Guest poem sent in by gauri keshavan
from the tamil anthology "Kuruntokai" translated by a.k.ramanujan, in "The Interior Landscape: Love Poems from a Classical Tamil Anthology". Cempulappeyanirar wrote about 2000 years ago, a Sangam age poet. In Tamil literary tradition many works remained anonymous and there is the practice of identifying a poet by a phrase or word from his work. So "cempulapeyanirar" literally means 'the poet of red earth and pouring rain'. The metaphor 'red earth and pouring rain' beautifully evokes union in love. It also connects to the geographical context, since Tamil Nadu is the land of red soil..though the smell of the first rain has been synonymous with images of love and longing in various Indian language literature, lines like these remind us that it's not all the same thing, because each soil has its own different perfume, quite unforgettable for the native. I read Vikram Chandra's amazing first novel 'Red Earth and Pouring Rain' a few years ago and had mentally applauded the author for coming up with such a beautiful title! Interestingly, Chandra's publishers did not include the acknowledgement. Anyway, that line has been haunting me long before I accidentally discovered the poem on a website featuring London Tube poetry. It simply is the best love poem I have ever come across. gauri.