“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Poems for sale!!

At the end of the long corridor with ceiling-high bookshelves on either side, my friend, the bookshop owner sat, browsing at his PC. I ask him if he is too busy. He says, 'No, pull up a chair and sit down'. I know him for more than 20 years - not really a friend, but an acquaintance; I am a regular customer at his shop. It is one of the best in the City.

I tell him- 'I have committed a blunder'. 'Ah, wrote a book?' Worse, I said. A collection of poems. He shakes his head sadly. 'Yes, that is terrible'.

I lay it straight across the table. 'Look, how about some shelf-space for me?' He cocks his head and looks at me speculatively. 'Hope you are not keen on making money out of it, are you?' I say, 'Well, not much, but I would like people to read it. He says - 'Listen, poetry, especially in English, is the slowest moving stuff here. Maybe a Neruda goes once in a while or a Sylvia Plath. Then the poets who are in textbooks. Indian poets? a Big NO NO. Not even Dom Moraes, Ramanujam, Ezekiel. Prose, Fiction - they have market , but poetry? No, SIR'.

I nod sympathetically at the woes of a book-seller, taking care not to show the disappointment in my face. 'See, everybody writes poetry nowadays, but nobody buys poetry'. I think of my collections - the Hughes, the Larkins, the Willams, the Dickinsons, the Dharkars and the anthologies - I say nothing. He takes off his businessman mask and says mildly - 'Look, Balan, you can keep 5 copies if you like. But don't call me up every month asking if they have been sold. If they do, we will see about your percentage, ok?'

What is money, I wonder quietly. It is a form of energy, isn't it? Physical energy is converted to paper when you toil from morning till evening and then gratefully accept the wages for your labour. People churn out third-rate novels or c-class movies that turn out to be big hits and they make a lot of money. People invest in shares and sell them when the rates are high and they make money without a drop of sweat off their brow, it is all speculation, the magic of making money from thin air. Con-men trick greedy people and get away with crores of rupees. A labourer comes in the morning and till evening he toils and takes home 300- 400 rupees. I slog it out in the bank, looking at other people's money and making sure that they get interest and pay interest for the loans; on 25th of every month, I too get my blood money.

I have been writing poetry for the last 5 years. Churned out nearly 140 or so. I have written several scripts for documentaries, a few articles on travel or nature or environment conservation. Some gifted a book or two, some magazines gave money, most ignored to acknowledge. Instead, I feel grateful to them for giving me an oppertunity to write the script, to include my article in an anthology, feel gratified at their compliments.

I give my boss a complimentary copy. He leafs through the pages. I wince. Can poetry be read like the jokes and quotes you see in Reader's Digest? Each poem, each line, each word - reflects my pain, my joy, my agony and my ecstasy. Trivial and trash it may be to a reader, but to the honest writer, it is the essence of his/her soul. He says condescendingly - 'Thank you, Balan. But let me buy a copy of your book for the office library'. I am touched by his kind gesture.

Poets, are the last of the romantics. The last of the lot who can call themselves human.

In my young days in the 60s and 70s I remember seeing persons walking around in the Bus stands or Railways stations calling out their wares - books written by them - small booklets of patriotic songs or love poems. Guess I too will have to take to the streets - " Poems! Poems! Poems for Sale! Love, lust, sex and violence!!! Read one and you read them all! Poems! Poems for Sale!"

*********** Balachandran, Trivandrum 15.08.2009


  1. Wow, Mr. B , How wonderful it is that you have written a book!

    I understand how you want people to read it.

    Whether it does well or not , i am certain you have got immense satisfaction in writing it.

    Maybe someday your grandchildren might say - " My appooppan wrote a book".

    Just like i talk about my grandfather now . Proud that he was the first and most prominent editor of "Janayugam" newspaper.

  2. Congratulations once again. I can understand some of what you are feeling, its your creation and you want each line to be read with the attention that went in creating it. A book, or even just a single writeup if written with the soul is like your child, you love it and want the world to love it too. The book will definitely be well received, inspite of what the shop owner says, poetry does have its readers even today.

  3. No sir , My grandfather's name is Kambisseri Karunakaran. I don know if u have heard of him. I suppose probably he was not first editor , but i guess he was a prominent editor.. I don know , becaue he passed away before i was born.

    Can u send me your mail id ? I shall send u the address..and wow ! I am honoured.

  4. http://cartoonistyesudasan.blogspot.com/2008/06/yesudasan-and-kambissery.html

    Thats my appooppan!!


  5. Balan sir,

    I've always maintained that your poetry is worthy of a wider audience.

    About time they came out in book-form.

    Let the suave and confident get on with their lives,

    the hapless, the lost and the romantics will still read their poetry.

  6. when it happens to b a book written,the dreams and aspirations soar sky high..why,we want our blogs to b read,discussed and 2 b popular..won't we? so here,wishing you all success!

  7. Sir,

    I can pretty well relate to what you have said. I’m not a poet nor am I a good reader of poetry. But sometimes I enjoy reading poetry blogs. For me reading poetry is like a journey, and even if I can’t reach the destination the journey itself can be exciting.joy, my, each line,
    “Can poetry be read like the jokes and quotes you see in Reader's Digest? Each poem, each line, each word - reflects my pain, my joy, my agony and my ecstasy.”

    I think it’s true of poetry as well as prose. I’ve been thinking about it for quite some time. Whenever I think about the process of writing, I wonder how carefully/painfully a writer chooses words to create the desired effect in the reader and yet how responsible one has to be while reading. Not reading, I feel, is not a crime, but careless reading indeed is.

    Is your book of poetry available in DC’s English Book Shop?

  8. Dear Arun, We understand each other, don't we?
    Copies are available with Modern Book Centre, G A Koil Road, Trivandrum. If you are from Trivandrum, you will be able to get a copy from there. I have not given it to DC yet. There are a lot of formalities to get shelf space with DC outlets.
    Thanks for looking in.

  9. Balan, you should have tried this article with a good english magazine. they would have jumped at it. Lovely read. You know, Vaikom Mohammed Basheer used to sell his books the way you described at the end. I propose to start reading your book tonight. You see, "everybody writes poetry nowadays, but nobody reads," as the bookshop manager said. You will have to stand me a couple of drinks when I finish yours. (I promise I shall return the favour when I too finally come out with my book and you finish reading it.)

  10. And let us stick together. We need solidarity!

  11. oye..wats up wth the new template..i loved it !! totally

  12. Balan, I know oh so well what this feels like. You have penned it so painfully real. We pour out our souls like pouring the finest wine for friends and strangers alike. I am always in lack of proper words for your awesome works. There's no one that can paint it quite like you can....

  13. Now, this is a take after reading the first 19 poems at one sitting from your book, Balan.

    I have read them before, but in the book it is altogether different. There is something casual about the way one reads the blog; but the book is different.

    For the reader the book is impersonal. Suddenly I am reading a new poet I have come across and not Balan, someone I have known for a pretty long time (20 years?). The whole dimension changes.

    It is just explosive, Balan. I feel I am in the vortex of a tempest. It shakes, pommels, uproots. It never leaves one in peace. It shreds with its scapel and yet won't leave; like the shadowman it stalks, haunts, holds me helpless in its wild and tantalising spell...

    More of it after the storm blows over and if anything is left of me!!!

    Hats off to the master.

  14. Balan sir. What a wonderful way to express the true facts about a first time book author. Just went through ur emotions, reading your post.

  15. who told da words u write r not read...???? its quiet natural dat u may not receive a compliment....but still...u can be sure dat there r a good number of readers for u...'coz hw come a starving sparrow to sit idle in front of da grains…?? it may be true we forget to say a word of thanks even…..best wishes dear bala uncle…


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