Monday, August 29, 2016

Distinguished American Poet David Austell's Review of A Blizzard in My Bones: New York Poems, by Yuyutsu Sharma

A Blizzard in My Bones: New York Poems, by Yuyutsu Sharma
-a brief background and review by Dr. David Austell, Columbia University
The poetic vision of Yuyutsu Ram Dass Sharma of Kathmandu is a dream-space, a crux-point of mysterious intersections and collisions. His intellectual focal point has often been his homeland of Nepal with its profound cultural heritage and sheer natural wonder, and Nepal has been the subject of much of his powerful poetry, for example as exhibited in his majestic Annapurna Poems. It is his fascination with the pathos of culture-collision, whether in recounting an after-party in The Netherlands (Space Cake Amsterdam), or in meeting the illiterate mother of a young Gurkha who has died on a hillside battlefield in Afghanistan, that has been a hallmark of Yuyu’s poetry. It is his “literary tectonics” that most distinguish his work: the brutal shock of human and animal confrontation with the Himalayas, and the sometimes marvelous, sometimes crushing collisions that occur between peoples of differing cultures, ethnicities, castes, and countries. His literary tectonics further describe the horror of earthquake devastation, and the collapsing human depths and burgeoning heights caused by catastrophe. Never far away in Yuyu’s writing are the luminous mysteries and intimidating wildness of nature at earth’s highest altitudes in the Himalayas:
I am utterly alone,
stuck on the last mountain of the world,
And beyond me just one more mountain
where they say a deity lives
guarding a tiny turquoise lake.
And thereafter nothing but
a realm of melting snows
where the souls of the gods live.
-from "Little Paradise Lodge”
There is an exoticism overlaying Yuyu’s work that is especially captivating (and best experienced in his live readings of the poems); from a Westerner’s perspective, it may at first seem as if Hilton’s Lost Horizon had ballooned into a literary framework, and Yuyu’s verses to new revelations of Shangri-La. Don’t be fooled. There is no escapism here, since we’re immediately faced with the versed reality of the often desperate plight of his homeland, the suffering of people and animals, the sounds of Kathmandu, a city balancing on the knife-edge of ecological and political disaster.

The continuation of his poetic vision is A Blizzard in My Bones: New York Poems, Yuyu’s deeply moving new collection, and a remarkable addition to modern urban literature. The context of the poems has moved beyond Anapurna and away from Europe to that perhaps most exotic of all places, New York City. Here every collision and intersection that can be imagined occurs, often at once it seems, and it is only the mind of a poet who has become in many ways an expatriate New Yorker who might make contemporary sense of the ensuing emotional and artistic melee.
It is not any single focal point, however, or even the combination of three focal points, that make this new poetry so powerful; but rather the fact that the verse is as profoundly multicultural in its perspectives and sensibilities as the city itself. In essence, the verse is filtered through the sensibilities of a devout practitioner of Hinduism. It is Nepal and Hinduism and Brooklyn and Manhattan and Greenwich Village drawn together in a new Space Cake: Amsterdam, but centered in the concrete and steel heights of Metropolis. This is New York City in the early 21st century as measured through the psyche of a mystified expatriate priest-intellectual; and it is quite simply wonderful artistry.

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