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A.K. Ramanujan: A Lonely Hero

The narrative around the pioneering Indian English poet and translator must rescue him from his image of a remote icon into a living inspiration.

Translation, by definition, always entails some loss of the original substance. All translations are sooner or later revealed as imperfect and eventually, even in the case of the most exemplary performances, come to be regarded as provisional.

—Susan Sontag, The World As India

AK. Ramanujan (or AKR), who taught at the University of Chicago for 30 years, has remained an iconic figure for the Indian literary community for a long time. After making his mark first as an Indian English poet in the mid 1960s, he won enduring fame in India and abroad for his pioneering translations of classical Tamil poetry, and later, of Bhakti poetry in Tamil and Kannada. During the latter half of his career, AKR worked on compiling and translating folk tales from across India in as many as 20 languages. As a scholar and intellectual, he also contributed essays throwing light on several important aspects of Indian culture related to our language systems and oral/written literary traditions. Though he did not spend much time on translating contemporary works, his translation of U.R. Ananthamurthy’s Kannada novel Samskara, first published in 1976, was a landmark achievement, catapulting the novel and its author to national and international fame. Along with a prodigious output in several genres, AKR also wrote poetry and fiction in Kannada throughout his life. After his untimely demise in 1993, AKR’s papers (poems, folk tales, essays) were collected and edited for publication in several volumes.

For his achievements, AKR was held in high esteem by his peers and contemporaries. To Indians, he had that extra sheen of a non-resident genius, working in fields not easily accessible to Indians of that period. He continues to be venerated here as a translator, scholar and thinker by succeeding generations of Anglophone Indians. It would seem, however, that in the current discourse on Ramanujan and his writings, he is always looked at in isolation, a venerable figure not related to his contemporaries or his successors in a substantive way.

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Keki N Daruwala

 

keki

By Aminah Sheikh

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write to express myself, and there is a hell of a lot in me to express.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

Am trying to say many things in my book. Firstly what a short story can do and achieve. The title story “Daniell comes to Judgement” is about how fate conspires to deal with a corporate honcho who is trying to exploit a brave girl. The second story about Garima is about a divorce, the wife returning to her mother’s house and after all the dejection, the garden getting watered and suddenly the fragrance from the buried bulbs revives her. And the passages at the end of the story simply have to turn lyrical — language always has to keep pace with the twists and turns of a story. And don’t forget the story “Bars”, based on my experience in the National Commission for Minorities – pastors being arrested for converting a corpse! Hey Prabhu, the Hindutva police under a Hindutva regime in MP can do anything.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Writing aesthetic. Koi aesthetic vesthetic nahin Madam. Jo dil mein aya likh diya.

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Call for submissions for an upcoming anthology in English of new and emerging poets

This is a call for submissions for an upcoming anthology in English of new and emerging poets (translations are welcome) to be published by Kitaab (Singapore).

The anthology, to be edited by Manik Sharma and Semeen Ali, contemplates India, 70 years since Independence, and in doing so seeks to construct a poetic map of the country. The map here refers to an idea distinctly different from the one we are used to, and feel divided by. The editors would like to clarify that this is not a symbolic, patriotic work. It merely places India in the hands of its third generation, more so as a quantity to enquire, than merely adapt to. We want to create a map, a map distinctly Indian (through smells, flavours, textures, colours etc. and not necessarily their geographies. Or, for example, identity may flow from – memories, objects, journeys, emotions, etc). No language, or culture, supersedes the other, even if majorities do. To the core of the idea here, the value of the author and his or her subject is equal.

We want to look at works that discover/re-imagine these tropes, poems that may tell us something we do not know, or something we do but consider too passé for poetry. Things that are quintessentially Indian, told through the personal or the social, through its people or the poems some of them, as part of this anthology may now write. Continue reading


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Traffic Constable and Returning home: Two poems by Sriramgokul Chinnasamy

Traffic Constable and Returning home

SriramgokulSriramgokul Chinnasamy lives in India and has M.A. in Creative Writing from Teesside University, UK. His poems have appeared in Envoi, Taj Mahal Review, Live from Worktown, Through the Cracks, and Muse India. In 2016, he was shortlisted in the Cinnamon Press Poetry Pamphlet Prize. Tweet @sriramsrg


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Book Review: joining the dots by Goirick Brahmachari

By Kanwar Dinesh Singh

dots

Title: joining the dots
Author: Goirick Brahmachari
Publisher: Nivasini Publishers
Pages: 38
Price: Rs 125

 

Recipient of the Muse India-Satish Verma Young Writer Award (2016) and Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize (2016), Goirick Brahmachari is worth mentioning in the new tribe of Indian poets writing in English. He brought out his maiden collection of poems, For the Love of Pork (2016), from Les Editions du Zaporogue. Rich in content and craft, this slim collection of forty-five poems in the Neo-Beat parlance was received well by the critics and lovers of poetry. These poems have propelled him as a writer having maturity and solemn engagement with current social issues and humanity at large.

Goirick Brahmachari’s second chapbook of travel notes and experimental poems, joining the dots, published by Nivasini Publishers, is a significant addition to the genre of travel writing. His poetic eye captures the mystifying curves of the ascending mountains from Bilaspur to Kullu-Manali in Himachal Pradesh during an overnight journey by bus. In a transit from the plains of Punjab and Haryana to the mountain pass of Rohtang, these short poems, one after the other, bring about a newer mis en scène of people and places. Goirick writes in a fairly anti-romantic mode, artfully confronting the idealistic and panegyric outlook of the romantics: “clouds tear the moon apart” (p. 13), “moon melts / over the snow…” (p. 17), “those fat trucks make love to the / lonesome roads” (p. 30) and so on and so forth. His diction, imagery and style mostly verge on the anti-poetic: breaking away from the normal conventions of traditional poetry, carrying deliberate solecisms and omissions of syntax, punctuation and rhyme, besides incorporating anti-sentimental feelings and reactions in poetry. Goirick’s poems are experimental, down-to-earth, hard-headed and now and then purposely pessimistic and sceptical, and they have sufficient material to incense a stern grammarian. All the same they have their own significance and appeal to the contemporary audience.

All the poems along with the title of the book are in the lowercase. Using the lowercase throughout is not altogether new, as many poets have been writing in this mode―following in the tread of the American poet, E. E. Cummings. Even though scholars find this experimentation at odds with the standard orthography of English language and/or merely as a writer’s pretension to create a trademark, many critics have viewed the rebellious use of all-lowercase as an aesthetic conception under poetic license. In the present chapbook, the use of small letters seems to be either the traveller-poet’s need for typing out the poems on a laptop without interrupting the flow of typing by searching for the ‘Shift’ on the keyboard time and again. Or implicitly it may represent the smallness of a journeyer/sojourner in the mighty expanse of the universe, as manifest in the traveller-poet’s tedium of the mountains and “inertia / of hours of travel / on parabolic roads in an ordinary bus” (p. 23).

In joining the dots, there are two sections: “dots” and “letters”. The captions assigned to “dots” are the geographical coordinates, probably to impart precise geographical identity to the places the poet traverses. In this way, the places remain well-defined in memory as well. The “letters” bear the postcodes as titles, probably with a view to recollecting the trail of travels undertaken by the poet in the past. The “dots” present not just idyllic descriptions of nature, but depicture the difficult and demanding life in the hills too:

hills can drain you

and leave you hungry

only to show up

with some ice and a big

round

white moon for free

(p. 14)

Here is a poignant exposé of the winters making human life unpleasantly cold, sluggish and unpredictable in the hills:

snow has painted everything white…

the cold has sketched wrinkles

over our weary, blue faces…

fire takes its own time to burn here

people talk in smoke

(p. 16)

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Kashmir Through Filters: A poem by Sayan Aich Bhowmik

Kashmir Through Filters

Sayan Aich BhowmikSayan Aich Bhowmik is currently serving as the Head of the Department of English at South Calcutta Girls’ College. When not under the burden of answer scripts and meeting deadlines, he can be found nurturing his love for movies, writing and poetry. A published poet, he is also the editor of the blog Plato’s Caves, a semi-academic space for discussion on life, culture and literature.

 


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Therapy: A poem by Amrita V. Nair

Therapy

amritaAmrita V. Nair was born in Kerala, India. Her first collection of poetry, Yours Affectionately, was published in 2009 and received the Jury’s commendation at the Muse India National Literary Awards 2011. In 2013, she received the Jury’s commendation at the Poetry Society of India All India Poetry Competition and was long-listed for the Toto Funds the Arts Writing Award. Her poetry has been published in Indian Literature, Kritya and The Nervous Breakdown. She now lives in Singapore, where she works as a policy researcher.


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‘Stones’ and ‘A nonsense elegy’: Two poems by Shahnaz Bashir

shahnaz-pic

Shahnaz Bashir was born and brought up in Kashmir. His widely reviewed and critically lauded debut novel The Half Mother won the Muse India Young Writer Award 2015. His short fiction, memoir essays, poetry and reportage have been widely published and anthologised.

Shahnaz teaches narrative journalism and conflict reporting at the Central University of Kashmir, Srinagar. He is a university gold medalist in journalism and was also awarded the prestigious Shamim Ahmad Shamim Memorial Kashmir Times Award 2007. His second book Scattered Souls, a collection of interlinked stories, has just been published by Fourth Estate HarperCollins. He is currently working on his third book.

Shahnaz Bashir’s two evocative poems on Kashmir’s present where stones write the elegy of loss and newspapers announce news of more massacres yet speak of an undying hope.

Stones

Dusty, calloused hands of hope write
Heavy, hard sentences of stones
And throw them
Word by word,
On the streets and lanes and by-lanes of a paper.
They fall off the paper and heap up—powdered words:
Detritus of truth, the alphabets of stones.
Strewn at crossroads and near spiked iron barricades
That guard the barbarians of the strife-torn city
Who are even afraid of the stones of tombstones,
Yet order gouging out of eyes of dreams
To deconstruct the stones.
In the darkness the guardians of dead conscience
Search for clues of pens—nab nibs,
Soiled with motes of words,
Battered words that distort even the stones.
Trailing after the lost voice of the fugitive ink,
Spirit of the bullets breaks where
They shatter the hearts of stones.
From each hand that has thrown words,
Come the cries of wounded stones:
Tears of stones, blood of stones.
They throw them stone by stone,
In the memory of stones.
And from each eye that sheds stones,
And each lip that croons,“stones,”
Come these amorphous words.
Each stone is a word, petrified,
In each hand that smells of freedom.

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To my Lord: A poem by Ritanshu Sharma

To my Lord

Ritanshu Sharma is a freelance writer and a poet. He loves writing and composing poems on motivational topics, personal transformation, creativity inspiration, religious topics and spirituality.

Ritanshu Sharma has completed his Bachelors in Commerce from Gujarat University in 2012. He currently works as a freelancer and provides services in the fields of accountancy, finance and tax.

 


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Poets who took Indian poetry to the next level

Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful – Rita Frances Dove

Poetry is to literature what soul is to the body. The rhythmic verses swell with the deepest emotions of the poet and settle in the heart of the readers. Belonging to the rich history of Indian literature, these poets bring alive the magic of poetry every time we revisit their oeuvre. Even though the new avatar of short poetry forms has become the most favoured style, the magic of literary verses woven by these authors will never fade away. On World Poetry Day, read poems by these 10 authors and revisit the surrealism created by their magical words. Read more

Source: The Times of India