Friday, September 30, 2016

Yuyutsu Sharma's Annapurna Post English Edition Interview

Exclusive interview with distinguished poet Yuyutsu RD SharmaFriday, Sep 30, 2016Exclusive interview with distinguished poet Yuyutsu RD Sharma

“Nepal is a nation born out of the breath of poets/ translators.” Yuyutsu RD Sharma
Recipient of fellowships and grants from The Rockefeller Foundation, Ireland Literature Exchange, Trubar Foundation, Slovenia, The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature and The Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature, Yuyutsu RD Sharma is a distinguished poet and translator.

He has published nine poetry collections including, Milarepa’s Bones, 33 New Poems, (Nirala, New Delhi 2012), Nepal Trilogy, Photographs and Poetry on Annapurna, Everest, Helambu & Langtang (, Epsilonmedia, Karlsruhe, 2010), a 900-page book with German photographer, Andreas Stimm, Space Cake, Amsterdam, & Other Poems from Europe and America, (Howling Dog Press, Colorado, 2009), and recently a translation of Hebrew poet Ronny Someck’s poetry in Nepali in a bilingual collection, Baghdad, February 1991 & Other Poems. He has translated and edited several anthologies of contemporary Nepali poetry in English and launched a literary movement, Kathya Kayakalpa (Content Metamorphosis) in Nepali poetry.

Two books of his poetry, Poemes de l’ Himalayas (L’Harmattan, Paris) and Poemas de Los Himalayas (Cosmopoeticia, Cordoba, Spain) just appeared in French and Spanish respectively.
Widely traveled author, he has read his works at several prestigious places including Poetry CafĂ©, London, Seamus Heaney Center for Poetry, Belfast, New York University, New York, Western Writers’ Center, Galway, Bowery Poetry Place, New York, The Kring, Amsterdam, P.E.N. Paris, Knox College, Illinois, Whittier College, California, Baruch College, New York, WB Yeats’ Center, Sligo, Gustav Stressemann Institute, Bonn, Rubin Museum, New York, Irish Writers’ Centre, Dublin, The Guardian Newsroom, London, Trois Rivieres Poetry Festival, Quebec, Arnofini, Bristol, Borders, London, Slovenian Book Days, Ljubljana, Royal Society of Dramatic Arts, London, Gunter Grass House, Bremen, GTZ, Kathmandu, Ruigoord, Amsterdam, Nehru Center, London, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt, Indian International Center, New Delhi, and Villa Serbelloni, Italy.

He has held a workshop in creative writing and translation at Queen’s University, Belfast, University of Ottawa and South Asian Institute, Heidelberg University, Germany, University of California, Davis, Sacramento State University, California and New York University, New York.

His works have appeared in Poetry Review, Chanrdrabhaga, Sodobnost, Amsterdam Weekly, Indian Literature, Irish Pages, Delo, Omega, Howling Dog Press, Exiled Ink, Iton77, Little Magazine, The Telegraph, Indian Express and Asiaweek.

Born in Nakodar, Punjab and educated at Baring Union Christian College, Batala and later at Rajasthan University, Jaipur, Yuyutsu remained active in the literary circles of Rajasthan and acted in plays by Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, Harold Pinter, and Edward Albee. Later he taught at various campuses of Punjab University, and Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu.

The Library of Congress has nominated his recent book of Nepali translations entitled Roaring Recitals; Five Nepali Poets as Best Book of the Year 2001 from Asia under the Program, A World of Books International Perspectives.

Yuyutsu’s own work has been translated into German, French, Italian, Slovenian, Hebrew, Spanish and Dutch. He just published his nonfiction, Annapurnas & Stains of Blood: Life, Travel and Writing a Page of Snow, (Nirala, 2010) and completed his first novel.

Currently, he edits Pratik, A Magazine of Contemporary Writing and contributes literary columns to Nepal’s leading daily, The Himalayan Times.

Half the year, he travels and reads all over the world to read from his works and conducts creative writing workshop at various universities in North America and Europe but goes trekking in the Himalayas when back home.


1) What inspired you to write your first poem? Since then what has been
your inspiration?

Yuyu: My childhood upbringing in my grandfather’s house inspired me to write. I was adopted by my grandfather as he had no son, only three daughters. My grandfather was a learned person and had several books all around me from my early childhood. Also, the deeply religious atmosphere in my family influenced me immensely. The oral traditions of Bhakti poets left an indelible impact on my life.

2) Does Poetry come to you naturally? How you define Poetry?

Yuyu: Yes, it’s like shaman’s drum, something concrete has to shake me into higher realms of consciousness.

3) Can Poetry be learned, improved and taught? Is Poetry a skill or talent reserved for few people?

Yuyu: No, poetry cannot be taught, it has to be there in your blood and bones, In Asia, we have this great Guru tradition. But a Guru can only evoke the Muse lurching in the dark corner of the mind of the poet to be…

4) Do you think Poets are Mad?

Yuyu: In a special way, yes. And also as Shelley said ‘unacknowledged legislators’ of the world.

Nepal always had the scourge of tyrants and ruthless despots ravaging the innocence of the innocent people. Being on the edge of the world, the democracy came quite late, in 1990 only. Today in the new democratic set-up, with the ongoing struggle for a just political system without losing past glory of age-long traditions, a writer’s role becomes extremely delicate as well as intriguing.

5) In your lifetime career what obstacles and encouragements you’ve encountered? Who/What has been your source of motivation to continue writing poetry?

Yuyu: Kabir says if you want to be a poet, first put your house on fire and come with me and be a poet. Writing poetry is a very formidable job, so a poet should be prepared for the worst. Especially in the Indian subcontinent where buying poetry is not a norm, it’s very frustrating. Poets are elevated to unimaginable heights but refused any financial support.

My family, especially my late mother, remains a constant source of inspiration for me to write. I remember when my first book of poems, A Prayer In Daylight appeared and I went to present first copy of the book to my mother, she took the book, touched it to her forehead and went to the family shrine to place it before the god’s image. She was so very proud my vocation as a poet.

6) How’s the scenario of English Poetry in Nepal? Do you see a good future?

Yuyu: We have good poets coming up, the scene is vibrant and diverse.

7) Can Poets writing in English contribute to Nepalese society, culture, peace et al? What’s the role of an English-writing poet in a country like Nepal?

Yuyu: Nepal is a nation born out of the breath of poets / translators.
Poets have always played a vital role in shaping policy in Nepal. I find poets here in Nepal writing in many languages , including English, serving the Muse very effectively.

8) Who’s your favorite poet and books that have touched you?

Yuyu: I am a great admirer of Nepali poet Gopal Prasad Rimal. Kabir and several other Bhakti poets have touched me hugely. Contemporary Indian poet Jayanta Mahapatra has also remained a significant influence.

9) What’s your message to the future poets of Nepal?

Yuyu: Listen to the sound of your heart and try to weave a song out of it.

10) Lastly, can you name one poem of yours that you would consider the best of all?

Yuyu: Yes, I have a few favorites. But wherever I go I always begin with my poem ‘Mules ‘from my book, Annapurna Poems as the poem is central to the lives of people struggling for a bare survival in the High Himalayas. But I often conclude my readings with “Space Cake, Amsterdam’ which gives my audiences a peep into my later work coming from my travels in Europe and North America.

–Spring, 2012
West Village, New York City

Thursday, September 29, 2016

American poet Ruth Danon's Scintillating Amazon Review of Yuyutsu Sharma's new book, A Blizzard in my Bones: New York Poems

5.0 out of 5 stars A Wanderer in the CitySeptember 29, 2016
This review is from: A Blizzard in My Bones New York Poems (Hardcover)

Whenever Yuyutsu Ram Dass Sharma greets anyone, he says “Namaste” and gives the accompanying bow with hands folded in front of his heart. “Namaste” means “I bow to the god in you” and one might say that to write poetry is, for this writer, an endless act of bowing to the indwelling holiness of everything in the universe.

At his master class at NYU, Yuyu said, to be a poet you must set your house on fire and walk away. I think that this speaks to the urgency of the poetic vocation in his own life. When he was a child, his father, who had had a religious conversion, wanted to give him away to a group of austere monks. The monks knew better and told his father to send him to school.

Because of the wisdom of the monks he was able to become a great poet and a great trekker and wanderer throughout the world. His poems speak to a wonder and curiosity born out of his love of this world and the experiences it offers. You will hear in his work an eclectic set of references – Lorca, the Himalayas, Amsterdam, the fish sold in a market in New York. The world presents to him an amazing array of rich experience and that, filtered through wonder and humility, and immense generosity, yields a poetry of wonder an surprise. You will hear lists and repetitions – echoes of Whitman and Ginsberg yes but also echoes of mountain streams and strange gods, brought together in a voice full and fully his own and full of humor generosity, and wisdom.

In his book, A Blizzard in My Bones, Sharma brings this background and sensibility to the city he claims as a second home. Reviewers have remarked on the mixing of east and west and surely that’s here – even in the language as Hindi or Nepali words are made to rhyme with English ones. The book presents a man, haunted by the loss of his mother, who travels to New York, post 9-11 and post- Sandy, hoping to find the literary landscape of this city – Whitman, Lorca, Leonard Cohen are some of his heroes. And he does – he finds Brooklyn and the White Horse Tavern and the Chelsea Hotel. But he also finds a city defined by commercial brand names and homeless people, a city of people suffering from loneliness and isolation. He carries with him the memory of the sacred relationship with nature that he experienced in the Himalayas and he carries this as he wanders the city that he loves and finds dismaying and in many ways alienating. The universal erotic offers some relief, but that sphere, too, is tinged with the isolation that seems so poignant to someone whose culture operates in a more communal way. Sharma’s gift is to see all this and yet to find the sublime in “the holy and the broken.” (pace, Leonard Cohen.) The poems in A Blizzard in My Bones offer a glimpse of New York City that reveals its fissures and its glories. Those of us who live in the city can be grateful for such illumination.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Dr. Anne Fritiz on Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems: An Amazon Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Words clearer than picturesSeptember 14, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems (Paperback)
Sometimes words are clearer than images.
In Quaking Cantos, earth shattering words reflect the shattering of a world.
Yuytsu's poems are beautiful and terrible, and reach your core.
If you want to understand rather than just read or hear about the Nepal earthquake, then this slim volume is a must read.
I have read them, a few at a time, and I am still trembling

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A fabulous, full-length Amazon Review of Quaking Cantos by British poet, Maria Heath Beckett

5.0 out of 5 stars Quaking CantosSeptember 13, 2016
This review is from: Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems (Paperback)
Yuyutsu Sharma opens his collection in 'Twisted Galaxies' with a depiction of recovering ‘fragments of sleep.’ and this image together with the mention of the frogs and the cicadas seems like a waking up out of the terrible trauma which has ravaged Nepal in the form of the recent earthquakes. We are taken swiftly into the experience of the narrator, through the first person wakening, an image of vulnerability, contrasted with powerful verbs and phrases chosen to describe the destructive processes of the earthquake, such as ‘punctured', ‘fractured’, ‘sullied earth’... ‘debased glaciers’, ‘beguiled stars’ and ‘twisted galaxies’ , details which effectively evoke a palpable tension, and an image of traumatised nature. In general, dynamic verbs are used throughout the text to strong effect, enabling a honing down of embellishment, whilst preserving the vivid emotions at play. The careful selection of specific instead of general event also ensures that the poet creates dramatic tension through the particular instead of the vague.

In the following poem, 'Head Piece', we start to picture the local dwelling places, the focus on materials adding significant detail, redolent of building work and effort largely destroyed. We read about the ‘terracotta and wooden struts, sliced out of a single tree,’ for example, and the ‘timeless wooden pagoda,’ building and fabric suddenly unstable, fragile, uncertain, as we read about the ‘mad dash’ out from the canopy, the narrator identified then with an ant, which reminds me of Gregor waking up as an insect in Kafka’s Metamorphosis; the transformation here is nature at nature's hand, but a similar sense, the way I see it, of loss of control and the strangeness of the spatial sense of body is evoked.

I had not known what to expect when I first heard about Yuyu’s poems about the earthquake, but any doubts about how close this poet felt the trauma of this natural catastrophe is clarified in 'Glint,' a visceral description of a victim’s humility in death. Here we have a vocabulary set hinging on movement, ‘bundled’, ‘wounded’, ‘shackled’ and ‘cuffed’, ‘shuddering’ and ‘derange’, lexical choices personifying the natural onslaught in terms of an aggressor humiliating the victim into a loss of both physical and psychic structure. The reader comprehends here, the full extent to which the events have traversed this poet, leaving a palpable, intense trace, of the sheer shock that lays somewhere beyond, hinted at by words of such force. The language seems chosen for rhythmic, syncopated effect as well as meaning and this surely, is partly how the poem succeeds to catalyse in us an actual physical experience of the earthquake, conveyed here much like an attack.

The collection moves on, and I must leave the works to be discovered by the readers for themselves, but I will highlight a few further themes:
Suffering and vulnerability:
In 'Nipple' we are faced with an unflinching portrays of human vulnerability in the form of a baby searching, vainly, for it’s mother’s breast, but finds only earth’s ‘cold chest’. This theme continues, with the death of ‘grandma’ on the ‘grassy ground’ which finds the narrator here in standing in tears beneath the sky, and it seems here as if all emotion and sorrow is somehow exposed by the disaster that has torn through the usual protective enclaves of home, custom and form. The poet draws the reader’s attention to both the raw and spontaneous downfall of tears, and the paradoxical, ‘frozen caverns’ of his eyes, the narrator here evidently stunned with loss and grief.

Portrayals of the sheer defencelessness of building and community follow, the prayers of priest, hopeful to the last, no way to deflect the destructive course of nature. Later, the image of ‘smashed brass bells, guilt of possessing tongues that kept millions captive to atrocious citadels’ … continues the theme of the transience of religion and custom in the face of such disaster. The houses like wrestlers flopping and ‘prostrate’ is a further image of the vanquishing of building and home.

The theme of devastation is counter-pointed with the effort shown at recovering routines, by the market traders for example, in 'Reeking Armpits', selling their wares, and in close writing about the courage shown amongst villagers. We feel by that point in the book, that we need that sense of relief and recovery and these poems are well placed, to reflect the delay, patience and fortitude required in the restoration of their lives. The recounted survival of a nine month old baby is a poignant detail the reader will find gives some comfort after the appalling events.

Quaking Cantos - an impassioned response to the earthquakes in his native country and place of residence for half of every year.
A genuine, heartfelt response that spares no pain, but tells it as it was, neither pandering to an over sensitive reader by lessening the force, nor overdoing his recount to the point of over indulgence. This is where poetry as document really works, in honing into the specific detail that struck a real chord with the poet. The broad-sweep is for the newscaster, whereas the poignant close focus is for the writer who walks amongst the remains and writes it down in their own, unschooled words; for how can anyone ever be prepared for such an event? And where find literary precedent or source material or guiding inspiration? There may be none, and at times like this it is the way that the heartbeats or the sound of your own footfall that is the key to the language found. The earthquake takes the poet and the reader into an experience beyond the interpretative world of today’s media and into the raw perception of a poet amongst ruins and slow and gradual recovery.

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Yuyutsu Sharma's Nepal weekly interview

Online Version of Yuyutsu Sharma's Nepal weekly interview

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Refreshing Amazon review of Quaking Cantos: Nepal by American Poet Doreen Deutsch Spungin

5.0 out of 5 stars Quaking CantosSeptember 8, 2016
This review is from: Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems (Paperback)

Yuyutsu Sharma ’s Quaking Cantos leaves me in awe. How is the poet able to get so deeply inside this horrific natural disaster and make it become the reader’s personal experience? How is he able to write with tenderness and beauty, as well as with anguish and sadness, painting with his own inimitable brush of words and observations what certainly was tearing at his own heart.?

Sharma writes of the destruction as he describes what he has seen--

“A lamb
Tethered to an electric pole…”

from Quake Relief, a poem in which the word, ‘tug’ is used often. And tug is what it does to this reader’s heart. The simple lamb becomes symbolic, its need for survival after the quake representing all of Nepal.

And in Seven Things that Caused the Quakes, Sharma touches on traditional beliefs and superstitions and takes us to the 21st century’s newest gods:

“the earth changed
side in her sleep…”

“But they did not listen
lost as they were
in their virtual worlds,
iPads, iPhone Facebook, Twitter.
They killed it
and they threw it
in the Sunkosi river…”

“From its insulted eyes
it shot a curse,
bringing the mountains
upside down…”

And from the Epilogue, 3, we return to the animal world,

“a dead horse
being pulled uphill
by a muscular mountain man.”

And in 8, from the Epilogue, this stunning question:

“On whose side
are you, poet?”

These are poems that will put you beside the poet as he surveys the destruction and seeks words to convey his emotions. Read this book and discover how successfully he has done so.