Book Review by Dr. Anisur Rahman

Title Till the Next Wave Comes

Book: Till the Next Wave Comes

Poet: Sarita Jenamani

Publisher: Dhauli Books, 2018

 

A poem is not
a luminous firework
It is a lonely shooting star
struck off
from the forehead
of the firmament (“Poem”, 69)

(Excerpted from A Poem is Not a Luminous Firework: Sarita Jenamani in Her Poetry Workshop)

Constructed around four vibrant images, this definitional piece made me wonder if a poem is a curious construct for Sarita Jenamani. A moment later, I turned curious to find whether the poem comes in her grip, or gives her a slip, in a moment of becoming. To test this, I moved back and forth with seventy nine poems included in her collection Till the Next Wave Comes. In doing so, I found myself defining and redefining her poetics as any curious reader would do in the process of reading poetry.  While reading the poems with shorter and longer breaks, I confirmed that a poem to her was a unit of a larger body of expression called poetry that sought its strength from sharp images and mixed metaphors, as also with acute turns of expressions and implied silences.

Jenamani’s poetry has allowed me a passage to a rich habitat of people and a veritable range of moods and modes of living. She chooses to draw upon locations near and far, conditions real and eerie, and people alive and lost in time. As she turns her words into images and images into metaphors, she transforms her memories into fantasies and conditions of living into those of loving. Her long and short poems are like breaths punctuated with regular strokes of strength. She survives through drifting and static scenarios that most of her poems represent.

Jenamani is a poet in English and Oriya. She lives in Vienna, Austria. She is the general secretary of Austrian Chapter of PEN International. She is the co-editor of an Austria based bilingual magazine for migrant literature Words & Worlds.

Languages of India

About 6,500  spoken languages  are in use in the world today. However, about 2,000 of those languages have fewer than 1,000 users.

Mandarin and English are the most spoken language on Earth followed by Urdu used as Hindustani and then, comes Hindi, the language that has been adopted as part of the Indian identity by some. A battle rages on in India among people who want to use Hindi as the lingua franca of the country and those who speak other languages, including English. What does homogenisation of languages to create a national identity do to a people?

The Cultural Tool , a book by linguist Daniel Everett shows that languages develop out of cultural needs. As nations try to create homogenous identities with a single language, they wipe out cultures. Everett explains that this linguistic diversity “is one of the greatest survival tools that human beings have … each language is a cognitive tool for its speakers and comes to encode their solutions to the environmental and other problems they face as a culture”.

“Now, writers have to conform to market rules to ensure their works can be sold and read globally. This global influence can be so cruel that non-native English writers may consider writing in their mother languages inferior and may prefer writing in English instead,” says Brazilian author Bernando Carvalho

bernardo-carvalhoAccording to Carvalho, the hegemony of English language has created an atmosphere where non-native speakers are accepted mostly only if they write in English incorporating some of their local slang or ethnic experience. At the same time, the Anglo-Saxon world uses this multiculturalism as an excuse to not translate works from other languages to English, he said.

Carvalho gave examples of 19th century writer Machado de Assis, arguably the best Brazilian writer ever, and the 20th century Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges during his talk. He said these writers used the Western literary canon but transformed it with their own local sensibility to create a new and exceptional body of writing that was reflective and relevant domestically. They were able to use their peripheral status as an asset, Carvalho said.