Poetry at Sangam



January 2016

We are back.
And we wish every one of you a creative and joyful 2016.
We’re back.
With a difference: Poetry at Sangam is now a quarterly.

In this issue we’re delighted to present poems by Abdouraham A Waberi, Amlanjyoti Goswami, John Bradley, George Kalamaras and Mohan Gelani. Maybe you’ll see connections.

Djiboutian author Abdourahman Waberi’s poems are spare, his words resonated through this sparseness with breathtaking beauty, shafting through ‘rays of the yellow chameleon sky’ to touch us, wherever we be. Also a renowned novelist and short story writer, Waberi’s themes are the nomadic life, exile, French & Muslim cultures, and Djibouti’s harsh climate. Most of all, the glistening call for acceptance of differences runs through his work. ‘I’m writing from a human condition of displacement. That is the great experience of this century, how people moved and have this experience of displacement worldwide,’ he writes. Acclaimed translator Nancy Naomi Carlson, known for prizing the music of the original language, deploys unadorned, succinct English in her navigations from source to target language. Honouring Waberi’s poetic music was one challenges she faced during the translation process. ‘I map the sounds of the original text (assonance and alliteration), and try to replicate patterns (but not always exact sounds, nor placement in the stanza) in my translation,’ she writes. The effect is as if these poems have echoed and re-echoed over desert, scrubland and salt lake, and, in the process shed much to emerge with lucent insights. ‘The eternal chant of the Word for its life /in the sky of the ages/ I hear the wilds of childhood/ memory’s wise calligraphies/ imprinted in the split second’s spit/ I also hear chains of words from a distant past/ pieces of flesh/ vocal carrion /following secret routes…’
        Our grateful thanks to publishers Seagull Books for reprint permission. These are from Waberi’s recent collection, The Normads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper.

Amlanjyoti Goswami is among the younger generation of Indian poets who is carving his name on the international poetry map. Opening his world to us with relaxed elegance Goswami gently welcomes us on his an unusual trail, one that strolls between the revelatory and the apparent; the glimmerings, the clearings, and the shadows. Here’s a poet questioning or perhaps questing himself, and providing some answers: ‘What poems do I write? Poems that makes me feel whole, or so thoroughly strange. Where do I enter a poem? Sometimes, at the edges. Where is the exit? At the beginning, where, in thin air, we wonder if we should take another step. Why should poetry matter? Because we are human. And we feel, and have thoughts, which we cannot speak in language.’ His journeying eye reflects vivid details while his voice is reflective. These are poems of subtle mutations and humour, permeated with that rare quality, kindness; and tinged with loneliness sans desperation. Each poem, paused in its unfolding, employs poised language ‘hiccups’ – like high musical notes – to suggest the strangeness of the experience for we are, the poet says, vulnerably and wonderfully human. Epiphanies and disappointments are cast against a large scape, that of terra firma which hums baffling but never vicious rhythms while, despite the dark notes of the personal, beauty spreads. ‘In the fading /twilight/ We lay out the /moon/ And ate the darkness /of the corner room/ where there were no/windows./A candle flickered for a/place to hide /We ate quiet/comforted in the warmth of/being together/ /Outside, storms raged…’
        Five new poems and one previously published in an earlier version.

John Bradley is a poet of dazzling play that is verbal, psychological and philosophic. He demands we read the lines and what’s between their translucent, extending underbellies. The initial experience may be like facing a funhouse mirror that squeezes and enlarges the image we hold of ourselves, and the world. But it’s more. The poems aren’t complacent with mere reflections of distortion; they enquire into the very being-ness of experience. Bradley, who’s been called ‘one of the hidden greats’ of American poetry, tells us neither the prosaic nor the profound is beyond poetry’s purview; and that both mesh in prismatic visions. Though rather unusual in a poet, fictional characters populate his poems. On an associative note Bradley says, ‘Poetry provides a different kind of witness than history can. It allows for the imagination, emotion, imagery.’ As identities and perceptions create a kaleidoscope of realities, we are invited to inhabit these complexities and wounding absurdities. At times, phrases are repeated a tad differently – the affect quakes marrow. At other times, as one stanza unspools into the next another voice speaks from a linked reality. Consider these lines from The Stigmata of Philip K. Dick. (Incidentally, Dick, termed ‘The Shakespeare of Science Fiction’ believed he had a parallel personality as Thomas, a Christian persecuted by the Romans.) ‘Without knowing, the flesh/ flowers. Consider Francis, where he bled.  From the wound/ in hand and foot, slit in the right side, he speaks: Hold open/ thy gash.  Read to it” nursery rhyme, law book, autopsy report,/seed catalog, hymnal, anatomy book, train schedule.  Let us/ consider.’
        Six new poems.

George Kalamaras’s poems are molten meditations, tongues of lava that course with palpable tenderness for life, the small, the ‘dumb’ and the dead, and for the passage itself. About his practice the numerously awarded poet writes, ‘My poems pivot around two points: 1. the presentation of the unconscious or intuition as an ally, rather than an adversary, of the intellect through the practice of Surrealism; and 2. the delving into and revelation of the interconnection of all things; in other words, my poetry attempts to deal with the processes of the world as reciprocal and interactive, rather than as something hierarchical.’ This rigorous attentiveness emerges as armpit –deep immersion in language that’s explosive and elliptical to burn the coatings of the everyday. For its source, besides Surrealism is also Hindu philosophy’s articulation of spiritual lila – play that points to a fused reality of the monumental and the insignificant, the ephemeral and the eternal – should the veil of ignorance part. And Kalamaras parts the veil, through temporarily, to offer us dilations in Time. This is sensed visceral by the poet through the body of hound dog, possum and coon, Iberian and Ethiopian Wolf, the hunted, the hunting, the hunt – and then by us. ‘ … Say the radiant vista/ of fear is the poet’s complaint. Say prophesy/ is the death of doves in a doormat’s design./ Welcome. Come in. Go home. It is enough/ / that rows of cabbages complete chaos in their tightly wrapped/ leaves. That order is a turkey buzzard slapped onto the back/ of a white-maned horse. Give up the dead. Grant the living an expanse/of sin. When we were young, our bodies were beautiful…’
        Four new poems and two previously published.

Mohan Gehani, an Indian Academy of Literature awardee, is a Sindhi poet, playwright and essayist with eleven books behind him, three of which are poetry collections Rina Pat Mein (In This Wilderness), Mihinjo Nagar Kahiro? (Where is My City?) and Popata Pakdinde (Chasing Butterflies). Selections from these, translated by the poet and ably edited by Menka Shivdasani are recently published as Brittle Ice. Gehani, having extensively documented the Sindhiyat Movement and experienced the fading of Sindhi language and culture has repeatedly raged against this forgetting as, for instance, ‘…I/ who am always on thin/ brittle ice, can imagine/ the searing landscape!’ While the leitmotiv of ache for the lost land, janmabhoomi, is shared among Sindhi writers, Gehani culls more from his cultural landscape’s folklore and romantic legends of Sasuee- Punhoon, Suhini-Mehar and others. And he does more. Echoes of the Sindhi Sufis like Shah Latif, Sanchal Sarmast and Sami reverberate through his poems as distant soundings moored to drifting heavens. This imbues his poems with warmth, wonder and startling imagery. Seeming disarmingly ‘simple’ at first read, a magical quickness leaps to connect the everyday to the fantastic, even the cosmic. Gehani demands we inhabit this flash; he also challenges our notions of clichés as employed in Anglophone poetry, and insists we dreg up freshness from another terrain to hear his poems. For he says, read with the ear. ‘Time is crawling/ like a cry of the dumb,/ like a sense of colour/ in the imagination of the blind.’
        Our gratitude to the poet for reprint permission.

Two new poetry collections that deserve special mention: Anupama Raju’s Nine and K Srilata’s Bookmarking the Oasis, both of which have made it to various Best Reads of 2015 selections. Ordering details in New Releases section.

we’re back.

– Priya