Friday, August 28, 2009

PMS and poetry: Children's poetry archive****


Yes, I know this is a kiddie blog. At least it is a blog where kids can click safely on images. So maybe it is not a good idea to have this video here: it contains Violence.

But on the other hand, it is not the kids who are reading this. I hope.

Ok, here is the compromise. Go watch that video -over at Parallel/Alternate before you read further.

This one, on the other hand, you can safely click on now -

I know, there are tons of related cartoons and videos; I have posted more or less the first couple that I found on google, because it is really late, and I have to get started somehow.

And the reason I wanted to grab and hang on to your attention was actually this - I was reading up something about PMS, and came across some theories about the cause of PMS. PMS, or pre-menstrual syndrome, is a name used to refer to a collection of symptoms including and laying stress on, emotional and mental ones, which occur up to two weeks before the menstrual periods and resolve subsequently. As about 80-90% of women in US (and presumably a similar even if lesser proportion worldwide) report some degree of emotional or physical symptoms pre-menstrually, it is actually more in the nature of a norm rather than deviation. About 3-8%, however, experience a more severe form known as PMDD.

The exact cause of PMS is, as yet, unknown. Each female body is subjected to a cyclical ebb and flow of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, but why some should react differently than others is not known, as is the mechanism for many of these changes. We know some correlations, but not enough yet. We will get there, of course, but in the meantime, there are several other theories - and I am talking of theories which are more or less accepted by psychologists and psychiatrists, not the exotic ideas of your neighbourhood eccentric.

"The psychosocial theory hypothesizes that PMDD or PMS is a conscious manifestation of a woman's unconscious conflict about femininity and motherhood. Psychoanalysts proposed that premenstrual physical changes reminded the woman that she was not pregnant and, therefore, was not fulfilling her traditional feminine role. Obviously, proving this theory through scientific evidence is quite difficult.

The cognitive and social learning theory hypothesizes that the onset of menses is an aversive psychological event for women susceptible to PMDD. Moreover, these women might have had negative and extreme thoughts that further reinforce the aversiveness of premenstrual symptoms. They then develop maladaptive coping strategies, such as lability of mood, absence from school or work, and overeating in an attempt to reduce the immediate stress. The immediate reduction of stress acts as a reinforcement, leading to the regular recurrence of symptoms during the premenstrual period.

The sociocultural theory hypothesizes that PMDD is a manifestation of the conflict between the societal expectation of the dual role of women as both productive workers and child-rearing mothers. PMDD is postulated to be a cultural expression of women's discontent with the traditional role of women in the society."

I have quoted from eMedicine, and that is almost like a pure medical text, so first I must clearly state that this is not really meant for laypersons but for medical professionals. Also, all these are valid and useful approaches, both of looking at psychological diagnoses and of treating them. And finally, one line summaries do not do justice to the whole concept which may be wider and more inclusive than this would lead us to believe.

Nevertheless, I found them funny, in a sad kind of way. Here is why -

As far as I can see, all of these link up the symptoms to something that is happening before: an awareness of the impending menstrual period. That is to say that according to psychoanalysts, the woman is aware - at some level if not consciously - that she is not pregnant; the cognitive and social theorists propose that women are troubled by pre-menstrual symptoms, and cope with the wrong strategies, which becomes learned behaviour after repeated reinforcements; and the socio-cultural theory generalizes this even further as discontent with women's role in society at large, but without explaining the cyclicity of it, presumably just because periods remind them of their being female. To really reduce this to basics, all are implying that a woman knows she is going to get periods, and so she becomes moody, for whatever underlying cause (lets not discuss that at this time).

Obviously all women know they are going to have periods - more or less regularly, but does any woman constantly live with awareness inside? An average woman, not the one who is really looking for conception, or looking to avoid it - but an average woman does not count the number of days left till the next one, does not think about it all the time, does not, in fact, have it on her mind. It happens, you live, what is there to think about? Yet these theorists claim that we all are counting down in our secret hearts all the time. Isn't that slightly ridiculous to assume? Further, pregnancy is always a possibility in a sexually active female, and is not discounted till the periods occur - so why should a woman get upset at not being pregnant in the pre-menstrual time? On the contrary, it should be the onset of periods which should induce depression or anxiety or whatever.

Not meaning any disrespect to psychologists, isn't this way too generalized, far too vague, and rather - conveniently trivialized thinking - to explain everything so? Oh, I grant there is likely an element of truth in them, much the same as in vino veritas. But just as you wouldn't ply wine to get a confession in the court of law, you shouldn't just define PMS so. It disturbs me faintly, this so easy clubbing of PMS into such cliched reasons...

And now, to business.

Over at the Papertigers blog today, I was introduced to this poem by Spike Milligan -

On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all so BOO!
There's a Nong Nang ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can't catch 'em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mouse go Clang
What a noise place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!

How can anyone not be moved by this little poem? Call it nonsense verse if you will, but poetry for children does start off with nursery rhymes and limericks and nonsense rhythms before it becomes real, before -

...From their gross Matter she abstracts the forms,
And draws a kind of Quintessence from things,
Which to her proper nature she transforms
To bear them light on her celestial wings.
This doth She when from things particular
She doth abstract the Universal kinds....

So today's featured site is all about poetry - the Children's Poetry Archive.
This cute looking site is based on the premise that it is better to listen to poetry than to simply read it by yourself. Accordingly it features audio files, usually read by the poets themselves. There is some information about each poet as well. Necessarily only those poems are available for which there is an audio file available, but even that is a good enough introduction to poetry for children. Also necessarily, the older poets are not represented, but on the other hand, the new ones, the ones still living, whom even we might not know of, are.

The site also sells audio cd books of poems if you wish to buy more :

The url -

P.S. Incredible stuff you sometimes come across. Viz -

That is an umbrella skirt: a skirt made from an umbrella. Do you really want to wear something so uncomfortable - with spikes and shafts? Looks good, but why not a simple umbrella skirt: you know, the cut? Do follow the link to see the more uncomfortable versions!

Or this, people are paying up for this, in auctions, no less. Limited edition and what not. Piece of wood with a hook - if its done by you and me, it would be dismissed as jugaad, but if it is designer, wow, watch out! And that - seriously - is that a designer baniain, a highbrow version of the humble ganji or what? Isn't this some kind of a joke he is having on us?

(If you look around at his website, you might like the drum disguised as a seat - don't we all know of trunks covered to make diwans, of tins made into stools? Necessity it seems, is not as glamorous as political correctness.)

P.P.S. Indian boyhood by Spike Milligan (he was born in India) -

What happened to the boy I was?
Why did he run away?
And leave me old and thinking, like
There'd been no yesterday?
What happened then?
Was I that boy?
Who laughed and swam in the bund
Is there no going back?
No recompense?
Is there nothing?
No refund?


Marjorie said...

Wow - thanks for the varied journey you've taken us on in this post. I'm not quite sure what Spike Milligan would have said about being put in the same breath as PMT but I'm sure it would have been suitably irreverent!

Swati said...

Thanks for visiting Marjorie. Yes, one can imagine him coming up with a special repartee :)

Anonymous said...


Tania McCartney said...

Hello Swati and congrats - you are the winner of the Riley and the Dancing Lion book giveaway! Please let me know an Australian address I can send it to, and who I can make the book out to. Warmest wishes,
Tania McCartney (

Vanessa said...

What great poetry sites! Thanks for sharing them.

Swati said...

You are welcome Vanessa. And thanks for visiting.

Anonymous said...

nice posts Swati, I am worried about having to see the day when Umbrella skirts with all the metal spikes become th 'in' thing..and what's so khaas in the baniaan or the twig hanger anyways..One never knows!!