Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Orphan by Jonah Raskin

The Orphan


Jonah Raskin

The other day, I watched the movie, Great Expectations, which begins in a graveyard where Pip’s parents are buried. I identified with Pip,

because he’s an orphan adopted by adults who love him & who also use him to settle old scores. By the time I was seven, I had adopted

several families or maybe they adopted me. At 17, I had half-a-dozen aliases, some of which I gave to myself, and some of which teachers 

& fellow students gave me. Forty-four years ago, when I moved to California, my newfound friends assumed I was an orphan because

I never went anywhere at Thanksgiving & Christmas, so they invited me to join their families, until I felt guilty and had to tell them I

wasn’t really an orphan. I was just pretending to be one and that I actually had a mother & father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins

& my two brothers who have followed me through life. The families who once adopted me are now gone, but I still have my brothers

who have the same memories I have & so I know I’m not crazy, but just a bit anxious & just a wee bit lonely in a world where I still

feel like an orphan, still gather aliases & still feel ashamed of the
bad things I did when I was a boy, the same age as the young Pip.

Jonah Raskin, author of 14 books, is Member, Editorial Advisory Board of Re-Markings ( and a frequent contributor to the journal.

Re-Markings - Conversation with Sampat Pal Devi (Founder Leader, Gulabi Gang)

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 Tess Onwueme

In this season of unrelenting drought
The scorched human body and soul appears jinxed,
Sizzling in the ravages of toxic Leadership
With vacated (nay, non-existent!) Conscience.

How then can today’s endangered Universe  
Not gratefully applaud this timely offering
 Of a nourishing collection
 By the “World Assembly of Poets “
Daring to water the sea of famished spirits?

For inviting me into this communion,
I cannot but chant

With honor and admiration, I salute you––
Tijani Sallah, Nibir Ghosh, et al.

 Tess Onwueme, Ph.D.,
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.

                                      Comments by Margarita Merino

Dear Nibir, 

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 well being. 

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.”

This amazing 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. ¡Muchasfelicidades!

This Special 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!

¡VIVA INDIA!  INDIA MOTHER OF MARVELS!  Margarita Merino Lindsay, January the 14th, 2018

Dr. Margarita Merino Lindsay was born in Spain, León “The Capital of Winter.”  She has published Viaje 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. TijanI 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 languagesShe 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.
Without 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 possibility.
This 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.
Best wishes,
Nancy Morejón

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 Cuban stage.

                        Comments by Prof. Sushil Gupta
Dear Nibir,
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, A  World Assembly of Poets

                                         (Vol. 16 No. 4 November 2017)
                                                       Review by 

                                        Gopikrishnan Kottoor

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 love. If 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 has  gone into its making is  visible “poet- heartedness”   laudable, and worthy of emulation. We need more such world anthologists  to bring on  the 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 themselves be?
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 “At My 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 always  been a  marvel: “A priest’s chant/ tender but peremptory/ churns the viscid waters/ into submission(At the Ghats in Banaras).

Katherine Gallahger’s (Australia) The Unknown Soldier is a befitting  poem for Re-Markings’ collection with the strength of a Ivor Gurney,  when she talks about  the body of the Unknown Soldier being taken  covered with real flowers/from country to country/ … And our hands  tremble/ 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 to  touching, moving, poetry, spinning off to  emotional and ambient heights.
Truly, as Tijan  M Sallah observes, the anthology has succeeded in its lofty aim to capture a  wide canvas of peace, warmth and relationships, truth, right, and beauty that  is the essence of genuine  poetry. 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 prayer  that reinforces the belief that   poetry is  the altar of the hope of mankind. 


Gopikrishnan Kottoor is an award winning poet with major prizes of the All India, Poetry Society - British Council poetry   Competitions (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 as  The Bloodaxe  Book of Contemporary Indian Poetry in  English, 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 Kottoor  attended 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 founded  thepoetry  journal ‘ 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
Review Essay

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!

Eight years 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.

The first 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.

Then there 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 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
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