India’s diplomats seem to be wielding the pen for more poetic causes. Amarendra Khatua, India’s newly appointed ambassador to Argentina, adds another book of poems, Love Abracadabra, to the list of Indian diplomats who are writing and publishing books. Khatua, who has bee promoting poetry from his native state Odisha, for more than forty years, has a long list of publications: 14 in Odiya, two in Hindi, one in Telugu and three in English. Khatua shares the title of Indian diplomat/poet with ambassador to the U.S. Nirupama Rao and emerging poet Abhay Kumar, First Secretary, Embassy of India, Kathmandu, who have both published books of poems inspired by their travels outside of India.
Diplomats writing poetry is certainly not a new trend, with Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), the nobel prize winning poet from Chile, serving as a diplomat for much of his adult life. Neruda’s words reverberate around the world, even today, with its explosive metaphors and honest exploration of one’s relationship with the greater world.
Let’s hope India’s diplomat-poets can create the same effect.
Three cheers for Indian poet & writer Jeet Thayil, whose novel Narcopolis has made it into the Man Booker long list. Narcopolis takes place in a 1970s Mumbai opium den and is loosely inspired by Mr. Thayil’s own life experiences. The book has been praised for its poetry like prose and the compelling characters that bring the underbelly of Bombay to life. Here’s a little taste:
Bombay, which obliterated its own history by changing its name and surgically altering its face, is the hero or heroin of this story, and since I’m the one who’s telling it and you don’t know who I am, let me say that we’ll get to the who of it but not right now, because now there’s time enough not to hurry, to light the lamp and open the window to the moon and take a moment to dream of a great and broken city, because when the day starts its business I’ll have to stop, these are nighttime tales that vanish in sunlight, like vampire dust—
I will be getting my copy this week! While most of us are happy to see yet another Indian writer make it to the long list of such a prestigious literary prize, there are others who condemn it. Read my response to Ashley Telllis’s reaction.
Poet, playright and perfomance artist Shailja Patel recites and acts out her poem, which pays homage to Zanzibari Taarab singer Bi Kidude. Patel has created waves in the poetry world with her cross-genre book Migritude, which is a heady mix of memoir, poetry and history. Enjoy!
Just discovered this wonderful poetry resource on youtube called Global Poetry System, a project by Southbank Centre, UK, whose lofty goal is to explore and map the poetry of the world. Within the span of a few minutes, poets read their work or share their relationship with poetry in terms of place, etc. They have 321 videos. Can’t wait to watch all of them. Some of our very own Indian poets are there: Jeet Thayil, Tabish Khair and Karthika Nair, among others. Enjoy!
‘Provoked’ by the power packed in little tweets, 71 year old filmmaker-poet-painter-journalist Pritish Nandy is coming out with a book of 100 poems tomorrow, titled, ‘Stuck on 1/forty.’ Like a tweet, each poem of Nandy’s is defined by 140 characters. Enhanced by bright colors and bold fonts, each poem aspires to grab your attention and make you think.
Nandy’s thoughts on the book and poetry in general, as shared on IANS:
I don’t think poetry mutates over the years. It only keeps opening up to more new ideas, new vistas and new experiments, particularly in recent times…Stuck on 1/40 is one such experiment. If people read it, like it, share it, if it grows the conversation on the social network, it would have achieved its objective…Twitter is just a means of communication. Means do not inspire people. Content does. But the poems will work only when people read them and like them as poems. That is the most important thing. Poetry is format agnostic. It is even idiom agnostic. Language is changing today.
To get a taste of Nandy’s work, check out the slick youtube promo:
Kudos to Lounge, the weekly supplement of the Indian business newspaper Mint, for featuring a fortnightly column titled Poetry Pradesh. This fortnight’s column is a discussion between two poets, Sridala Swami and Ranjit Hoskote, on the poetic legacy left by Dom Moraes. Hoskote recently edited Dom Moraes: Selected Poems, published by Penguin India and shares his experiences on exploring and editing one of modern Indian poetry’s finest.