An unlimited idea of freedom and precision flying is a step toward expressing our real nature. Everything that limits us we have to put aside....To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is, you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived.-Richard Bach
it’s laughter you want, or tears, or truth, or beauty, there’s no finer book of
poetry than this one. A World Assembly of
Poets offers a superlative way to start the New Year and to carry readers
all through the next 12 months.
I confess, I have not read every single poem in A World Assembly of Poets, which has
just been published by Re-Markings.
That would take at least a week of concerted effort. After all, there are more
than 150 poems by more than 80 poets from more than 30 different countries,
including India, Pakistan, Russia, China, the U.S., Israel, Nigeria, Spain,
Singapore, Sweden and Scotland.Still, I have read enough of the work in A World Assembly of Poets that has been ably compiled by a team of
editors to know that this volume has the power to entertain, illuminate and
inspire readers from Asia and Africa to Europe and the Americas.
“I have no hesitation in saying that these soulful offerings
from the world’s best lyricists of the heart is a wonderful tribute to the
undying human spirit of freedom, dignity and hope,” chief editor Nibir K. Ghosh
writes in the “Editorial” at the front of the book.
Guest editor Tijan M. Sallah writes about specific poets such as
Liu Hongbin, Pritish Nandy and Per Wastberg in the introduction to the volume,
and offers overarching observations. “If American poetry is geared to the
individual and the particular, the poetry of Asia is dominated by spiritual
concerns,” Sallah writes.
Still, A World Assembly
of Poets makes it clear that generalizations about poetry can only take us
so far. At the beginning, at the end and in the middle of this volume, a reader
can only engage with specific poems by individual poets who insist on adhering
to their own hearts and heads and who pledge allegiance to their own
aesthetics. By chance I opened A World
Assembly of Poets to page 61and
the work of Sallah himself, perhaps the best-known Gambian writing poetry today
who writes in “I Come From A Country,” lines that transcend national and
geographical boundaries: “I come from a country where the land is small,/ But
our hearts are big,/Where we greet everyone by name in the morning.”
I know this country. Perhaps you do, too. It’s the country of
big hearts that exists wherever there are poets with names like Sallah, Naheed,
Manhire, Fahey and Amjadi and whose work co-exists on the page. It is not
necessary to start on the first page and go straight through to the last page.
One can skip around and go forwards or backwards, until a poem grabs hold of
you and pulls you inside, as Arun Kamal’s “I’ll Tell Lives,” which is
translated from Hindi into English, did for me. Some of the poems, including
Haki R. Madhubuti’s “More Powerful Than God” are very funny, indeed. If it’s
laughter you want, or tears, or truth, or beauty, there’s no finer book of
poetry than this one. A World Assembly of
Poets offers a superlative way to start the New Year and to carry readers
all through the next 12 months. There
are more poems here from India than any other country in the world except for
the U.S.A. That is fitting. After all the book comes from Agra not from New
York, and with the unstinting cooperation of Dr. Sunita Rani Ghosh, Dr. A.
Karunaker, Mr. Sudarshan Kcherry and that master of computer graphics and
design, Mr. Sandeep Arora.
Jonah Raskin, a
frequent contributor to Re-Markings, is the author of 14 books, including
literary criticism, reporting, memoir, and biography. He has taught journalism,
media law and the theory of communication at Sonoma State University, U.S.A.
Comments by Ethelbert Miller
My friend Tijan Sallah dropped by the house today with copies of the new anthology he edited. What a wonderful collection of poems from poets around the world. From Brazil to Spain. Pakistan to Australia. China to Nigeria. The US poets included are: Sonia Sanchez, Kevin Powell, Rita Dove, Fred Chappell and David Ray. I’m happy for 4 of my poems to be in this book.
Congrats to Nibir Ghosh for making it all possible.
Ethelbert Miller is a writer and
literary activist. He is board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies, an
inductee of the 2015 Washington, DC Hall of Fame, and recipient of the AWP
2016 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature.
Translations of Miller’s poems have appeared in over nine languages. His most
recent book is The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller.
Comments by Tuncay Gary
Dear Tijan & Nibir Ghosh,
I'm glad to be a part of the world expressed in this wonderful book. After all, it is an enormous suggestion to bundle poetry from all continents of this earth. I love to read this book. Starting with the editorial by Nibir K. Ghosh with a fantastic picture of Plato and his poetry criticism, the introduction of Tijan M. Sallah, who makes a foray into the continents and the individual countries, then stand by selected examples, the poetry of the poets for themselves allow. And another thing that makes this volume "A World Assembly of Poets" of the special edition of RE-MARKINGS clear: Poets may write in different languages of this world, but the statements, the inner essence, the mainspring itself, are very human.
Tuncay Gary is director, actor and author based in Berlin, Germany
Comments by Okey Ndibe
My brother Tijan,
Congrats for birthing such a marvelous book.I received the fantastic volume two nights
ago. I’d meant to call you to say thank you for including me in such exalted
poetic company. In a world often ruled by demagogues and drawn to
philistinism, it’s a treasure to find some of the world’s best poetic voices
collected in this extraordinary book. This anthology is a rich harvest, bound
to excite devotees of poetry—and to attract many others who, before now, were
indifferent to the music and vistas that the best poetry yields.
Okey Ndibe is a Nigerian American novelist whose most recent
book is Never Look an American in the Eye, a memoir. He has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times, BBC online, The Guardian (UK), Financial Times, and D La
Ensconced in a front row seat in Economy class,
Suspended thirty-eight thousand feet,
My thoughts remained earthbound.
Shoulder bunched, I leaned to the aisle,
Aware that the blonde next seated
Would countenance no tar.
Her perfumed indifference wafted my way
In equal measure, it seemed
Then, my chivalrous ally appeared.
It rowed to and fro;
Too tiny to be named at first glance
Then it disappeared.
In that spliced moment, a row it made.
If you listened, its air spun
A song, like a protracted hiss, a quick kiss.
A flimsy stowaway, this dreaded, undocumented alien,
Perhaps a native of the West Nile
Dreaming her way, like me, to North America.
Was she a candidate for network news infamy?
A tiny monster busying the brows of doctors scurrying for antidotes.
I had no interest in the odds
Of this sly visitor, squeaking past vigilant eyes.
No interest also in the busy doctors,
Trained to screen homeland pests from foreign vectors.
My lips quivered in self-humor:
Circle back, avenger, passport-less peregrine
And steady your attention on my supercilious neighbor.
Woulda West Nile bite or two
On her pretty face,
Wipe out that sneer?
(A World Assembly of Poets)
Comments by Cyril Wong RE-MARKINGS: A World
Assembly of Poetsis a glorious
anthology for daring to take risks and by including poets who aren't the
expected names, like Joanna Chen from Israel (her 'Babel' poem is a perfect way
to signal the anthology's conclusion) and Liu Hongbin from China (I'm thrilled
in this case for how, due to "inhospitable politics" as Tijan Sallah
mentions in his introduction, we are reminded of the pain of displacement and
non-belonging that poetry can capture, waking us readers from any sense of
political complacency). I also love it when memorable yet starkly contrasting
poems that many have come to love in their different corners of the globe (like
those by Rita Dove and the activist Tenzin Tsundue) are placed together in the
same volume. Reading this motley curation of verse is both enriching and
cathartic, as well as an overall beautiful and life-affirming experience. Thank
you for the opportunity to be a part of its cosmopolitan symphony. - best, Cyril
You and your photographs of boats;
that repeated metaphor for departure,
or simply the possibility of a voyage?
What you cannot tell me, you tell me
with a vessel and its single passenger,
eyes fixed on some skylit conclusion.
Set apart and starkly upon a canvas
of tractable waves, brought to still
by the trigger-click of your camera,
like the sound a key makes when it
releases the lock. Your heart became
that lock; these images are how you have
always articulated distance, a withdrawal.
Darling, there are just as many ways
of saying goodbye as there are ways
of letting you go. The boat is narrow
like the width of my heart after
impossible loss, cruel resignation;
this heart you ride in. Love, if this is how
you choose to leave me, let me let you.
(A World Assembly of Poets)
Cyril Wong has been called a
confessional poet, according to The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry,
based on his "anxiety over the fragility of human connection and a
relentless self-querying." He is the Singapore Literature Prize-winning
author of poetry collections such as Unmarked Treasure and The Lover's Inventory.
Comments by Charles Johnson
Recipient of National Book Award, USA, the first African American writer to win this award after Ralph Ellison.
Nibir, I just received
in today's mailA World Assembly of Poets: Contemporary Poems.This hefty book---417 pages!---is simply
beautiful, even breathtaking. Congratulations, old friend. This is sure to
become an essential work for readers and scholars. Pranam,, Chuck
Charles Johnson with Nibir K. Ghosh at the latter's Apartment in Seattle during his Senior Fulbright tenure in the USA, 2003-2004
OF POETS AND THEIR MUSINGS Review by K. K. Srivastava
dearth neither of literary festivals nor of anthologies in India and several
other countries. However, authors, not their works, hog these festivals on many
occasions. Consequently, several anthologies in the last decade and half are
trivial, mainly because these are guided more by personal preferences of the
compilers rather than the beauty and depth of versification. This reduces it to
a haphazard collection of almost deadwood fit for being consigned to dustbin.
However, in dire straits, A World Assembly of Poets holds out much hope that
the era of great poetry still exists.
‘ Finally the party lets the mask fall and shows what it is…’- Tomas
In India as in other countries, courtesy social media, there
is dearth neither of literary festivals nor of poetry anthologies. There is
more discussion about authors than their work; more exhibition of interest in
cocktail party to follow than what precedes the cocktails. Many poetry
anthologies brought out last decade and half are trivial, not lasting and
uninspiring mainly because these are guided more by personal preferences and
aberrations of the compilers rather than a firm yardstick to be firmly applied
to gauge the beauty and depth of versification. This muzzles the very objective
of constructing an anthology and reduces it to a haphazard collection of almost
deadwood fit for being consigned to an impenetrable coffin. Published in 1996,
the Vintage Book Of Contemporary World Poetry edited by JD McClatchy continues
to be an anthology that has remained by far unmatched and peerless. Modeled on
that, A World Assembly of Poets as edited by Tijan M Sallah, well-known Gambian
writer and one of Africa’s most significant voices working with the World Bank,
and Nibir Ghosh, a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Washington, Seattle,
USA, is a bold and seminal effort to come closer to the Vintage anthology. We
have poets and poetry from Africa, America, Asia, Australia/New Zealand,
Europe, Latin America, Caribbean, and the West Asia which ensure geographical
representativeness and reflect variations in styles and themes. It is a zealous
and committed enterprise. Why? Is it because of content or form or context? Yes
all of these play their own role but most important factor is that selected
poems meet some reasonable standard for versification. Also because of the
range of approaches taken by various poets and lyric narratives. Personal joys
or sorrows or public pronouncements about the challenges of human or natural
condition within the multifarious contexts of our world form the warp and woof
of this collection.
Organised alphabetically by continents, and then, within
continents, alphabetically by countries, it removes any presupposition of
geographical bias. It represents global voice. Pearls of both pains and
pleasures across the globe hail enlightened readers. I am using the word
“enlightened” for I know reading of poetry ought to be a leisurely business.
You are not seeing a play to be finished within two hours. A play ought to be
read slowly and fascinatingly within a time with no restrictions from you.
Poets included in this volume demand only two things if you are keen to read
them: your time and your propensity to be with the words written; emotions
involved. In present times our minds are invaded by agitation and as James C
Coleman aptly writes, “The seventeenth century has been called the Age of
Enlightenment; the eighteenth the Age of Reason; the nineteenth the Age of
Progress; and the twentieth the Age of Anxiety.” To add further, the
twenty-first century can be called the Age of Ideologies: the age of clash
among ideologies or clash within ideologies. Collective or individual agitation
is a natural outcome of such clashes. But while an agitated mind might be good
enough for any activity, it can never be for absorbing literature, more so
poetry. With this precaution in place, let me now take the readers through this
African poets, drawing inspiration from local imagery and
myths, giving us much reason for optimism and rueful pleasures, find prominent
place in the book. Ghanaian poet Kofi Anyidoho, who hinges his works heavily
and richly on his native Ewe oral traditions, is worried about things brought
from outside: things like religions and cures imported in his poem, A Harvest
of Our Dreams. “There is a ghost/on guard/a Memory’s door/scaring away these
pampered hopes/these spoiled children of our festive days.” His poems seem more
prophetic and less individual and his is lively and inventive way to approach
the theme. There is indeed ingenuity as in his poem, Among My Dreams. “Far away
from Storms we left behind/among the ruins of Haunted Lives?” There is a
yearning to recognise the need to alter the past.
Sarcasm is difficult to be divorced from poetry. This we
learn in Nigerian poet Tanure Ojaide’s irresistible verse, The Fate of
Vultures. “They ran for a pocket-lift/in the corridors of power/and shared
contracts at cabals/the record produce and sales/fuelled the adolescent bonfire
The emotions are often times muted but the outrage out there
is amply evident. Gradual loss of the erosion of hard work and traditional
artisanal skills, so very characteristic of self-sufficient old Africa and its
replacement by the colonial “culture of the office” and supremacy of
bureaucrats over artisans, of pen-wielders over craft-makers make Ojaide
uncomfortable and these culminate in icon of sullied images and voices to
convey his sarcasm of the modern “rural African” — metaphorically a “king” —
but whose foolish regal pride leads him to personal misery and penury.
Julia Amukoshi is a new woman writer from Namibia with a
sonorous honesty in her depiction of rural life in Africa and elsewhere in the
developing world. In her poem, Growing Up, she notes, “Dust used to be natural
make-up, and the wind my professional hair stylist/…I never understood why my
natural scent was so resented.” The beauty nature gives to the body of a woman
makes the poet realise, “But eventually, I found myself growing up.” Erratic,
exuberant vision marks the exquisiteness of Julia’s poems.
Coming to American poets included in the anthology, they
portray that the imagist movement of English poetry in the US, Britain and the rest
of the English-speaking world, at the turn of the 20th century, is alive and
somber. Like the imagist poets, the included poets like Rita Dove, Christopher
Guerin, Sonia Sanchez, David Ray, to name a few, broke from the metrical
strictures of the sonnet and blank verse and employed free verse and the
technique of the “image” as the principal device in their poetic repertoire.
Sonia Sanchez gives us a moving imagist poem, On Passing Thru
Morgan Town, reflecting on a fabulous voice teeming with nostalgia when she
remembers her father, “steady your hand old man do not trouble/yourself with
language, stalk his wound/”. Similarly Ethelbert Miller in a compelling poem
which is filled with the despair and sadness of human-caused anguish, We Are
Not Alone, writes, “These are descending days/the dark nights of our own
making/The despair comes from the fear/of not knowing what door to enter/and
what door to lock.”
A short poem of similar imagist simplicity, but dense with
meaning is Suzanne Mattson’s poem, Little Deaths, “I am imposter to/My
name/ghost to/your memory/And you!/ Failing to appear in your face.” Rita Dove
uses poetry as mnemonic device: recollections of trials and joys of
relationships as in The Event, “he closes his eyes/He never knows when she’ll be
coming/but when she leaves, he always/tips his hat.” Rita Dove poems can act as
an expressive remedy for many. In Belinda’s Petition, with speculative imagery,
she expected “nothing” in “all my childhood” but she accepts, “I have known of
Men with Faces like the Moon/who would ride toward me steadily for twelve
years.” One can wish Rita Dove could have written a poem where there is no
memory: there is only fading and fading as Sean Nevin (not included in the
anthology) has tried to show in A House That Falls.
As far Asian countries, it is all about public and spiritual
concerns with India and China dominating the scenario. For India, it is the
Hindu spiritual Sanskrit literatures of the Vedas, Upanishad, Bhagvad Gita,
Mahabharata and Ramayana, while for China, it is the philosophies of Kung Fu
Tzu (Confucius) and Lao Tzu that reign supreme. China, because it does not have
the entrenched British colonial history that India had, did not have the
cultural convulsions and soul searching that made India a far-richer terrain
for poetry, especially in the English language.
Poets in the anthology such as Shiv K Kumar, Jayanta
Mahapatra, and Pritish Nandy appear more passionately and stylistically more
accomplished than the rest included from India. The poetry of Pritish Nandy is
outcome of Nandy as an acute and passionate observer of social reality. He
writes poetry that surprises all. In his sentimentally and irresistibly
powerful poem, I Met Him One Evening Beside A Secret River, he treats his
readers with contradictions within: “the borders have long been sealed/the
village where you worked has been razed to the ground and after/all we need you
here to work among the refugees/he did not answer.”
Arun Kamal comes out with his Anxiety, “I fear the night/…I
am living on counting up each of my breath/ …The earth is cracking under my
feet.” Kamal captures brilliantly his angst and his imagination is rich with
possibilities which makes his poetry an unexpurgated witness to human
suffering, “I was so terribly alone and intact/like the hills in the night.”
Most remarkable poetry comes from SK Limbale, who allows himself to be
confronted with the question of identity within the prevailing orthodoxy of
Indian society like in his poem, Who Am I?, “What is this life?/is pitiful struggle/of
surviving in burning of the hut aflame!”
Like Limbale, Aparna Lanjewar too laments miserable
conditions but she is more comfortable with modernism in her critique, of the
culture and society. In the poem, Dalit Power, Aparna writes, “but…/Shouldn’t
we stop blaming/Stratification of society/And blame inharmonious harmony of
power?... Ambedkar tabulated in groups/subgroups-species and genus.” This is
poetry of honesty directed at the raw, uncovered social wounds that directly
arrests our pity and compels us to compassionate action and thus this strength
of the artistry.
The poetry of Chinese poet Liu Hongbin is equipped with the
sad nostalgia of the involuntary émigré who wants to return but cannot because
of inhospitable politics at home. In the poem, The Unfamiliar Customs House,
Hongbin despairs, “When I intrude into another country, an unfamiliar customs
house appears before me…/the nightmare has been detected and confiscated by the
customs officer.” The upheavals within those in exile make them lonelier and
isolated because no sentiments from humanity are witnessed on the borders.
Poetry in Europe as reflected in the anthology encompasses
individual voices emanating from countries like Germany and Russia involving
diverse poetic themes and characteristics. Inspired and influenced by symbolist
poets like Baudelaire, Lorca and Rilke, poets included in the anthology deal
with new experiments in terms of form, music, lyricism and content. Russian
poet Adolf P Shvedehikov’s poem, Can You Hear Me, Humanity? I Am Ancient
Sequoia, is a soliloquy poem: where the poet pours out tears over the ruins of
humanity. “All religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam,/Promise paradise and
love…/Why, then, blood is shed/Why the Dove of peace will not come to us?”
Adolf explores the failure of religion in calming down
enraged raptures. Same way Swedish poet Per Wastberg sounds as if the being is
seeped entirely into the unknown. See lines from his poem, Death, “Just when
the party’s over, we get to know the names of the guests.” Or lines from Dream
Life, “An imageless dream filled with prime numbers/nothing to remember./First
despair,/then an absentmindedness that sees the day out.” The sequencing of
imageless dream, first despair and absentmindedness that sees the day out is no
doubt, an individual experience but it has a bearing on functioning of society.
Wastberg minces no words: life and literature are simple facets of the same
coin. His candidness surpasses everything else: “The simple is the part of the
difficult to interpret/of a contemporary program-/as when the wick of a candle
is spilt/one strand becomes quickly charred/the other burns as before.’ Is not
life we live replete with contradictions and connivances? Life is a tragedy and
we await that to happen. “We are all on someone’s list.” Wastberg reminds us of
discrimination and divisions leaving us with a dilemma and internal upheavals
as we look at “the self-analytical shadows pass/over the spirit level’s blind
life.” The poet hitchhikes his readers to a zone of some of the simplest,
clearest and most direct poetry.
When it comes to the poetry of South or Latin America and the
Caribbean, unquestionably colonial migrations and trans-Atlantic cross-cultural
influences from Europe, Africa and even Asia coupled with the indigenous
cultures of the native populations of the New World; the so-called “American
Indians” exercise their deep influence over the poets in the anthology. It is a
hybrid of culture mixing. The feeling of loss and the desire to regain
originality agitate the mind of poets equipped with self-delusion and
self-questioning. Ariel Dorfman, poet from Chile, is nonplused with the
questions embedded in the term Identity which is the name of his poem: “They’re
all waiting together/silent, in mourning/on the riverbank/they took him out of
the water/he’s naked/as the day he was born.”
Sense of indigenous rootedness and alienation filling the
poem with the soul-searching marks this poem. So he ends the poem assuring
“them”, “Tell them not to worry/I can bury my own dead.” Dorfman equates birth
and self-sufficiency in birth with death and self-sufficiency in death. Summer
Edward, poet from Trinidad & Tobago, indulges through simple language in
complex concepts. It is a sort of entanglement when he pens Seamen On Land,
“Young men, who wade/through their years/dragging their life/boats, shadow
vessels, their tears/you do not see until you/have loved them/then too late.”
We notice here healing power of language, and an engagement with efforts to
restore. That is reason good enough for him to utter in Afterbirth, “now the
rains have left/like a wet nurse in the night…/” highlighting physical and
psychic pains that leave residual questions to the poet: the observer.
Lastly engagement with poets from the West Asia (only two
poets — Maryam Ala Amjadi from Iran, and Joanna Chen from Israel — have been
included) exposes us to nomadic and desert sensibility. Their poetry has been a
reflection on the life people have lived and influenced each other over
centuries. The woman poet from Israel, Joanna Chen, fills us with rays of
despair amidst the stasis in the West Asia. So writes she in her poem By The
Time You Read This, “By the time you read this/it will be late/and I will be
far away…/you will be far away/and I will be here/with my dog/my cups of
It is easy to spot shadows cast by anguish and quiet
pleasures of remembrance. Readers must not miss the point that the poet’s
obsession is with the pains of dispossession and the need to have dignified
living. Her resorting to “language” as a means to seek unification is justified
when she says in Babel, “Language has never felt this close.” In the poetry of
another woman Iranian poet, Maryam Ala Ajadi, we come across voices of feminism
yelling for gender equality. What Meets the Eye May Run From The Mouth is a
prose poem with cadence and musical drowsiness. “A woman can never truly be
naked/she wears a skin of many restless pores/… /She is always too many things
in too many ways/…/she combs for the trail of a home in the wrinkles of
stone-faced houses.” The poem abhors admonition; self-pity is unwelcome.
This anthology has the importance of a discovery; it involves
a continuous parallel between contemporary and antiquity. The best way to round
off this anthology is to quote from the massive, erudite, illuminating and
subtle introduction penned by learned guest editor Tijan M Sallah, “Much is
packed here from different corners of the earth to feed us with discovery and
surprise. Some poets here are accomplished bards; some are developing poets. We
have assembled them, like a forester assembles a verdant global nursery,
hosting fully grown trees and promising plant sprouts.”
No better way to sum up; no better way to hope for a better
world. No better way to have an assurance: literature is alive; it is not dead.
After all, you get the drift; you drift into a certain vein of thought. Great
poetry is all about that.
(The writer is a Civil Servant, currently working as Director
General in the Office of Comptroller & Auditor General of India, in New
Delhi. He has received global attention with his three poetry collections —
Ineluctable Stillness (2005), An Armless Hand Writes (2008 and 2012), and
Shadows of the Real (2012). He is a literary reviewer and columnist for The Pioneer,
The Daily Star and Kitaab Singapore. His semi-autobiographical book is slotted
to be out in April 2018)
so much for including me in your glorious anthology. It is the most significant
publication I have ever received of some of my works. I’m also
deeply humbled that you chose to print two poems, “The House,” in particular.
It has always been one of my favorites, but has never been published before.
Seeing it for the first time in this handsome volume will be a cherished
memory. I also greatly appreciate being mentioned in the introduction with some
many other estimable poets. I hope
you plan to sell the book on Amazon. I will be happy to promote it to all of my
friends and encourage them to buy it.. Again,
thank you so much, and congratulations on a marvelous achievement. Warm
Guerin is Vice
President of Corporate Communications, Sweetwater
Sound, Inc., USA
Comments by Fred Chappell
Dear Dr. Sallah,
I have read through—much
through quickly---A World Assembly of Poets.
I will be returning to it many times, to reread and reassess my feelings
and thoughts. But that will happen over
months and maybe years, so I’ll respond now and re-examine later. It is quite an
ambitious and successful undertaking. I
admire immensely your broad acquaintance with world poetry and—as I surmise
from your notes—with the poets who contributed to the volume. I am proud and
honored to be included in such colorful and august company. But if I had comprehended more closely the
nature of the collection, I would have submitted different poems. I chose the fables because Aesop and La
Fontaine are globally known names. But
the form of the ancient fables precludes (mostly) social change or
revolutionary sentiment. Aesop’s
attitude is one of weary, sardonic, or rueful resignation to the status
quo. He will not join with Aparna
Lanjewar in “The joy of living in the philosophy/of Revolt and
Revolution.” He would not dispute with
Gurchuran Rampuri that the ruler made the Book Divine “a
pawn in his hands”; he would only agree, wearily. He would not fight to do away with racial or
sexual injustice or the caste system.
Aesop’s forte is fatalism, alas. So I would have chosen other pieces
But this is really beside the point. I admire the fighters for truth and
justice. Mr. Chipasula stands forth
courageously, as do Mr. Kgositsile (“to have a home is not a favour”), Mr.
Hoelbling (“numbers don’t honor individuality”), Ms. Naheed (“those who are
afraid even of little girls/How small, how insignificant they are”), LaShawna
Griffith (Choose any poem, almost any line.)
And so very many poets represented here who are or have been activists for
the best causes. It is also very striking to me how many of these poems are
about the art—and duties, especially—of poetry itself. At least a good half at least of these poems
examine, defend, uphold, and lament the role of the poets in society, how they
are ignored or insulted or chastened ore even imprisoned by tyrannical
regimes. That has been a familiar theme
since the time of Hesiod, of course, but in Assembly it is voice anew
and often. Even so, this Assembly has variety: voice,
language, metaphor, and usage that seem to spring from the soil of the nations
from which they originate. We will not
mistake a poem from Spain for one from Russia, even when the themes are similar
or nearly identical. There is even room
for humor—as in your pun on “hand” in our Introduction and the pun on “aids” in
a poem I can’t locate now.
So—once more—Thank you! A strong job you’ve done the worthiest. - Yours
truly, Fred Chappell Fred Chappell, acclaimed poet and novelist, is author of over a dozen books of poetry, a
handful of novels and short story collections, and two books of critical prose.
He has received numerous awards for his work, including the T.S. Eliot Prize,
the Bollingen Award, the Aiken Taylor Award, an award from the National Academy
of Arts and Letters, and the best foreign book prize from the Academie
Française. He was named North Carolina Poet Laureate in 1997, a position he
held until 2002. He retired after 40 years as an English professor at
University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He was the Poet Laureate of North
Carolina from 1997-2002.
Comments by Frank Chipasula
Amongst the silences of restless nights/
My voice wants to break through the shell of words/ to name and sing the evidence/
of our resolve and will to live/ past the glib of noble intentions.../ .....Amongst
the silences of these restless nights/ our dreams refuse the perfumed bandages/
that try to hide the depth of their wounds...--Keorapetse Kgositsile ("The
King Has Arrived")
Brother Tijan: Jealous down, as we say in my part of
Africa, this is a powerful document, a treasure and nourishment (beyond
comfort food) that will fortify my creative muscles for the next leg of my
journey on this rocky road. This monument will endure the test of time. Though I have not read anything else because the book finds
me in the middle of a demanding project, I know that this document
belongs with such anthologies as Jerome Rothenberg's Technicians of the
Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania as
well as Pierre Joris & Habib Tengour's Poems for the
is a Malawian poet, editor and fiction writer. He holds an M.A. in Creative
Writing from Brown University, an M.A. in Afro-American Studies from Yale
University and a Ph.D. in English Literature from Brown University. His Visions
and Reflections (1972) is the first published book of poetry in English by
a Malawian poet. His other books are O Earth, Wait for Me (1984), Nightwatcher,
Nightsong (1986) and Whispers in the Wings: New and Selected Poems (1991).
is an internationally acclaimed multiple
award-winning Playwright. She holds the eminent position of University
Professor of Global Letters & Professor of English at the University of
Wisconsin, USA, and was nominated for the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.
I have received the
wonderful special number of Re-Markings: A World Assembly of Poets!!!
It looks truly great! Many congratulations! Thank you so much: ¡Gracias de todocorazón!
It is an honor
to be a part of it! Please, give my warmest thanks to our Guest Editor
and Editors, Dr. Tijan M.Sallah, Dr. A. Karunaker and to the beautiful and
accomplished Dr. Sunita Rani Ghosh… Is she your wife? I imagine how
proud you both feel about each other! Best wishes too to Sanddep K.
Arora. A note of thanks to professor Jonah Raskin who is the person who sent my
copy from Santa Rosa, CA.
My husband Steve
Lindsay wants to buy two or three copies, but he told me last time he tried
that the book still was not available for purchase… I want to send it at least
to a couple of people who will love it! I wish to you, to your beautiful
wife, your family and country, that your compassionate and generous approach
will come back to all your world with BIG gratitude, tranquility, plentitude,and
You, my dear
friend, chant with your deep work and generosity the call for unity, diversity,
understanding, respect, inviting all to open our minds to make us stronger in
celebration of education, solidarity, life: We NEED those values in our wounded
world, so I sing your name today!
I am enjoying
too your marvelousblog, and I am discovering little by little the contents of A Word Assembly of Poets!!!
I have found the family I needed to share and
feel I am part of the Earth! I have met those
who demolish boundaries, those ready to accomplish the dream of my old children
poem: “Come on To Defend the Beauty of the World.”
book that you have created in company of other talented people is a blessing,
an explosion of dignity and FREEDOM. I am so happy to have the privilege
to read such magical contents, its diversity, its warmth, its inspiration.
Assembly is permitting me to know poets who want to be humans first!
Yeah! I am ready to travel no matter where to read with them.
In your blog it is so pleasant to find the wisdom of Jonah Raskin - and
watch him pictured in front of my dreamed place! Makes me happy to feel
the energy of the poets, their comments! I love to see the faces of my
brothers and sisters!
I want to come
back now to the book. Opening it now (pg. 61) I find I am having a
conversation with the great lady who was the mom of Tijan M. Sallah, in “a
country…/ Where we greet everyone by name in the morning.” (pg. 64)
The book, the
blog... Where I should go? : )
You, Nibir, and
your friends understand the best part of knowledge: the one that heals and
brings IDEALS and souls together!
Best wishes for
you and Sunita. My husband and I are dreaming one day not far away we
will meet and celebrate with you both!
And with all your friends!
INDIA MOTHER OF MARVELS! Margarita Merino Lindsay, January the
Dr. Margarita Merino Lindsay was born in Spain,
León “The Capital of Winter.”
She has publishedViaje al interior (Voyage to
the Interior), Baladas del abismo (Ballads from the Abyss),
Halcón herido (Wounded Falcon), Demonio contra
arcángel (Demon versus Archangel), the Italian bilingual
anthology La dama della galerna (Grand Lady of the
Tempest), Viaje al exterior (Voyage to the Exterior)… Prof.
María Cruz Rodríguez--in her book on MM poetry -- points her "as
the pioneer of Eco-Feminism in Spain” reflecting how along
her poetical trip she is committed with universal love and compassion
for Nature an all creatures.
Comments by Veronique Tadjo
Dear Dr. Tijan, I have read A World Assembly of Poets with
great pleasure. As you point out in your preface, it is befitting that Africa
comes first. Our poetry has a long oral tradition and the African poets that
you have chosen show this inspiration. It is an amazing achievement to
have collected such a wealth of poems coming from voices all over the world. I
have gained much inspiration from reading the anthology. So many
interpretations of life! The telling of how we live and die - without borders.
This publication is a testimony to the energy and determination of all those
who have collaborated on the project. Congratulations to you, Dr Nibir Ghosh,
Dr Karunaker and Dr Sunita Rani Ghosh! I am happy to feature in this major
contribution to world poetry. Thank you for your preface and thank you again
for including my work.
All the very best, Véronique
Véronique Tadjo is a writer, artist and professor of French and Francophone Literature. Born in France and raised in Côte d’Ivoire, she did most of her studies in Abidjan before earning a doctorate in Black American Literature and Civilization at the Sorbonne, Paris IV. She has written novels, poems and books for young people which she illustrates. Her work has been translated in many languages. She shares her time between London and Abidjan.
Comments by Nancy Morejon
Dear Dr. Tijan M. Sallah:
It is my pleasure to write this message to you in order to give thanks for the already achieved anthology A World Assembly of Poets
whose copy I have received recently through the kindness of Dr. Yolanda Wood, a very good colleague and friend.
any doubt it is a marvelous gift to poetry around the world and
specially for poets who, like myself, are involved in the struggle for
the establishing of a better world which is a
is a beautiful book, a refreshing lesson of peace and solidarity. Your
work as a guest editor is magnificent. Please, share these feelings with
Mr. Nibir K. Ghosh, Chief Editor and colleagues
A. Karunaker and Sunita Rani Ghosh.
Nancy Morejon,one of the foremost Cuban
writers and intellectuals, has published twelve collections of poetry, three
monographs, a dramatic work, and four critical studies of Cuban history and
literature.Her lyrical verse, shaped by
an Afro-Cuban sensibility and a feminist consciousness, evokes the intimacy of
family, the ephemerality of love, and the significance of Cuban history. A
graduate of the University of Havana with a degree in French language and
literature, she has published translations of French–and-English-speaking
Caribbean writers, and she has adapted plays by Moliere and Shakespeare for the
Comments by Prof. Sushil Gupta
Thanks for a copy of this anthology of Contemporary Poems.
The sheer volume and its eclectic collection takes one's breath away. How you managed to compile it at all is a minor miracle. Tijan Sallah's introduction is all embracing and enumerates the global brotherhood of poets. I marvel at his sweep of Dalit theme in Indian poetry, plight of refugees over the world, uprootedness, migrations, holocaust, cultural hybridity, religious zealotry, middle east squabbles, all within 27 pages. My mind boggled at his recounting the names of distinguished poets from different countries and languages.
He manages to titillate the imagination through this cornucopia. My hearty congratulations!
- Sushil Gupta
Prof. Sushil Gupta is the author of the acclaimed novel,
The Fourth Monkey
Re-Markings' Special Number, AWorld Assembly of Poets
(Vol. 16 No. 4 November 2017)
Nibir Ghosh quotes Wordsworth in his Editorial in the Re-Markings’ special
number - A World Assembly of Poets -
that the poet is the rock of defence of human nature- An upholder and preserver, “carrying everywhere with him relationship and
the poet is that light, anthologists and editors as Nibir and Tijan M. Sallah
are truly the torch bearers who inspire us
with their commitments, working behind the curtain, to bring out the light of
the poets to the world. This is one such
marvel of a poetry anthology, and what hasgone into its making isvisible
“poet- heartedness”laudable, and
worthy of emulation. We need more such world anthologiststo bring onthe poetry of the earth together. Its therapy for the universe works in
multidimensional ways. The work of the likes of Nibir Ghosh and Sallah uphold
the maxim that ‘ The poetry of the earth is never dead … Without such zestful enthusiasts for poetry, where would the poets
A World Assembly of Poets is
indeed a landmark edition of contemporary world poetry in English.Beginning with Africa where, as Sallah
rightly observes, it all began, this definitive edition of poetry traverses the
globe, milking in sentiments and emotions that make for some of the finest
poetry begin written. We have established voices here such as
those of Rita Dove, Paul Muldoon, or a Shiv K. Kumar. Younger ones rub
shoulders with giants, to a point where names shed skins to merge with the
flesh and blood of the poets within them.
Poetry, all said, is finally that which touches the heart,
that even baits it to its ecstatic end. The poem “AtMy Wake” by Frank M.
Chipasula (Malawi) on his mother is a poem that deeply moves us “As her mourning
grew richer and richer,/ I snuggled in her thick sobs/As she slowly sobbed my name/ Heavy with the
sweetness of a mother’s pain.” Shiv K. Kumar’s imagistic poetry has alwaysbeen amarvel: “A priest’s chant/ tender but peremptory/ churns the viscid
waters/ into submission” (At the Ghats in
Katherine Gallahger’s (Australia) “The Unknown Soldier” is a befittingpoem
for Re-Markings’ collection with the strength
of a Ivor Gurney,when she talks
aboutthe body of the Unknown Soldier
being taken‘ “covered with real
flowers/from country to country/ … And our handstremble/ under his weight/ our eyes are
shocked/ by the riddles of tongues/presenting the same paradox/ in every
country/ the whole human voice as background/ shrilled to fever/ about keeping
the guns at bay’.”
New Zealand’s Bill Manhire puts strength into body love
that goes beyond touch to the sensual and to the real: “Your tongue, touching on
song,/ darkens all songs/ Your touch is almost a signature.” Its
undercurrents remind of the poet Norman Mc Caig. Precise, stunning visuals.
One could go on and on. This unique anthology is not just about re-markings in contemporary poetry. It
has qualities of poetic content carefully chosen by its editors and spun to
kaleidoscopic dimensions, such that any page at random puts you on totouching, moving, poetry, spinning off
toemotional and ambient heights.
Truly, as TijanM Sallah observes, the anthology has
succeeded in its lofty aim to capture awide canvas of peace, warmth and relationships, truth, right, and beauty
thatis the essence of genuinepoetry. With the poetic
resonance of nearly one hundred poets from most parts of the earth, this
assembly of contemporary poets once again opens the
door to the orchestration of universal harmony and prayerthat reinforces the belief thatpoetry isthe altar of the hope of mankind.
Gopikrishnan Kottoor is an award winning poet with major prizes of the All India,
Poetry Society - British Council poetryCompetitions (1995-98). He had his
first poems published in his seventeenth year in The Illustrated Weekly of
India. His poems have appeared in New English Review (UK), Mud Season
Review (US), Orbis (US) Plaza ( Japan) Ariel (Canada), Verse (US)Toronto Review (Canada),Nth Position (UK),and others.His poems have appeared in anthologies
asThe BloodaxeBook of Contemporary Indian Poetry inEnglish, UK, The Post Independence anthology
of Indian English Poetry, and others.His book of poems Father, Wake Us in Passing, was translated into
German and published as a Bilingual edition, by Laufschrift Books, Furth,
Germany, in 2004. Gopikrishnan Kottoorattended the MFA poetry program of Southwest Texas, San Marcos, Texas,
USA in 2000.He has published ten books
of poetry, which include, Victoria Terminus ( Selected Poems), A Buchenwald
Diary, Mother Sonata, Vrindavan, and My Little Tsunami. He foundedthepoetryjournal ‘ Poetry Chain’ . His oeuvre includes novels, and plays.
Comments & Review Essay
by Urvashi Sabu
Dear Prof. Ghosh,
I am delighted to receive the long awaited world poetry issue, and even more delighted to see my translations in them. Please accept my congratulations on the production of this very eminent, much needed volume that brings together world poets under one cover. Its elegant design and presentation, along with its content, are evocative of the high standards that Re-Markings is synonymous with. Thank you and best wishes for more such ventures in the future! - Urvashi
Re-Markings' Special Number: A World
Assembly of Poets
When was the
last time I saw, read or heard of the publication of an anthology of world
poetry? With this question on my mind, I did a quick web search and realized to
my astonishment that the last published compilation was in 2010!
down the line, there comes an ambitious volume, the brainchild of Prof. Nibir K
Ghosh and celebrated Gambian poet Dr. Tijan M. Sallah, aptly titled A World Assembly of Poets. Published as
a special number of the sixteen years old and still going strong literary
journal ‘Re-Markings’, this issue is not only a collector’s item but an
absolute must have for any serious student or lover of literature.
In a world
riven by war and strife, this special
number makes a bravely unique and concentrated effort to unite, within the same
cover, living poets from across all
continents; poets who are aware of, and alert towards, not just the
craft of poetry but also of the dilemmas confronting humanity, nations, and
cultures today. In the Editorial, Prof Ghosh quips about Plato’s aversion to
having the poet in his ideal state; and moves on deftly to Shakespeare’s,
Wordsworth’s and Shelley’s impassioned avowal of the craft of poetry, and the
significance of poets across cultures. The contents page follows, with the
sections being classified according to continents, and within that the
countries, in alphabetical order. (No partiality there!) An Introduction by Dr
Sallah critically traces, analyses and evaluates the evolution and growth of
modern poetry, with reference to the poets included in this volume. And with
that done, we come to the kernel.
thing that strikes one is that many of the poets are as yet comparatively
lesser known; some even make their publishing debut here, in this issue! And
that could possibly be the biggest achievement of this special number. This moving
away from the canonical, the venerated, the Dead, to the Living, the new, and
the mint fresh, reflects the concern of the editors to make this volume even
more representative of the times we live in, rather than a hearkening to the
ages past. It is an act of literary courage as well as honesty, of presenting
to the world a new mirror to the present, a new retelling of the past, a new
vision of the future. The second interesting aspect of this number is that
barring a few (which appear in English translation), almost all the poems are
originally written in English. While purists may deride this as not being
representative of world languages, I am of the opinion that this conscious
choice of one language, particularly from non English speaking countries,
reflects a post colonial ‘coming of age’, a recognition, of ‘owning’ the
language, so to speak. The poets under consideration are comfortable with the
language, and use its tropes and nuances with refreshing expertise. The
translations too are sensitive and refined.
is the very interesting inclusion of the expatriate, globalised experience in
the selection of poets who have relocated from their homelands to other
countries. Thus, for example, Gurcharan Rampuri features in the Canadian and
Meera Ekkanath Klein in the USA section. The Indian section is eclectic, featuring
legends as well as award winning poets (Arun Kamal, Gopikrishnan Kottoor, Shiv
K Kumar, Jayant Mahapatra, Arundhati Subramaniam) academicians (Shankar Dutt,
Ramesh C Shah) Dalit voices (Dr Aparna Lanjewar, Sharan Kumar Limbale)
Journalist Pritish Nandy, senior IRS officer KK Srivastava, and, wonderfully
rendered, Tibetan-Indian poet Tenzin Tsundue.
The poems in
the volume speak eloquently of indigenous cultures, myth and folklore (Africa),
of daily life and cultural flux, racial identities and conflicts (America), of
women’s issues, caste and community, poverty and want, history and the glorious
past (Asia). They are fresh, and appeal to the modern sensibility (Australia,
New Zealand). They are inclusive and global, philosophical and evocative of the
Classical age (Europe). They reflect the richness and pain of a mixed identity
(Latin America and Caribbean). The tiny but unique section on the Middle East,
featuring, (and this is surely a coup!) women poets from Israel and Iran is a
fitting finale to a poetic journey through the modern world with all its conundrums
and conflicts of identity, gender, class, community and nation.
The volume is
beautifully produced. Clearly a labour of love
for its editors. This volume
deserves praise not just for the ambition with which it was conceived, but for
the brilliance of the final product. It could well be on the syllabus of university
curricula across the world. And it should.
Dr. Urvashi Sabu is Associate Professor, Dept. of English,
PGDAV College, Delhi University, Delhi
Comments in Poetic form by Dr. Hemlata Srivastava If music is the food of love...
"If music is the
food of love"
Poetry is the food for
Catering to the cravings
of the mind.
It creates not only
the rhythmic words,
But brings harmony to the discordant World.
This brings to the
need of Poets, need of Poetry.
And here comes 'A
World Assembly of Poets',
Poets pouring perfect
Hailing from all
corners of the world,
Covering all the
Continents and the different shades,
Passing through the
prism of emotions,
Reflecting the serene ray
Appearing, as if the
whole World gathered together,
To hold their hands
and sharing their views, while
Voyaging through the
realm of imagination and sailing through the waves of emotions.
Only Poets can do this
And create the perfect
world of calm,
That charms us with
the enlightening vision
And make us cross the
sea of oblivion, and
Help us reach
the blissful mission
By giving a sense of
Which is beyond
In the hearts of the
Dr. Hemlata Srivastava is Associate Professor in the Department of English Studies & Research at Agra College, Agra, India. Here she is seen at the Shakespeare and Company, Paris