amaryllis (/ˌæməˈrɪlɪs/) – bears the name of the shepherdess in virgil's pastoral eclogues. it stems from the greek ἀμαρύσσω (amarysso), meaning "to sparkle", and it is rooted in "amarella" for the bitterness of the bulb. the common name, "naked lady", comes from the plant's pattern of flowering that blooms when the foliage dies. in the victorian language of flowers, it means "radiant beauty".
Author: Téa Nicolae
🌸 poetess and scholar 🌸 a Devī-bhakta 🕊
🌙 I wore myself out, looking for myself.
No one could have worked harder to break the code.
I lost myself in myself and found a wine cellar. Nectar, I tell you.
There were jars and jars, and no one to drink it. 🌙 Lallā
spent today absorbed in the père lachaise cemetery, and one of the things i was struck most by was seeing the many sculptures of female figures towering over tombs: almost all tearful or in distress. it made me think of Strī Parva, “The Book of Women” from the Mahābhārata, which exclusively focuses on portraying women’s grief and tears, who break upon seeing their men & sons slaughtered on the battlefield in the aftermath of the war. one of the distressed female characters, queen Gāndhārī, lashes out at Kṛṣṇa and accuses him of murder, declaring that he could have stopped the war as he is both omniscient & ever-powerful.
Kṛṣṇa rejects her blame and retorts that he cannot override the cosmic laws. he himself is subjected to them; the massacre was ordained, no one is exempt from death, and the cycle of life is definitive.
my understanding of this exchange is: he is not telling her that she should not grieve or that her grief is “wrong”; he merely offers her the opportunity to place it in a larger context and to use her distress to understand deeper herself as well as the web of nature / existence / cosmology. there is no one to blame or resent or victimise; life unfolds as is. and,
even what we understand as ‘negative’ feelings therefore can be utilised as a stimulus for self-reflection. i myself have spent a lot of time simmering in grief without considering what it could teach me, so this particular scene is very profound for me.
and, how beautiful is Kṛṣṇa’s revelation that he himself is subjected to the cosmic laws once incarnated! will elaborate on this in a future article or post 😊
*my retelling of this dialogue is not based exclusively on the critical edition but also on its variations, as this is one of the instances in which i find referring to multi-versions valuable.
photos: some of my favourite sculptures seen in the cemetery!
age 16, teenage angst-ing in london. taken on an evening i wrote about in my songs of youth.
“on one cold night in london / i sat beneath the twinkling lights / and i thought i knew who i was (..).”
then: i was in london for a summer course at goldsmiths, the university where my amore brian molko studied drama. i was in a transformative period of turmoil, which i later unpacked in a few articles published that year. yet, back then, i did not write much about the giddiness of it, which i want to highlight today: the giddiness of being a besotted schoolgirl, daydreaming between classes of the life her favourite rockstar lived in those university halls. wrapped up in mind twirls, i would wonder,
did he experience the delicious mix between ache & thrill that i was experiencing? did he wander the streets at night like i did, finding solace in the graffiti splashed upon walls? did he understand the sadness in him in ways i did not understand the sadness in me?
every night, i listened to him sing: “i am weightless / i am bare / i am faithless / i am scared” & “wrapped in lust and lunacy / tiny touch of jealousy / these bonds are shackle free” and i felt a desperate want to express the workings of my mind the way he did. to live vicariously, to share vicariously. to be alive, and sad, and jolly, and love and hurt.
i will only translate the ending, as i feel distanced from it – in all the ‘good’ ways. it sometimes makes me uncomfortable to read past works in which i was so open, but overall i am proud of my teen self for expressing herself fully and not sugar coating her experience.
“when the sun rose, i was leaning against the window of my dorm room, with my hair dyed green, with smudged eyeliner and one broken nail. with lady of the flowers on repeat. black sessions, 1997. brian began the set with a poem he only recited that year:
Lady of the flowers, they’ve been dead for hours. Interflora (..)
recommendations for abridged and unabridged translations of the Mahābhārata, as well as reading and referencing tips 🤍.
to reiterate the last point i made in my video first, i would like to accentuate that those of us who rely on translations and are inhibited by the language barrier are already working with a diluted version of the Mbh; it is for this reason that it is exceptionally important to work with the best and most authentic translation that is accessible for us, especially if we are scholars. in this, we can ensure that we are not perpetuating any misunderstanding or false information in the world. 🤍
🔱 unabridged translations:
🔱 for the first five parvas – J. A. B. van Buitenen | for the remaining books of war – Clay Sanskrit Library | these are exquisite, elegant, all-encompassing, and delicious works of translation.
additionally, i use the abridged translation created by John D. Smith and published by Penguin Classics as a handbook or manual to find my way through the unabridged versions when i write papers. this is extremely efficient for referencing – a compass or map to guide you through the verses. i expand on this in the video, and will additionally create a separate video about how to reference the Mbh.
🔱 the recommendations i have shared have been given to me by my amazing MA supervisor from Lancaster University, Dr. Brian Black, who instilled within me the love for the Mahābhārata in academia, and supported me through my research and my PhD application process. in my opinion, he is one of the most dedicated and passionate contemporary researchers of the Mbh, and i am most grateful to him. his book, ‘In Dialogue with the Mahābhārata’, is a fantastic work of research. read more here: https://www.routledge.com/In…/Black/p/book/9780367547271
🔱 TIPS: for those unfamiliar with this epic, i would recommend they begin with an abridged retelling. note: a retelling, and not a translation (John D. Smith’s abridged work would be considered a translation as it follows the epic poem verse by verse). retellings are easier to digest! the Mbh is vast and can be overwhelming, so use the retellings to
familiarise yourself with the characters and with their narrative arcs, and, when you feel familiar enough with the Mbh’s universe, move onto the unabridged versions.
please be aware that, due to the nature of reproducing an epic poem in prose, most retellings include errors, omissions or interpolations. hold these lightly while you read through and also hold in your awareness that the author might have taken many liberties. use the unabridged versions to correct and reorientate yourself within the universe. this is how i started my own journey with it 😊
demonstrating how to reference the Mbh
a thorough Mahābhārata reference consists of three parts: the number of the parva in which the event in question takes place in, the number of its corresponding verse, and the number of the secondary verse. in have created a video in which i am demonstrating how to most efficiently reference the Mbh by utilising the abridged and unabridged translations with the example of Draupadī’s birth from fire (1.155.45).
note the difference in detailed expansion between the two versions, and the importance of continuously referring to the unabridged translations:
abridged: “A beautiful, dark girl emerged from the altar, and the voice proclaimed that she was destined to accomplish the purpose of the Gods by annihilating the Kṣatriyas. [She was] named Kṛṣṇā (Draupadī).”
*Kṛṣṇā means She of Dark Complexion.
unabridged: “Thereupon a young maiden arose from the center of the altar, the well-favored and beautiful Daughter of the Pañcālas, heart-fetching, with a waist shaped like an altar. She was dark, with eyes like lotus petals, her hair glossy black and curling – a lovely Goddess who had chosen a human form. The fragrance of blue lotuses waited from her to the distance of a league, the shape she bore was magnificent, and no one was her peer on earth. And over the full-hipped maiden as soon as she was born the disembodied voice spoke: ‘Superb among women, the Dark Woman shall lead the Kṣatriyas to their doom. The fair-waisted maiden shall in time accomplish the purpose of the Gods, and because of her, great danger shall arise for the Kṣatriyas.’ Hearing this, all the Pañcālas roared like a pride of lions and earth was unable to hold them so full of joy”.
this might seem as an over-scholarly topic, but much of the written material you are going to encounter on the Mbh will include this, and i find it relevant to have a framework for it. 🤍
The Mahābhārata is a love of my life, and one of my main research interests – as well as the subject matter of my upcoming PhD thesis! for awhile now, i have been reflecting on how to meaningfully share about the Mbh on my social media platforms. generally, i would say that there are two main approaches to the Mbh in contemporary discourse: one is the academic and scholarly approach, which, although i both adore and adhere to, i find to be largely inaccessible and limited to the academic niche. the second, which seeps more into contemporary discourse, i find to be a moralistic, religious outlook. although i consider both approaches to be valid and needed in society, i believe that what is missing is more intimate, personal sharing about the Mbh. i, for one, am not in love with the Mbh purely out of intellectual curiosity. for me, The Mahābhārata is alive; it exists within me and within the collective consciousness as a mirror to our own thought processes and individual universes. i would therefore like to challenge myself past my usual scholarly approach and share earnestly about what it means for me to immerse myself in this marvellous epic. for instance, what does it mean for me as a modern woman to read about Draupadī’s disrobing; how can i understand myself better through her character?
to ground these discussions more, i will create infographics about the plot, the historical context & main characters (created more out of love for the Mbh than for these discussions, to be honest!).
very excited for this and am looking forward to establishing myself further in the epic’s framework through this interactive approach!
to begin with,
WHY THE MAHĀBHĀRATA?
a question any scholar should ask themselves, i would argue, is why? why is my research relevant, why should i conduct this research in the first place, and how can it answer to questions of the present?
today, i am going to answer to this question with regards to the Mahābhārata. why should we care about an ancient epic poem? first of all, because the Mbh is not a dead, lifeless piece of literature. i would argue, and this is one of the main claims i will construct in my phd thesis, that the Mbh is ever-fluid and ever-changing. throughout centuries, there have been countless of retellings of the epic, each bearing differences, interpolations. does this mean that they are invalid? i would maintain that they are very much valid, and the continuous changes shaping and re-shaping the epic come as a result of its aliveness: it is alive, pulsing in the collective consciousness. in this full aliveness, the Mbh is moulded by society and culture as they evolve, acting as a mirror.
on the other hand, the Mahābhārata in itself proudly states that what you can find in it, you can find anywhere else, but you cannot find anywhere what does not exist in the Mbh; there is nothing that it does not address. in this, it tells us that it contains all answers and questions we can have – albeit in a very abstract and cryptic manner. for instance, it contains futuristic themes (for its time of creation), such as IVF and AI, and it addresses themes which are very relevant to the present day: religious violence, women’s rights, ethics. it answers to all questions we can have about the human condition; as although times are ever-changing, the human experience always remains the same, or so i would maintain: the questions we ask ourselves at their core remain the same, although the experience will be manifested or expressed differently at surface level. the Mbh thus contains inexhaustive areas of self-exploration and opportunities to understand ourselves and the world.
101 on the Mbh – infographics below! (parts 1, 2, 3… of many!)
in my undergraduate degree, i studied western poetry, and one of the poets i focused on was the beguiling e. e. cummings. in the past two years, i have been exclusively exploring eastern poetry in my postgrad, and it is only recently that i have begun to see how the two apparent different worlds and approaches illuminate each other. one of the elements i am most interested in at the moment is the process of individualising the universal experience; or how to express the universal through means of individuality.
this, with relation to cummings and bhakti poetry: cummings, a pioneer of experimental poetry, created his own language, which functions, i would maintain, like an authorship stamp: he used conjunctions as nouns, rewrote linguistic rules, introduced spacing as verbs etc. his poetry addresses themes looked down upon by other avantgarde poets of his time (and our time!) such as love and nature, yet it is the creation of his own language and the erotic notes of his poetry that revolutionise and freshen the apparent cliché of his subject matter.
similarly, bhakti poets, who write about ‘common’ topics such as love and separation, revolutionise these universal themes by pinpointing the object of desire to be God, and by introducing eroticism as worship. and, their authorship stamps (example: Akkā Mahādevī’s Chennamallikarjuna – more on this later!) distinguish and establish their poetic voices as individual in the context of universality.
fascinating how the experience can be both universal yet unique as it expresses itself individually through us, and how marvellous the intricacies of language and poetry are, how beautifully they thread us together through traditions, genres, times and worlds! 🤍
sidenote, i did use the word ‘cliché’ as a convention, but i don’t believe in clichés exactly because of this reason.
part of my #poetrybeautyseries, in which i share my favourite poetry lines and muse on their significance! on pessoa:
to me, fernando pessoa is one of the most fascinating poets to have graced this earth. he created 81 heteronyms for himself – meaning, 81 different characters or identities he assumed while writing. each had a different personality, background story, style. in awe with the mind-blowing imagination of this beautiful man. here’s a fragment from ‘discontinuous poems’, which he wrote as alberto caeiro, and which is grounded in a non-dual view, in my opinion. planning to make a video about him soon 🖤
although this quote is well-known, its context isn’t! it’s an excerpt from an interview with Ginsberg from Writers Digest, edited by Bill Strickland (p.47), in which he talks about the importance of expressing yourself without caring for validation or recognition.
“It’s more important to concentrate on what you want to say to yourself and your friends. Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness. Take (William Carlos) Williams: until he was 50 or 60, he was a local nut from Paterson, New Jersey, as far as the literary world was concerned. He went half a century without real recognition except among his friends and peers.
You say what you want to say when you don’t care who’s listening. If you’re grasping to get your own voice, you’re making a strained attempt to talk, so it’s a matter of just listening to yourself as you sound when you’re talking about something that’s intensely important to you.”
foreword: “The one consistency in my life, from childhood to the teenage years of angst and to the blooms of young adulthood, has been writing. I wrote to make sense of the world around me and of myself, I wrote to express myself, I wrote to connect to the world and to myself.
This is a collection of poetry written between the ages of sixteen and twenty. Brian Molko of Placebo, who was the soundtrack to my teenage years and the one who hypnotised me with rawness and alluring born-to-die sadness, once said that, when you are a teenager, you react to the world that surrounds you with great emotionality and intensity, with full heart. He mused that growing older is a process of finding semblances of sanity. This collection aims to illustrate exactly that; it is not written by an adult looking back with maturity, nor tenderness to their early years, but by the teenager who is in the midst of experiencing the turbulent highs and lows of being thrown into life.
This collection of poetry was a creative project I compiled as an undergraduate student of Creative Writing at Lancaster University. It includes unpublished work, as well as work that has already been published.
It is structured in three sections: ‘teenage angst’, ‘my loss is my root’ and ‘at last, light’, which chronicle the journey to adulthood through churn, grief, and joy.
You may notice that the poetry is written in lowercase. More than an aesthetic choice, lowercase marks the teenage search for identity and reflects how disconnected teenagers feel to themselves. As a teenager myself, I found it difficult to capitalise ‘I’-s, as it seemed as if I was proclaiming who I was before I knew.
This collection explores the beginning of the search for the ‘I’.
the cover art i fall in love with more and more every day is by Holly Robinson
“teenage angst” is the first section of my book, “songs of youth”, and it is compiled of poetry i wrote as a raging teenager. i entitled it after the eponymous placebo track, in which brian molko scratchily sings: “since i was born, i started to decay”.
in the depths of my teenage angst, i followed placebo on tour and wrote live reviews of their delicious gigs! what a better day for a tender run through memory than today, the 3rd of may – the 2nd of may is considered the official placebo day by ‘cebo lovers. you can read “Placebo: Desire, Heartbreak & Dark Romanticism” here:
since songs of youth came out, i have been revisiting my favourites and sinking into brian molko’s voice. it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that i wrote most of this collection with their tunes ringing in my ears or chest.
i am so happy that they exist & i can delight in their music. forever grateful that they raised me on tones of diffidence, with an appetite for delirious experiences – and freedom. 😁
you can order my book here:
polaroid of me teenage angst-ing in london after a spectacular placebo gig in 2018. 𝖏𝖚𝖘𝖙 𝖓𝖎𝖓𝖊𝖙𝖊𝖊𝖓, 𝖆𝖓𝖉 𝖆 𝖉𝖗𝖊𝖆𝖒 𝖔𝖇𝖘𝖈𝖊𝖓𝖊 📽 (by the way, i turned nineteen at a placebo gig, screaming these lyrics at the top of my lungs!)
over the moon to share that my first collection of poetry, “songs of youth”, is officially out & available for purchase on amazon!! incredibly moving to hold my poetry in my hands for the first time today.
“songs of youth” is a collection of poems written between the ages of sixteen and twenty. it explores the journey to adulthood through tones of teenage angst, grief and joy. brian molko of placebo, who was the soundtrack to my teenage years and the one who hypnotised me with rawness and alluring born-to-die sadness, once said that, when you are a teenager, you react to the world that surrounds you with great emotionality and intensity, with full heart. he mused that growing older is a process of finding semblances of sanity. this collection aims to illustrate exactly that; it is not written by an adult looking back with maturity, nor tenderness to their early years, but by the teenager who is in the midst of experiencing the turbulent highs and lows of being thrown into life. it explores the beginning of the search for the ‘I’.
note: if you’re using kindle, please lower the text size to minimum to preserve the poetry formatting which is inherently tricky to convert digitally, as the larger fonts create misalignments within the text thank you!!
huge thank you to my dearest friend Holly Robinson, who did me the great honour of gracing me with her talent by creating the cover art of my collection
i have created a new ig account where i will be sharing my poetry, you can find me at: @songs.of.youth
my poetry collection “songs of youth” is #3 on the hot new releases in women’s poetry list on amazon! thank you to everyone who has been ordering & reading it, i am so moved. it has been my childhood dream to have a book of my own and it is very fulfilling to have the dream materialise. the ending stanza of my collection is:
“in the light of sovereignty / my little girl is lovingly held / by my woman”
and it has surely felt like this to have my words published and shared with the world. so grateful.
the last few days have been tender, and last night i was happy to reconnect with a friend from university whom i studied film with. we exchanged kind words as well as poetry. after we both shared that we warmed each other’s hearts, i found myself thinking how much i treasure these brief moments of connection, yet how i often don’t enjoy them fully because i generally am so immersed in my mind palace and narratives, so overly focused on my insecurities, internal drama or questions of right and wrong that the beauty of life passes me by. i mentally noted a line i could have seen in a poem, ‘to bring and receive a little beauty to and from others is enough’, and i scribbled this quick poem this afternoon.
to live to cry a little to bring a touch of beauty to others to keep my heart soft even when i’m scared to feel my childhood’s wounds with tenderness to share my mind with fullness to come to understand the world with my fingertips what else is there
reflections written in the park i walked every day in during the most tumultuous years of my teens. as the trees have changed, so have i, yet as the trees have remained the same, so have i. leaving home with renewed faith in the only one who can deliver me: myself.