The last two issues of Poetry at Sangam were facilitated by Namita Gokhale’s invitations to the Jaipur Literary Festival where I met our previous guest editors Michael Kelleher and Arunava Sinha who gave us luminous issues. I met this issue’s guest editor, the celebrated Singaporean poet Alvin Pang too under the JLF’s capacious canopy.
In Alvin Pang one senses a man who will ensure the success of every literary adventure he undertakes, however varied. He’s resourceful, humorous, generous; his words rang with the clarity and resonance of a temple bell through a chill January evening in Jaipur to envelope a rapt audience. His poetry is simultaneously a beacon of homecoming and signal of alarm; depth charge into language and sounding of our porosities. It’s reflective, at times paradoxical and at all times intimate, as if he were speaking heart-to-heart to each one. Reading him one is both stilled and moved, dazzled and grateful. We are honoured to carry six of his unpublished poems which you can read here. Now for an extract. ‘… Commitment/ to a choice on a menu also known as loyalty was exercised./ Exorcised: the old ghost of wanting to mean not to bemean/but to able to say. Shine takes the place of luminescence./ That is to say what happened is not about what happened/ but that it happened. Is evasion invasion? Is erasure seizure?/ There is a pleasure in the telling quite apart from the tale…’
Alvin Pang created The Literary Centre (Singapore), a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to literary development and positive social change. It’s hardly surprising then that he chose ‘Plurality’ as his theme for this issue. Read his introduction to the issue below.
Atta Galata, Bengaluru’s iconic bookstore and founders of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival has supported Poetry at Sangam for a year, over two public readings and four issues of which this is the last. Our heartfelt thanks to Lakshmi and Subodh Shankar for their unwavering courtesy, dedication to the power and beauty of poetry, and their faith in our work.
To be sure, Poetry at Sagam is not shutting down. We are delighted to announce that the well known arts and cultural organization The Raza Foundation has committed to supporting our work in the years ahead. So, more is to come!
— Priya Sarukkai Chabria
I’ve kept my curation eclectic (as befits the loosely defined theme of Plurality) – so you have writers from different territories and nationalities. Many of them have a heritage or personal history that crosses boundaries; all of then have had some sort of literary connection with Singapore as well as with my own career as a poet. They represent a glimpse of the broad field and community of peers and juniors I’m connected to, if not necessarily influenced by, and which I try to hold in view, against the reductive, parochial politics of our time. In turn, these fine poets have offered us recent work that speaks to the same theme: expressing through their contributions their own sense of the plural – not only in terms of an apprehension of difference and the other, but also holding to an awareness of the self as several. Multiplicity and diversity does not have to mean fracture. They can offer broader apprehensions of wholeness. They may open up new paths to growth. And they remind us that it is perhaps our connections to what is beyond our immediate circumstances, predilections, experiences or faculties that engender hope, awe, wonder and love.
Songs of bhakti brimming with intimate and impassioned devotion to a personal god are sung in mandirs and mandals, gurdwaras and dargahs, homes and alone in solitude. Many voices of plurality or faiths exist under its sky. The medieval songs’ poetic and profound appeal to align one’s self with cosmic harmonies continues to strike a chord in numerous people.
The increasing intolerance in our society was among the factors behind holding a day long festival of bhakti poetry in translation in Pune, on 2nd April, 2017.
Hosted by the Pune International Centre and The Raza Foundation and curated by Priya Sarukkai Chabria, eight poet-translators presented their translations of Andal, Abhirami Bhattar, Chaitanya, Dhoolayya the Cobbler, Lal Ded, Mirabai, Rahim, Vallabhacharya and others to a rapt audience. Dr. Ashok Vajpeyi gave the opening lecture. Poet translators included Arundhathi Subramaniam, Mani Rao, Mustansir Dalvi, Priya Sarukkai Chabria, Rahul Soni, Ranjit Hoskote, H.S. Shivprakash and Sumana Roy, many of who are featured in Poetry at Sangam as poets and/or translators.
Poetry at Sangam is supported by the iconic bookstore Atta Galatta
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