Sabad brings together the works of forty-one poets, 19 from within India and 22 from abroad. A product of the World poetry Festival, Sabad organised by the Sahitya Akademi in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Government of India from 21-24 March, 2014, and the volume is a mirror held to contemporary poetry across a range of countries and languages. The poems are preceded by an informed introduction by the editor and notes on the pots. A rare collection no poetry-lover can afford to miss.
K. Satchidananda is a Malayalam poet and playwright, a bilingual critic, translator, columnist and editor. His collected poems are available in three volumes and collected translations of poetry in four. A Fellow of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi and currently a National Fellow at the India Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, he has won 32 awards for his writing including the Sahitya Akademi Award, Gangadhar Meher Award, Kusumagraj Award, Kamala Surayya Aard and Kerala Sahitya Akademi awards for poetry, drama, essays, travelogue and translation besides Knighthood from Government of Italy and India-Poland Friendship Medal from the Government of Poland. He has travelled across the world reading and lecturing and has collections of his Poetry in 23 languages including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian and Irish.
Octavio Paz, The Great Mexican Poet and thinker wrote in his introduction to poesia en Movimien to (Poetry in Motion), an anthology of contemporary Mexican poetry: 'There can be no poetry without history, but poetry has no other mission than to transmute history. And therefore the only true revolutionary poetry is apocalyptic poetry.' :Later he added: 'The poet is a man whose very being becomes one with his words. Therefore only the poet can make possible a new dialogue.'
Pablo Neruda, another great poet of our time, advocated 'impure poetry' in his 1935 manifesto, Towards an Impure Poetry, a poetry that carries the dust of distances and the smell of lilies and urine: 'The used surfaces of things, the wear that hands have given to things, the air, tragic at times, pathetic at others, of such things, all lend a curious attractiveness to reality that we should not underestimate...' he had said in that manifesto. In 1966, again he wrote: 'I have always wanted the hands of people to be seen in poetry', and added: 'I have always preferred a poetry where the fingerprints show. A poetry of loam where the water can sing. A poetry of bread where everyone may eat.' We know this intuitive connection to the masses remained a feature of his oeuvre right from his Residence on Earth and became more intense as he grew turning him into a biblical prophet of sorts, the voice of the voiceless, reminding us of another great poet of our time, Czeslaw Milosz from Poland to whom poetry was 'a participation in the humanly modulated time' and who believed that the poetry that does not address the destiny of nations is useless and 'in room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.' He warned the wrong-doers: 'You who have wronged a simple man/Bursting into laughter at his suffering . . . /Do not feel safe. The poet remembers./ You may kill him-a new one will be born./Deeds and talks will be recorded' (You Who have Wronged).
The genuine poets of time, many of whom are represented in this anthology, are unite by what Paz calls the apocalyptic element: that one finds in a range of ports across the world from William Blake, Alexander Pushkin, Alexander Blok, Paul Celan, Cesar Vallejo ad Rabindranth Tagore to Wislawa Szymborsca, Mahmood Darwish, Bei Dao and GN Muktibodh. Their texts instantly make visible the now-obscure links between mantic practices and poetry, between magic, shamanism, possession and oracle on the one hand and poetic vision, inspiration, power and incantation on the other. The poet thus re-enchants the disenchanted world by turning poetry into a symbolic act intended to transform the world.
This apocalyptic and symbolic function of poetry has assumed a new urgency in our time that, to me, has been marked primarily by violence in its diverse incarnations. Thedore, the well-known thinker from Frankfurt, once said that poetry is impossible after Auschwitz. The statement, clearly, was not meant to be literal; it was an intense comment on the violence of our times that works against creativity of every kind. Indeed the Holocaust produced its own variety of great poetry: remember Nelly Sachs, Abba Kovner, Paul Celan and several others who still remind us of those ominous days of the genocidal mania. It was about such poetry that the Polish poet Tadeuz Rozevicz had said in his introduction to the Anthology o Post-War Polish Poetry: '... a poetry for the horro-stricken, for those abandoned to butchery, for survivors, created out of a remnant of uninteresting words from the great rubbish dump.
The history of poetry in our time has also been a history of censorship, exile and martyrdom. We have the examples of Lorca, Nazim Hikmet, Ossip Mandelstam, Mayakovsky, Ai-Ching, Bei Dao Shamsur Rahman, Tasleema Nasrin, Kensaro Wiwa, Benjamina Molois, Saroj Dutta and Hashmi who had all raised their voice against some form of dictatorship, discrimination and injustice for which they had to suffer insult, imprisonment, life in a labour-camp, exile or even death. Plato who had kept poets out of his ideal republic should be pleased that he has several followers in our time: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Franco, Pinochet, Id-i-Ameen, Sani Abacha, Ayatolla totalitarianism and fundamentalism of diverse hues, at times even avowed democrats eager to defend the status-quo. James Joyce once said of writers, 'Squeeze us, we are olives', meaning the writers yield their best under oppressive environments. While it is true that various forms of oppression have produced some of the most passionate poetic works of our time, it is equally true that have also silenced a lot of real and potential poets. Bertolt Brecht was right when he asked, 'will there be poetry in dark times?' and answered, ' Yes, poetry about dark times'. In his poem To the Posterity he had bemoaned the cruel times when a talk about trees could be a crime since it also carried a silence about injustice.
It is impossible for the genuine writer today to ignore the violence that threatens to drown our beautiful world. Blood floods our bedrooms and our drawing rooms are strewn with corpses and that is often the blood and corpses of those who have neither drawing rooms nor bedrooms. Even the ivory towers of pure aesthetes are being swept by the winds of violence and change. Poets can no more be comfortable with a historicity, even if they transmute it, as Paz says, into apocalyptic visions. Violence in our time springs from so many sources. Indeed there are the big and small wars often engineered by divisive forces and imperialist agencies. We have seen, from Vietnam to Iraq how wars can be conjured up by hegemonic nation states. Another form of violence springs from social inequalities: of class, caste race and gender. Capitalist violence that emanates from greed and consequent exploitation of nature and human beings, upper caste violence based on discrimination, denial of opportunities and silencing of historical memory, the violence of the White races against the Black and Browns and-tribal people against tribal populations, and patriarchal violence that takes several forms from linguistic and emotional violence to the physical one, inevitable produce counter-violence from the victims who try to resist the violence from above; but ever counter-violence, however sympathetic we are towards it, is also violence and as Brecht says, even anger against injustice contorts our human features. By any intelligent student of history knows that violence cannot end violence and 'an eye for an eye only turns the whole blind', to recall the words of the greatest spokesman of nonviolence in our times, mahatma Gandhi. We have seen this dark logic at work in the countries that sought to change their destiny through violence: they had to employ greater violence to sustain their regimes until some of them as in the erstwhile USSR and East Europe collapsed for lack of any means to know the truth, why to know even their own people's thoughts, as they had silenced all opposition by brute force-which is blindness of the worst kind. But incidents of non-violent resistance like the various colour revolution leading to the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, the demonstrations in Delhi in the wake of the Nirbhata's rape, the demonstration against the genocide in Gaza, moral policing in different part of India, the silencing of writers and scholars by anti-social elements and against the epidemic of corruption in high places and several other big and small manifestations of the democratic spiritual reassure us about the undying spirit of human freedom.
We have seen some rabid outbursts of communal violence in India in the past few years. This happens when religion gets divorced entirely from ethics, from God, if you want, gets congealed into dogma and fanaticism and begins to create a scapegoat, an 'other' in its own image held responsible for every suffering that one undergoes, It shows patriarchal proclivities, manufactures an artificial tradition and a distorted history dismissing elements that do not suit its design and uses racial symbols and archetypes to appeal to the popular unconscious. Thus it is also a form of cultural and historical violence. Umberto Eco calls 'ur-Fascism' in his book, Five Moral pieces, a exclusion of minorities thus promoting xenophobia, fears difference, at pacifism as collusion with the enemy, scorns the weak, appeals to the middle classes, encourages the cult of death, upholds machismo as a value an opposes all non-conformist sexual behaviour, treats people as a monolith, deride parliamentary governments, promotes what George Orwell would call 'new speak' that sees everything as black and white, and avoids any kind of 'intellectual complexity', limits the tools available to critical thinking and creates a cult of tradition taking to be already known.
Techno-fascism too is a form of corrupt power as it ruins our physical and spiritual environment, exploits the natural resources with no consideration for posterity, pollutes our air, earth and water and imposes no everything the tyranny of the rational, measuring everything in numbers and quantities and rejects all that is incalculable, immeasurable and unsayable-which is the very substance of poetry-as they are impossible to digitize. It also produces speed that Milan Kundera in his Slowness calls the 'ecstasy of technology'. The speed of modern life leaves little room for meditation or ever the pleasure of reading and writing. He speaks about the need to retrieve that lost joy of slowness, of lying on the meadow, 'idly gazing at God's windows', a joy getting lost in the louder and faster entertainment provided by the machines.
Another kind of violence comes from the market that forces the write to be loud and to join the bidding in the culture market while art demands subtlety, suggestion and understatement: it is like a subterranean current that slowly on the foundations, uproots the status-quoist values and creates new ones. Market is the new Midas turning everything it touches not into gold, but into gold, but into commodity and artists who answer its temptations are sure to sell their soul to this Mephistophilean spectre.
Baudrillard spoke of globalization as the 'greatest violence of our time's as it imposes cultural amnesia on its vicitims, forcing them to forget their indigenous traditions in art, culture and knowledge and turning them increasingly into unthinking mimics of the West. Local cultures are the repositories of culturally learned responses built up over thousands of years from which poetry often draws its sustenance. Its loss is no less dangerous than the loss of genetic diversity. Western universalism is trying to drown the pluralistic and polyphonic cultural mosaic of countries like India. The agenda of globalisation is mono-acculturation, that is, to homogenise and standardise cultures whereas difference and diversity are the very soul of many cultures in the East. Globalization kills languages both through jargonisation and the selling of the monolingual idea. It is more a command from above than a decision from below; it anthropologies culture by reducing ethnicity into a brand name, and is a form of re-colonisation that brings back colonial imaginaries.
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