Nepal Earthquake Poems
BY Yuyutsu Sharma
Photographs by Prasant Shrestha
ISBN 9-788182-500815 Paper pp. 84
Quaking Cantos is the creative response of a world-renowned Himalayan poet to the earthquakes that shook Nepal in 2015, killing thousands and leaving more than a million people homeless, vulnerable to the ravages of the harsh Himalayan environment. In the aftermath of the earthquakes, his North and Central American reading tours suspended, Yuyutsu returns to Nepal to bear witness to the devastation the “cosmic commotion” has caused in his own Himalayan home.
“These are wonderful, troubling, and moving poems,” discerns American poet and educationist, David B. Austell. “It must have drained Yuyu to the core to write of such catastrophe.” Yuyutsu sees his world shaking, lives dislodged, avalanches burying alpine villages, stupas cracking up, shrines shaking, “the Lord’s own body cracked into two lifeless boulders/ his mace, hid scepter, his lotus,/ his splintered quiver full of blunt arrows…” The poet also envisions the stench of the dead bodies and the corrupt polity emanating from the “reeking armpits of politicians” who find this an appropriate moment to make their personal fortunes. He celebrates the resilience and unassuming courage of civilians struggling to re-start normal lives, selling their meager merchandise in the rubble of old buildings without any morbid fear of the aftershocks. He also sees a child crawling on the chest of his dead mother looking for her nipple, and a quake survivor chained to a post in a cowshed in his own home. The poet sees the shrine of his family deity, Gorakathnath, also Nepal’s presiding deity after whom the Nepal nation was once named, cracking up like “a bud of a prophesy / or the fortune of an empire.”
To quote another American poet, David Axelrod, “Yuyutsu Sharma has taken up the tools of his craft and expertly begun the process of healing and rebuilding his homeland.” The poignant world of fright and faith seen in Yuyutsu’s poetry will not only leave the readers stunned, it will also ”help us all to understand the fragility of our human condition.”
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, Nine New York Poems: A Prelude to A Blizzard in my Bones, (2014), Milarepa’s Bones, 33 New Poems, (Nirala, New Delhi 2012), Nepal Trilogy, Photographs and Poetry on Annapurna, Everest, Helambu & Langtang (www.Nepal-Trilogy.de, Epsilonmedia, Karlsruhe, 2010), a 900-page book with renowned German photographer, Andreas Stimm, Space Cake, Amsterdam, & Other Poems from Europe and America, (2009, Indian reprint 2014) and Annapurna Poems, 2008, Reprint, 2012).
Yuyutsu also brought out a translation of Irish poet Cathal O’ Searcaigh poetry in Nepali in a bilingual collection entitled, Kathmandu: Poems, Selected and New (2006) and a translation of Hebrew poet Ronny Someck’s poetry in Nepali in a bilingual edition, 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 Café, London, Seamus Heaney Center for Poetry, Belfast, New York University, 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, Columbia University, New York, 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, Nehru Center, London, March Hare, Newfoundland, Canada, Gannon University, Erie, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt, Indian International Center, New Delhi, and Villa Serbelloni, Italy.
He has held 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, Modern Poetry in Translation, Exiled Ink, Iton77, Little Magazine, The Telegraph, Indian Express and Asiaweek.
The Library of Congress has nominated his 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). He edits Pratik, A Magazine of Contemporary Writing and contributes literary columns to Nepal’s leading daily, The Himalayan Times.
He was at the Poetry Parnassus Festival organized to celebrate London Olympics 2012 where he represented Nepal and India. Yuyutsu will be a Visiting Poet at Columbia University, New York in the spring of 2016.
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.