Text of my plenary session in the National Seminar on Contemporary South Asian literature in English, March 20-21, 2017, at the Center for Foreign Languages (English), Central University of South Bihar, Gaya
Location: Renaisance, Dayanand-Sushila Cultural Center, A.P. Colony, Gaya
You will agree that we as poets belong to the present, which is our creative consciousness. Some of us have also written about the crises of essential ideas, beliefs and systems and suffer from isolation in our own minds, but not without somehow leading to reconciliation.
To quote Octavio Paz from his Nobel lecture on December 8, 1990 in Stockholm: “It may seem paradoxical to say that we have been driven out of the present, but it is a feeling that we all had at some point. Some of us first experienced it as a conviction, later turned it into awareness and action. The search for the present is neither the pursuit of an earthly paradise, nor that of a timeless eternity: it is the search for real reality. “Discovering this ‘real reality’ can be difficult because we are part of it ourselves, its disintegration, splitting or disappearance, or its conversion to an instant or fasting. To quote from Shiv K Kumar’s poem,” Coromandel Beach ‘: “I know / if I probe deeper / all particles will / slip into the hole – / the sea will mountain / and all the evidence drops / into the subliminal bed.”
The desperate, inhuman influences of the so-called civilized existence – the socio-economic reality, the tragic mess one must suffer – have left deeper traces on the contemporary psyche. To on. Bhatnagar: “We are afraid to speak the truth / and to resist what is unjust / dirty and corrupt in our bones.” (The inaudible landscape, p. 10)
Several sensitive poets derive their food from the encounter with the direct and the tangible; they act by trying to understand what it is about their own dreams, often seen in semi-insomnia and fraught with countless dangers and surprises; they explore their own mind, body, psyche, their own life. sometimes with a sense of lack of harmony with their environment. They are baffled at living and living in the shadows of those religious, political, social systems that support us while suppressing us. Sometimes their troubled consciousness invites them to self-examination, sometimes the feeling of being different or not belonging appears as a challenge, an incentive that prompts them to take action, to step outside and face the outside world, after to think about its origin the past and the future.
They reflect on the condition of the individuals isolated from society and reflect on different levels of human relationship and existence problems; distortion, corruption, degeneration, morbidity, deprivation, insecurity; horrors of bloodshed; aches and pains from aimless murders and death; feeling of helplessness; awareness of political and social unrest; ridicules idealism, values and morality; tendency to maneuver the truth; game of convenience; exploitation of the poor and innocent; in short, the hypocrisy that works on all levels. They focus on realizations of modern corruption, even as they try to betray what it is like to be human against the occasional new set of vulgarities.
Some of them make poetry out of discussions with themselves: they are driven to understand themselves, their lives. Their “personal” voice is animated by problems and arguments surrounding the mind-body relationship, around what most people try to hide – the sexual feelings, the sensations of the flesh; like any good artist, they also try to show life. They write with an awareness of what is denied in our ordinary existence, what is under the skin of things around us, the psychospirituality, the moral dilemmas, the betrayal and the paradoxes.
There are certain poets who combine personal memories with history while there is a kind of neo-mysticism in the pursuit of others, showing subtle absorption of motifs and memories from their own roots / past when exploring the meaning of their different side by side existing lives. The philosophical insight and artistic value of poetic creation make many a recent poet authentic.
My observations, anyway general, should motivate teachers and researchers to explore new voices and study them as part of the curriculum. It disappoints and harms the cause of South Asian writing in English when a young teacher or researcher tells me that research on new or living authors is not allowed in their college or university. Speaking as a poet, and if we claim to be part of what we call Indian English Writing, then as academics we must ensure that poets like me (or Prabhat K Singh, or others present here) are not dumped without being read or evaluated. A little big heart is needed in our own interest, that is, to be remembered as Indian English poets and writers. The dynamics of recent writing must be understood through analysis and criticism. Otherwise the cause dies, the praise for a handful of so-called famous poets and writers and research on recycling repeats. Let’s lose our ego.
Speaking as an academic, let me tell you that before I retired in December 2015, and as long as the one-year MPhil program continued on ISM (now IIT), as a professor and principal, I wasn’t just encouraging students to share their dissertations on new authors and poets, but also about new books of your choice. They explored works by marginalized or new poets and authors such as R. Rabindranath Menon, Pronab Kumar Majumder, Niranjan Mohanty, VVB Ramarao, YS Rajan, APJ Abdul Kalam, SL Peeran, Syed Ameeruddin, Hazara Singh, PK Joy, DC Chambial, IK Sharma , Maha Nand Sharma, B Ahmad, Pashupati Jha, Vihang Naik, Manas Bakshi, Biplab Majumdar, P. Raja, RK Singh, Jaishree Misra, Mamang Dai, Tamsula Ao, S Radhamani, Sudha Iyer, Nirmala Pillai, Venu Arora, Dipanwita Mukerjee etc. And a little more famous Mani Rao, Tabish Khair, Manu Joseph, Raj Kamal Jha, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Jhumpa Lahiri, Eve Enseler (who wrote Vagina Monologues), Raewyn Alexander (who wrote Fat), and Ross Donlon. My other colleagues there will continue to supervise the research into several new authors from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Such a seminar offers us the opportunity to discover and interact with new talents. Many of them have written and published against different expectations. Let me mention my latest discovery, Kalpna Singh-Chitnis. Like Tabish Khair, she is born, raised and trained in Gaya. She taught political science at Gaya College before moving to the US to pursue her interest in film directing at the New York Film Academy Universal Studios in Hollywood. A Bihar Rajbhasha prize winner, translator, editor of a literary magazine Life and legend, and founder and director of Silent River Film festival, Kalpna Singh is now based in Los Angeles, California.
Her poems are refreshingly fascinating. “Let’s just be whoever we are” – that’s how she tries to expose the soul, our being on every level. Bare soul (published by Partridge India, 2015) is her fourth collection of poetry. She writes simple, sensual and passionate poems that are spiritually exalted. She uses natural elements as metaphors for a complex of human emotions that connect her to the whole world. Her voice is ‘as original and intercultural as it is universal and classic’. You can hear the mystic in her quest: “I have come all the way / not to try your love for me; // I’m here to tell – / I can’t afford not to love anymore! ” (P. 12). Like many female poets around the world, she also states, “My body is no longer my limitation” (p. 19) and “we enjoy the darkness that has been given to us / has led us together / our wings have been bruised / and there is no heaven above our heads, / but we have what heaven does not have // like a rope in the candle / we burn together, we light together. “(Ancient Love, p. 29)
Innocent, deep and perceptive, Kalpna examines the old question, “Who am I?” and wonders if she is “a naked soul with no face?” adding: “I can see myself in a moment / past past, present and future / walking my way” (p 82). She comes in Bare soul the “wild inner beauty” of a woman, as she expresses in different tones, man-woman relationship: “I can not be a disaster for nothing” (p 19) and “It is now time for me to empty my soul / rolling in the abundance of silence / to hear my voice … “
The in-look and also the outlook of the female poets is a challenge. As their poetry reveals, they boldly investigate their private and public life, or everyday experiences. They integrate the flesh into their beliefs and representations, just as they have traditionally associated with their home, family, motherhood, social life, loneliness, god, nature, myths. With the profound changes that have taken place in their lives, their choices and opportunities in the past period, their status, roles, profession and legal status, they now give their own vision and understanding of everyday life, often cross-cutting cultures and regions . When they portray their sexuality or comment on our sexual politics, they also tell us how women also control their own place in poetic creation.
Several new collections that I was able to get my hands on show their sensibilities and struggles that appeal to their lack of pedantism, moral comment, or unnecessary romanticization. They exploit the medium to understand, on the one hand, why and how of life, and, on the other hand, to enrich and celebrate female consciousness, and to redeem their physical and spiritual existence. They sound warm, lively and capable.
Let’s also take note of certain obvious realities. Many of our contemporary poets – male or female, in their thirties, forties, fifties, or sixties, with an awareness of the twentieth century – have learned to live with a world in desperation. They grew up in very disappointing living conditions. It was normal for them (in fact, it is one of our collective cultural traits as Indians) to think intuitively and / or turn personally, inwardly, divinely or spiritually; their ability lies in their emotional sensitivity than in intellectual abstraction. It is not their escapism, but an urge to change the situation for themselves.
A female poet from Kashmir, Syeda Afshana, courageously disapproves of politicians and anti-feminine people and is critical of the media for reducing Kashmir to ‘propaganda symbolism’. She touches on themes like bloodshed, violence, rebellion, loss, sacrifice and relationships. However, it is her “different” attitude that makes her remarkable. Her grief is evident when she says, “A scream / that’s only mine, only mine / and has remained unchanged since time immemorial.” (The Fugitive Sunshine, p. 24)
Chandni Singh writes about the gang rape of a 23-year-old girl (Nirbhaya) in New Delhi three years ago, and feels like part of every woman who is raped. Let me quote from her poem ‘I am a woman in India’:
I can hold my own on issues
about the environment.
I can be eloquent about literature and music.
I have been told, I am the future;
and for a moment I tend to believe
in the bubble I bought.
But every morning
My ego lanky
as it is castrated by the hands of
I’ve lost count:
there are too many to fight against.
I may have been liberated. And educated,
but my fire has been extinguished.
Neither rhetoric nor review can do that
bring me comfort.
And so I turn the other cheek.
I went deaf for the whistles and
blind to immorality.
I adjust mine dupatta
and look straight ahead
as they walk through the streets and pucker their mouths.
I am just a simple woman in India.
I will mention a few other recent cases reported in the media. Near Afghanistan, several dozen Kabul women, who call poetry their swords, are determined to protect their newfound freedom, despite continuing threats from the Talibans. Poetry is their form of resistance in a taboo-ravaged, highly conservative and almost illiterate society that considers writing poetry a sin. For example, Karima Shabrang uses explicit images of intimacy: “I miss you … my hands stretch out from the ruins of Kabul … I want to invite you to my room for some delicious smoke … and you take refuge in your shivering red body. ”More and more women are fighting for rights, including their rights to write and be heard.
Freedom to express themselves freely and creatively is something most women find difficult to have, but some of them, who do not necessarily endorse feminist practices, have honestly and boldly shown their modernity to create a new language for themselves , for new ways of seeing, understanding and interpreting humanity and the world, for their attempt to change “thinking and growing”. This is where writing haikus comes in handy. It fits the current minimalist trend. A few examples:
“Bathed in bubbles / my breasts are turning into mountains – / glistening of snow” (Pam Penny)
“May green fly / in my pink lipstick tomorrow, you chose / a beautiful death” (Susan Kerr)
“Remember the infidelity of last / summer: / your tongue in my cheek” (Sheila Glen Bishop)
“my childhood is over – / a lonely crow is circling / adding his lament” (Janice M Bostok)
“pregnant again – / moth fluttering / against the window” (Janice M Bostok)
“clean the bedroom – / the warmth of her shirt / left in the sun” (Michael Dylan Welch)
“push her fingers / roots into the earth – / touch-me-not” (R.K. Singh)
“green stones – / the moss conquers / the mountain” (Mohd Azim Khan)
I started with poets’ search for the present. They are always looking for new ways to say, the new language experience, the new ways to express what we see, feel and think. Speaking of haiku writing, which is the shortest lyric, let me clarify: haiku poems are always about the present; they are written in the present tense, as a rule, to create a sense of experience. They are three lines, conventionally consisting of 5-7-5 syllables and one season word (or Kigo, as they call it), follow the principles of comparison, contrast or association between the images. In the words of a Canadian haiku poet Betty Drevniok: “In haiku the something and the something else are captured together in clearly marked images. Together they complement and fulfill each other as a certain eventThat is, haiku is a complete poem that the public can relate to.
For example ‘a spring nap / downstream cherry trees / in bud’. What is experienced, but not said, is the thought that buds on a tree are like flowers taking a nap. The cherry bud image can also be compared to a number of items, just as anything else in the spring landscape can be compared to a nap without mentioning the thing? The reader is free to imagine or experience a new haiku!
I have read and written a number of haikus over the past three decades and developed a taste for only such haikus (without distinguishing between haiku, which is conventionally objective, impersonal and relates to nature, and senryu, which is light and has related humor, irony or satire man events) that use concrete images, or sensation of a lived moment, and not abstractions.
In recent decades, haiku has developed into world poetry, internationalizing the 700-year-old traditional Japanese form, giving poets an enormous opportunity to experiment in any language, especially English. They have divided their moments of different experiences of poetic value into three (short-long-short) lines, reduced to minimal details. (That is, there is no room for adjectives, adverbs, nasty details or comments, no rational analysis, no reinforcement, just the essential from the moment of experience or observation, in good pragmatic language. The poet allows readers to connect to his / her context.) They have used the short poem form to convey their personal feelings and emotional states, everyday reality, sensual vitality, humor and humor, and even reflections and opinions. But what matters for the right effect is whether they refer to or relate to a truly lived experience and evoke deep feelings from the reader; whether the poet could capture certain bright moments of life with his / her inner eyes.
The main thing is to write in a stripped-down, concise style exact experience, or the image (of it), and not about the feelings themselves, or meaning; leave it to the reader. The feelings will be strongest when they are implied indirectly, by allowing the reader to experience the image or action that the haiku radiates, rather than trying to tell the reader what to feel.
Reading new haiku poets reminds us that life is so rich in events that you can focus on a specific moment and create a haiku, not necessarily all cool, dry and objective, but also emotionally satisfying. Several new poets from the subcontinent – Sonam Chhoki, Namgay Wangchuk, Kinely Tshering, Tashi Gyaltshen (Bhutan); Abhi Subedi, Mukul Dehal, Bamdev Sharma, Janak Sapkota, Anand Raj Joshi, Haris Adhikari (Nepal); Athar Tahir, Naeem-ur-Rahman, Mohd Azim Khan, Sohail Ahmed Suddiqui, Shaheen Shah (Pakistan); Malintha Parera (Sri Lanka); Rahman Mustafizur, Sadiq Alam, Quamrul Hassan, Khan Munia (Bangla Desh); Angelee Deodhar, Radhey Shiam, Vishnu P Kapoor, Vidur Jyoti, Pravat Kumar Padhy, Rebba Singh, Ajaya Mehala, K. Ramesh, Gautam Nadkarni, R.K. Singh, Kala Ramesh and many others (India) show something more than skill and style – haiku sensitivity – which naturally gives readers space to imagine what is not expressed, to ‘connect’. Readers become part of the creation of the poets of ‘here and now’.
But there are also many haiku poets, I don’t want to mention a few, who give a poetic or literary or philosophical view of the observed rather than the thing itself. They seem romantic, sentimental, didactic or cleverly manipulate the simple truths of the wonders of nature or life experience. Some poets attribute a purpose or purpose to their objects of observation and prevent readers from making connections. They tend to explain and elaborate (as in their regular poems) rather than sketching their experience of the moment. Some others write “sublime” poetry, or hold on to the “form” and not the mind, the spirit of the here and now, as I said.
It is the spirit behind the words that counts: the pauses, hesitations and the silences between words and between the lines, the silences that make a poem live and breathe. That is what makes a good haiku, not teaching, preaching, moralizing, philosophizing, intellectuals or what they do in epigrammatic poetry.
My experience of reading and writing haiku convinces me that the best haiku just happens, or get easily writtenjust as the short poem with its directness, naturalness and simplicity of the sharply observed moments in life and the union of spirit and nature conveys something so suggestive and dynamic that one is filled with a sense of life, or someone with what is called the “haiku moment”.
Since haiku is another poetic tool, if you use two images and a keyword, if you put two things side by side that happen to be “together” in view of the dynamics of the relationship, if you are level-headed and convey sensuality with or without the traditional kigo (seasonal word), or if you practice free form and experimental haiku in 3-5-3, 3-4-3, 4-7-5, 4-6-4 or even 7 -7 syllables, or just short -long-short lines-I enjoy it. It is about precision, perception and awareness; sound and rhythm, but no rhyme.
Classic haikus don’t rhyme, although matured haikus, as tried by I H Rizvi or T V Reddy, are quite possible. If for structural reasons there are only two lines in a haiku, or the last words of two lines rhyme with each other, then I enjoy it too, provided the haiku image or haiku spirit remains intact, and everything is clear and reads well. When rhymes appear naturally and smoothly, not artificially, it adds to the beauty of the three liners.
If a South Asian poet is well versed in the haiku genre and shows sensitivity to the medium, he / she will appeal to a wider regional / national / international audience. They understand what and how of haikus, so their ‘style’ can be explored in terms of local / regional use as part of a national standard. The authenticity of the poets’ expression sheds light on the multilingual / multicultural situational context and their English.
Researchers can also explore the socio-emotional contexts and problems: Haiku and tanka provide tension, contradiction, and emotional expressiveness, all of which are essential to explore the complexity of the native identity. They can study their communicative devices, emphasizing not only the use of the typical kigo (seasonal) words unique to the poet’s region and / or contexts, but also ‘deviations’, which is an important part of pragmatics and stylistics, as part of the process of adapting the Japanese tradition and the use of English in the SL context.
For example, as I think out loud, it is also possible to explore heteronyms (which are different in shape, have the same reference and have the same stylistic equivalence (e.g. autumn / fall, hood / top, corn / oats / corn, pavement / sidewalk, pancake / hotcake, trailer / truck / tractor trailer etc.) and related on Indian kigo words, in addition to helping the international audience to understand the attitudes of the regional preferred / territorially desired variants of speakers for the same word or phrase in context There are so many new expressions and innovations in haiku and tanka.
There is so much experimentation with word-forming, code mixing, code switching and loan translation, and it is challenging to describe South Asian English, or the English used by poets in the region. Researchers here have the opportunity for international and interregional comparison and possible lexicographic research.
Those of you interested in stylistics, literary pragmatics, discourse analysis, or literary activities as communicative may find it worth exploring the new grammar of poetry through Japanese poetry, as adapted in English not only in India, but also in South Asia, Europe, North America and Africa. The poets use metaphors, irony, humor, double-meaning words, puns, puns, riddles / puzzles, paradox, in addition to Japanese techniques of shasei (sketch from life), shajutsu (reality), portray something like it is, I knew (loneliness, loneliness, pity), wabi (poverty, austerity), yugen (mystery) etc different. Their text structure and communicative function of aesthetic experience require serious academic study and research, if you trust my observations as a practicing poet and academic, committed to promoting creativity and criticism of it in Indian English.
Let me assure you that the canon does not have to reject the new and marginalized voices (I may be biased if I mention a few and leave out the others), but the tendency of academics, power politics apart, to the native Indian English poets in favor of a handful of names even after adulthood of Indian English is not positive. There is also no point in recycling information (in the name of research) about already well-established authors such as Mulk Raj Anand (about 100 statements), R.K. Narayan (about 140 theses), Raja Rao (about 70 theses), Kamala Markandeya (about 70 theses), Anita Desai (140 theses), Sri Aurobindo (75 theses), Ruth Prawer Jhabwala (50 theses), Arun Joshi (45 theses) )), Shashi Deshpande (over 45 statements), Salman Rushdie (47 statements), USA Naipaul (45 statements), Kamala Das (42 statements), Nissim Ezekiel, Manohar Malgonkar, Bhabani Bhattacharya (each over 30 to 35 statements) – these data are dated 5 to 6 years. What kind of news is said if each of these writers has already published more than 20 to 70 complete books about them? Those who have evaluated dissertations can better tell you how frustrating it is not to find something new and exciting in a study and yet good!
A change of mentality is necessary. Unless the academic world examines the literary imaginations and linguistic inventiveness of the new and marginalized Indian and other South Asian writers while negotiating their diverse cultural identities or their search for alternatives to creating another world, they will not be able to to familiarize students and researchers with rapidly changing writing styles, here in our country, be it fiction or poetry. Fiction is easily accepted because the form has adapted to the rapidly changing world and writers have tried new narrative methods. They have been innovative and readers who buy their work support them. Recent fictionalists such as Ashwin Sanghi, Amish Tripathi, Mohan Vizhakat, Rajiv Menon, Jaishree Misra and others have been successful for their creative innovation and myth formation. They are worth studying for academic degrees. Poets also need support.
In whatever way we can help, let’s try to make research relevant, refreshing, challenging, innovative and additive to new knowledge by examining, for example, the emerging cultural dimensions and discourse; the different worlds as experienced, conceived and discussed to explore the great diversity of experiences and conversations of the world (there is no a world as we invented it); the ‘otherness of English’ in all its creative and critical manifestations; the relationship of one language (what is being talked about) with another (the one we’re talking about). With appropriate theoretical approaches it is possible to promote intercultural dialogue. We need an eclectic understanding of creativity, as Wole Soyinka once argued, for a realization of ‘universal catalog of art metaphors’. In fact, William Harris speaks of “a kind of intercultural psyche of humanity, a cross-cultural psyche brimming with tone and fabric of encounters between so-called wild cultures and so-called civilized cultures.”
We must be sensible yet tolerant to value multifaceted creativity and promote “reasonable discussion” without being hegemonic, antagonistic, judgmental or threatening. It is possible to research new literature in a spirit of good faith, understanding and reasonable disagreement. The university research program may focus on multiculturalism, appreciating and encouraging individual thinking, but discouraging dominance, conformity and submission.
Thinking aloud, I would suggest for relevant research, every teacher at his / her university and college should identify three to five new, or lesser known or marginalized authors (poets, novelists, playwrights), each at (I) room / district / state level; (ii) regional level; (iii) national level; (iv) international level, and study them separately for MPhil and PhD theses, whether in a group, or collective, and / or comparative, both intra- and inter-regional and international, negotiating creative and critical differences. This helps generate a large number of new ‘topics’ and promotes positive intercultural mediation based on equality, rather than a dominant versus dominated basis.
Academic and poet friends such as Dr. I H Rizvi and Dr. Satish Kumar have published works that draw attention to dozens of poets and authors from Uttar Pradesh, just like Dr. C L Khatri and Dr. I K Sharma have written books and articles about poets and authors from Bihar and Rajasthan. Muse India, an online literary magazine, focuses on writings in English from several other regions of the country. Likewise another new online magazine, Creation and criticism, edited by Sudhir K Arora, Abnish Singh Chauhan and others, from a small town like Moradabad, has promoted new talent and linked it to an international audience. Dit soort oefeningen moet beginnen om literaire en scholastische studies op lokaal, regionaal, nationaal en internationaal niveau nieuw leven in te blazen met nieuwere theoretische benaderingen die een geleerde kunnen interesseren.
Met empathie, erkenning en reactievermogen kunnen de literaire schoolse orthodoxies van de afgelopen decennia worden vervangen door nieuwe contexten, niet beïnvloed door monopolistische benaderingen. In plaats van de ondergang van het Indiase Engelse schrift uit te spreken of te jammeren over de slechte kwaliteit ervan, zoals de auteurs van Indiase Engelse literatuur: 1980-2000 (2001) MK Naik en Shyamala A Narayan, als academische critici professionele toewijding en toewijding zouden kunnen aantonen, zouden we in korte tijd veel goede dichters, fictieschrijvers en toneelschrijvers kunnen vinden, naast het koesteren van de kunst, het benutten van de smaak, het ontwikkelen van het talent, en het bevorderen van kritiek.