has a new look

Go to the new

 Marie Lecrivain reviews Bangalore Blue by Terry Kennedy


published by Split Shift




buy the book



A poet and journalist in living in exile in India (self-instigated), Terry Kennedy's new collection Bangalore Blue (2005 A Split Shift Book) has been professed by publisher Roger Taus as "Verse written at the level at which Sappho wrote." Not so!  Sappho and Kennedy wax passionate, but the basic elements that define Sappho's poetry are lacking in Bangalore.     


I take exception to the above statement because it's unjustified. Most of Sappho's fragmented poetry seizes the reader with diamond-hard veracity, acutely painful longing, and provocative imagery. By contrast, Kennedy's poetry is contemplative, more sorrowful than sad, and languid in tone. Both poets engage in powerful dialogue, but their styles are worlds, and eons apart. For example, Sappho's poem "Lament for a maidenhead" (#34)*:


First voice:


Like a quince-apple

ripening on a top branch

of a tree top


not once noticed by

harvesters or if

not unnoticed, not reached


Second Voice:


Like a hyacinth in

the mountains, trampled

by shepherds until

only a painful stain

remains on the ground.


Though this recounting, Sappho has thrust the reader right into the heart of that moment; a rape of innocence, the violent transition from a vessel of purity to an object of derision. Which, as I said, is not in the same league when compared to Kennedy's "My Heart is a Sparrow":


You are not here again-

again my bed is empty

and my heart is a sparrow

too weak to fly,

too dazed to look for food.

In the beginning of our love,

you walked through storms,

your ankles sinking in mud,

you faced the tigers and the cruelty

of villagers just to see my face.

After I gave you my kisses

and my body, white as plumeria

you said you would never leave me-

"How can I go away for 30 days,"

you once joked, "I can't be parted

for more than 30 hours."

Now you are far away from my arms

and my tears cannot sway you,

for you are no longer here to dry them.

I want to die,

but my heart is a sparrow

too paralyzed to move.


Kennedy takes her time: lingering thoughts on those early days of love; distant, mounting feelings of anger and self-loathing; and finally as a coupe de grace, leaves the reader mired in apathy as the narrator acknowledges that escape into death is too difficult. This work is certainly not on the same level of that ancient mystical poet and proto-feminist.


However, Bangalore is an enjoyable collection that paints a seductive and colorful portrait of love, life and longing in a region of India that is fast becoming known as the new "Silicon Valley." From "4:40 AM" in where monsoon rains pour down/swallowing me up into/ the belly of despair, to "Tibetan Refugee Café" where a picture of the Dali Lama/is nailed above the cash counter./Flies roam around the  rim/of my table- they too search /for the nectar of life, to "Soon the Torrents Will Come" where the poet ponders When will You acknowledge this yearning?/Monsoon winds lift up the feathers of doves/and grains of sand bite my ankles/as I hurry deeper into darkening shadows. Kennedy's observations have revealed, and at the same time preserved a side of Bangalore that is timeless in spirit, and inspiring enough for someone to pack a suitcase and catch the next plane t o India.


It's more charitable to say that Kennedy is writing in the spirit of Sappho; much of her and Sappho's inspiration comes from the same source. I'm not saying "don't buy this book," but I'm saying such comparisons are a shabby and unnecessary way to entice someone to read poetry. So, buy the book, and enjoy Bangalore for what it is: a modern treatise of gentle and attractive melancholy that can stand on its own.



* (Sappho: A New Translation, Mary Barnard, copyright 1958, 1984, University of California Press, 114 pages, ISBN 0-520-01117-1)





- review by Marie Lecrivain, executive editor of poeticdiversity







[back to top]  [home]

© 2006 SubtleTea Productions   All Rights Reserved