Do You See?

Of Calm and Flight: “let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves”

How does one talk about calm? Not the quiet, muted, rarefied kind of calm. But the ebullient, impatient, thick-with-thoughts kind. Yes, there’s this calm. This tranquility that can shake your core because you know it is not a peace-giver. And no poet can claim to be a peace-maker. Then, not everyone sees it.  Probably that’s why it’s never easy to convey it in a conversation. After all, conversations operate along defined vectors. Unlike poetry. It’s only in poetry that you can fill up the void of ellipsis. Thank heavens for poetry then.

A good lesson for writers.

Walking about in the evenings here in Stirling has become an exhilarating exercise. Not because I feel it’s a sporty thing to do, but because it makes me think a lot about what I read or write these days — poetry or fiction — and also, a little about what I say. Conversations? Well, that too.

In tonight’s reading, I see my current landscape (I mean a spatio-temporal thing, not just geese and sky and water), the stormy calm, and my place in “the family of things”.

Do you?


“Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees, 
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, 
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination, 
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.


What a flight. What turbulent calm. “You only have to let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves.”


Swans’ no-swim day on Stirling campus.


Journalist Subir Ghosh had interviewed me along with a few others some months ago. Got someone’s message today about it, lauding my emphasis, basically a quote, on the need for literary criticism (“Unless a balanc        ed, critical and comparative tradition of lit critique is developed and is widespread in discussing literature, I won’t say anything has ‘come of age’.”). Duh! I’d forgotten about it. Looks like people can access the news item HERE.


5 comments on “Of Calm and Flight: “let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves”

  1. Mihir Vatsa
    May 30, 2012

    To the interview.

  2. Do You See
    May 30, 2012

    Hey Vatsa, that’s just a teeny news item. Just because someone brought it to my notice again… Read the poem!

    And how are the exams going? BTW do you know the creative writing fac in A Uni? I saw your post a while ago…

    • Mihir Vatsa
      May 30, 2012

      Read the poem. Read the interview.

      Faculty at AUD? Not yet. AUD hires faculty from all the universities in India on contract-basis, I think. Dr. Shivaji Panikkar is the head. That I see.

      Exams are going fine. I have another one in 6 hours. 🙂

  3. Do You See
    May 30, 2012

    Dr. Panikkar? I’ve been writing to him about other stuff. Hmm, let’s see if he wants to talk about creative writing teaching with me… 🙂

    Exam? And I see you again on fb! Is it because of those girlfriends whose pics you flaunt? Kidding. Best of luck, MV. Do well. I know you will.

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This entry was posted on May 30, 2012 by in lit critique, Mary Oliver, Nabina Das, poetry, Stirling, Wild Geese.
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