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Your style is similar to that of William Carlos Williams. Do you agree and if so does your writing associate with any literary movement i.e. modernism/ imagism?
I never write consciously so as to bear a resemblance with any other poet or to be associated with any specific literary movement. However, my attempt, right from the beginning, has been to say more with as little words as possible, and be comprehensible. If that has made my work resemble some other poet or some movement (which is possible), it’s up to the readers and critics to decide.
Can you tell us briefly as what your book “Stars and Fireflies” is, and what it means to you? What exactly you intended to express through the book?
For some years, I had been collecting flashes and insights things, people and events around me would bring, and I was never sure whether it was poetry or not. When I read them out to my close friends, they suggested me to get them published. I had some inhibition in bringing the book out, but was glad to find that people actually liked it.
Well, I don’t think I have said or rather done anything new in the book. But I’d be happy if my readers find some kind of freshness in its form and my way of expression.
Is poetry merely an outcome/output of emotions and thoughts that are shaped by our background/surroundings and the way we are brought up? Do you write to escape reality?
Your root, your background, your upbringing, and the context you are living in is something that seeps deep into your marrow, and it will ooze and trickle into your writing in one way or the other.
But that doesn’t mean all poetry is merely autobiographical. May be it’s a conciliation of your background and your aspirations–of what you are and what you want to be, of what the world is like and what you would like it to be.
Poetry, I believe, provides a glimpse of the reality rather than an escape from it, for both the poet and the readers.
Your poems adhere to the uniqueness in structure and form. How do you manage to write in such a way?
In every kind of writing, and even more so in poetry, the form of expression is very important. How you recite poems has its own impact, but how words appear printed on a page is also equally significant. The impact you have from a poem is a result of its content, its form of expression, and its appearance on a page.
As far as my writing process is concerned, the ideas that I express in my poems are usually flashes that suddenly hit me, and I most of the time record then in a spontaneous manner. I actually don’t work much on the content later. But I work a good deal on their form. My attempt always is to find a form that holds up and reciprocates with the content.
I don’t know how successful I have been in this!
What can a poem do? Do you think poetry is as powerful as any form of writing?
This is a perennial question, and has led to countless answers already. For me, poetry makes us look deeper beyond the humdrum reality of everyday life. It delights and sensitizes, it elevates you and provides you glimpses of truth.
Though, at present, it seems to have been a little disassociated with the general public, and its mass appeal seems to have declined drastically, I still believe poetry is the most powerful form of expression.
And, if you are a little watchful and perceptive enough, you will find poetry existing in places and instances you would expect the least for it to be existing and functioning.
Nepalese poets writing in mother tongue influenced the society they lived in the past (Devkota, Paudel, Sama, Bhupi Sherchan and others). Do you think that Nepalese poets writing in English can achieve similar feat? Why the latter poets are not finding their place in the changing society of Nepal when other form of arts i.e. movies, music and dramas are being accepted quickly?
Language, I feel, is just a medium, and, if need be, for every good writing we have this tool called translation. Therefore, I don’t think why Nepali poets writing in English should not achieve a similar feat. In fact, if we look a little further outside, writers writing in English have an even bigger audience.
As far as the comparison with other media of popular culture is concerned, poetry, at least at present, seems to appeal a relatively smaller section of selective and perceptive audience. But I feel the effect gradually trickles down all the way to the mass.
You recently were involved in a project named Six Strings, a joint anthology of six poets. Why a joint anthology? Any reason behind it?
I am involved, along with a small group of my friends, in running a writers’ forum called the Society of Nepali Writers in English (NWEN), established by our teachers and senior writers some 12 years ago. While working under it, we had this idea of coming up with a joint anthology of poems composed by somehow likeminded people. That led to the publication of Six Strings.
And, it was a lot of fun working on a joint anthology—reading each others’ poems, sharing impressions and making comments, coming with an interpretation the poet had never thought of, and influencing each other through our content and style!
Apart from teaching in Tribhuvan University, you’re involved in NWEN (Society of Nepali Writers in English), what do you intend to achieve through this society/group? How far have you been successful and what obstacles have you faced so far? Isn’t it disheartening as unlike in West there’s no funding and support either from the government or from the general public?
NWEN, as I mentioned before, was established by a group of writers as an organized body of Nepali writers writing originally in English. Its primary aim is to develop a common forum of Nepali writers writing in English and to promote Nepali creative writing in English within the country and abroad.
And, for that, it organizes regular reading sessions, talks, and discussions, publishes a biannual literary magazine called Of Nepalese Clay, and publishes anthologies of creative and critical writings in English. We have so far published sixteen issues of Clay, five anthologies, and organized a significant number of literary programs. I know there is much to be done, but I am happy that at least something is being done on a regular basis.
It would be great if you could have some funding to carry ahead such works, and we lack that. But, in our case, the support of the senior and fellow writers has remained really encouraging.
Do you think English writing will ever be accepted in Nepal? Or, it’s already accepted? Why do you think poets writing in English are ‘neglected’ and miss the popularity that of the prose writers? Aren’t you tempted to write fiction?
It’s a matter of finding readers, rather than anything else when we talk of being accepted. A number of writers, especially fiction writers, are already doing pretty well with their publications and gaining lot of popularity within the country and abroad.
The fate of poetry and poets, I think, is not specific to our case only; it’s a more or less the same with poets elsewhere, since poetry in general doesn’t seem to have a mass appeal enjoyed by fiction in the recent times.
But I have also mentioned in one of my past interviews that I find the average readers of poetry more perceptive than those of fiction. And, I console myself by thinking that the limited number in readership is compensated by a depth and intensity in its appreciation.
As an academician, do you think literary criticism is needed in Nepal? We often read sleazy reviews in newspapers and magazines and at times newly published authors barely make to the papers. In this kind of gloomy scenario, what’s the role of established poets? Can a literary journal give shelter to upcoming poets?
Honest and balanced literary criticism is what we very much need in Nepal at present. A perceptive, balanced and discerning critical tradition lets us know what we are doing and where we are. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to back our creative tradition with an equally vibrant critical tradition. The result is most of our book reviews end up becoming either eulogies or sheer disparagement. In the absence of sincere and candid criticism, art and literature can never truly prosper.
And, yes, we definitely need more literary journals to provide a platform for upcoming poets, and even for the established ones.
You’re an insightful poet. What do you want to offer through your poetry? What’s your message to budding poets?
I am still learning the art. But sometimes I wish the poetry we are writing were more honest and more comprehensible. The second important thing is probably to continue writing until we find our own voice and style.
(Interview by Arun Budhathoki, published in The Applicant, 2012)
(Published in The Himalayan Times)
Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
One of the most accessible and the most popular among Nietzsche’s works, Thus Spake Zarathustra remains special due to many reasons. Many of his prominent ideas such as the death of the god, the superman, and the eternal recurrence find lucid expression in this book. Moreover, this book represents Nietzsche’s boldest attempt to find a literary form appropriate to his revolutionary ideas, and his distinction as a poet is best demonstrated here. One can disagree with some of Nietzsche’s ideas, but I can’t imagine someone remaining unimpressed by the sheer beauty of his language and ideas.
2. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This is apparently a children’s book. But the protagonist of the novella, the little prince, in the course of his travel, makes several profound and idealistic observations about life and human nature, which make it an equally enjoyable work for all. On our way to adulthood, we ignore and forget many important things in life, including our sense of curiosity and innocence. The book gives us a rare opportunity to look at the world one more time through the innocent eyes and revive our childhood.
3. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche
Many philosophers from the East and the West have defined death as the final awakening. They believe that the best way to understand life is through the understanding of death. This rare book by the Tibetan master provides a comprehensive teaching of Tibetan Buddhism, with special focus on the importance of comprehending the process of dying and death. Though the book revolves around several issues of Buddhism such as impermanence, compassion, evolution, karma, and the nature of mind, its focuses on the practices before, during, and after death, and the spiritual help of the dying.
(Published in Navyaata, Shrawan 2067)
Prakash Subedi’s first collection of poems, Stars and Fireflies, was published recently. Subedi, who is affiliated with the Aarohan Gurukul Theatre and the Society of Nepali Writers in English (NWEN), currently teaches at the Central Department of English, TU, and Dillibazaar Kanya Campus. V.E.N.T! Magazine met up with this budding poet to hear his perspective on literature, life and poetry.
When did you start writing?
I’ve been writing poems for a very long time now. I must have started in primary school. I had a very inspiring teacher who playfully pushed me into writing. And while he would spoil his students with praises and flattery, I think his attention and enthusiasm had a lasting impact on my desire to write. However, it was only about five or six years ago that I began to write seriously. (more…)
– by Isha Gharti (for ECS Friday)
Bal Bahadur Thapa (Balu), Keshab Sigdel and Prakash Subedi, represent the Nepali poets/writers of the new generation. Over the last decade, in addition to their powerful writing, they have been very active in the literary scene. They have contributed to the theatre and film scenario and have been active through organizations such as Society of Nepalese Writers in English (NWEN), Literary Association of Nepal (LAN) and Devkota Study and Research Center (DSRC).
Apt with skills, substance and a will to contribute to national literature, they are a strong force to be reckoned with. Steadily gaining national and international recognition, they are slowly changing the scene of English writing in Nepal.
What made you get into literature?