not me :p – comes from a science fiction story which is built completely around the poem and the fact that the words might not be nonsense – I forget who wrote it but it might have been C. M. Kornbluth or Lewis Padgett (which was actually a pen-name for Henry Kuttner) … It seems to be kind of their style but I might be totally off here. I’ll have to look that up too.

All this poetry makes me want to write some "real" poetry. All I find myself doing these days is what I call doggerel – quick jobs done in the course of half an hour to one hour based on a central idea. It rhymes but I don’t feel it is quality work – more like a hack job. I can’t explain it fully but I guess the best way to do so is to give a sample … if I can find one …

I have lost my peace of mind
And instead, worry on all sides do I find.
I have lost the will to love
And in return think of a mailed-first, an iron glove!

My country has lost its peace, serenity and harmony,
Where once was calm, there now is only strife and agony.
Gone are the days of races living in peace, side by side
But instead, armies against each other stride!

Mothers their sons to a bloody war have lost,
Like blooming flowers to a cruel frost,
In their loss they’ve only found,
That in their loss all mothers are together bound!

I called the above "Lost and Found" and what I’ve posted here is incomplete since what I have on this machine is the incomplete version. I wrote that for the peace page I edit (and usually write too since there is a dearth of contributors :p) for work. I’ll post the full version (if I remember <g>) tomorrow when I get to work …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:13 pm  |  1 Comment