Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Poetry is changing – moving to new terrain in a real, morphing world (Overview of World Poetry Festival).


Poetry- the medium of literary exposition that transcreates emotions into verbose reality— is progressing in multiple directions in the contemporary socio-political and cultural environment where diverse forces are contouring the intellectual landscape for poets to capture the riot of life’s changing fortunes and realities.
While tender emotions like love, pantheism and the response to emotional experiences — the staple nourishment for poetry over the ages — still remain the touchstone of modern poetic sensibilities— radical events like conflicts, revolution, politics, gender empowerment, heightened consciousness and globalization are redefining the poetic content to relate to the audiences that have expanded to include wider footprint from new geographies.
Poetry is still the most potent healer in this age of stress, violence and lifestyle traumas, critics say — serving as a gentle reminder of the “beauty in the melee words and real worlds”.
A World Poetry Festival-Sabad in the national capital presented by the Sahitya Akademi to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore March 21-14 brought poets of all colours and ideologies from 21 countries for four days of reading and discussions in vernacular languages and translations in English language. The objective of the festival was to establish that “poetic sensibilities” worldwide are fashioned by the same set of forces despite the cultural contrasts and the importance of translation in global poetic exchange — only in universalism can vernacular poetry stay alive, the participants concurred.
The festival was unique because it allowed foreign poets from countries like UK, the Balkans, Germany, Seychelles, France, Cuba, Nigeria and Macedonia to share space with poets from the Indian provinces and bring to the fore the reality that poetry uses one language — that of creative expression where the styles, cadences and vernacular archetypes blur in the rush of emotional well-springs.  English – as the primary language of translation – became a medium of “glocal identification” using a hybrid idiom of non-English speaking English that accommodated references to the vernacular to give the queen’s tongue a more earthy provincial flavour. Most poets drew from the contemporary global realities to relate to the audience in the manner of poets like Pablo Neruda, T.S, Elliot, Ted Hughes and W.H. Auden to create meanings and memories rather than word wreaths.
“Poetry cannot exist without memory. My poetry is rooted in nostalgia — which is remembering something which is past, but memory is present is always in the present. Past is a situation, but the values live in the present,” noted Hindi poet Manglesh Dabral told this writer on the sidelines of the festival.
Dabral’s poetry is an echo of his “immediate environs” and everyday like his father’s “old torchlight”, the cell phone and an old man’s failing memories. “It is difficult to create big things with small things. In my early youth, I spoke of my village in my poetry and now I speak of globalization, issues of concern and what has  changed. No one knows about the audience,” Dabral said, shedding light on his “poetic process and growth”. Poetry comes from a source that is located in the world outside, the poet said. His poems like “The Places That I Have Left”, “Torchlight”, “The Missing” and “The Accompanist” from the anthology of his poems, “This Number Does Not Exist” -  a poetic monologue probing the emotions underlying a mobile telephone refrain — refer to the nostalgia created by the past slipping off the conscious memory and the movement of the old to the new.
Dabral’s poems are inspired by incidents that the poet has come across in the media, on the streets and the people who inhabit his inner and outer world.
Contemporary poetry looks for social relevance in lucid expressions that are lyrical and profound at the same time — pithy and packing meaningful punches, Irish poet Lorna Shaughnessy, a poetess and translator from Ireland, explained. “My poems come a from a very wide range. It can be a photograph from a magazine. It can be a glimpse from life, a story or anecdote. I like conversational poetry like the ones by the famous Irish poet Seamus Heaney, often hailed as the creator of conversational poetry,” she said.
Shaughnessy, an academic, said “most of her life went into academic research before she took to writing poetry exclusively”. “Academic life can undermine confidence because pedagogy and academy can arrest the flow of poetic expression,” she said. Poetry is not simple. “It is a craft and you have to work at it like any other craft and practice it,” the poet said. Shaughnessy, a native for Belfast, searches for sub-textual meanings in the “historical events that her country has witnessed”. In one of her poems “Akahista” that pays tribute to the victims of an Air India air carrier crash off the coast of Ireland coast in 1985 speaks of the cross-cultural understandings and the empathy that the disaster memorial “Akahista” has fostered.  “Hundreds of Indians flock to the site every year to mourn the dead,” she said. In yet another poem, “Good Friday, 1998”, Shaughnessy  captures that moment in Irish politics when the Good Friday Peace Accord promises to change the “turbulent revolutionary landscape” of northern Ireland.
“… Your breath is even, you have not moved, though all about you have…,” Shaughnessy says in her poem, “Good Friday, 1998”. She looks at the peace pact between the parties in northern Ireland, the Irish government and the British government through the life of her sleeping child “who sleeps through history” as the politics of Ireland takes a new twist.
Revolution, war, liberation, exile and “right to linguistic identity” are “issues” that imbues  veteran Bangladeshi poet Belal Chowdhury’s  “contemporary” poetry that has not changed much since the 1960s from its realistic style that often verges on “sloganeering”.  The ailing poet, who read out his compositions, at the festival said his poetry “was a document of the journey of Bangladesh from its liberation to our times when the country resonates with global debates about “apartheid, economy, scientific discoveries and nuclear ideas – of sovereignty and development”.
“What is inside an egg
Music, Chemical Notations
Compressed in the Miserable Womb
Ample instructions for weaving a nest
Catalogue of Balanced Diet, the stellar map
The multitudes are stored in the same single cell
Hunger, thirst and bursts of praise…”
Chowdhury belongs to a generation of poets who have “irrevocably” marked by the dislocation of the Partition (of erstwhile East Pakistan) – and the liberation of Bangladesh which saw the birth of the pioneering generations of nationalist poets. His poems shine with the “delicate and sensitive synergy between West and East Bengal’s Bengalihood” joined by cultural renaissance and human exodus from across the border to West Bengal. Chowdhury spent years in exile in Kolkata around the Liberation War.
The translations of his poems into English is embellished with “local flavours” — brought on by the use of the odd Bengali word. This is a curious “oddity” that surfaced time and again at the festival pointing to the “nascent evolution of a indigenous Indian English that touches the lay poetry lover of vernacular origin”. Colloquialism, like in works of prose, is creeping into the poetic language as well in countries with colonial heritage — a native syndrome as many literary critics would describe it.    
The allusion to the indigenous was most pronounced in the English translations of the poetry of three south Indian poets — K. Siva Reddy, P.P. Ramachandran and H. Shivaprakash (at the festival) who assimilated from folk, mythology and bigger canons of Indian spirituality to craft their “modern” poetry that addressed the “ancient” in a new voice. Ramachandran’s “Ghatkoper” paints a meticulous picture of the Mumbai suburb — suggesting the shape of the larger metropolis through the microcosm of a underbelly.
Poetry is present in almost every person like a story waiting to be narrated. Police officer Hilde Marie, one of the most promising young poets from the island of Seychelles writes poetry for the “sheer power and beauty of the language that the calling allows her”. She looks back in introspection at the colonial history of her island – of slavery, the rise of the middle class and social justice. She punctuates her “social” poetry with personal memoirs in poems like “The Continuous”, “Fireflies in the Dusk” and “The Fields Bloom No More”. The poems — in English and Creole — are powerful in their choice of words and visual imagery that is like a lens to the natural splendour of the Indian Ocean island. Italian poet Tiziana Cera Rosco seeks passionate succor in religion to invoke the “anguish of Jesus Christ” in her poem, “It is finished” — a lamentation of the prophet before his death on the cross exhorting “god to forgive mankind for not knowing what they were doing”— to themselves and to their “messiah” . His dying entreaties are addressed  to God and “Magdalene” — the woman he “imagines to have married”.   
Poet Maram-Al-Masari , a Syrian poet living in Paris, was the voice of the suppressed Arab women “breaking chains of fears and silence”.                                 
The power of poetry that springs from the gut-pools of truth conjures up images of paintings, music  and drama — three mediums that poetry is closest to. “I was raised by my grandmother in Nigeria – where she taught me the local music and arts as a child. I compose songs and performances for my people and culture. Almost all these arts interpreted in my poetry which has a lot to do with positive traditions of sculptures, painting, music and dance. You cannot separate poetry from music,” Tanure Ojaide, a poet from Nigeria, said in a discussion, “Poetry and Other Arts”. Poetry is increasingly a mosaic shard of a artistic whole — the exposition of culture as a holistic arts experience. Poets like George Szirtes, an art school graduate and curator-art critic Ranjit Hoskote (who were at the festival) would certainly concur.

-Madhusree Chatterjee                  

No comments:

Post a Comment