Thursday, 21 June 2018

WRITERS ON WRITING #109: Claire Messud

As a writer, I subscribe to Chekhov’s world view: 'It’s not my job to tell you that horse thieves are bad people. It’s my job to tell you what this horse thief is like.' The more accurately one can illuminate a particular human experience, the better the work of art.  I’m not an autobiographical, or biographical, writer, except in some abstract sense.  If I had to summarize, most broadly, my concerns as a writer, I’d say the question 'how then must we live?' is at the heart of it, for me.  It can only be addressed in the individual, not in the general; each of us on this planet must come to terms with this question for him or herself.
  As a reader, I’ve long felt passionately about fictions that articulate anger, frustration, disappointment — from reading Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, in high school, when I thought, 'my God, fiction can do this? Fiction can say these unsayable things?' to reading Beckett or Camus or Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater to Thomas Bernhard — these are all articulating unseemly, unacceptable experiences and emotions, rage prominent among them.  Because rage at life and rage for life are very closely linked.  To be angry, you have to give a shit.

An Unseemly Emotion: Publisher's Weekly Talks with Claire Messud [29 April 2013]

Click HERE to read the full 2013 interview with US novelist CLAIRE MESSUD conducted by ANNASUE McCLEAVE WILSON.

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Thursday, 14 June 2018

POET OF THE MONTH #48: Amrita Bharati



He threw me away
like a clod of earth.
He didn't know
I was a thing with a soul.
He didn't know
I was alive.

He kept on throwing me
like a clod of earth
out of his way ––
onto that neglected path
that happened to be mine.
And so I kept travelling
along my own way.
Each time some fragment broke off ––
some infatuation, some addiction to happiness,
some earthly hope,
some dream squandered on man.
Each time some fragment of my being
would break off.
And now it was my turn.
The world was already left behind ––
like a desert in a sandstorm,
like an ocean in a hurricane,
like a desolate city.
Man, step by step descending, 
was already left behind.
And now it was my turn.
Standing on the last patch of earth
I gathered myself into a whole thing
and hurled myself into the stillness.
This was my silence ––
pervasive and expansive.
Now the world was either a dream
or a sea-flower
imagined at the end of the ocean.
Deep in the stillness.
Only the sound of my footsteps.

date unspecified


The Poet:  The following biographical statement appears on the Poetry Translation Centre website.  [It is re-posted here for information purposes only and, like the poem re-posted above, remains its author's exclusive copyright-protected intellectual property.]

Amrita Bharati (born 1939) is one of the most gifted and prolific female poets of her generation: she has written seven books of poetry and a volume of prose. Yet her name has no currency in Hindi poetic circles, or in western scholarship: there are no studies of her poetry and some of her collections are out of print.

This sentencing to silence seems astounding to anyone who has encountered Amrita Bharati's unique poetic world.  Her poetry is a witness to a complex spiritual journey which takes her from a land of intense existential angst, agony and anger to a refuge of serenity where ‘the mind stops' and the anguished protagonist finds herself and ‘Him'.  The visionary power of her poetry is all the more astounding as she treads totally new ground.  Unlike her main predecessor –– Mahadevi Verma  –– whose poetic 'I' is a stylised, idealised image of the eternal woman in love, a product of the poet's imagination rather than a reflection of her experience –– Amrita Bharati has the 'courage to probe into [the] inner world, and to make it public property.'

Amrita Bharati's poetry is undoubtedly informed by her studies of Sanskrit (she did an MA and a PhD in Sanskrit at Benares Hindu University) and her intimate knowledge of Sri Aurobindo's work (she has translated several of his poems in Hindi). Her poems contain numerous references to Vedantic ideas, Tantric images and Krishna bhakti.

The critic Nirmal Verma said of her, 'Amrita Bharati is probably the most alone signature on the slate of contemporary Hindi poetry.  Alone and unique.'

Click HERE to read more poems by Indian poet AMRITA BHARATI on the Poetry Translation Centre website.

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Friday, 25 May 2018

THINK ABOUT IT #37: Thich Nhat Hanh

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable.  But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash and drink.  The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace and transform.  When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer.  We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change.  But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore.  We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others.  We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.

How To Love (2014)

Click HERE to read the full 2015 article about Vietnamese monk and peace activist THICH NHAT HANH posted on the excellent Brain Pickings website maintained by MARIA POPOVA.

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Friday, 18 May 2018

WRITERS ON WRITING #108: John Le Carré

I have two, three really good creative hours.  I mean, if you were an athlete you wouldn’t really have more than two or three good hours in the day, but the rest of the day is… work that prepares your body for the same two to three hours…
  Writing is the same.  Part of this semi-athletic process is to keep the brain on edge, to keep the conflict going inside you, to be able to use all the possibilities of your own character.

Quoted in John LeCarré (1999), a TV documentary directed by MARC JAPPAIN

Click HERE to read more about the life and work of British espionage novelist JOHN LE CARRÉ.

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