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Interview with Dr. Ram(niklal) Mehta

 
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Clive
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2005 11:07 am    Post subject: Interview with Dr. Ram(niklal) Mehta Reply with quote

Dr. Ram(niklal) Mehta was born in Dwarka, India. He is a retired professor and retired Head of the Department of English at the N.A.Arts College, V.Vidyanagar, and Gujarat, India. After Dr. Ram’s retirement in 1994, he traveled extensively visiting Scotland, Ireland, North America, and the United Kingdom. On a cultural mission to France in 1989, he presented a scene of Moliere's La Tartuffe in Paris. Then, as a life member of the World Academy of Arts & Culture, he attended the convention in Romania in 2002 and Montevideo, Uruguay in April, 2003.

Dr. Ram was nominated for the Litt.D. award by The World Academy of Arts and Culture. His poems are published in Australia, Argentina, Niagara, Canada, India, Ireland, Italy, Romania, the United States, the United Kingdom, Zambia, and Uruguay.


Linda: Dr. Ram, I want to thank you for your time, and welcome you, once again, to The Writer’s Voice.

RM: Thank you for inviting me for the interview. I am happy to share my work and life with the forum members of the writer’s voice.

Linda: Dr. Ram, as a poet, professor, and literary scholar, what to you think about the current trends of Internet publishing? And what part do you think it will play in history?

RM: I am quite happy about the current trends of Internet publishing as a professor and literary scholar. But I am quite skeptical about the new literature particularly poetry being published on the net.

Linda: What are your feelings about the poetry currently being published via the Internet?

RM: I have expressed my feelings about it in a poem ‘Is verse dying’ which is self-explanatory.

Linda: Will you share the poem with us?

RM: Here is the poem:

Is verse dying?

A captive of creative-writing programs,
The specialized job of a small group,
The frenetic activity handy to a few,
Poetry now belongs to a subculture.

We have accredited professional poets,
Creative writing teachers at all levels,
Composing computer- generated poetry,
Creating illusion of the Golden Age.

These professional poets have secured
Their own niches in the academic world,
They cry over the split milk like
Jackals snarling over a dried-up well.

Success guaranteed by quantitative work,
Accuracy, meaning, technique matters less.

Linda: How long have you been writing poetry?

RM: I have been writing poetry since 1998 long after my retirement in 1994.

Linda: The American poet and critic Dana Gioia wrote in his first book of critical essays that poetry has become “the specialized occupation of a relatively small and isolated group.” He argued that for poetry to reclaim its rightful essential place in our culture, it must be liberated from the bureaucracy of academia. How do you feel about Gioia’s argument and how relevant is this to India or British literature?

RM: Thanks to the Internet publishing that it is no longer ‘the specialized occupation of a relatively small and isolated group’. It is widespread now and no question as to whether it belongs to India or any other country on the globe. There are many poets on the Internet sites. A day will come when there will a very few poets left that aren’t poets themselves.

Linda: I’ve read many of your poems and we’ll discuss two or three later in the interview, but I wondered if write short stories, essays, or novels?

RM: I used to write one-act plays in my green salad days for Radio and the cultural programs of the colleges I used to work with. I wrote, acted and directed a skit from Moliere’s play Le Tartuffe during my visit to Paris in 1989. I tried my hands at writing Essays in 1966. I also used to work as a freelance journalist for almost two decades, writing columns in my mother tongue i.e. Gujarati. I wrote a short story, quite personal, which is published in Tintota E-zine (Australia).

Linda: That’s interesting. Can you share a portion of the short story?

RM: Here is the link for the story: http://www.tintota.com/archive/stops.htm

Linda: What do you feel is the most difficult aspect of writing and how have you overcome this difficulty?

RM: The most difficult aspect, I think of, is writing in classical forms. As you know, that is fast disappearing thanks to the free verse and prose-poetry etc. etc. As far as fiction is concerned, it is difficult to remember the threads from where you have left and then revise it time and again. The most I hate is the commitment to write regular columns either in magazines or newspapers and because of that I had to give up writing the columns.

Linda: Please tell us about your interest in William Wordsworth?

RM: William Wordsworth is one of the greatest lyric poets England has ever produced. He is now acknowledged as a seminal influence on modern poetry: not only was he one of the first to make the workings of the poet's own mind a major subject of poetry, but his call for poets to use the "real language" of "real" people has been one of the rallying cries of contemporary literature. Wordsworth explains his object thus: ‘to choose incidents and situations from common life and to throw over them a certain colouring of imagination whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual aspect”….. I follow nearly all these aspects unconsciously (perhaps Wordsworth is my DNA) in my writing.

Linda: Have you seen the movie Pandemonium? If so, how true would you say the movie is to the real life of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Dorothy? If you have not seen the movie, could you tell us a little about their relationship and how they functioned as “three persons with one soul?”

RM: Unfortunately, I have not seen the movie. All the three came into a relationship that helped and defy the conventions of the time. Dorothy played muse to both Coleridge and Wordsworth and finally helped her brother to find his voice. As Coleridge's opium use took its toll and he neglected his family, Wordsworth's ambition took over and he decided he no longer needed Coleridge’s collaborative inspiration and moved to the Lake District and towards respectability.

“Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” is a tribute to the way Dorothy had helped bring Wordsworth through the troubled years since 1793. And Coleridge has to say this when he first met her in 1797: "She is a woman indeed! -- in mind, I mean, and heart -- for her person is such, that if you expected to see a pretty woman you would think her ordinary -- if you expected to find an ordinary woman you would think her pretty! --

Linda: Who are your favorite poets (British, American, or Indian)?

RM: Well, the main source of my poetics comes from the Elizabethans – Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare and the Romantics – Robert Burns, Keats, Shelley – Robert Frost, and the Indian poets Kalidas and Jaydev, Ravindranath Tagore, Umashanker Joshi etc.

Linda: Are you familiar with the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley? In the third verse of the first stanza, Henley says: I thank whatever gods may be / For my unconquerable soul. I found the first stanza of you poem “What Gods There Were” extremely interesting and well written. Is your poem in response to Henley’s?

RM: No, I am not at all familiar with William Ernest Henley. My poem is not in response to Henley’s. I had been attacked by cancer of larynx (voice box) in 1994. The poem is an expression of happiness from the recovery of cancer. The line ‘What Gods there were’ I have borrowed from the preface written to Biography volumes of Mahatma Gandhi by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India.
Linda: Are you familiar with the poet John Milton? If so, why do you think he combined Greek Mythology with Christian Ideology in his poem “Lycidas”?

RM: Yes, very much. Milton combines in himself two conflicting cultures- Humanism and Puritanism. Lycidas, a pastoral elegy is on his friend Edward King who was intended for the church. Critics take exception to Milton’s attack on the hireling clergy are on stronger ground. It seems quite odd that the Puritan controversialist should appear as a professed clergy.

As Milton accepted his blindness with dignity in his sonnet XIX, when I consider how my Light is Spent, I accepted my recovery from cancer as God’s grace. This is reflected in the poem “What Gods there were”. Won’t you call it a grace of God, Linda?

Linda: Yes, sir, I agree. Many of your poems are published with photographs or works of art. I think this beautiful. I particularly enjoyed “A Mother’s Advice” and “Radha Krishna.” Did the pictures inspire these poems?

RM: No, it is not so. It is the other way round. It is the editors of the magazines who add the pictures in relation to the themes of my poems, particularly, www.sonatapub.com, http://www.kavitanjali.com/newpoets/ram.htm, and http://www.indianest.com/poetry/index.htm. I have never sent any picture of my own till today.

Linda: Thank you, Dr. Ram, for the links. Your poetry has been showcased beautifully, and I know you feel honored. What other resources do you use for inspiration?

RM: I have already spoken of my sources of inspiration in the question in “Who are your favourite poets? To me poems are not only emotions, but they are also experiences. I have been, in a sense, a globe-trotter since 1997 and I observe things, people etc. The title of my third book of poems published is “The Roamings”. I write when the emotions and experiences are recollected in tranquility.

Linda: Please tell us about this picture (below), and its relevance to “Invocation to Mount Purandhar”.



RM: The poem is a pure example of Wordsworth theory of “emotions recollected in tranquility”. Fort Purandhar is situated near Mumbai, India. There is a National Cadet Corps, a voluntary organization which recruits cadets from high schools and colleges. A high school or college teacher is sent to be commissioned as NCC Officer and I had been selected as one to be commissioned at Purandhar. Most of the trainees are married and they do miss their women. When they look at the top of the two hills, they call it Begum Para breasts. (Begum Para was a famous Indian actress then).

Linda: Dr. Ram, I understand that Dwarka is your hometown. Is this Dwarka the same sacred place in India that is considered in Hindu Mythology as the birthplace of Lord Krishna?

RM: Yes, you are right. My hometown Dwarka is one of the holiest cities in Hinduism and one of the four major prilgrimage centres of India. The temple houses the Lord Dwarkadhish a form of Lord Krishna.It is not the birthplace of Lord Krishna. The legend says that Lord Krishna renounced war in Mathura (North India) for the greater good and founded (and settled in) Dwarka. It is believed that, due to damage and destruction by the sea, the city of Dwarka has submerged six times and the current city is the 7th city of Dwarka.

Linda: I understand that the university where you taught for so many years is a noted center for learning in Gujarat, India. Can you tell us briefly about the most important three freedom fighters in India?

RM: The University is named after one of the great freedom fighters Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as Sardar Patel University. Sardar Patel’s most immediate concern during the pre-indendence period was consolidation of the Indian princely states into the Union of India, which he accomplished bloodlessly except in the case of Hyderabad where he sent the army. His contribution to the unification of India made him known as the Iron Man of India.

The other is Mahatma Gandhi and I think, he needs no introduction. Accidentally his birth place is only 80 KMS from Dwarka. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948) called Mahatma Gandhi, was the charismatic leader who brought the cause of India's independence from British colonial rule to world attention. His philosophy of non-violence, for which he coined the term satyagraha, has influenced both nationalist and international movements for peaceful change.

The third is Subhaschandra Bose. Like Mahatma Gandhi, his aim was to free India from the British rule but unlike Mahatma Gandhi his means were different. He raised a private army with the help of Japan to fight with the British during the Second World War. I have written a poem on him for my intended visit to Taiwan to attend the World Congress of poets in 2003. It is said he breathed his last in Taipei, Taiwan in an air-crash on his way to Japan.

I love Mahatma Gandhi but like Bose.

Linda: I find all of this extremely interesting, and I can’t help but wonder if your environment contributed to your poetic nature. Do you agree?

RM: Yes, I do agree.

Linda: Dr. Ram, do you believe a writer is born or made? In other words, is the writer’s desire/ability to write born within them, or do circumstances force a person to express himself or herself through art?

RM: It is the either way. We have the examples of both the types – John Keats was a poet born and Lord Alfred Tennyson was a poet made.

Linda: “John Keats was a poet born and Lord Alfred Tennyson was a poet made”, that’s beautiful, Dr. Ram. I see a poem in the making. Thank you for your time and for contributing to our forums.

RM: Thank you very much.

__________________________________________

Following this interview, I thought of two other questions. Here are Dr. Ram’s replies.

Hi Linda,

With pleasure I send you the answers to your two questions. I used to do enough homework before going the class and you have made feel it again since my retirement in 1994. I am really getting refreshed by your questions.


Linda: In the movie Pandemonium , it was suggested that Wordsworth stole one of Coleridge’s poems. Is there any truth to this?

RM: The world literature abounds in gossips, rumours and heresies. The world of the media is quite glamorous and different from the world of literature. Many factors influence the making of a movie so as to make it exciting, startling, hot etc. and the movie Pandemonium cannot be an exception.

It was quite an unusual phenomenon of “co-writing” of Wordsworth and Coleridge and that might have given birth to the stealing story. It was an utter failure (The poem-The Wanderings of Cain and the fight over the poem Kublakhan between the two poets), but the thoughts of one would inevitably find their way into the verse of the other. I have never indulged into this type of stories during my teaching days nor do I have the intention of doing so now.

As early as 1955 or around, Calvin Hoffman wrote a book (on Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare authorship) entitled – The murder of “the man who was Shakespeare” – a book becoming favourite with Marlowian circles but presently, I am informed, the book is out of print. For example, take the Hamletian dilemma about the son-mother relationship. One of the authentic critics of Shakespeare, Wilson said “We should not dig so deep that the point of the axe reaches the other side of the story”

To sum up I would like to quote: “Madame, Critics are legless men who teach others how to walk”.

Linda: Can you tell us briefly about the Lucy poems?

RM: William and Dorothy Wordsworth were the closest of siblings, and some writers have suggested an incestuous subtext for their relationship. In particular, the "Lucy" poems have been described as an attempt by Wordsworth to "kill" his improper feelings for his sister. Eventually Mary and Dorothy would become quite close.

The Lucy poems deal with the life, love, and death of the infamous Lucy, Three of the Lucy poems seem to discuss the author’s (fictional?) relationship with the woman, while the other provided with an explanation as to where the inspiration for the character of Lucy came from.

Please feel free to ask more questions if you feel like it.

Linda: And once again, Dr. Ram, I would like to thank you for your time and for your contributions to The Writers Voice.
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DaveR
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2005 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dr. Ram thank you for participating in this interview with Linda.

Referring to the following exchange:

<<Linda: Dr. Ram, do you believe a writer is born or made? In other words, is the writer’s desire/ability to write born within them, or do circumstances force a person to express himself or herself through art?

RM: It is the either way. We have the examples of both the types – John Keats was a poet born and Lord Alfred Tennyson was a poet made.>>

would you consider yourself a poet born, or a poet made?
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rammehta
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2005 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DaveR,

I am still the poet in the making. I won't consider myself a poet born. I am world away from that. I have been a student of literature for 50 years including 35 years of teaching. What I taught for those years,
I am putting it into practice experimenting at the same time.
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Linda
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 6:38 am    Post subject: Re: Interview with Dr. Ram(niklal) Mehta Reply with quote

RM wrote:
RM: I am quite happy about the current trends of Internet publishing as a professor and literary scholar. But I am quite skeptical about the new literature particularly poetry being published on the net.


Can you offer advice to new poets who are struggling to find their voice, not to mention their place today? I noticed some of the links we submitted in the interview were not working correctly, so I went in this morning and fixed them. As seen in those links, your poetry is showcased beautifully. However, for young poets there are obviously no proven landmarks (as yet) in this massive method of publishing. Where do they begin?
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rammehta
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 7:29 pm    Post subject: The Hourse's mouth Reply with quote

Hi Linda,

Here is my favourite quote from Shakespeare"s Hamlet

" Suit action to the word and word to the action " Of course the advice was to the group of actors but I feel it applies to the writing of poetry as well. A good poet always says more in less.

A poet ought to be in physical touch with the words. Please allow me to quote my own poem:

A poet in search of a poem

A poem sleeps in my body
In an upright state,
And you come into me.

In the broadway of my heart
I think about you in the heavy traffic
I lay bare my desire.

I search your body
A vowel, a consonant, a simile.
To find a single- syllable-title.

I breathe only in your mouth
With the words I have in my mind
To compose a poem.

I whisper into your ears
To hear the echoes of the words
To feel the sound effect.

With overflowing ideas in my head
I touch your curved lips
To get my poem mould.

Deep in the vault of your mouth
I feel my poem & hear it
In the firmament of my heaven.
========================

Ram
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cristina valle
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 9:42 am    Post subject: i want to contact poets from other countries Reply with quote

hi
i am from buenos aires argentina
i read rams news and i feel so good whith the diffussion of poets
i am a poet and do many things in the name of poetry
i also paint
i am in
geoogle
whith my name u have acceess
maria cristina valle
u can find my art in
www.placasdeartistas.com.ar
i can send u my images of my paints too

i ll send a poem for u
i will feel glad to speek in this forum to liberty my words

thanks very much
congratulacion for this forum

love from
cristina valle

(((Poem Removed)))
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Linda
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dr. Ram, you have certainly provided a good example of less is more, and I agree with that philosophy regarding poetry. However, going back to a previous part of the interview where I quoted the American Poet and critic Dana Gioia to say: [poetry] must be liberated from the bureaucracy of academia.

How do you feel about this? Do you agree? If so or if not, how can we help younger poets who have not had the benefit of studying? I see them struggling desperately, trying to find their voice and their place in the hundreds of thousands of byways and dirt roads branching out from the information highway? Do we tell them to read? Where do they begin? Personally, I don’t know (if they have not studied literature or poetics) that they will be able to relate to the classics. And, supplying our own efforts to duplicate the classics is a little too much for them.

So, what do we tell them? What do they read? Where do they begin? In my opinion the only difference between a bad poem written by an educated person and a bad poem written by one less educated is that the less educated poet will likely improve with education. As a scholar, and teacher, how do you feel we can best help them to improve?
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Last edited by Linda on Wed Jul 13, 2005 10:06 am; edited 2 times in total
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Linda
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 10:04 am    Post subject: Re: i want to contact poets from other countries Reply with quote

Hi Cristina,

Welcome to the Writer's Voice. Please browse the forums and, if you like, send your poetry for review. I think there is a link on the home page for submissions. And please join us Cristina, in the feedback forum. I look forward to reading your work and seeing more of your warm and friendly post! Welcome again!!! Smile

Linda
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-- Dylan Thomas
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 6:51 pm    Post subject: Submitting Poetry Reply with quote

Cristina, there is also a link for submitting your poetry at the bottom of this page. Click on Submission Guidelines. Clive will post your poem on the Most Recently Posted forum on the Forum Page. Welcome to the Writers-Voice.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2005 4:57 pm    Post subject: excellent Reply with quote

Linda and Ram,

A most excellent interview session. I appreciate the effort you both put into this!!

And Linda, how great that you would come up with two more questions once the initial interview was done! Laughing

Ram, you are quite gracious and I look forward to having a look at more of your work.

Sincerely,

Danny
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 4:56 am    Post subject: The Horse's Mouth Reply with quote

Hi Linda,

I do appreciate your concern about the modern trend of poetry and some of our young friends going wayward. I do appreciate Dana Gioia’s concern as well.

I quote from Interpoetry Board Community: “When Dana Gioia's essay "Can Poetry Matter?" appeared in the Atlantic in 1991, it sparked a firestorm of debate and discussion over the role of the poet in today's world –is an old-fashioned sort of literary book, part literary criticism, part social commentary, and part plain good reading”.

The two debates are really the same debate--the cooked versus the raw, the aesthete versus the shaggy bard: Each new poetic generation finds a way to keep these controversies in place. There is a good market (sorry to use the world “market”) for poetry and creative writing among the students and I think, it has gone beyond the reach of all of us.

To write poems is not subject to any recipe nor is it like pouring words into a form. It is not juggling of words. Poetry is many things more. “There are more stars in heaven than we could think of, Horatio”.
The world literature is full of examples wherein poets were hardly educated i.e. Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, the Indian Sanskrit poet Kalidas etc. “Poetry and higher education have as much in common as quantum physics has with bird-watching or stamp-collecting”. If universities are to uphold their image of institutions that push back the borders of the real and imaginary worlds, then more and more of them will need to utilize the skills and inputs of resident poets to make the study of literature and the literary recording of human experience enjoyable pursuits worthy of the time and effort they impose."
There are only so many themes but there are only a couple of things to write about. A poet becomes original when he or she has developed mannerisms or language that makes an old idea seem fresh again. We have a good example of Wole Soyinka. After the outbreak of civil war in Nigeria in 1967, [Wole] Soyinka tried to negotiate a cease-fire with the Ibo secessionists. The government accused him of conspiring with the rebels and detained him, without trial, at the notorious Kaduna prison in northern Nigeria where he spent two years in solitary confinement.

He wrote extensively--mostly with homemade ink on toilet paper--during his incarceration.
Against the above, here is another example. I don’t know whether it is good or bad or what.
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
It is a note written by a husband. Is it poetry? Of course, there is a hint of guilt and apology by the husband.
Does it provide a good hearing? Poetry is sounds. Do we hear any sound or rhythms in it?.
Or
this couplet
Your thighs are apple trees
Whose blossoms touch the sky
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rammehta
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 4:59 am    Post subject: The Horse's Mouth Reply with quote

Hi Cristina,

Thank you for sharing the interview and the discussion. Welcome to the forum. I shall be waiting for your poems.
Ram
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 5:02 am    Post subject: The Horse's Mouth Reply with quote

Hi Kneip,
Thank you for the appreciation of the interview and personal compliments.
Ram
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Linda
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2005 7:01 am    Post subject: Re: The Horse's Mouth Reply with quote

rammehta wrote:
...The world literature is full of examples wherein poets were hardly educated i.e. Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, the Indian Sanskrit poet Kalidas etc. ...


...not to mention one of my favorites...Emily Dickenson. Although I think she may have had one year (or one semester, I can't remember) of higher education. Dr. Ram, you've answered all of my questions, and I've enjoyed every moment of the interview. Thank you again for your contribution. I look forward to future discussions, poetry and feedback.


rammehta wrote:
...
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

It is a note written by a husband. Is it poetry? Of course, there is a hint of guilt and apology by the husband.
Does it provide a good hearing? Poetry is sounds. Do we hear any sound or rhythms in it?.

Or
this couplet
Your thighs are apple trees
Whose blossoms touch the sky


I will say that of the poems provided above, my favorite is cold sweet plums. While the second one reminds me of the Songs of Solomon, for the life of me, I can't imagine any woman being flattered by the fact that her thighs reminded someone of trees! Confused
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Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
-- Dylan Thomas
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Lucy,

I ,too, enjoyed talking to you and other friends. With pleasure I shall contribute,discuss and feedback. Thank you for all the troubles you have taken.
Ram
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems that we are ready for a new Interview. Any member of the Writers Voice may interview a person related to the field of writing, then post the interview on this forum.
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rammehta
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 8:31 pm    Post subject: Yes, it will be a pleasure Reply with quote

Dear Guest,

Thank you for your comment. Please let me know details about it. I shall be away from my Computor from 20th August'06 to 15th September as I shall be attending the World Congress of Poets in Mongolia.

Dr. Ram Mehta
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 6:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is good to hear from you. Perfect, Dr. Ram Mehta. Perhaps while you are attending the World Congress of Poets you will spread the word about the Writers Voice and at the same time do an interview of one of the other poets for the Horse's Mouth.

DaveR
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 4:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the amazing post,
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