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Half and One & Flight of Words

Shillong, Oct 22:  Half and One, a forum that provides audio and visual content, recently organised a poetry video contest.


The winner was American poet Jo Lamm for her poem Black Man In A Hoodie.

Jo Lamm

The event held at Marriott Hotel in the city on October 11 was witnessed by creative personalities.

Neil Wallang, Operations Manager of Half and One, its creative head Babatdor Dkhar and Arts and Culture Minister Paul Lyngdoh spoke on the occasion.

The event included reading out of poetry by the participants, screening of videos from the final 6 shortlisted poets (International) and
distribution of certificates to shortlisted Indian poets.

The poets who read out the poems are Mahima Sinha – Red, Vile, Womb is a Woman,  Marbamonlang Rani – Love (Bam Kwai ha Dwar U Blei), Riniki Chakravarty Marwein – Cherrapunji, Eleanor Swer – Reverie and Dr. Judita Syiemlieh – Vantage .

Prize winning poem by Jo Lamm

black man in a hoodie

my head is shaved

my build tall and broad

my skin dark.

walking down the streets of minneapolis

i wear a hoodie.

look people straight in the eye,

some armed with white skin

and shady eyes that hint of fear.

i watch as he crosses the street to avoid me or

she clutch her bags tighter to her body.

pale men puff up their chests

like wild animals preparing for battle and hold

their heads high

yet create space between us and look away as we pass

not daring to make eye contact.

police officers drive by

slow their car…

perceiving threat,

black man in a hoodie.

as if by the nature of my pigmentation and my casual attire

i’m concealing drugs or leaving the scene of a crime

carrying a gun.

who is carrying the gun?

who is in danger of being shot?

these officers assuming that

i am trying to conceal or hide my guilt

under my hoodie…

kinda like

the kkk cowards

reeking of shame,

hiding their identities beneath

white ghost hoods at the site of a rally or a lynching,

revealing only beady cowardly eyes.

nah, it ain’t that complicated.

i have nothing to hide

i have no shame

i wear my hoodie

’cause it’s damn cold in minneapolis.

my brothers and sisters,

we wear hoodies to represent who we are, and

what we are not.

we are proud

we will not give in

and take off our hoodies

to make someone

else feel more comfortable

or safe.

i am not responsible for your bias or assumptions

or threat misperception.

acknowledge your ignorance and educate yourself.

look into my eyes and see if there is actual threat.

say hello to me and allow me to greet you with a genuine smile,

wish you a pleasant day.

i am not a threat

i am not a hater

i just want to be a free man on the street and wear

my hoodie in peace.

Love (Bam Kwai ha Dwar U Blei) by Marbamonlang Rani 

In a small village where the sun shone on both sides,

and the sky was the only sea we knew,

I gave birth to my first child.

The hearth was warm, the dishes kept piling;

we’re running out of mula said uncle,

quick! the guests keep coming.

Take mine said aunty

as she squatted on the floor instead.

When the waft of pudoh melted into celebration,

the kids drooled.

The milk in the tea was as thick as my joy,

which, first of its kind

was served hot in my hut.

Grandfather had just picked a stout Ïar Ryngkuh

for dinner, while the neighbours’ rooms

were inhabited with the pungent smell of Tungrymbai.

When the clan had gathered

to name this nameless child,

they named it Love,

born beautiful but blind.

Love grew up to be kind,

inviting unknown guests to supper but

love was robbed each time.

When it gave its Jaiñkup to the cold,

they left it naked,

when it sung, they slit its throat,

when it fed the hungry, it was bitten

and although gifts were given, they were stolen

because after all,

Love was blind.

But that didn’t matter because love was kind.

When Love had loved well,

it was buried.

That day,

the rain had wet somebody’s clothes that almost dried,

the sun wasn’t shining on either side,

the women pasted lime on betel leaves for Kwai,

the children stopped playing La dikut u sai tyllai

(as if they knew the thread that bound mine had been detached).

That day,

the hen was spared but the pig was slaughtered,

the dog howled and the cat curled

beneath the bed where Love rested.

I sat on the floor mourning until my eyes swelled.

They fed me pumpkin (which I didn’t like)

and plain rice, then followed young girls

who’d been off ering red tea for the hundredth time.

For three days and three nights,

the doors were left open

for Love’s soul to fly to heaven,

but when the soot from the rice-pots had been cleaned,

and the curtains washed,

when service was over

and the coffin had been laid, even then

Grief stayed

Reverie by Eleanor Swer

Always had been more influenced by fear

Always had been more captious & powerless

Full of trepidation & consternation

Dodged confidence scattered & broken.

Dissembling to be some other original,

Not freely acknowledging what’s really true,

Jealousy over someone else’s destination

While purposely blocking one’s own view.

Perfecting stagnation over the years

Fabricating trust issues with the self

Underestimating chances & the values of a risk

Hesitancy- the only thing preached & practiced.

Love at first sight but no action towards it

Only replaced by the abstract scenes

For there was just no acceptance of loss whatsoever

So instead turning into a ignorant pretender.

Love at first sight but no action towards it

Only replaced by the abstract scenes

For there was just no acceptance of loss whatsoever

So instead turning into an ignorant pretender.

Bitter thoughts of retort and response

Only because of lack of prediction?

Only because of mindless navigation?

Only because of thoughts of destruction.

Now a weak man, not able to start over For time is not really anyone’s best friend Losing himself in thought; his only sanctuary Helplessly lost in imagination and agony.

Realising he did not know best at the end

Never gave it all to the world; to himself Never lived boldly through his whole lifetime He owns a guilt-structured mind like having committed a crime.

This delicate world where he owns a part in

Never has been a good story to tell.

Living with constrictions, unhappy & blind.

All driven by a pure cynical mind.

Cherrapunji by Riniki Chakravarty Marwein 

wound down window

framed our silly faces,

our petite fingers scooping

fog into our borrowed car,

far from how those bigger

boys after school threw

a couple of albino butterflies

into a sun-hot jar,

their cruel hands versus ours:

little and gentle, only shaping

to cup some of the veiled

atmosphere, we pursued it

fiercely but it gave us none, it

wouldn’t be seized by eight

year olds, we didn’t

give up till a flattened tyre made

us knit our scant

brows, we jumped out in a little

queue, and while

our adults sorted out the

car mess we shifted our

bodies to the roadside’s

edge, dropped our heads to

meet tops and ends of

lush greens, our sight

seeing interrupted by my aunt

yelling her cry towards us, pulling

our slight arms back to our half

-fixed car, packing us in with

her awkward quick flapping

hands in rhythm with her


be careful, those fog-

monsters, their spectres

their thrill  is to pluck children

to phantom them

aunt’s swift tongue was

shaping her into an anti-hero,

we jerked at her rod-like

arm crossing over our already

shaken looks to wind

up the window, turning us into

giant skinny butterflies shut in a

borrowed car. we kept

wheeling till we got

slowed down by a roadkill. the still

thing looked like curled

clay, pink blood spotting it like roses

over a little grave, it made us quiet

as a prayer;

it’s done paying its last life’s sins,


our little kidnapping mood, but

not the air, uncle

sped like in a chase, like

our tyres killed

that rural dog, like the fog

thought it was its kinder. it grew

thicker like an avenger

aunt was noiseless till

we finally hacked into

the greyed noon and saw

hints of her familiar place, where

she softly belled

we have reached

the caves, thank you

sweet Jesus.

Red, vile, womb is a woman by Mahima Sinha

For aeons and stories told,

a woman brings upon life; epics; wars; deaths.

Women, celebrated.

Women, burned underneath the pyre of men, for men.

I will speak of three women.

The Red. The Vile. The Womb.

Red, this woman, is one among the women in Pahalgam.

Women in Pahalgam

drape sarees of silk

around their waists,

every dawn.

Enshrine the parting of their hair with vermilion,

every dawn.

Their bodies making way

To the monsoon loo of the continent

And patriarchy.

Husbands with liquor and odour

they had acquired

Much of the world, not.

As the silk loosens, every dusk,

illuminating whips on the surface

Of their skins. Black and indigo. Sometimes emerging in colours of the rainbow, sometimes not.

Women in Pahalgam are beyond

The bruises and the silk they hold.

Beyond what they had been:

draping sarees, enshrining vermilion, being graced with whips.

Women in Pahalgam are also burned.

Sometimes with the sarees of silk

Which once around their waists; sheltered them.

Sometimes without.

The Vile sells her body for a living,

In the bustling bazaars of Sonargachi, Calcutta.

Two minds revolve around the bazaar.

The lover hides her heart behind


The man carries a ‘qainaat’ (world) in his eyes but the lover.

The pimps scream prices for a ‘jannat’ (heaven) per-hour

‘Sahebs’ and their pockets fixed on bare waists.

The man with the ‘qainaat’ lusts for one, his lover.

The Vile.

She merges jasmine buds into the density of her hair

Sonargachi rages with Vile and the man. It’s a mid-summer afternoon.

The man with this ‘qainaat’ is ejaculating inside a little space behind the walls of a fuming stall.

Vile, the maiden, is pouring her heart with the jasmine buds.


Womb, the woman, is a mother. Vrinada.

An envious mother.

In India,

Tulsi (Basil) is planted and worshipped in porches and


Once, one lady

Was devoted to one intensely.

Tulsi, that plant, later

Transformed into a whore

Without the slightest of her sight.

I’ll tell you of Vrinada who

Loved a man.

This, who would occur into her fore-lawn. Every morning.

For 17 years

This silly maiden thought

The man woke up to her sight.

Vrinada learned for once and all.

He was fascinated by the plant. That wretched thing.

The one for which she had lived for 17 years, took away from her the one who she was yearning to live

for the next.

Vrinada, no more a fool,

Wretched Tulsi from her roots and dumped her into hell;

It died.

No more was Tulsi

planted and worshipped in porches and


Vrinada cried.

Three women, worshipped and scorned at.

Red, vile, womb is a woman.

Vantage by Dr Judita Syiemlieh

Standing here alone, forlorn

Facing the lake, changing colours like a chameleon

The lush green hills, vales, and valleys

As far as the eyes could see.

The mist lifted from the earth

Farmers toiling yet smiling

Children in winding lanes

Their songs and shouts infectiously echoing.

The sky so blue, looks, untrue

Snow white clouds dotted it too

Those who stand near me

Feast their eyes, souls intimately

They lean on me

Took shelter on me

Notice me not as they sat

Sharing their joy, even broken heart.

But I grow stronger

My roots run deeper

I spread my branches wider

Birds, insects, I shelter.

I am wiser, I am free

I am a Senior Pine tree.

(Credit to Half and One for all the poems) 

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