Sunday, May 14, 2017

World Literature Today, May issue, on Yuyutsu Sharma's Quaking Cantos

World Literature Today, May


Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems by Yuyutsu Sharma

Author: 
The cover to Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems by Yuyutsu SharmaNew Delhi. Nirala. 2016. 81 pages.
On what seemed like an ordinary day in 2015, a series of rumbles jostled the Nepali region, killing thousands and thrusting countless more into homelessness. An encounter with this disorientating rift produced Quaking Cantos, a visual and verbal response to the wreckage that emerged when planet ground against earth. Much like the title itself, Quaking Cantos—either an epic poem or a quavering song, depending on orientation—is a stunningly heart-wrenching, albeit healing, rendezvous with torment of the highest order. In this compilation, photography by Prasant Shrestha joins the verse of Himalayan poet Yuyutsu Sharma to produce a slim rejoinder to an otherwise blind and mute confrontation with chaos.
Sleek and glossy images smolder from behind the eyes and intersperse this rubblelike arrangement of verse, the cover of which prominently demands an immediate reckoning with unexpected tumult. Bricks, dust, and the unrecognizable remains of a once-normal life confront the reader before the title page to part 1, “I generally do not cry . . .” and once again in the middle of part 2, “Seven Things That Caused the Quakes.” (The title page to part 1 likewise locates itself before the table of contents, another disjunction.) Two etchings of the writer’s face directly follow the epilogue, “A Song of Extinguished Hearths,” and portray the writer with eyes shut and, later, wide open.
With eyes wide shut, emotions tremor from page to page throughout two parts and their summation. Somnolent images of an ancestral grandmother shuffle from one world to the next, leaving Sharma, as it were, to mull over the collective remains of grief under a vast dome of sky. Paradox meets fate when, in an initial poem entitled “Twisted Galaxies,” Sharma soulfully pens: “My bed shakes / as I prepare to reclaim / fractured / fragments of my sleep.”
Like many collections of verse, Quaking Cantos ends in epilogue. What is different is that the grandmother, once again, instructs the scribe to sing, as he recalls, “A song of livid flames / rising out of clay hearths / in makeshift shacks / along the mule paths.” A spiritual quest in search of explanation journeys through a cacophony of images yet ends under the flames of the unknown of what was once possessed but has been lost. Transient and reflective, Quaking Cantos distills loss into revelation as only a shaman and photographer can envisage.
Andrea Dawn Bryant
Georgetown University

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Yuyutsu Sharma Reading from Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems at LA Times Festival of Books

Yuyutsu Sharma Reading from Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems at LA Times Festival of Books

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

APRIL 22 – 23, 2017 | USC CAMPUs
Sunday, April 23 • 4:40pm – 5:00pm
 Yuyutsu Sharma, Reading from ‘Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems’
Speakers
avatar for Yuyutsu Sharma

Yuyutsu Sharma

recipient of fellowships and grants from The Rockefeller Foundation, Ireland Literature Exchange & The Institute for the | Translation of Hebrew Literature, is a distinguished Himalayan poet. Currently Visiting Poet at Columbia University, Sharma has published ten poetry collections and just finished a memoir on Nepal earthquakes, “Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems.” Half the year, he travels and reads all over the world but… Read More →

Sunday April 23, 2017 4:40pm – 5:00pm
Poetry Stage, Signing Area 5

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Yuyutsu Sharma’s Blue Light Press San Francisco Reading and Workshop


Blue Light Press proudly presents…
Yuyutsu Sharma, beloved Poet from Nepal
for an intimate evening of poetry and storiesSaturday, April 29, 2017 – 7:00 p.m.
Think Round Fine Arts
2140 Bush Street, Suite 1B, San Francisco CA 94115
(It’s between Fillmore and Webster. Gallery entrance is on the driveway.
Street parking, or park in the garage at Japantown, which is close to the gallery.)Sweet and savory potluck after the reading.
Yuyutsu’s books include A Blizzard in My Bones: New York Poems,
Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems, Space Cake Amsterdam & Other poems from Europe and America.

Also that day…
Poetry Workshop with Yuyutsu Sharma
Celebrating the Himalayas, Touching the Soul of God in Your Own Sacred Place with ideas about writing, poems, stories and writing prompts.
Saturday, April 29, 2017 – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For information, send an email to GeishaPoet@aol.com
The workshop is in San Francisco, in the Outer Sunset.

Amity University Interview after receiving Honorary Professorship


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Yuyutsu Sharma’s upcoming April/ May 2017 readings: New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco

Thursday, April 6, at 7 pm to 9 pm The Red Room Reading Series: Yuyutsu Sharma with Ailish Hopper, Philip McLaren and Sheila Kohler, Hosted by The New York Writers Workshop, 85 E 4th St 3rd Floor, New York, New York 10003 The NYWW Red Room Reading Series takes place on the first Thursday of every month, Host : Tim Tomlinson http://www.newyorkwritersworkshop.com/

April 19, 2017 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM The Global Poets Series: Yuyutsu Sharma reading with Sholeh Wolpe, Lewisohn Hall GS Student Lounge, Third Floor, 2970 Broadway, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027The Global Poets Series is a celebration through poetry of our diverse global community at Columbia, and is co-sponsored by the School of General Studies, the International Students and Scholars Office, the School of the Arts, and Columbia College. Hosted by David Austell https://isso.columbia.edu/events/

Sunday, April 23 • 4:40 pm Yuyutsu Sharma, Reading from ‘Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems’ at LA Times Festival of Books University of Southern California, University Park Campus, Los Angeles, CA 90089 http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/

Saturday, April 29, 7 pm: Blue Light at Think Round Series. Yuyutsu Sharma reads poetry at Think Round Fine Arts, 2140 Bush Street, Suite 1B, San Francisco CA 94115 (between Fillmore and Webster. Gallery entrance is on the driveway. (Street parking, or you can park in the garage at Japantown, which is close to the gallery.)

Saturday, April 29, 7 pm: 10 am to 4 pm: Workshop with Yuyutsu Sharma at “The Pink Palace” — home to Diane Frank & Erik Levins People interested from your list can send me an email: GeishaPoet@aol.com.

Sunday, May 7 at 3 pm at Molloy College presents Yuyutsu Sharma and Contributors to Nassau County Poet Laureate Review, Vol. IV in the Reception Room, Hosted by Barbara Novack Writer-in-Residence, Molloy College 1000 Hempstead Avenue P.O. Box 5002 Rockville Centre, NY 11571-5002 516.323.3273 bnovack@molloy.edu

http://niralapublications.com/yuyutsu-sharmas-upcoming-april-may-2017-readings-new-york-los-angeles-and-san-francisco/

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Wonderful Review of Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems in Annapurna Post by young poet, Arun Budhathoki


Book Review: Quaking Cantos – Nepal Earthquake Poems


Arun Budhathoki Friday, Apr 07, 2017  0 1232 reads



International poet Sharma depicts the agony of the 2015 earthquake in moving, electric verses



quaking-final-last-590x292



As I received the book in a cozy restaurant at Tinkune, Kathmandu, I knew it was going to be an intriguing read. The title per se threw a challenge to me- how would I respond and interpret the poems with the fact that at the time of the Quakes I was out of the country, studying in North America?

That’s exactly what the international poet Yuyutsu Sharma’s Quaking cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems accomplishes. The book succeeds in capturing the horrific events, screaming emotions and conjuring heart-wrenching visuals and recording the tremors of the earthquake in the explosive verses that will treasure the memory of the loss and lament for the coming generations.


The poetry collection consisting of 23 poems has been divided into three parts: a) I do not generally cry b) Seven Things that Caused the Quakes and c) Epilogue: A Song of Extinguished Hearths. The first Section contains eleven poems but before the poems, the earthquake photos taken by Nepali photographer, Prashant Shrestha and the poet himself ignite a peculiar gloom in the readers’ heart. The prelude per se points at the devastating event that Nepal suffered. The first section unfurls the saga of loss and lament in the very first poem, ‘Twisted Galaxies’: My bed shakes /as I prepare to reclaim/… icons of /our loss and lament.


The poet captures and laments Mother Nature’s wrath and talks laconically about a man’s run for life: “His frantic move/ to rush out of the edifice/his mad dash/ to leap out of the canopy/hammer fell,/ missing his headpiece…” The drama of humanity is exposed in the second poem as well where a person’s desire to escape in a desperate rush to flee from a natural disaster portrayed graphically.

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The first chapter exhibits the central theme of humanity—humans desire to live and escape death. However, death is cruel and cold. In ‘Glint’ the poet utters a cry: “In Nawalparasi his home in the Low Lands/his wounded feet shackled in chains/buried beneath a fatal weight that/silenced the last glint of life.”

The poet makes a stark comparison between mother earth’s wrath and the love of a mother in ‘Nipple’: “The earth/ opened up/ her jaws/ and five more/The kiss/ of Death as a baby crawls/ on the cold/ chest/ of earth/ looking for/ his dead /mother’s/ nipple.” He has succinctly captured the sadness and sorrows of the fateful event. The picture he has created in his character’s move is disturbing to the stomach, making one cry over the loss of lives.

In another poem, “I do not generally cry” a Nepalese man’s character of breaking down in spite of his claims of not crying in life ever strike deep in one’s heart. Interestingly, one of the poems ‘Cosmic Sleep’ narrates a real story about the collapse of a building where Nepali Christians had gathered to worship. The pastor urged the converts to not panic or run out of the building as the earth shook vehemently. Sadly, the house on the fifth floor collapsed and the pastor along with other 40 devotees perished that day. Even the Gods could not save them from the rage of mother earth. Not only houses in Kathmandu, in Bhaktapur, Dolakha, and Gorkha people faced the similar fate. The misery of people multiplied. And the poet ends the Section writing about a lamb brought from far away in ‘Quake Relief’:

“I noticed him first –

a lamb brought
from afar, from a distant hill range…

a lamb
tethered to an electric pole

in a Kathmandu back street
shrieking like a helpless hillside baby…

a brutal tug
in the voice box that could

pull a tiny river
of fresh blood out

of my own mouth.

The last poem of the first Section eerily displays how agents of human compassion can turn human beings into helpless victims or sacrificial lambs to lynch money out of their misery. Nepal even today reels from corruption and we have a million stories about the misdeeds of the living raising fortunes in the names of the dead ones.

The second Segment also consists of eleven poems and begins with a faint note: “Out from the cities /famished from/ the obstruction of/ light, air, water,/ fire, fuel, justice/I reached the deserted /crossroads at Pandu Chok/ and took a solitary path/akin to/ a faint forgotten/ note ringing /from my own heart/ in this sun-baked paradise.” The poet’s journey in the post-earthquake timeline is almost apocalyptic where a hero rises to capture melancholic stories. Not all is lost and not every verse should be sad. I’ve known Yuyutsu personally, who is also my mentor and editor, and we had often discussed if it’s possible to write happy poems in the times of calamity. ‘The Baby that became a Devi’ illustrates the point:

“Nine-month old baby
miraculously survived
as the crumbling tin-roofed
double storey mud house collapsed.”


The miraculous baby mentioned in this verse is still alive like a miracle. Almost like hopes of those who perished during disasters. However, mother earth was gravely upset and she changed her side in sleep another time, killing many people. In ‘A Burning Sun’ a mother succumbs to death as she goes into her small shack to get a bottle of oil  to massage the baby lying in the sunny courtyard. The poet then talks about his walk around Kathmandu and reveals  prophesy of his family deity, Guru Gorakh Nath: “Now wherever you go /you will conquer/ and rule the hearts /of the people you meet/ along your travels around the globe.”

Moreover, the poet begins to see his world shaking—the earth’s movement is erratic. And his focus shifts to a house on the edge of the river: “The River has flooded nearly spilling onto the dried up riverbed. The house on its edge beyond the fields stay half-sunken/her private sanctuary of silence away from the noise of her children and grandchildren to light a lamp in the name of her long lost husband.” The misery doesn’t end and he paints Gundu village where people are weaving garlands of immortality. There are other cities like Bhaktapur who faced indignation from the mother earth. ‘Bhaktapur’ touches a reader’s heart:

“Dust floats
In the nostrils
Of this satellite
City of serenity…
Now a flattened
Bat’s carcass…
Spooled book
Of light and lightning…”


Bhaktapur like several other cities has turned into a giant graveyard. The poet here is quick to metaphorically describe the moving earth as the quaking uterus: “a brutal blow that came crashing from the depths of earth’s quaking uterus.”

In the final poem ‘Seven Things that Caused the Quakes’ the poet weaves a narrative of seven possible factors that people believe might have caused the quakes: an illicit desire,  the rage of a goddess as he saw lust in the eyes of a king, breaking of Rato Machchendranath chariot,  a Sherpa finding a  Silokpa horse in a forest, the killing of a white serpent by impudent young kids, the killing of holy cow by the Brahmins and movement of the sacred bull as it eases the balance the ball of the earth balanced the tip of its horn.

This marvelous poem sums up the whole book, giving an insight into Yuyutsu’s creative world of myth and reality. It also gives us a broader view of human greed and hunger to possess. Yuyutsu delves deep into the Himalayan mind and produces powerful and enigmatic verse.

In ‘Epilogue’ the poet has a final message:

“the ruins of sunken
lives of the civilians
along the banks of Sutluj
where once Alexander roamed
and then one day
resolved to return only
to the kiss of spidery legs
of his grand dream
quaking like
the calamity of a Quake…”


Yuyutsu Sharma is a world renowned poet, popularly known as the Himalayan poet due to his works on the Nepal Himalayas. The book, Quaking Cantos – Nepal Earthquake Poems has immortalized the tragic event and captured the bitter memories of the Himalayan on a grand scale. This is a Himalayan elegy that will continue to haunt the coming generations. The poems will be engraved on the minds of the Nepalese public as well as his readers he has earned worldwide, making his message loud and clear, and magic of his craft alive in the centuries to come.



  • Quaking Cantos – Nepal Earthquake Poems (Nirala, NRs 395) Distributed in Nepal by White Lotus Bookshop, Kupondole, Kathmandu or check online at Amazon or Flipcart.

Arun Budhathoki is a Senior Correspondent with Anna Note.

http://annapurnapost.com/annanote/news/6365/Book-Review:-Quaking-Cantos-%E2%80%93-Nepal-Earthquake-Poems