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Re-Markings, a biannual refereed international journal of English Letters, aims at providing a healthy forum for scholarly and authoritative views on broad sociopolitical and cultural issues of human import as evidenced in literature, art, television, cinema and journalism with special emphasis on New Literatures in English including translations and creative excursions.​

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SPECIAL NUMBER

Vol. 16 No.1, January 2017 

Bose: Immortal Legend of India’s Freedom

Contemporary Critical Orientations

About the Issue: As an adolescent, Subhas Chandra Bose had questioned his mother, “Will the condition of our country continue to go from bad to worse – will not any son of Mother India in distress, in total disregard of his selfish interests, dedicate his whole life to the cause of the Mother?” Intuitively aware of his own destiny as the selfsame gallant knight of “Mother India in distress,” Bose was largely instrumental in hastening the departure of the British Empire from the soil of India by virtue of his undisputed military valour and inspiring leadership of the I.N.A. Yet, despite the reluctant and grudging testimony of the likes of Lord Mountbatten and Clement Atlee, it is passing strange that narratives of his stellar role in the Indian freedom struggle continue to languish in the anonymous corridors of History. This Special Number of Re-Markings addresses every possible aspect of Bose’s life, work and writings and also dwells upon related issues of contemporary relevance like women empowerment, communal amity,  economic planning, caste/class dichotomy, make-in-India initiative, role of media in state governance, corruption in high places, that Bose had been concerned with in his perpetual ‘discovery of India.’ The volume is bound to be of abiding interest for everyone interested in the remaking of a nation in consonance with the legacy bequeathed to us by the immortal legend of India’s freedom.

EDITORIAL

It all began with the invitation I received to give the keynote speech at a function organized by Sainik Parishad, Agra on 23rd January 2015 to mark the 119th birth anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose. The said invitation gave me the opportunity to offer my humble homage to one who had loomed large in my consciousness as an inimitable icon of Indian nationalism since my very childhood. The appeal of Netaji for me lay in the versatility of his many-sided genius that enabled him to stride like a colossus the tumultuous times he lived in. From the response of the audience during the interactive session that followed my talk, I could easily gauge that there was tremendous enthusiasm in everyone for this jewel of India who unto his very last proved a veritable thorn in the crown of British rule in India. Many of those present suggested ways and means to perpetuate the fond memory of this patriot of patriots. Though I returned home with a great sense of fulfillment, I couldn’t help wondering what I could do personally to keep alive the legacy of the eternal flame of “Faithfulness, Duty and Sacrifice” Bose had bequeathed to us through his lifelong struggle and sacrifice to see his first love, India, free.

It dawned upon me, perhaps through divine dispensation, that rather than celebrate, as a matter of ritual, his birth and death anniversaries with glib talk, full of sound and fury signifying nothing, it would be more worthwhile to read, comprehend, appreciate and record in writing a contemplated response to various facets and dimensions of the life and work of a noble soul that left behind him footprints on the graph of time for posterity to emulate. My first impulse was to go in for a book on the legacy of Netaji. On second thought, however, I felt that I could make befitting use of the space that Re-Markings provides to bring together friends and aliens from across the globe to articulate their ideas and views on diverse strands of the grand contribution of the “Indian Pilgrim” who was conspicuously instrumental in hastening the sunset of an Empire that lived in the delusion of an endless dawn of its being and existence.

As I began talking to people who I believed would be interested in writing on Bose and discussed the proposal with them, their incredibly spontaneous and highly motivating response immediately convinced me that the dream project was bound to take concrete shape. The frequent discussions with them brought to the fore issues and concerns that needed to be addressed in order to attempt a comprehensive exploration, examination and analysis of the Bose mystique not only through a serious study of his unfinished autobiography, his letters, speeches and all other writings but also to ponder over them through the lens of contemporary times. With a view to making the volume vibrant with the living presence of Bose, I felt the need to solicit cooperation of people related to the family or who had seen the legend in action from close quarters. The proverbial shot in the arm came when I succeeded in contacting Professor Sugata Bose (grand-nephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History, Harvard University, U.S.A., and Member of Parliament in the current Lok Sabha) and mentioned to him the ambitious project I had in mind. Overcoming my initial hesitation, I straightaway requested him for an interview on different aspects of Bose’s revolutionary life and career. I was simply delighted to receive his instant consent. At the same time, I was no less happy to hear from my dear friend, Professor Shankar Dutt, that Mrs. Zeenat Ahmad (Wife and companion to Colonel Mahboob Ahmad, Military Secretary to Netaji) would be pleased to grant us an interview for the project. The scene was thus set for this Special Re-Markings’ Number titled Bose Immortal Legend of India’s Freedom.

Two pertinent statements made by Professor Sugata Bose and Mrs. Zeenat Ahmad in their conversations in the present collection need our special attention. According to Professor Sugata Bose, “Netaji has been neglected in official histories and textbooks and by court historians in post-independence India. There is a certain price to be paid for being the alter-ego to those wielding state power.” Likewise, Mrs. Zeenat Ahmad reiterates: “Bose lost his life for the country and he is not given the recognition he deserves. What upsets me is that he has not been given his due even in the writing of history.” These two statements highlight most emphatically the deliberate attempt by historians as well as the powers-that-be to shroud the resplendent glory of Bose in the veil of obscurity for obvious reasons. It seems relevant to refer to the remark of Peter Fay in this context: “What is the British perception of Netaji and the I. N. A.? Cloudy, I would suggest. Inverted, which is a variety of being wrong. Finally, and most obviously, incomplete. It is an incompleteness that comes in part from just refusing to look. Do you know what happened to Netaji in British publications during the war? He disappeared.”

In a recent article Anuj Dhar has pointed out that “For reasons political, the authorities in India will never acknowledge the paramount role of Netaji in forcing the colonial British to transfer the power in 1947.” Equally dismaying is the denigration he had to suffer by being dubbed as a fascist agent by both the British and their stooges in India. In post-independence Indian parlance Bose is either a “Lost Hero” or at best a “Forgotten Hero.” How right was Chinua Achebe, the iconic African writer, in his emphatic observation that “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter!” It is befitting, therefore, that the new critical orientations that adorn this precious collection challenge the existing “cloudy, inverted or incomplete” viewpoints and perspectives with the sole purpose of projecting in proper light the exemplary contribution of “the Springing Tiger” to the freedom of India.

It is often believed that those who are destined to create history seldom have the time to write it. In the case of Subhas Chandra Bose, it may be said that even while he was engaged at all stages of his life with single-minded devotion and commitment to see his motherland free, he always recorded his observations with immaculate precision and sincerity in his writings. In a letter to his brother Sarat Bose, after he resigned from the Indian Civil Service, he stated with all candidness: “We have got to make a nation and a nation can be made only by the uncompromising idealism of Hampden and Cromwell…. I have come to believe that it is time for us to wash our hands clean of any connection with the British Government. Every Government servant whether he be a petty chaprasi or a provincial Governor only helps to contribute to the stability of the British Government in India. The best way to end a Government is to withdraw from it. I say this not because that was Tolstoy’s doctrine nor because Gandhi preaches it – but because I have come to believe in it.” It is significant that Bose did not remain content merely by withdrawing from the Indian Civil Service but by his unstinted patriotism, inspiring leadership and undisputed military valour paved the way for the very withdrawal of the British from the Indian soil.

The kaleidoscopic range and variety of essays in this volume, touching upon every possible aspect of Subhas Chandra Bose, is bound to be of abiding interest to anyone interested in the remaking of a nation in the image of the blueprint that the charismatic and divinely inspired leader provided through his life and work. It is of immense significance that the contributors to this Special Number hail from all walks of life. If there are historians and academicians of national and international recognition, bestseller novelists, poets and travel writers, recipients of Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi and other coveted awards, we also have amongst us an Indian Air Force officer as well as a senior monk from the Ram Krishna Mission, Calcutta. The common thread that unites all the contributors – from the school-going teenager to those in their mid or late eighties  –  is the admiration and esteem that each one has for Subhas. Of equal importance is the fact that cutting across genres like interview, poetry, prose, play, vignettes, films, critiques, reviews and reminiscences, the write-ups bring into bold relief numerous facets of Bose’s personality and sterling quality of selfless leadership that provide a beacon of hope to a nation in turmoil.

At a time when the idea of nationalism and harmonious living of diverse communities and religions is being vitiated in the country by the prevailing culture of intolerance and refusal to see any conflicting viewpoint in proper light, the idea of whether Bose could have prevented the Partition of the sub-continent seems highly pertinent. Likewise, the immensely wide range of submissions adequately reflect the outreach of the volume in addressing issues of contemporary relevance like women empowerment, communal amity, economic planning, caste/class dichotomy, make-in-India initiative, role of media in state governance, mystery surrounding Bose’s untimely death, corruption in high places, and Declassification of files pertaining to Bose. An exclusive essay on Emilie Schenkl, the woman behind the legend, adds to the impact of the collage. The charm of the collection has decisively been enhanced with the inclusion of two pieces: “Editor's Note” to Netaji and India's Freedom: Proceedings of the International Netaji Seminar, 1973 by Dr. Sisir Kumar Bose and “The Bengal Student as I Knew Him 1909-1916” by Professor Edward Farley Oaten, thanks to the kind indulgence of Professor Sugata Bose.

I am optimistic that this Special Number of Re-Markings will not only open new avenues of serious scholarship on Bose but also considerably inspire the young generation to enjoy the sense of divine fulfillment that stems from placing the country before the self. His untimely death may remain a matter of perpetual mystery but we can always draw sustenance from the belief that “to live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.” What is paramount is to be mindful that the spotlight is not on him but on us who inherit his legacy.

Before concluding this editorial note, I consider it obligatory on my part to express my deep indebtedness to one and all who have made this challenging enterprise so very special. First and foremost, I am profusely thankful to each one of the contributors for sharing their valuable offerings with uninhibited passion and sense of belonging to the Bose cult. For ideational support and constant encouragement, I am hugely thankful to Professor Sugata Bose, Professor Abdul Shaban and Professor Shankar Dutt among others. I am happy to record my fond appreciation for travel writers Mr. Anurag Malik and Ms. Priya Ganapathy who undertook a transcontinental journey for their tribute to Bose. I am deeply grateful to Dr. Krishna Bose and the Netaji Research Bureau, Kolkata for allowing us to reprint in this volume the pieces penned by Dr. Sisir Kumar Bose and Professor E.F. Oaten. My special thanks are due to the two editors: Professor A. Karunaker for his active support, and Dr. Sunita Rani Ghosh for being a pillar of strength in this glorious project in so many ways. My sincere gratitude is reserved for Mr. Sandeep Arora who has designed the graphics for this Special Number with aesthetic perfection besides being an integral part of this endeavour from the very moment of its conception. I am no less thankful to Mr. Sudarshan Kcherry of Authorspress for his endearing association with this unique edition of Re-Markings.

It is important that the time of the publication of this volume coincides with the grand entry of our journal into the sixteenth year of its publication. I deem it an honour and privilege on behalf of the Re-Markings fraternity to present our humble offering to the immortal legend of India’s freedom on his 120th birth anniversary.

With warmest good wishes to all for a bright and beautiful 2017 and beyond.

Nibir K. Ghosh

Chief Editor

 

 

CONTENTS

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Making of the Legend – Nibir K. Ghosh

“A Brighter Future is India’s Destiny”: A Conversation with Sugata Bose – Nibir K. Ghosh

Freedom is not given – it is taken”: A Conversation with Zeenat Ahmad – Tara Sami Dutt & Zaara Urouj

Netaji and India's Freedom: Proceedings of the International Netaji Seminar, 1973 – Editor's Note -Sisir Kumar Bose

The Bengal Student as I Knew Him 1909-1916 – Edward Farley Oaten

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose: Vignettes from Memory – Ramesh Chandra Shah

Could Subhas Chandra Bose have Prevented the Partition of India? – Abdul Shaban

Netaji Trail: The Bose Particle – Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy

Swami Vivekananda and Subhash Chandra Bose – Swami Sujayananda

When Netaji was the Last Word – N.S. Tasneem

De/reconstructing the Idea of the Nationalist Hero – Shanker A. Dutt

Subhash Chandra Bose: True Architect of Modern India – Sugam Anand

Cinematic Representation of Subhas Chandra Bose: Reading Shyam Benegal’s Bose: The Forgotten Hero – Mohammad Asim Siddiqui

Emilie Schenkl: In Letter and Spirit – Sunita Rani Ghosh

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose: Military General, Visionary, Statesman and Politician – Kunwar Jai Pal Singh Chauhan

Waiting for Bose – Omkar Sane

Subhas Chandra Bose and Women Empowerment – Sanjukta Sattar

Subhas Chandra Bose: A Visionary Spiritualist – Ajit Mukherjee & Pranamita Pati

Netaji in Our Times: Weaving Fragments of a Great Life – Sukalpa Bhattacharjee

Conspiracies, Controversies and Confusion: Declassification of the Bose Files – Supantha Bhattacharyya

His Majesty’s Opponent: Retelling Nationalist History – Dev Vrat Sharma

Netaji – Some Personal Thoughts – S.B. Medhi

The People Who influenced Subhash Chandra Bose – Shrikant Singh

Contemporary Relevance of Netaji’s Visionary Ideas – Monali Bhattacharya

Rhetoric of Subhash Chandra Bose – Abnish Singh Chauhan

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Indian Freedom Struggle – Dipa Chakrabarti

Subhash Chandra Bose: From Congress to Forward Bloc, A Crisis of Ideology – Purabi Bhattacharyya

Reporting on Subhash Chandra Bose’s Death: An Analysis of Key Words, Syntactic Patterns and Discourse – Sadra Samreen

Subhas Chandra Bose’s Political Differences with Mahatma Gandhi – Purnendu Kumar Kar

 

Poems

Let Us Not Forget – Shanta Acharya

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose – Rahil Shaban

 

Highlights

“A Brighter Future is India’s Destiny”: A Conversation with Sugata Bose — Nibir K. Ghosh

Professor Sugata Bose, the grand-nephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, is Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs at Harvard University, U.S.A., and Member of Parliament in the current Lok Sabha. A Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge (1983), his field of specialization is Modern South Asian and Indian Ocean history. A recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, his publications include Peasant Labour and Colonial Capital; A Hundred Horizons: the Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire; Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy; Nationalism, Democracy and Development; Credit, Markets and the Agrarian Economy of Colonial India; and South Asia and World Capitalism. His most recent book is His Majesty's Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India's Struggle against Empire (2011). An eloquent orator, he has been invited for lectures and talks in various countries: Austria, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, China, Germany, France, Italy, Kuwait, Japan, Malaysia, Netherland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, UAE, U.K. and U.S.A. In this conversation with Nibir K. Ghosh, Professor Sugata Bose offers useful insights into the many dimensions of the life and work of the legendary hero, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

Nibir: As an eminent international historian of Harvard fame, how does it feel to be so closely connected to the hallowed personality of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose who is undoubtedly one of the greatest revolutionaries of the Indian Freedom struggle?

Sugata: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose used to say that his family and country were coterminous. My parents taught me since childhood not to claim any special relationship with the great revolutionary based on an accident of birth. I am proud, of course, to belong to the country that produced Subhas Chandra Bose. When my father Sisir Kumar Bose received popular adulation and heard the slogan “Bose khandan zindabad” on his release from prison in September 1945, his father Sarat Chandra Bose told him to remember that this was nothing but Subhas’s “reflected glory.” For Sisir, Netaji was his leader rather than his uncle.

Nibir: You, along with your revered father, Dr. Sisir Kumar Bose, have contributed immensely in bringing into limelight the life, work, speeches, letters and writings of Netaji through the Netaji Research Bureau. What motivated you into undertaking such a challenging enterprise?

Sugata: The credit for preserving and presenting Netaji’s book of life to the world belongs entirely to my father Dr. Sisir Kumar Bose who was ably helped by my mother Krishna Bose and a small band of dedicated workers. My father was convinced that the best traditions of the freedom struggle had to be bequeathed to future generations. He collected letters, documents, speeches, photographs, audio recordings and film footage connected with Netaji from all over the world and disseminated them to the wider public. Since I grew up in tandem with the Netaji Research Bureau he founded in 1957 (I was born in 1956), I helped out in this ambitious project in small ways. I had the good fortune of meeting the noble men and women who had fought for India’s independence under Netaji’s leadership and was inspired by the saga of their suffering and sacrifice. Their story had to be recorded and told. I began to take a more active role once my father’s health began to fail since Netaji’s work had to go on.

Nibir: In a talk delivered at the 5th International Netaji Seminar at Calcutta in January 1985, Peter Fay wondered: “What is the British perception of Netaji and the I.N.A.?” Fay answered the question himself: “Cloudy, I would suggest. Inverted which is a variety of being wrong. Finally, and most obviously, incomplete. It is an incompleteness that comes in part from just refusing to look. Do you know what happened to Netaji in British publications during the war? He disappeared.” In the light of this statement, how would you evaluate Hugh Toye’s The Springing Tiger, the first known assessment of Netaji by a Britisher?

Sugata: I hold a high opinion of Hugh Toye’s biography The Springing Tiger. Considering that it was written by a British intelligence officer who had fought against Netaji and interrogated INA prisoners, the book was remarkable for its broad-minded and balanced approach. Toye made some errors of fact and judgment. For example, he did not have access to records that would later show Netaji had sharply criticized Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. My father helped him with source materials in the early days of the Netaji Research Bureau and was even criticized in certain Indian circles for helping a British author. After my father’s death Hugh Toye wrote to my mother from Oxford on January 27, 2001, “I no longer take a daily paper, so that it was only the other day that I heard of the departure of your husband, a brave boy who became a great man. He was always very kind – unexpectedly kind – to me.” My father was always willing to help and make the NRB archives available to bonafide researchers. As Leonard Gordon mentions in the preface to his Brothers against the Raj, he never told historians what to write and respected their freedom of expression even if they were critical of the leader he himself adored. I fondly remember Peter Fay whom you quote. His book The Forgotten Army is elegantly written and is one of the finest contributions to scholarship on the Second World War. He was an eloquent speaker and gave a terrific interview for my film Rebels against the Raj, which was telecast on PBS in the late 1980s.

Nibir:  In his Foreword to Toye’s The Springing Tiger, Philip Mason writes: “There are elements repellant in Bose’s character—his arrogance and refusal to compromise….Power corrupted him; he grew more intolerant, more certain. But no one can doubt the stature of the man, his intellectual scope and the passion with which he held his convictions.” From the dual perspective of a historian as well as a kin of Netaji, what are your views on the picture of Netaji as portrayed by Mason?

Sugata: From the singular perspective of a historian (I take no view of Netaji as a family member) I am somewhat amused by Mason’s portrayal, which is quite typical of the old hands of the British raj whose condemnation was often leavened by a grudging admiration for a formidable opponent. The refusal to compromise with injustice and wrong was one of the most appealing features in Bose’s character. I am puzzled by Mason’s conception of power. No one spoke truth to power as Bose did. Bose’s life was an example of tyag or renunciation of power and privilege.

Nibir: How would you react to the opinion of Nirad C. Chaudhari on Subhas Chandra Bose that it was not his love of India but only intense hatred of the British that drove him through most of his life?

Sugata: Nirad C. Chaudhuri was a highly opinionated man who was mistaken in this opinion. It was not just Subhas’s love of India, but love as an essential element, that defined him. As he wrote in his unfinished autobiography, “I see all around me the play of love; I perceive within me the same instinct; I feel that I must love in order to fulfill myself and I need love as the basic principle on which to reconstruct life.” His hatred was reserved for oppressive British rule, not the British, and he advocated the friendliest relations with the British people once freedom was won.

Nibir: If there was an attempt by British historians and scholars to relegate Netaji to the margins of the then contemporary history, does it not seem strange that outside Bengal, the portrayal of Netaji’s role in the Freedom Struggle by Indian historians has not been much different? What causes would you attribute to such neglect of Netaji?

Sugata: Netaji has been neglected only in official histories and textbooks and by court historians in post-independence India. There is a certain price to be paid for being the alter-ego to those wielding state power. He looms large in popular memory, not just in Bengal, but throughout the subcontinent. In fact, I think he is more revered in Punjab and Tamil Nadu and by freedom-loving peoples in many peripheral regions of India than in Bengal. He need not be part of the official canon. I would much rather see him as a subject of independent scholarship in the future.

Nibir: The confrontation that Subhas Bose had with Professor E.F. Oaten at Presidency college, Calcutta led to his expulsion. In An Indian Pilgrim you have included the Poem “Subhas Chandra Bose” penned by Oaten in 1947, decades after the episode. What is your take on the poem especially with regard to Subhas?

Sugata: Oaten's poem is a very interesting one on the audacity and courage of Subhas Chandra Bose's challenge to the British Empire and strikes a note of mourning for the untimely stilling of his patriot heart. It is not by any means a eulogy, but conveys a sense of understanding, reconciliation and respect. My parents had a pleasant meeting with Professor and Mrs Oaten at their country home in 1971 and my father invited him to the First International Netaji Seminar held in January 1973. Professor Oaten could not travel because of poor health but sent a paper titled "The Bengal Student as I knew Him," which was read in absentia and then published in the proceedings Netaji and India's Freedom. My father believed Oaten's perspective should be recorded in the interest of history.

Nibir: In what way did the role and function of Netaji Research Bureau, established in 1957 in Calcutta, contribute to the correction of distorted or incomplete perspectives about the legendary leader?

Sugata: Netaji Research Bureau played a signal role in lighting a flame in 1957 that illuminated the multiple facets of Netaji’s life and work in the decades to come in the midst of complete official apathy. Instead of carping and complaining about governmental neglect, Sisir Kumar Bose set out to do the work that needed to be accomplished against stiff odds. In the process, Netaji Research Bureau was also able to show that the life was more fascinating and salient than the legend. Fringe groups styling themselves as devotees contributed to distorted perspectives on Netaji, just as officialdom could be blamed for incomplete ones. Sisir Kumar Bose lamented the emergence of “a strange and spurious Bose cult.” “Persistent rumors about Bose being alive and flights of fantasy in regard to his whereabouts,” he wrote in the introduction to the proceedings of an outstanding International Netaji Seminar in 1973 (published as Netaji and India’s Freedom in 1975), “prevented the development of a sober, scientific, historical appraisal of India’s only soldier-statesman of modern times.” The “spurious Bose cult” that he deplored is still doing the rounds. If Netaji gets once more shrouded in meaningless mystery, India will be in danger of losing sight of the life and work of a man who was much more than a mythical hero. There is much to learn from Netaji’s book of life in the present and the future.

Nibir: You have mentioned in your Preface to His Majesty’s Opponent that you were initially hesitant in writing a definitive biography of Subhas Chandra Bose. What was the cause of your hesitation? Also, as the grand-nephew of the gigantic historical figure, did you at any time, during the writing of the book, feel the tension of balancing personal relationship and history?

Sugata: I was hesitant because of the family relationship and I was clear that I wanted to write as a historian. Ultimately, I could see that if I had a bias it was likely to be shared by countless people in the subcontinent. Also, I felt the knowledge I had garnered by being associated with NRB and as joint editor of Netaji’s Collected Works had to be put to good use. It takes almost a lifetime of research to write a good book about Netaji. I wrote mine at a time when I felt I had the requisite critical distance and could place Netaji’s life in the context of modern global history.

Nibir: You have quoted a statement by Mahatma Gandhi in His Majesty’s Opponent wherein the Mahatma shows his admiration for Netaji in the context of the INA: “The lesson that Netaji and his army brings to us is one of self-sacrifice, unity—irrespective of class and community—and discipline.” Notwithstanding Netaji’s profound personal admiration and respect for Gandhi, he is candid enough to confess in The Indian Struggle 1920-34: “The leader of the Congress is Mahatma Gandhi–who is the virtual dictator. The Working Committee since 1929 has been elected according to his dictation and no one can find place on that committee who is not thoroughly submissive to him and his policy.” Do you think such an impression could have been instrumental in the ultimate parting of ways between Netaji and the Mahatma?

Sugata: I think Subhas was occasionally too blunt and tactlessly candid in his criticisms of Mahatma Gandhi in the 1920s and 1930s. He was honest in expressing his views to a fault, but he also genuinely admired Gandhi. There was no “ultimate” parting of the ways between Netaji and the Mahatma. They fell out in 1939 over the correct strategy to follow in winning freedom, but came closer in the aims and ideology from 1942 onwards. Gandhi recognized and respected Netaji’s greatest achievement in uniting all the religious communities of India.

Nibir: Netaji had inspired millions of Indians based in different parts of the world with his slogan, “Dilli Chalo!” Had he been present when the national flag was unfurled from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi on 15th August 1947, do you think India’s “tryst with destiny” may have been different?

Sugata: This question is about a big “if” of history. I think Netaji and the Mahatma working together may have been able to avert the tragedy of partition. Subhas Chandra Bose would certainly have worked towards an equitable sharing of power among India’s diverse religious and linguistic groups in a federal India. He would also have been more energetic in removing the scourge of poverty, illiteracy and disease in our country.

Nibir: As a historian, what are your perceptions of Netaji’s “discovery of India” with Jawahar Lal Nehru’s Discovery of India?

Sugata: Netaji’s discovery of India took place as a teenager doing social work among the poor and destitute well before his first trip to Europe. Jawaharlal Nehru found himself among the kisans of UP in his early thirties during the non-cooperation movement, having already spent his formative years in Harrow and Cambridge. Both were cosmopolitan figures, but Bose’s cosmopolitanism was more rooted than Nehru’s.

Nibir: From the exalted academic position of Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs at Harvard University, what inspired you to take the plunge into active Indian politics? How do you come to terms with factors like the criminalization of politics which is so common in the Indian context?

Sugata: My primary identity is that of an historian, scholar and teacher. I am simply helping out in the political sphere at a critical historical moment in Indian politics. I felt there needed to be an alternative to the forces of religious majoritarianism and unbridled capitalism that seem poised to overwhelm Indian democracy. I was very reluctant to take the plunge into politics precisely because of the criminalization you refer to. But then, if there is any hope of cleansing Indian politics, we need good people from different walks of life to take active part in democratic political processes.

Nibir: As a Member of Parliament of the world’s largest democracy, what is your vision of India? How do you manage to cope with the challenges of caste, marginalization, communalism and rampant corruption so common to Indian polity?

Sugata: My vision is that of an egalitarian and federal India where historically marginalized people are fully empowered as equal citizens. I cope with the challenges by keep warning my countrymen not to confuse religious majoritarianism with democracy, and uniformity with unity. We need to reclaim patriotism from the chauvinists, religion from the religious bigots, and politics from the corrupt.

Nibir: In one of your recent eloquent speeches in the Lok Sabha, you remarked “I am a nationalist. I believe in a kind of nationalism that instills a feeling of selfless service in our people and inspires their creative efforts.” What is your own agenda for instilling in citizens the idea and practice of selfless service?

Sugata: Even when I speak in Parliament, I see myself as a teacher lecturing in a massive online course on political ethics. Having been a teacher in universities for three and a half decades, I think I communicate quite well with the 18 to 25-year old age group. I hope to persuade this younger generation of the virtue of seva and that they can achieve a sense of deep fulfillment in living for others less fortunate than themselves.

Nibir: “How many selfless sons of the Mother are prepared, in this selfish age, to completely give up their personal interests and take the plunge for the Mother?” This is a question which Subhas asked his mother when he was barely fifteen. Musing over this question a little over a century later, is it possible to respond with any kind of optimism? What, according to you, can be done to attract contemporary Indian youth to the legacy of love and passion for the motherland left behind by the Netaji?

Sugata: Optimism is a pragmatic necessity. In the letters that Subhas wrote as a fifteen-year old to his mother and brother Sarat he described darkness, despair and decline engulfing India. Yet he found refuge in Tennyson-like optimism. “A brighter future is India’s destiny,” he wrote to Sarat. “The day may be far off – but it must come.” I would urge contemporary youth never to lose faith in India’s destiny. However, they should avoid the snare of narrow nationalism. True love for the motherland can only bloom in the garden of a larger humanity.

  

Professor Sugata Bose, grand-nephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, ​Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History,  Harvard University, U.S.A., and M.P., Lok Sabha ​ speaking at the launch on March 18th, 2017 at Agra Club, Agra.

Excerpts

The refusal to compromise with injustice and wrong was one of the most appealing features in Bose's character. His life was an example of tyag or renunciation of power and privilege. Though Netaji has been neglected in official histories and textbooks, he looms large in popular memory, not just in Bengal, but throughout the subcontinent. – Professor Sugata Bose, grand-nephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History, Harvard University, U.S.A., and M.P., Lok Sabha.

Bose lost his life for the country and he is not given the recognition he deserves….We desperately need someone like him, someone who is not self seeking but can put the country before himself. The idea of being an Indian is dying out. – Mrs. Zeenat Ahmad, Wife and companion to Colonel Mahboob Ahmad

Subhas Chandra Bose was not just a mythical hero…his rise to the status of Netaji was not the result of just one daring act; he represented a way of life which in its totality was the very essence of India's struggle for freedom and national self-fulfilment. Bose's importance to India had increased, rather than decreased, with the attainment of independence. – Dr. Sisir Kumar Bose, nephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, founder of Netaji Research Bureau, Kolkata

There is a strong opinion in many quarters that had Subhas Chandra Bose been alive, the partition of the country could have been averted…. He was capable and had all the potential of changing the destiny of the subcontinent and take humanity in this region to a different direction and a brighter common future. – Professor Abdul Shaban, Deputy Director, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose looms very large in the mythical space of my childhood, similar to the figure of Vivekananda. – Padma Shri Dr. Ramesh Chandra Shah, celebrity Hindi writer (Sahitya Akademi award recipient)

Subhash Chandra Bose is no exception to the idiosyncrasies of the writing and the writing-into-silence of History. Remembrance would be meaningful if we understand Bose, the human person, engaging in dialogue with his life, convictions, his writings and his idea of India. – Professor Shankar Dutt, Patna University, Patna

Time and again, Netaji has reminded us how he would remain a statesman the world cannot ignore or bury in the dusty pages of history. – Anurag Mallic & Priya Ganapathy, Travel Writers(Redscarab), Bengaluru

India attained freedom after the country had been partitioned in a ruthless manner. It was not the freedom that had been envisioned by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. – Prof. N.S. Tasneem, Sahitya Akademi award recipient

Bose saw a Free India with no discrimination on grounds of caste, race, sex, creed or wealth. – Professor Sugam Anand, Dr. B.R.A. University, Agra

Subhas Chandra Bose's stance on the question of Hindu-Muslim unity was flawless…. His Azad Hind Fauj was remarkable for drawing soldiers from different sections and different communities. – Professor Asim Siddiqui, A.M.U., Aligarh  

While celebrating the life of the legendary Subhas, let us remember with pride and fondness how Emilie Schenkl, a non-Hindu woman from an alien clime and culture could so selflessly devote and dedicate herself, like the legendary Indian women of bygone ages, to her first and only love, Subhas. – Dr. Sunita Rani Ghosh, Agra College, Agra

Even today Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose is a shining example of leadership, nonnegotiable integrity, sacrifice and valour in world history. – Group Captain J.P.S. Chauhan, I.A.F.

Subhash Bose's exemplary spirit of patriotism, his love, dedication and life-long selfless sacrifice for his motherland can always be a source of inspiration for the youth today. – Swami Sujayanand, Senior Monk, Ramkrishna Mission, Kolkata

Netaji firmly believed that no country can develop without women's participation and their emancipation and strongly advocated gender equality. – Dr. Sanjukta Sattar, University of Mumbai, Mumbai

India got independence. The questing hero of India disappeared. India is still waiting for the return of Her priceless son. – Dr. Ajit Mukherjee, Director KIIT, Bhubaneswar

His Majesty's Opponent by Sugata Bose is no less than a thrilling narrative of the adventures of a charismatic nationalist, larger than life, where the actual person of flesh and blood is as electrifying as the legend. – Dr. Dev Vrat Sharma, Govt. College, Dausa

Tagore’s dedication of his poetic composition “Ekala Chalo Re” to Bose speaks volumes of the love and reverence Tagore had for Bose. – Dr. Shrikant Singh, Nav Nalanda Mahavihara, Nalanda

In the history of this country perhaps no other national icon evokes more enigma and intellectual curiosity than Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose….His whole life has been a unique experiment with diverse ideologies to achieve a single goal which was India's Independence. – Dr. Sukalpa Bhattacharjee, NEHU, Shillong

So much is the emotional investment by Indians in Subhas Chandra Bose that an incredible percentage of them continue to believe in the possibility of his miraculous return, 120 years after his birth! – Dr. Supantha Bhattacharya, Hislop College, Nagpur

His verbal ingenuity is admirable and carefully cultivated which shows his command over words, freshness of ideas and richness of emotions in addressing the grave problems of pre-independence India.  Dr. Abnish Singh Chauhan, Editor, Creation and Criticism

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was the biggest youth icon of his times with the power to sway millions with his blueprint for Independent India. – Dr. Monali Bhattacharya, JIIT, Noida

Had Netaji been present when the tricolour was unfurled at the Red Fort in Delhi on 15th August 1947, who knows India's “tryst with destiny” may have been spectacularly resonant with Tagore's “Heaven of Freedom.” ​– Prof. Nibir K. Ghosh, UGC Emeritus Professor, Agra College, Agra


A World Assembly of POETS : Contemporary Poems

Re-Markings Special Number  
Vol.16 No.4, November 2017
A WORLD ASSEMBLY OF POETS
​Contemporary Poems

"For sixteen years Re-Markings has been an important journal of international literature and culture with an ever-expanding critical range and creative reach. This new, special issue devoted exclusively to the world's best poetry proves that it is a visionary publication crucial for understanding the complexity of our world, our humanity, and our lives at this watershed moment in the 21st century." —Charles Johnson (Winner of National Book Award, USA)

“Had Plato been around to see this wonderful collection, he would have gladly lifted the ban on entry of poets in his Republic.”—Nibir K. Ghosh (Chief Editor, Re-Markings)

“In this general assembly of some of the world's best poets, the venue is not New York, but the platform is in fabled India. In this wondrous collection, which strives for geographical representativeness, reflects variable styles and themes, we have poets and poetry from Africa, America, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, and the Middle East. Bringing the world together across such varied space to celebrate and commiserate through the poetic idiom is undoubtedly an ambitious enterprise. —Tijan M. Sallah, Guest Editor (The Gambia)

A few extracts from poems represented in this volume:     "Early in life we all look like each other, /  The sweet pea sprout is a foetus with a bulging forehead."  —Per Wastberg (Sweden) "I met a collector of rain once/ Who went to sleep in my sleeve." — Sonia Sanchez (USA)   "Most of the world is centred/ About ourselves." –Paul Muldoon (Northern Ireland) "Remember when we inquired/ Sweetly of the cane." –Summer Edward (Trinidad and Tobago) ​ "All they you've danced they take from you." –Ariel Dorfman (Chile) "All the poetry there is in the world/ appears to rise out of the ashes." —Jayanta Mahapatra (India)  

Editorial

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.”

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 evolutionary 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, 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 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.

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

A WORLD ASSEMBLY OF POETS: Introduction by Tijan M. Sallah – please log on to www.nibirkghosh.blogspot.in

CONTENTS:

AFRICA

Cameroon

Andre Ze Jam Afane – The Guests Of The Sun, Côte d’Ivoire

Véronique Tadjo – Red Earth/Laterite, Half-Way

Gambia, The

Tijan M. Sallah – Ballad For Mom, The Wisdom Of First And Last, I Come From A Country

Ghana

Kofi Anyidoho – Seedtime, Do Not Give Too Much Of Your Love To Me, Blewuu, Among My Dreams, The Word, A Harvest Of Our Dreams

Malawi

Frank M. Chipasula – Lament For A Teller Of Tales Lost In The Season Of Aids, No. 38, The Rain Storm, The River Is Sulking, At My Wake

Namibia

Julia Amukoshi – Growing Up, City Friday

Nigeria

Obari Gomba – Elegy Of The River, The Feast Of The Old Dragons, Elie Wiesel Knows The Night, On Every Street Under The Sun, Barack Obama Speaks To Time

Helon Habila – Elegy For A Child, Nest Weaving

Okey Ndibe – Altitude Ally

Tanure Ojaide – The Fate Of Vultures, Where Everybody Is King, They Say My Child Is Ugly Like A Goat, Elegy For Broken Hearts

Tess Osonye Onwueme – I Sing Loudest When I Am Silent!,Where Oil Ceases To Anoint,

South Africa

Walter Chakela – Mandela’s Song, My Renaissance

Keorapetse Kgositsile – Wounded Dreams, Anguish Longer Than Sorrow, Letter From Havana

Raks Morakabe Seakhoa – Madiba, Down River Cam, For Comrade Prof. Kader, 18A Tourquay Ave, Claremont

Stephen Symons – Far Below, The Smell Of The Sea (Or Losing My Country), Imagining Snow, Shell-Shock

AMERICA

 

Canada

Gurcharan Rampuri – Life, The Book, Dwarf Heads

U.S.A.

Barbara Ann Briggs – Alone, The Flowers Of The Heart, The River Of Time

Fred Chappell – The Peacock And The Crane, The Jay Adorned With Peacock Feathers,

The Serpent’s Head And The Tail, The Lion, The Wolf And The Fox

Rita Dove – Mother Love, Belinda’s Petition, Parsley, The Event, Straw Hat,

Iris Jamahl Dunkle – Tolerance 141,Things Given Away,

Christopher Guerin – The House, Orion In Winter

Kurt Heinzelman – The Names They Found There, Visiting The Somme, Allianoi

Meera Ekkanath Klein – Melting Pot, A Treasure Trove, Creating A Poem

Haki R. Madhubuti – Denied Substantial And Fundamental Creation, Justice As The Purest Motivation, More Powerful Than God

Greg Mahrer – A Provisional Map Of The Lost Continent, Ciudad De Oro, Studies (Graphite And Pollen)

Suzanne Matson – Missionary, 1920, Went Into A Bar, Celia, To Genda, Little Deaths,

Calling Her

Ethelbert Miller – Can You Get The Door?, Divine Love, We Are Not Alone, Earth

Kevin Powell – September 11th, Katrina, For Aunt Cathy,

Jonah Raskin – How Many Passages To India?

David Ray – Auden In Error, What Rabindranath Tagore Taught, Cracking Hardy, Blues For White Skinny

Judy Ray – Island Of Uncertainties/Islands Of Uncertainty, Balancing Acts, Shish Kebabs, Recipe Of Memory

Lucinda Roy – Carousel, If You Know Black Hair, Gospel, The Humming Birds

Sonia Sanchez – Malcolm, On Passing Thru Morgan Town, PA. 198

Stacey Tuel – The Deserter’s Heart

ASIA

Bangladesh

Tulip Chowdhury – Uprooted, Reality, Yesterday’s Rain

Shamsad Mortuza – Punctuated Thought, A Sentence, A Dead Poem

China

Liu Hongbin – The Unfamiliar Customs House, Waiting

India

Keki N Daruwalla – Guide, Defining A Sufi, Patna To Nalanda–1979

Shanker Dutt – One Morning In Camp Potter’s Hill, Chronicle Of A Reported Death, Monsoon Wedding

Arun Kamal – Anxiety, Don’t Look For Me, I’ll Tell Lies, Adventure

Gopikrishnan Kottoor – Crushed Grapes, A Pair Of Old Shoes, The Memory Of Your Hair

Shiv K Kumar – At The Ghats Of Banaras, The Taj, Love Letter

Aparna Lanjewar – A Truth (This Is For Real), Dalit Power, Spinsterhood, Words

Sharan Kumar Limbale – Who Am I?, Riot

Jayanta Mahapatra – All The Poetry There Is, Hunger, Spring, A Still Winter Morning

Pritish Nandy – He Paid His Last Tribute To Death, I Met Him One Evening Beside A Secret River, Calcutta If You Must Exile Me, Near Deshapriya Park They Found Him At Last, Though I Have Never Seen The Mountains Of Colombia

Chandramohan S – Elegy For The Slain Bloggers, Abandoned Translation, The Muse In The Market Place, The Immigrant Word, Nangeli

Ramesh Chandra Shah – On The Back Of The Turtle, He Said, Tell, Sometimes

K. Srivastava – Death, Painting, Repentance

Arundhathi Subramaniam – Prayer, Home, Where I Live, To The Welsh Critic Who Doesn’t Find Me Identifiably Indian

Tenzin Tsundue – When It Rains In Dharamsala, Horizon, A Proposal, Betrayal, My Tibetanness

Pakistan 

Kishwar Naheed – Nazm, To The Taliban, Amendment In The Twelfth Amendment, Dying Voices From Burning Damascus And Basra

Fahmida Riaz – Royal Throne, The Body Lacerated, Tongues Of Stone

Singapore

Anne Lee Tzu Pheng – Air And Angels, Hadoop In Java, Coast

Gwee Li Sui – The Leviathan, Dream Sequence, A Rediscovery Of The Weight Of The World

Cyril Wong – Between You And Infinity, The Apples, Boats

AUSTRALIA / NEW ZEALAND

Australia

Diane Fahey – Breath, Garden Portrait, Lullaby, The Pool, Ocean, Cockroach

Katherine Gallagher – International, Unknown Soldier, Song For An Unborn, A Girl’s Head

New Zealand

Bill Manhire – Hotel Emergencies, Love Poem, Erebus Voices

EUROPE  

Austria

Walter W. Hoelbling – Numbers Game, Poetry In The Time Of Refugees, Not About You, New Solar System

Germany

Tuncay Gary – Dream. Sleep. Live. 303, Smoke, Holderin, Charon Is A Boatman

Russia

Larissa I. Ayvazyan – Taj Mahal, Self-Portrait, Idol

Adolf P. Shvedchikov – Can You Hear Me, Humanity? I Am Ancient Sequoia…, God Gave Us Piece Of Eternity Like A Priceless Gift, Body Of Woman

Spain

Margarita Rosa Merino – Ballad Beyond The Darkness

Josep Rota – Cogito, Ergo Sum?; Whispers, Rivers

Sweden

Per Wastberg – Death, Dream Life, Water Of Darkness, Clear, Timetable

United Kingdom

England

Shanta Acharya – All You Can Do, L’atelier Rouge

Northern Ireland

Paul Muldoon – Symposium, The Waking Father, The Electric Orchard, They That Wash On Thursday, Edward Kienholz: The State Hospital

Scotland

Michael Alexander  – Almost Sunday, Malawi, 2000, Investigue Nuestros Servicios En Linea, Viceroy Of The Indies

Wales

Heather Dohollau – Suite, Manawydan’s Glass Door, Window, To Live In A House, Staircase

Oz Hardwick – Stari Most, Mostar; Papers, Passing Over

LATIN AMERICA & CARIBBEAN

Barbados

La Shawna Griffith – Emergence,  Torn, Poem Entitled: The Battered Mary

Brazil

Izacyl Guimarães Ferreira – A War With No Name, Blade Runner, The Movie, Similarities Ferreira Gullar – My People, My Poem; Things Of The Earth, Joy

Antonio Carlos Secchin – Authorship, Colloquium, Self-Portrait

Alberto Da Costa E Silva – Today: Cage With No Landscape, Christmas Sonnet, Sonnet To Vera

Chile

Ariel Dorfman – Identity, Last Waltz In Santiago, Last Will And Testament

Cuba

Nancy Morejón – The Golden Chair, Río Martín Pérez, A Cousin

St. Lucia

Mc. Donald Dixon – Aux Lyons 386, No Return, Fleecers Unlimited, Beloved Country

John Robert Lee – Kwéyòl Canticles, From January 12th 2010, Haiti; For Kamau Brathwaite At 85

Vladimir Lucien – Horn, Rainfights, ‘Putting Up A Resistance’

Trinidad & Tobago

Summer Edward – Mors Poetica, Afterbirth, Sugarcane Gone Love, Seamen On Land

MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Maryam Ala Amjadi – What Meets The Eye May Run From The Mouth, The Road In Brackets, Delirium

Israel

Joanna Chen – Babel, The Art Of Journalism, By The Time You Read This

 

COMMENTS

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.

Visit: www.re-markings.com.

 

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).

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 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

 

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) 

 

http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/oped/of-poets-and-their-musings.html
 

 

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. HisVisions 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

 

A WORLD ASSEMBLY OF POETS

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

MIGHTY FELICITATIONS!

 

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 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 Mon

 

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

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 verse 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.

– Hemlata

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                  

 


Forthcoming Special Numbers

JIIT NOIDA

JIIT Noida ICSA 17

South Asian Literature: Diluting Borders, Bridging Gaps: Selections from Presentations at the International Conference on "Peaceful and Prosperous South Asia-Opportunities and Challenges" (ICSA)-2017 being organized by Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida from 27-29 March 2017.​

 


​Re-Markings, an international refereed biannual journal of literature and the humanities, provides an open forum for scholarly discussion of issues related to artistic expression and creativity in all genres and their impact on society, culture and politics. We are especially interested in contemporary literature, art, television, cinema and journalism, and welcome essays and book reviews on New Literatures in English from around the globe. We are also interested in translations into English from all languages, especially those of South Asia. We welcome suggestions on guest-edited Special Numbers as well as Special Sections based on specific events, issues, themes and individual authors that have already become a regular feature of Re-Markings. Mostly, we are interested in scholarly papers that offer issue-specific critical examination and analysis of literary discourses – dealing not only with the nuances of human predicament and suffering but also with the evolving strategies for survival, resistance, and self-determination.


Call for Papers : We are currently receiving submissions for the following two issues of Re-Markings: Vol. 18 No.1 March 2019 and Vol.19 No.2 September 2019.  All submissions must conform to the latest MLA Style Sheet and should not generally exceed 3000 words and should be accompanied by a declaration certifying that it is an original contribution and has not been published elsewhere. Contributions in MS WORD format, along with an abstract in about 200 words, may be sent by e-mail MS WORD attachment to ghoshnk@hotmail.com Chief EditorDr. Nibir K. Ghosh, Emeritus Professor, Dept. of English Studies & Research, Agra College, Agra. 68 New Idgah Colony, Agra-282001. Phone:+91-562-2230242; cell:+91-9897062958. Email: ghoshnk@hotmail.com.