Response Poetry

We called poets to write us “Response Poems”

We asked them to recall any favorite poem that spoke to them or inspired them or was a companion to them when no one else is. Then we asked if they ever have written a response to it in the form of a poem. If they had, we invited them to send it to us. If they had not ever done so, we asked them to try their hand at writing a response poem. For an example of what response poetry is, we asked them to look at this link from the Asian American Writers Workshop.

The result is before you.

You Are Still Here

This poem is a response to Amrita Pritam’s poem “main tenu phir milangi”/ “I’ll meet you yet again.”

Tikulli Dogra

Seasons shift
The cycle continues
Delicate harshingar blossoms
Fall like fragrant stars
I gather them gently
As my heart fills with you
Your presence radiating
From the source of our love
Your heart opens up to me
The fiery centre of a flower
I catch your familiar scent
As you draw near
It seems that you’re with me
The breeze murmurs
“I’ll meet you yet again,
When, how I don’t know.”
Your words touch my skin
Unforgotten words
Words that I remember well
I know you are here
I listen to your breathing
I see dust-motes dancing
Iridescent daydreams in the sun
The morning sky is a canvas
Words shimmer in the light
Whispering your promise
“I’ll meet you yet again,
When, how I don’t know.”
But dear Amrita
You were never gone
You never left this place
Your presence echoes all around
Fragile flesh perishes
But love is strong
It outlasts the brevity of life
It changes form… it endures
My life is a palimpsest
Layers of memory
Absent yet strangely there
Graffiti waiting for the ink to dry
Then existence shifts
In some other time and space
“I’ll meet you yet again,
When, how I don’t know.”

Tikulli is a poet, blogger, and author of the recently published book of poems ‘Wayfaring’ which has been released to critical acclaim.

After reading ‘A Pastoral’

This poem is a response to Agha Shahid Ali’s A Pastoral

Huzaifa pandit

Great was our desire indeed,
you keep the pretence of forged promises with borrowed gods, and dead poets.
Great was our desire indeed,
you rewrite their burnt warrior-poems, read them to their redeemed idols,
and mediate their lost wars.
Great was our desire indeed,
you dig from our swollen lips the snippets of silence, and comfort them
with leaking canzones in elegiac rhyme schemes.
We wanted a timeless elegy like the one by Inshaji
to be commanded to exile from the city of your unwritten poems,
to be reminded that mystics have little use for bleeding streets,
savages little love for contentment. We wanted to be reminded
in the cursed voice of dead three generations
the tattered heart can strangle indifference no longer. The rent moon
has sunk in our skies too
and the doors to undug graves are bolted too.
Great was our desire indeed,
you will supply the pretext we could offer for offering acid rains
at shrines of our memory.
We too
wished someone to weep over us
when the now dead singer
tears over his dead father who sung it at his hurried funeral. We wish to hoard
the splinters of our spare years in a forged century. Great was our desire indeed
to accompany you at the hurried dastarkhwan of death. We yearned to sing
Rasul Mir, the mallet struck against crumpled kisses on cold lips:
Indeed, I will die from your separation, I will die
You leave me bereft, what will aid me? my longing will testify
I will die surely.
We too
wished to snuff out the eclipsed moons
of all teary faces, dupe every barricaded direction, give the slip
to each policed road and go nowhere.
What comes of these wishes? They doze with apparitions of Ghalib
on afternoons, ashen mouths open, on anaemic curfews, and read shairi
published by Autumn’s Red Death Press in you Villa of Peace:
Love demands patience, desire all impatience
How should I colour the conduct of the heart
till it turns the blood of liver?
A sigh demands a lifetime to register an effect
I will die, surely. Hurried graves are all impatience.

Huzaifa Pandit recently published his first book of poems – Green is the Colour of Memory which won the inaugural edition of Rhythm Divine Poets Chapbook Competition. He is pursuing a Phd on Resistance Poetry from University of Kashmir.


This poem is a response to the decline of the traditional architecture in Kolkata, as the city transforms into a behemoth of concrete. 

Suvasree Karanjai

The tarnished wooden door
opens to a timeless clock,
dipped in a pool of dust,
on a shabby, grimy wall.
The short hand
stuck eternally between
two and three;
the long cannot run
and is dead before it could reach
the sombre and silent six,
sighed in relief, however,
while passing the bitchy look
of the seductive five.
Dry damp walls tell stories
of lives past, of gossips and giggles,
of those domestic violence that
tore the lives apart –
people now live in photo frames,
hanging high in black and white,
on whom archives of dust
have accumulated over the years.
Memories are now fossils:
Rough and tough, broken and bony,
music doesn’t flow anymore.
The window gazes at the open door,
as if the lady in waiting
has met her lost lover
after long, long decades –
grey hair, wrinkles on her face,
nothing is same, except the eyes that stare
still stare…
Suddenly the room seems to whisper –
whisper words incoherent, disjointed
disorderly and muddled
to mankind but them;
time seems to move, pace to and fro
across borders of past and present,
like children of heaven,
like lovers in Eden.
and the silence breaks to a roar
of laughter, of giggle,
of dialogues and powwow,
a cacophony of rupture.
Tick, tick, tick…
The second hand crosses the line.
After ages, after several lives,
the lustrous moon stealthily creeps in.
I come to the threshold,
I gasp a sigh of relief,
I leave the room in silent back steps,
unheard, unnoticed,
unrealized –
but dare not close the door.
Let it be open.
Let it be open to the eternity,
to time immemorial…
Who am I to close it?

The Fly

This poem ‘is a response to reading Donne’s The Flea and such traditions of the insects as instruments of erotic interactions

The fly touched my breast,
But didn’t dare to look at the face
Fearing the eyes that stared at it and
relentlessly kept at the gunpoint.
It traversed my brown nips,
Investigating each tiny pore on them,
But didn’t have the nerve to squeeze –
Just sucked them dry, as dry as
the flower I kept on your breast ages back.
And with a faint smile you called me sly.
You kissed the red dot on my belly
Touched it over and over again
While my face submerged in the smoke
Fire burning the fossil of desires within;
Desires of decades past
Of traces of love I don’t retain anymore –
I don’t remember when I lost you
Or, if you were ever lost from me.
Everything seems still due.
The fly slipped a little down to my navel
To reach the black dot you loved,
and kiss every time we made love –
But it stopped at a halt:
My brows came closer,
The fly fled hurriedly without looking behind,
To another body,
Repelled and awed.
It Left me in the smoke.
As you left me , that night, all all alone.

Suvasree Karanjai is a pursuing a PhD from University of North Bengal, besides teaching English at a college. Her creative pursuits including writing and photography.

Hiroshima mon Babri

This poem is a response to an image of a clock shop that was located about 620 meters from the location where the atomic bomb was dropped. 

Lina Krishnan

August sixth and 6th December
Live only in the recesses
Of troubled memory
How did they wake
Those days?
Was it a rainy morning
Before the bomb shower?
Did the sun light up
The ancient domes
Before the pickaxes came?
These questions do no good
“Sometimes we have to avoid
thinking about the problems
life presents. Otherwise
we’d suffocate”
Yet, today, they bind us
In one universe
Of responsibility
The fifth and the 5th, they
Must have been happy days

Lina Krishnan is an artist and writer. Her poetry and abstract art emerge from a reflective engagement with the troubling questions of the many worlds she inhabits. Her work has traversed grassroots research, journalism, advertising, documentary films and programme work in the UN. She also does occasional art workshops with rural children.

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