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Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, Arundhati Roy (Haymarket) $20

Roy’s latest political writing, dedicated “To those who have learned to divorce hope from reason,” uses the contemporary politics of India, from the 2001 through 2008 state-backed Genocide against Muslims in Guharat to the 26 November 2008 Mumbai attacks, as a starting point for her political musings: offering a bleak but poetic analysis and simple, difficult solutions to world problems. In her introduction she writes,

As a writer, a fiction writer, I have often wondered whether the attempt to always be precise, to try and get it all factually right somehow reduces the epic scale of what is really going on. Does it eventually mask a larger truth? I worry that I am allowing myself to be railroaded into offering prosaic, factual precision when maybe what we need is a feral howl, or the transformative power and real precision of poetry.

Despite her own preoccupation, articulated above, Roy has managed to merge prosaic precision with “the real precision of poetry,” in the most literary political commentary in recent memory. Fans of Roy’s fiction complain too much: what she is writing now is at least and probably more exciting than the work that first garnished her acclaim.

DS

 

 

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Pedro Bosch, Maya Khosla, & Jenny Lewis

The renowned Tamil Nadu potters, who create traditional village figures and panels in their pottery at the Sanscriti Kenda in New Delhi, packed up a selection of their work to send to a major exhibition in Paris. Writers Pedro Bosch, Maya Khosla and Jenny Lewis watched the potters prepare their wondrous creations for an international audience. The exhibition will be at The Museum of the Quai Branly at the Galerie Jardin, from March 30th to July 18th. It is called: “Autres maitres de l´Inde, creations contemporaines des adivas.”

PERFECT

A dual existence between matter
And spirit, poised in flight
Like a bird beating its wings over water


Against the suns rays, feeling it better
To be translated into air, to fight
The dual existence between matter


And spirit with poverty, to batter
Flesh into chastity, make it light
As a bird beating its wings over water


From ‘Perfect’ by Jenny Lewis, published in Fathom (Oxford Poets/ Carcanet, 2007)

In October 2009, seven sculptors gathered at a shady quadrangle in Sanskriti Kendra under the young teak trees with leaves like quivering quarter-plates. The men’s main goal was to bring a vibrant past to life, their main material, clay. They were folk artists three generations strong, from a long and rich ancestry dedicated to the Ayyanar tradition of temple sculpture.

The artists came from the south, dressed in simple, clay-stained browns and grays, with shining eyes and bright turbans of turquoise and pink. Their language was sharp and noisy, stirring up the peaceful space. Parrots, peacocks and crows scattered from the group and their mounds of raw clay.

Quickly the seven set to work, adding water to the mounds. The material had been dug out of land outside the villages of their home state, Tamil Nadu, then mixed with rice husks and shipped to Delhi. A senior member, Thangaia, spoke in energetic, broken English.

“Without husk, no clay,” he explained.

Thangaia is from Valathakadu, a village of twenty-five families. His co-workers are from Malayar and Varatpur, nearby villages that are just as small or marginally larger.  Some among their number are related: fathers and sons; brothers and brothers-in-law, all are trained in pottery and sculpture.

The sculptors needed no plans, no drawings, to set their work in motion.  The watered clay mounds were left overnight. They bent to their task, working the slurry, adding straw or sand. Then they foot-stamped, pressed and kneaded the mixture into elastic, workable form. Preparation took hours and the vigour of a collective mind, a collective concentration. Their circle of hands wedged and threw and rolled the earth into itself like dough, pressing and folding it while cleansing out the tiniest air bubbles capable of weakening the clay.  Sticky as honey, more precious than bread, the union of water and earth was strong and dense. It was a union that was built to stay intact through high fire.

“This is the matter”, Thangaia stated simply.

He was here in 1992, leading a group of sculptors in creating Sanskriti’s own Ayyanar temple. True to tradition, the temple has been placed close to the Sanskriti Campus boundary. A small flight of stairs leads to the quadrangle, where the life-sized horses of brick and smoky gray stand to attention, their ears erect as if listening to the words of the god in their presence.

This time the sculptors were creating sculptures for an exhibition in France. When the clay was ready, they shaped pieces into coils. Their hands were their main tools. Each coil was created out of a long, snake-shaped roll. Thangaia distributed small portions of clay to the younger members, Kumyryseam and Thyntawuthepana, who patiently shaped coil upon coil, a ritual that goes back over a thousand years. Each coil was placed above the last, a circle over a circle, one snake eating its own tail above another eating its own tail. Each was flattened and pressed, merging it with the one below. Clay cylinders were also rolled out with a piece of wood for the making of the legs.

One circle at a time, they shaped small clay towers ready to become cylinders of varying shapes and sizes. Coils were joined to coils or to flat pieces by pouring water, and maintaining the plaster in place until it had partially dried. They chattered, their laughter exploded, but all the while their hands remained steady, clapping against wet earth, pressing it into form. Practice kept them close to perfection. Here was a horse leg, here an elephant torso, a bull’s head, a woman warrior’s hand. The potters’ craft was a resurrection, a conversation with history, a ritual from the past coming alive.

Mass movement is prearranged:
minds are emptied of everything
but vector. One language, one ethos
creates from collective memory
working shoulder to shoulder,
with little room for argument.
Stories built from shapeless earth
and inner vision, stand tall.

The Ayyanar temple tradition has remained intact since sometime in the third century A.D., primarily in the Salem and Pudukottai districts of Tamil Nadu. Aiya, the root word for the god Ayyanar, means revered person. The figures in Ayyanar temples stand cleansed and blackened and well-weathered, ready to protect residents and travelers. These temples have no priests. Ceremonies are initiated by the senior-most member among the sculptors. The sculptor is considered to be an intermediary with the divine spirits of the temple. His ritual itself is a circle repeated and repeated over generations, creating almost-identical shapes and figures.

The vision of these folk artists is to re-create a private universe, a god and his army of protective forces. Ayyanar temples are presided over by a god of the same name, who is flanked by his attendants guards, warriors, horses and elephants and bulls who crowd the stage, standing guard. Ayyyanar is easily recognized as he has large teeth, an undulating moustache, blown out eyes and wrinkled forehead.  Horses and elephants, the archetypes of guardian spirits, are created with faces of anger, poise, or breathless anticipation. The temple is installed at the outer boundary of each village to protect it.

After the horse heads were made, they were sculpted, with a knife or simply with the thumbnail. The eyebrows were drawn and the teeth defined. The creation of the eyes—calm, wide or furious—was always supervised by Thangaia. The bells, the reins and trappings, the garlands or the kirthimukha (grotesque faces) were modeled separately and stuck on in a cycle of muddying, watering, and drying. Smaller figures, Ganesh, Nandi, and women warriors, were carved at the same rapid pace.

When using clay, sculptors work with all four elements. They harvest the earth itself, shape and reshape it with water, and take it on a long journey through fire and air. Water bonds with the earth and makes it supple; fire and air give it strength.

When the pieces were complete, the potters prepared for a firing. The crew members assembled bricks and built a small circular room, which were carefully filled with sun-dried clay pieces. The kiln was packed. Its interior looked like the end of a mad love night, a leg close to a head, which in turn rested on a hand. The team loaded their just-made kiln with wood.

What dyed the sky and stained their hands
was longing held open for a moment
before dusk slid into shadow,
the last brick all but closed the kiln.

Matches were lit. The potters blew fire to life and stoked it. Heat raged close to their faces as they nourished the fire with a constant supply of fresh-cut wood. The fire grew, flames shooting high above the kiln chimney, like a small volcano exhaling crimsons and golds. Each sculptural piece was bathing in flames. Sparkles filled the darkness of that propitious day, specially selected, but the work was hard in spite of the soft drinks and the peanuts we ate throwing the shells in. We looked as voyeurs through a small eye-space created by one missing brick. The pieces were there in the middle of a red inferno. Most of a night passed between the minute a struck match lit wood and the minute the flames were left unfed, untended.

The sculptures were biscuit-fired by the pitch-black hours of early morning. They emerged the morning the kiln was cool.

First light resuscitated the world
of color, breathing silver and tan
into biscuit-ware, pink into pillars,
brick-red memories of flame
into clay horses.

Some bodies and heads had cracks and were repaired. The pieces were now intact, ready to be painted. Close to the destroyed kiln, some of them acquired the virginal virtues of white, others were fully painted as they are in Tamil Nadu. Depending on the subject, the statue or the style, some were not colored. Painted, each color had significance. A red face denotes anger, a blue neck is associated with calm.

Elephants and cows full of color were incorporated into a joyous army. Their journey had begun. They are now on their way to  the Brandy Museum, very close to the Eiffel Tower in France. They will be installed close to the museum entrance. Wooden boxes were constructed and the terracotta pieces were wrapped in synthetic polymers. One by one, the sculptures vanished, bound for another landscape.

Repetition is everything, a chorus
of sculptors like a flock of ancient birds
who have hunted this particular light
deep in their work, deep in their song.
Repetition is everything. It is god
And guardian, horse and rampart,
Repetition masters the art of space.

Sanksriti Kendra, New Delhi,  January 2010: © Pedro Bosch, Maya Khosla & Jenny Lewis

Pedro Bosch is a Mexican physicist who is specializes in the study of materials. He obtained his physics degree in Mexico City at UNAM, and his PhD at the Universite Claude Bernard of Lyon, France. The fields of research that have interested him are catalysis, the retention of radioctive wastes, and the study of archaeological and anthropological materials. He manages to reconcile his scientific activity with literature and music. Over the last six months he wrote a book on natural zeolites during a residence in Sanskriti Kendra, India, where he found the inspiration for this text.

Maya Khosla is a naturalist and writer from India who is now based in California. Her poetry collections are Heart of the Tearing and Keel Bone (Bear Star Press, 2003) which won the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize. She is also working on non-fiction: essays inspired by field biology. Web of Water, a guidebook, was published by Golden Gate
National Parks Conservancy Press in 1997. She greatly enjoyed her time at the Sanskriti Foundation and teaming with Pedro Bosch and Jenny Lewis to develop this essay.

Jenny Lewis is a regular contributor to Molossus.

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Aria: Poetry Translations by Sudeep Sen. (Yeti Books, Calicut & Mulfran Press, Cardiff) Rs.399 & £11.99

I.

Sudeep Sen’s highly praised books include Postmarked India, Prayer Flag, Distracted Geographies, and the poetic meditation, Rain, illustrated by twenty of India’s top artists. His work has been translated into twenty-five languages and his writings have appeared in leading international and national newspapers and journals and been widely broadcast. In Aria he offers a synthesis of his abilities as a poet and translator to bring to the wider public an anthology of work by 17 South Asian poets (ranging from Rabindranath Tagore and Gulzar to lesser known and newer voices) and 10 writers from other parts of the world. The translated languages range from Hindi, Bengali and Urdu to Korean, Hebrew, Icelandic, Persian, Macedonian, Polish and Spanish. In his introduction to Aria, Sen reveals that it is his experience of growing up tri-lingual and being able to slip between the languages and registers of Bengali, Hindi and English that gives his poetry and translations a multi-dimensional character; and this quality is one of the book’s greatest achievements—as Sen’s translations move with ease through a variety of voices and registers.

Jibanananda Das has been called one of the most loved Bengali poets, after Rabindranath Tagore, and it’s easy to see why. The beautiful poem, ‘Banalata Sen’, has echoes of Omar Khayyam’s famous rubaiyat. The translation starts with a wonderful striding movement:

For a thousand years I have walked this earth’s passage
by day and night — from Lanka’s shores to Malay’s vast seas.

The second stanza, which begins ‘Like the dense ink-night of Bidhisha, her hair — black, deep black;’ has the deeply sensuous, hypnotic quality that distinguishes much of Sen’s own poetry — especially his love poetry. This is a case of poet and translator being exceptionally well attuned. Das’s work is followed by four delightfully playful poems taken from the Visva Bharati edition of the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s nonsense verse, Khapcharra. Of these I especially liked the Pythonesque ‘Bird-seller says, “This is a black-coloured chanda.”’ To which the buyer, Panulal Haldar, replies, “I’m not blind — It is definitely a crow.”

AriaIt isn’t often that poetry makes you gasp; the last time, for me was many years ago on first reading Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Edge’ in which the moon is shown ‘Staring from her hood of bone. // Her blacks crackle and drag.’  The poems of Mandakranta Sen also induce a sharp intake of breath. To quote K. Satchidanandan (Molossus, July 2009) Mandakranta Sen is one of the brave women poets who ‘are fighting patriarchy and evolving their own mode of writing often organised around the female body and self’. Her Bengali poetry seems to me to represent an authentic voice for women, undiluted by patriarchal values. Her first poem, ‘The Witch’ contains imagery that disturbs and provokes. Identified by her habit of secretly writing poetry in the middle of the night with her hair undone, the moonstruck witch ‘roasts, then eats the pulpy sadness / Plucked from the crown of her head’. In ‘Nature Goddess’ the body is itemised and carved up —

Packing my groin, my navel, my buttocks in a sack,
I left my home for the sloping wrong side of the track.

The fact that these poems are beautifully rendered in rhymed and half-rhymed couplets belies their often excoriating language and themes. Another Sen — Mithu Sen — also uses what the ancient Sumerians called emesai or ‘women’s speech’. Her poetry is quiet, confessional and intense and she often uses forms that are even more spare than haiku.

In Bangladesh, Shamsur Rahman is considered to be one of the most distinguished Bengali poets of his generation. Syed Manzoorul Islam speaks of Rahman as having ‘produced a solid body of work which has permanently changed the geography and the climate of Bengali poetry … He has given us a language, which we did not have.’ The selection of his poems in this volume varies from the romantic (as in ‘Love’s Overture’), to the domestic (‘Mother’) which is a moving tribute to the role of women in South Asian life — especially, his own life. Two other Bangladeshi poets are represented in the book. Fazal Shahabuddin’s poems are both cosmological and cosmopolitan, often sounding an elegiac note. Aminur Rahman is a young poet and translator whose work is innovative, meditative and experimental.

Several leading Hindi poets, such as the incomparable Gulzar, Sachchidananda Vatsyayan Ageya, who is one of the most prominent exponents of the Nayi Kavita (New Poetry) and Prayogvad (Experimentalism), Kaifi Azmi, Kunwar Narain, and others, add immeasurably to the overall tonality of the book and display what is best in contemporary Hindi and Urdu poetry by the older generation. Among the younger writers, Mangalesh Dabral’s poems show a mixture of the political, the existential and the urbane which resonates well with much contemporary poetry being written by English language Western poets. Anamika has five collections of poetry to her credit and over the years she has won numerous accolades for her literary work. Her poems in this collection include the philosophical Salt: “Salt is earth’s sorrow and its taste. / Earth’s three-fourths is brackish water, / and men’s heart a salt mountain.” She can also be fiercely political as in ‘Mobile Phone’:

Like the streets of old Baghdad
before the American heavy bombings —
I too am like that.
In me, adorned like old souks, meena bazaars —
like archaeological ruins in this metropolis’s heart.

II.

The second part of Aria deals with translations of poetry from East and West Asia, the Middle East and Europe starting with the delicate ‘Willow’ by the Korean poet Moon Chung Hee:

He etched blue flowers
on my arms —

Blue flowers
that tied

my skin, my whole body,
my spirit, and my life.

Avraham Ben Yitshak is translated from Hebrew by Sudeep Sen with Yehuda Amichai, Daniel Weissbort and others. His work shares many spiritual resonances with the classical Indian poets, especially when he touches on religion:

Tomorrow, stricken with the absence of words, we die;
And on that day, we shall stand at death’s gate.
As the heart celebrates the closeness to God,
It will do so, in joy and repentance, in fear of betrayal.

Sudeep Sen photo by Sara Bowman[1]Israeli poet Amir Or, Iranian poet Shirin Razavian, Icelandic poet Ditte Steensballe and Polish poet Ewa Sonnenberg add their own distinctive notes to the cosmopolitan texture. Of Macedonian poet Zoran Anchevski’s six poems, the most strikingly original is ‘halfVerses’ but I particularly liked ‘History’ which shows Minerva the owl at the end ‘resting at ease in its burrow / masticating, consuming its prey’; and the sustained menace of ‘My Little Me’: “When I fenced in my little me / and said to myself This is mine / It grew, / became my dictator — / handsome and greedy.” Another Macedonian poet, Petko Dabeski, in ‘Five Minutes’ uses the vernacular ‘What’s with those five minutes? / Whether they exist or not, they are just a puny five minutes’ to begin a monologue on time and humanity.

Spanish poet Sergio Claudio F. Lima uses Duchamp’s statement that ‘art is not a creative activity, but a means to expand consciousness’ to preface his poem, which is ‘The Body [of a Woman] Signifies’. A note tells us that this poem is a translation of the essential framework/content of the book, O Corpo Significa. The poem is made up of a sequence of terse statements or gnomic utterances that remind me of some of Allen Ginsberg’s Beat poetry

I. The sight of love is definitive.

II. The way of seeing is the way/an expression of being.

III. The doing is the development of thinking, of thought.

IV. The act of action circumscribes, and the sense opens the field of art.

As a member of both the Dadaist and Surrealist movements, Duchamp had a huge influence on the development of modern Western art and, although it is hard to judge this poem on its own without the context of the book for which it provides the ‘framework’, introducing Duchamp inevitably widens the spectrum and terms of reference of Aria and helps give the book its international edge.

In the last section ‘Postscript’, there are two English poems by Sen himself. The first, ‘Translating Poetry’ could stand as the epigraph for any book of translation, tracing, as it does, the process of creation and transposition with all its mysteries and technicalities. When the poem ends with the translator concluding that ‘A real poem defies translation, in every way’ he is selling himself short. In this superlative book of translations, Sen uses his gifts as a poet, linguist, cosmopolitan traveller and observer to conjure, in Coleridge’s phrase, the ‘best words in their best order.’ The result is a fine collection of poetry which takes the best from classical and modern traditions and integrates them into a stunning whole.

Oxford | Summer 2009

Jenny Lewis is a poet and playwright who has worked extensively in cross-arts performances. Read more on our Masthead.

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Jenny Lewis

K. Satchidanandan (Satchi) is a poet of national and international repute writing in Malayalam. He was Professor of English at Christ College, University of Calicut, Kerala, editor of Indian Literature, the journal of the Sahitya Akademi (The National Academy of Letters) and later its Chief Executive. He has 21 collections of poetry in Malayalam, 16 collections of world poetry in translation and 23 collections of critical essays and interviews besides three collections of essays in English and several works in Malayalam, English and Hindi. I heard him read at the Delhi International Literary Festival in December 2008 and in April 2009 at Kellogg College, Oxford and was astonished by the luminosity, depth and humanity of his poetry, an example of which is shown below. Satchi took time out from his busy week to talk to me about Indian poetry, translation and the kind of verse that is spoken by parrots.


The Mad

by K. Satchidanandan, translated from the Malayalam by the poet

The mad have no caste
nor religion. They transcend
gender, live outside
ideologies. We do not deserve
their innocence.

Their language is not of dreams
but of another reality. Their love
is moonlight. It overflows
on the full moon day.

Looking up they see
gods we have never heard of. They are
shaking their wings when
we fancy they are
shrugging their shoulders. They hold
even flies have souls
and the green god of grasshoppers
leaps up on thin legs.

At times they see trees bleed, hear
lions roaring from the streets. At times
they watch Heaven gleaming
in a kitten’s eyes, just as
we do. But they alone can hear
ants sing in a chorus.

While patting the air
they are taming a cyclone
over the Mediterranean. With
their heavy tread, they stop
a volcano from erupting.

They have another measure
of time. Our century is
their second. Twenty seconds,
and they reach Christ; six more,
they are with the Buddha.

In a single day, they reach
the big bang at the beginning.

They go on walking restless for
their earth is boiling still.

The mad are not
mad like us.

 

You have had 27 collections of poems in 17 languages, a tremendous achievement for any poet. Who would you say have been your main influences?

I have learnt a lot from my predecessors in Malayalam like Kumaran Asan,  Vailoppilly and Idassery and, of course, poets from outside like Rilke, Lorca, Neruda, Cesar Vallejo and Paul Celan too have taught their lessons.

You translate your own poetry, and that of others, into English. Have you translated poetry from English into Malayalam? Which English poets translate well and which not so well?

I have translated mostly European poets into Malayalam through English, but have done some poems by W. B. Yeats (e.g. “Easter 1916”), Stephen Spender, W. H. Auden and others. The most exciting was the translation of Shakespeare’s sonnets. I translated all the sonnets for the Complete Works of Shakespeare in Malayalam. It was difficult to contain the meaning in 14 lines, I had to use 16 lines in most cases. I did them in a metre close to prose called keka in Malayalam where each line has 14 letters.

Would you say Indian poetry is reaching a wider, world audience today?

Yes, but in a very small way. Older poets like Kabir or Ghalib or Tagore may be known, but not many poets of today. This is especially true of poets writing in the languages.  The non-availability of translations may be one reason for this ignorance. There are anthologies in English, the Bloodaxe Book of  Contemporary Indian Poets being the latest, but most of them feature only poets writing in English. ICCR has published an anthology of Indian language poetry in four volumes and I have edited one – Signatures – for the National Book Trust. Much more needs to be done  to promote Indian poetry across the world.

Any new Indian poets or trends we should be watching out for?

Women poets are doing well in India, and there are poets who experiment with form. Among the younger crop in English, I particularly like Jeet Thayil, Vivek Narayanan, Arundhati Subramaniam, Anjum Hasan, Mamang Dai, Sridala Swamy  and Priya Sarukkai Chabria. My language, Malayalam, has a good crop of young poets too.

Most Western poets and critics know about the ghazal tradition but can you tell me a little bit about some other Indian/ Malayalam forms, for example kathakali and kilipaattu?

Kathakali is a classical form of dance performance based on a verse text calledSatchiattakkatha whose narrative content often comes from the mahakavyas (epics) or the puranas (mythological narratives) and whose characters generally include gods, demons, warriors, devotees, hermits, princes and princesses. It has fixed costumes based on the inborn nature of the character. The actors do not speak, but only enact the verses sung from behind with traditional accompaniments like the long drum and gong. It mostly follows the acting manual of Bharata, that is, natyasastra, though there are elements that can be traced to the folk tradition. Most of the plays end in a murder or a marriage.

Kilipaattu is a form invented by Thunchathu Ramanujan Ezhuthacchan, the writer of Adhyatma Ramayana in Malayalam. Kili means a lark and pattu means song. Here a bird, a parrot traditionally, is asked to tell a story, and the narration is done by the bird instead of the poet. There are many conjectures as to why Ezhuthacchan asked the bird to tell Rama’s story, one of them being that the poet belonged to a lower caste (he was a Soodra) who was not supposed to write on gods and learn the vedas, so he resorted to this technique of indirect narration. Some view it just as a poetic strategy. And some identify the bird with Suka, a wise hermit. Later Ezhuthacchan rewrote two more epics in this form, Mahabharata and Bhagavata.

Do you think these two forms translate well into English?

Translating them would be a big challenge as they are meant to be sung/chanted. I have translated parts of Adhyatma Ramayana for a Sahitya Akademi project. I could carry over the content, but the rhythms were mostly lost. The best of attakkathas in my language—Nalacharitam by Unnayi Variyar—has also been translated into English, but it cannot be sung .

In an interview for World Literature Today in 2007 the Nigerian poet Niyi Osundare says of translations from his native Yoruba, “Without a doubt the most difficult aspect to translate is the music… the ideophonic system.” Do you agree with this?

Yes, I do. As I said in the case of attakkatha and kilipaattu, the verbal music is the first casualty  and then the syntactical order. But I do not believe in the theory of the impossibility of translation—these are difficulties, but then there are gains too—the poems get reborn in another language with another syntax and rhythm.

You mentioned Ezhuthacchan in connection with caste—in 20th Century Literatures of India, ed. Nalini Natarajan, 1996, there is a discussion of the work of Puran Singh, a Punjabi poet who “broke barriers and chose free verse… following the style of Walt Whitman.” One of his themes was “a passionate preaching of the importance of the common man.”  Could you say a little about poetry in India nowis it reaching the “common” man and woman? Is it exploring new subjects, themes, forms and registers?

In medieval times—which in India was not a dark age, but one of illumination—poets like Kabir, Surdas, Meerabai, Tukaram, Basava, Akka Mahadevi, Andal, Namdev, Jnandev took poetry to the people. It was  metaphysical poetry at its best. Perhaps, once again, poetry is being given back to the people today by Dalit and tribal poets. Forgotten forms are being revived and dialects are replacing standardised language.

British poets such as Daljit Nagra are gaining popular and critical acclaim with a form of poetry which uses Punjabi English or “Punglish” and echoes actual and linguistic Punjabi characteristics. How relevant is poetry of the diaspora for an Indian readership? Is it of general interest? Will it last? 

I personally like Daljit’s poetry, especially for its  humour, the new language and his rap singing. But there are very few diasporic poets who are trying something like that. There are fine poets of course, like Sujata Bhatt, Meena Alexander, Tabish Khair and others, not forgetting those who are no more like A. K. Ramanujan and G. S. Saratchandra. Of them the younger ones like Mani Rao and Mukta Sambrani are trying new forms. The contribution of the poets of the diaspora to Indian poetry in English is undeniable. I am not sure they are all consciously diasporic in their poetry although some do treat Indian themes with nostalgic distance or feel they are in a “third space” to use Homi Bhabha’s expression.

Finally, Satchi, if you could only take one book of poetry to a desert island, which would it be?

The Mahabharata. If it is to be in English, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

Thank you Satchi.

 

August 2009

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