Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 23 February 2009

  • The pandanus

    hunkered by the beach wall daubed
    with the Disney B-list
    leached by constant sun - its dusky

    loopholes carven of necessity -
    overachieves like Caliban,
    its trunk a shivalingam

    propped, not understood by this
    freakishly-enlarged birdcage
    of roots with no bird

    trapped in it - a listening structure
    taps Ariel’s vein with feedback
    loops outpacing their own shadows

    on the sand, those tiger stripes
    crab-strafed with bulletholes
    glazed over by high tide.

    Aerial roots extrude
    their twilight slowly - the Colombo skyline’s
    emergent dot dot dot of light

    picks out floating green coconuts
    arivarl-halved and cursed
    with grave-ash, prayer-beads, menses.

    Each mist-wall the sea throws up
    is capons to the pandanus who knows
    the air is crammed with glittering données.


    by Vidyan Ravinthiran

    from at home or nowhere (2008)

    "This poem is about visiting Sri Lanka, where my family's from, though I was born here in Leeds. There's a kind of tree there called the pandanus which roots itself in tropical areas, or on the beach, and it's got aerial roots so it can survive by taking its necessary moisture from the air, not the earth. Those ‘aerial roots' provided me with a way of talking about my background, or lack thereof, in Sri Lanka. It's also one of my most helplessly academic poems, and I'm not ashamed of that - with its token allusion to Caliban, its bits and bobs of Shakespeare, an embedded phrase of Marvell's. I'd like to say I didn't do all this deliberately - I've never wanted to write blatantly self-regarding and ‘difficult' poetry - but it's really an expression of who I am, of what I felt as I looked at the tree. To pretend to some kind of more stripped-down authenticity would be false. I didn't want this poem to be a workshop-type thing, streamlined and unembarrassable."

    Vidyan Ravinthiran was born in Leeds and studies in Oxford where he serves as Poetry Editor of the Oxonian Review. His pamphlet at home or nowhere is published by tall-lighthouse in their pilot series, which is under the editorial guidance of Roddy Lumsden.

    tall-lighthouse was founded in 2000. It publishes full collections, pamphlets, chapbooks and anthologies of poetry, and organises poetry readings & events in and around London and South East & South West England, as well as facilitating writing workshops in conjunction with Arts, Education, Library & Community Services.