Sunday, 31 December 2017

A World Assembly of Poets: Comments by Jonah Raskin, Ethelbert Miller, Tuncay Gary, Okey Ndibe, Cyril Wong, KK Srivastava, Charles Johnson, Christopher Guerin, Fred Chappell, Urvashi Sabu

A World Assembly of Poets
Comments by Jonah Raskin
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.

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 61 and 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 Repubblica (Italy).

Okey Ndibe

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 Poets is 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 

Cyril Wong

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 mail A 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
                                                                The Pioneer Saturday, 06 January 2018  in Oped

There is 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 Transtromer

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 mammoth effort.
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 of fathers.”
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 coffee/my fears.”
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)

                   Comments by Christopher Guerin

Dear Nibir,

Thank you 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 regards, Christopher

Christopher 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 I’ve written.

    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 Millennium

FRANK M. CHIPASULA 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). 

                      Comments 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

                             Dr. Urvashi Sabu teaches English at the University of 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 heart, 
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 Poesy, 
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 of Poesy.

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 magical charm,
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 unique satisfaction.

Which is beyond sharing, 
Beyond description, 
Installing the poet  
In the hearts of the readers.

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
                             ISSN 0972-611X
                         Impact Factor: 8.380

Monday, 25 December 2017

Re-Markings Special Number November 2017 - A World Assembly of Poets: Contemporary Poems

Re-Markings Special Number November 2017  

A World Assembly of Poets: 

Contemporary Poems

Nibir K. Ghosh

I often wonder what led a rational philosopher like Plato to restrain poets from entering his ideal Republic. It is quite intriguing to understand how Athenian society, endowed with the attribute of great rationality, could offer a cup of hemlock to Socrates for teaching mankind the ultimate truth: “an unexamined life is not worth living.” If Plato’s case in keeping poets away from the Republic is based simply on the argument that they are creatures of passion likely to be harmful to an ideal state, it is certainly an erroneous assumption. Shakespeare may have equated the “poet” with the “lunatic” and the “lover” but the wise bard was quick to observe what the poet alone among them was capable of:

The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven.
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.

Similarly, in the wake of the French Revolution, the practitioner-poet, William Wordsworth, better attuned to the role of poet, rightly asserted:

“He [the poet] is the rock of defence of human nature; an upholder and preserver, carrying everywhere with him relationship and love. In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language
and manners, of laws and customs, in spite of things silently gone out of mind and things violently destroyed, the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time.”

4 Re-Markings │ A World Assembly of Poets

Coming immediately after Wordsworth in the Romantic age chronology, P.B. Shelley went a step further and stated emphatically: “Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds … Poetry turns all things to loveliness; it exalts the beauty of that which is most beautiful, and it adds beauty to that which is most deformed; it marries exultation and horror, grief and pleasure, eternity and change; it subdues to union under its light yoke all irreconcilable things. It transmutes all that it touches, and every form moving within the radiance of its presence is changed by wondrous sympathy to an incarnation of the spirit which it breathes.” Shelley never tired of singing hymns in praise of regeneration of mankind. In a spirit of  exuberant optimism, he lyrically articulated his firm faith in such poetic beliefs as: “The world’s great age begins anew,/The golden years return”; “Another Athens shall arise,/ And to remoter time/ Bequeath, like sunset to the skies,/ The splendour of its prime.”

In all fairness, one may consider his essay, “A Defence of Poetry,” as a befitting rebuttal of Plato’s contention. Shelley opines:

Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the
trumpets which sing to battle, and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves … Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. In calling poets “unacknowledged legislators,” Shelley highlights the role of the poet as a prophet and harbinger of hope.

History bears evidence to the fact that writers and poets have often inspired revolutionary transformations in nations and societies with the power of their creative renderings. The world
of poetry and the world of political disorders may be innately separate entities but we must accept that both are enduring realities. It is common knowledge that in times of social,

Editorial 5

historical and political crises, literary consciousness is greatly influenced by the consciousness of public events, so much so that the public and private life, the world of action and the imaginative world of a sensitive writer interpenetrate. The situation during the nineteen thirties called for such an amalgamation of literary disciplines that seemed necessary in order to justify a critical estimate of the existing social and political order. To question the sincerity with which hundreds of intellectuals and artists took upon themselves the task of steering mankind away from war and poverty would mean to miss the pulse of that crucial period.

In contemporary times when the world seems divided into conflicting ideological camps, it is highly satisfying to see writers and poets addressing issues of perennial and universal significance. There is no doubt that art and poetry have always played a seminal role in helping humanity “examine” life in all its manifestations as alluded by Socrates. While poets are
relentlessly engaged in questioning the status quo in the public domain, be it Democracy or the dominance of authoritarian regimes, it is significant that they are no less concerned in projecting the passion and tenderness in the private spaces of human hearts like the nightingale that sings to its own solitude with sweet sounds.

In the twentieth century too the role of poets and the function of poetry have come up for discussion quite often. In his essay, “The Public v. the Late Mr William Butler Yeats,” W.H.
Auden lists three attributes that qualify a poet to deserve the epithet “great”: They are: “firstly a gift of a very high order for memorable language, secondly a profound understanding of the
age in which he lives, and thirdly a working knowledge of and sympathetic attitude towards the most progressive thought of his time.”

Despite the paramount role of poets in providing the blueprint of ideas for the creation of a just society, one may be reminded that the poet’s vocation, among all vocations in

6 Re-Markings │ A World Assembly of Poets

existence, is rarely considered with any degree of seriousness. Though some writers and poets may become famous public figures but writers, points out Auden, “as such have no social
status, in the way that doctors and lawyers, whether famous or obscure, have.” One may recall how W.H. Auden was once questioned by an immigrant official to the extent of irritation
for having said that he was a poet by profession. The official noted this with distrust and asked him repeatedly what he did for a living? Finally, in order to get rid of the nuisance from the
official, the poet had to say that he was a “Medieval Historian.” Against the above backdrop of perspectives on the content, role and function of poetry, it may be averred that poetry is
indispensable irrespective of time and clime. Poets combine passion and reason and often are intensely aware of the social responsibility they are entrusted with; they entrench their presence and words on the map of the human heart.

I deem it a privilege and pleasure to share this Special Re-Markings Number entitled A World Assembly of Poets with the poetry lovers from different parts of the globe. What is so striking about this memorable volume is not only the amazing diversity of themes and ideas but also the remarkable readiness with which worthy poets have willingly joined hands to form an inseparable human chain of harmony and friendship that cut across barriers and boundaries of nation, community, religion, language, culture, class, gender, caste, race, color and creed. 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. Though Re-Markings has been publishing poetry regularly since its inception in 2002, interspersed with special sections and numbers devoted to poets and their works, this ambitious enterprise couldn’t have taken shape without the telling narratives of love and endearment of some of the world’s best poetic voices travelling in thought to India in general and Re-Markings in particular. I am optimistic that had Plato been around to see this precious collection, he would have been thoroughly convinced to lift the ban on poets from entering his Republic.

Editorial 7

A World Assembly of Poets had its genesis in the deep-rooted bonds of friendship that I have shared with Dr. Tijan M. Sallah ever since I knew him. When I broached the idea of bringing together poets from different parts of the world under his dynamic leadership as Guest Editor, he immediately gave his consent and the project took off. His love of Re-Markings and his friendly commitment to support me has largely been responsible for making the Special Number so engaging and enriching. The overwhelming response that we received from all the contributors worldwide has been a truly humbling experience. The interesting exchanges that I have had with the contributing poets remain firmly etched on my heart and soul. I am indebted to all for lending vitality and vibrancy to this special issue. I truly appreciate the valuable cooperation I have received in this adventurous engagement from Dr. Sunita Rani Ghosh. I am also grateful to Dr. A. Karunaker and Mr. Sudarshan Kcherry for their interest in the volume. Finally, my heartfelt thanks go to Mr. Sandeep Arora for his unstinted graphics and
cyber support.

Nibir K. Ghosh
Chief Editor

Copyright:  Nibir K. Ghosh,  November, 2017