जिथे संकट, तिथे कविता जिवंत आहे
रती सक्सेना या हिंदीतील जेष्ठ कवयित्री म्हणून सुपरिचित आहेत. मूळच्या राजस्थानच्या असलेल्या रतीजी मागील तीन दशकांपेक्षा अधिक काळ केरळमध्ये वास्तव्यास आहेत. संस्कृत, राजस्थानी, हिंदी, मल्याळी, इंग्रजी आदी भाषांच्या त्या जाणकार आहेत. ‘अथर्ववेद’ हा त्यांच्या विशेष आस्थेचा विषय आहे. अयप्पा पणीक्कर यांच्या कवितांचे रतीजींनी हिंदीमध्ये भाषांतर केले आहे. या भाषांतरासाठी त्यांना साहित्य अकादमीच्या अनुवाद पुरस्काराने सन्मानित करण्यात आले आहे. कविता वाचनाच्या निमित्ताने रतीजी सतत देश-विदेशात भ्रमंती करत असतात. ‘रसिक’च्या ‘कवितांजली’ सदरामध्ये त्यांच्या कवितांचे मराठी अनुवाद प्रकाशित झाले आहेत. वर्धापन दिन सप्ताहाच्या निमित्ताने डॉ. पृथ्वीराज तौर यांनी रतीजींशी साधलेला हा संवाद…
पृथ्वीराज तौर : वर्तमानात कवितेचं अस्तित्व काय आहे?
रती सक्सेना : आपण हे सदैव स्मरणात ठेवायला हवं की, कवितेचं अस्तित्व कधी संपत नाही. आपल्याला असं वाटतं, की कविता संपत आहे; पण कविता कधीच मरत नाही. कविता हा असा मानसिक विकास आहे, अशी मानसिक स्थिती आहे, जी नैसर्गिकपणे मानवात आलेली आहे. म्हणूनच असं लक्षात येईल की, अगदी प्राचीन काळापासून जगभर मौखिक आणि लिखित स्वरूपातील ग्रंथामध्ये केवळ कविताच आहे. आपल्याकडे तर अगदी गणितसुद्धा कवितेतून सांगितलं गेलं, ‘लीलावती’मध्ये कविताच आहेत. ज्योतिष, खगोलशास्त्र एवढंच काय, आपल्या कथाकहाण्याही कवितेतूनच सांगितल्या गेल्या आहेत. याचा अर्थ इतकाच की, कवितेचं अस्तित्व संपत नाही. वर्तमानात कविता आणि संकट यांचं नातं सांगता येऊ शकेल. हे संकट भांडवली व्यवस्थेनं निर्माण केलेलं आहे. वर्तमानात जिथे संकट आहे, तिथे कविता जिवंत आहे. तुम्ही जगभर बघा, तुम्हाला हेच दिसेल. उदाहरणार्थ आज सिरियात कविता आहे, पॅलेस्टाइनमध्ये कविता आहे. इस्राएलमध्येही थोडीफार कविता आहे, अमेरिकेत सरकारी पातळीवर नसली तरी विरोध, विप्लव, प्रतिरोधाचा स्वर म्हणून कविता आहे. युरोपात ती आहे आणि नेदरलँड, स्टोनिया, स्लोव्हाकिया(लितावा) अशा छोट्या राष्ट्रांमध्ये खूप चांगली कविता तुम्हाला सापडेल. चीन, इराण आणि तुर्कीत तुम्हाला चांगली कविता मिळेल. म्हणजे, कवितेचं अस्तित्व सर्वत्र आहेच. इराण आणि तुर्कीमध्ये पंचतारांकित हॉटेलचं नाव ‘शायरी’ असं आहे. अशा ठिकाणचं सौंदर्य, सजावट ही कवितांनीच केलेली मी पाहिली आहे. भारतातही तुम्हाला खूप सशक्त कविता आढळेल. हे खरं की, आज आमच्याकडे असे फारसे चेहरे उरले नाहीत, जे कवितेला दिशा देऊ शकतील, आणि हीही एक चांगली परिस्थिती आहे, असं म्हणता येईल. कारण यामुळे कुणाच्या पाठीमागे धावण्यापेक्षा स्वतःची दिशा निश्चित करण्यासाठी मोठा वाव आहे.
पृथ्वीराज तौर : आपल्या नजरेत भारतीय कवितेचं परिदृश्य काय आहे?
रती सक्सेना : भारतीय कवितेचं सद्यकालीन दृश्य फार चांगलं आहे, असं नाही. त्याच वेळी ते फार वाईट आहे, असंही म्हणता येणार नाही. चांगली गोष्ट अशी की, आजही कविता लिहिली जात आहे. चांगली गोष्ट अशीही आहे की, नवी पिढी सतत पुढे येत आहे. कवितेसाठी सगळं काही सोडून देणारे युवा कवी आज प्रत्येक भाषेत सापडतील. कविताच त्यांचं सर्वस्व आहे. तर दुसरीकडे एक स्थिती अशी आहे की, जिथे कवितेतून भाषा अनुपस्थित होत आहे. इंग्रजी माध्यमातून शिक्षण झाल्यामुळे आपण कोणत्या भाषेत लिहावं, असा प्रश्न निर्माण झाला आहे. आपण इंग्रजीत लिहू लागलो तर आपोआप वैश्विक होऊन जाऊ, असे गैरसमज अनेक कवी बाळगून आहेत. अशा वेळी कविता वर्तमानपत्रीय बातम्या तरी बनत आहे, किंवा नारेबाजी तरी करत आहे, तर कुठे ती कामशास्त्र किंवा कोकशास्त्राचा आश्रय घेऊन तगू पाहात आहे. माणसाची समज बदलली की, त्यासोबत ही स्थितीही बदलत जाईल, असे वाटते. लोकांना हे अजूनही कळत नाहीय की, इंग्रजी ही कवितेसाठी वैश्विक भाषा नाही. कविता देशी भाषेतूनच वैश्विक होत असते.
पृथ्वीराज तौर : कवितेच्या भाषांतराची आवश्यकता किती आहे?
रती सक्सेना : कवितेचं भाषांतर खूप महत्त्वाचं आहे. असं म्हटलं जातं की, भाषांतरात कविता आपला मूळ चेहरा हरवून बसते. असं असलं, तरी कवितेचं वैचारिक रूप भाषांतरातून आविष्कृत होतच असतं. कवितेचे वैचारिक अंग महत्त्वाचे आहे. आज कविता केवळ मनोरंजनाचं नव्हे तर विचाराचं माध्यम आहे. तत्त्वज्ञानाचा आधार आहे. हे तत्त्वज्ञान भाषांतरानंतरही भेटू शकतं, म्हणून कवितेचं भाषांतर गरजेचं आहे.
पृथ्वीराज तौर : आपण दशकापासून ‘कृत्या’ या कवितेच्या नियतकालिकाशी आणि कविता महोत्सवाशी जोडलेल्या आहात. ‘कृत्या’च्या निर्मितीमागील प्रेरणा आणि कारणे कोणती आहेत?
रती सक्सेना : कृत्या पत्रिका आणि महोत्सव एकाच काळात सुरू झाले. कविता संपत जातेय, अशी चर्चा त्या काळी मोठ्या प्रमाणात सुरू झाली होती. नियतकालिकांमध्ये कविता प्रकाशित होणं जवळजवळ थांबलं होतं, वर्तमानपत्रांकडे कवितेसाठी जागा उरली नव्हती. आमच्या काळातील श्रेष्ठ कवी एकेक करून निघून जात होते. विशेषतः केरळमध्ये मी पाहात होते की, एक पोकळी निर्माण होत होती. अयप्पा पणीक्कर, विनय चंद्रन, ओएनव्ही कुरुप, सुगत कुमारी ही जी मोठी मोठी नावं होती, ती थकली होती, वृद्धत्वाकडे झुकली होती, त्यांचं लेखनही कमी कमी होत गेलं होतं. यामुळे एक दरी निर्माण झाली होती, पोकळी जाणवू लागली होती. अशा वेळी लोकांना भीती वाटू लागते. मग ते म्हणू लागतात, की कविता निघून गेली आहे. तर अशी स्थिती आली होती आणि मलाही वाटू लागलं होतं, की दूर दक्षिणेकडे एखादी पत्रिका, एखादं कवितेचं नियतकालिक असणं आवश्यक आहे. उत्तरेतील नियतकालिके हिंदी पट्ट्यातच मग्न होती, त्यांना बाहेर कोण लिहीत आहे, याच्याशी घेणं देणं नव्हतं. मी केरळमधून एखादी कविता पाठवली की त्यांचा असा समज होई की, कुणी मल्याळी आहे, जी सक्सेना हे टोपण नाव घेऊन लिहीत आहे. या मानसिकतेला उत्तर देणं गरजेचं होतं, म्हणून मग आम्ही आमचं नियतकालिक सुरू केलं. छपाईची साधनं आमच्याजवळ नव्हती, म्हणून मग आम्ही स्वतंत्र वेबसाईट तयार केली. अर्थात, त्या वेळी नेट खूप महाग होतं, तरी आम्ही जिद्द सोडली नाही. उत्तर आणि दक्षिण अशा दोन्ही ठिकाणच्या वाचकांची सोय व्हावी, म्हणून आम्ही आमच्या नियतकालिकाचं स्वरूप द्वैभाषिक ठेवलं. पत्रिका सुंदर असावी, त्यातून विशिष्ट अनुभूती मिळावी, आणि फक्त कवितांसाठीच असावी, असं आम्ही सुरुवातीलाच ठरवलं होतं. ही दोन भाषांची पत्रिका नाही, तर दोन भाषांच्या भाषांतरांची पत्रिका आहे. तेलुगू, कश्मिरी, डोगरी, पूर्वोत्तर राज्यातील विविध भाषांमधील कविता आम्ही सुरुवातीपासून प्रकाशित केल्या आहेत. याशिवाय इटालियन, पोलिश कवितांचे विशेषांक आम्ही प्रकाशित केले. अयप्पा पणीक्कर सुरुवातीपासून आमच्या पाठीशी होते. कवितोत्सवाची कल्पना त्यांचीच आहे. त्यांनी आम्हाला काही मार्गदर्शक तत्त्वे घालून दिली. त्यांनी सांगितलं की, कविता घेऊन लोकांकडे जा, लोकांना बोलावू नका. या रस्त्याने आम्ही पुढे वाटचाल सुरू केली. आम्हाला चांगला प्रतिसाद मिळाला. काही ठिकाणी आयोजनाच्या अडचणी आल्या; पण जम्मू कश्मीर, पंजाब, कर्नाटक, महाराष्ट्र अशा विविध राज्यांत आम्ही हा महोत्सव आयोजित केला. अनेक विदेशी कवी वेळोवेळी या महोत्सवात सहभागी झाले. कृत्याच्या प्रसिद्धीमुळे २०११ला मला मेंडलिनला बोलावलं गेलं, त्या ठिकाणी ‘वर्ल्ड पोएट्री मूव्हमेंट’ची स्थापना करण्यात आली. या चळवळीची मला संस्थापक सदस्य करून घेण्यात आलं.
पृथ्वीराज तौर : साहित्य महोत्सव किंवा कविता महोत्सवाची आज जगभरची स्थिती काय आहे?
रती सक्सेना : जगामध्ये आज दोन प्रकारचे साहित्य उत्सव साजरे केले जातात. पहिला प्रकार म्हणजे कविता महोत्सव, ज्याला आपण ‘पोएट्री फेस्टिवल’ म्हणतो. जगभर अशा उत्सवांचं प्रमाण मोठं आहे. दुसरा प्रकार ‘बुक फेअर’ हा आहे. इंग्लंड हा देश बुक फेअरचा प्रणेता आहे. आपल्याकडे इंग्लंड-अमेरिकेचं खूप आकर्षण आहे, त्यामुळे आपण जयपूर, दिल्ली, कोलकाता आणि इतर ठिकाणी बुक फेअर आयोजित करत असतो. बुक फेअरमध्ये प्रकाशन संस्थांचा आयोजनात पुढाकार असतो, त्या ठिकाणी प्रकाशक आपापल्या लेखकांना घेऊन येत असतात, तुम्हाला पैसे मोजून त्यांना भेटता-बोलता-ऐकता येतं. बुक फेअरमध्ये प्रकाशक लेखकांच्या सोबतीला चित्रपट अभिनेते, खेळाडू, पत्रकार असे सगळे व्यासपीठावर येऊन चर्चेत भाग घेत असतात.
पोएट्री फेस्टिवल हे दक्षिण अमेरिकेत विशेष लोकप्रिय आहेत. अर्जेंटिना, मेंडलिन, कोलंबिया, क्युबा अशा देशांत कविता उत्सव सतत आयोजित केले जात असतात. अशा उत्सवात सगळेच लोक सहभागी होत असतात. शाळेतील विद्यार्थी, रस्त्यावरची माणसे हे सगळेच तुमचे दर्शक, श्रोते असतात. समस्यांशी सतत दोन हात करणाऱ्या तिसऱ्या जगात कविता उत्सव लोकांना आपले वाटतात, असे सद्यकालीन चित्र आहे.
चीनमध्ये साहित्य उत्सवांचे आयोजन मोठ्या मोठ्या संस्थांकडून, उद्योगांकडून होत असते. कविता हा तत्त्वज्ञानाचा मार्ग आहे, अशी त्या लोकांची धारणा आहे. धर्म आणि धर्मस्थळांवरती होणारा खर्च चीनमध्ये साहित्य आणि संस्कृती महोत्सवावरती केला जातो. इराण आणि तुर्कस्थानसारख्या देशांना शायरीचा संपन्न वारसा लाभलेला आहे, तो त्यांच्या बहुतेक गोष्टींतून व्यक्त होताना दिसेल.
अमेरिकेत मात्र सरकारी पातळीवर साहित्य महोत्सवांना विशेष प्रोत्साहन दिले जात नाही. तेथील विद्यापीठे साहित्यासाठी करत असलेले काम मात्र इतरांच्या तुलनेत भरीव आहे. न्यूयॉर्कमध्ये ‘पोएट्री स्ट्रीट’ नावाचा रस्ता आहे, त्या भागात स्लोगन पोएट्री, रिॲक्शन पोएट्री, स्ट्रिट पोएट्री, सरकारविरोधी कविता अशांसाठी चांगलं वातावरण आहे, समविचारी कवी एकत्र येऊन तिथे आपले कार्यक्रम करत असतात. नेटिव्ह अमेरिकन पोएट्री अशी चळवळ सध्या तिकडे चर्चेत आहे.
युरोपात बहुतेक सगळ्या देशांमध्ये साहित्य महोत्सवांना पोषक वातावरण आहे. स्थानिक नगरपालिका अशा कार्यक्रमांच्या देखण्या आयोजनात पुढाकार घेत आहेत, असे चित्र तुम्हाला स्पेन, पोर्तुगाल अशा देशांमध्ये पाहायला मिळेल.
पृथ्वीराज तौर : आपण बहुभाषी आहात. भाषेला आपण कशा सामोरे जाता? भाषा आपल्यासाठी साधन आहे की साध्य?
रती सक्सेना : मी स्वतःला बहुभाषी समजत नाही. मी बाहेर जाते, त्या वेळी मला नेहमी वाटतं की, मला फ्रेंच आणि स्पॅनिश या भाषा यायला हव्या होत्या. कवितेच्या क्षेत्रासाठी या दोन्ही भाषा खूप महत्त्वपूर्ण आहेत. या भाषा आल्या तर जगातील बहुसंख्य देशांमध्ये तुमचं काम सहज चालून जातं. हे खरं की, एकेकाळी संस्कृत माझ्या जीवनाशी अगदी लगटून बसलेली भाषा होती. मी संस्कृतमध्ये वादविवाद केले, संस्कृत रंगभूमीसाठी काम केलं, मला पानंच्या पानं तोंडपाठ होती, पण हा उपयोग दीर्घकाळ राहिला नाही. वर्तमानात एखादा श्लोक म्हणताना मी अडखळते. राजस्थानीसोबतही काहीसं असंच झालं. मल्याळी मला येते, कारण ती माझ्या दैनंदिन व्यवहाराची भाषा आहे. इंग्रजीही जमून जाते. घरी हिंदी बोलली जाई, त्यामुळे ती येतेच. मी आता विचार करते, तर मला वाटतं की, माझ्याजवळ एकही भाषा नाहीय. माझ्याजवळ कविता आहे, पण भाषा नाहीय. पण शेवटी कवितेची म्हणून स्वतःची एक भाषा असतेच. शब्दांची भाषा ही बऱ्याच वेळा कवितेसाठी अपुरी पडते. ती कवितेसाठी साधन आहे, कारण कविता शब्दांच्या पलीकडे जात असते.
पृथ्वीराज तौर : भाषांतराचं महत्त्व तुम्ही कसं अधोरेखित कराल?
रती सक्सेना : भाषांतर हे एक आव्हान असतं. मी वर्गामध्ये भाषांतर प्रक्रिया शिकलेली नाही. मी आजही कवितेचा जेव्हा अनुवाद करते, तेव्हा तीन-चार ड्राफ्ट करावे लागतात. पहिल्या सुरुवातीच्या खर्ड्यात कवितेच्या शब्दांना आपण उघडत जातो. वेगळं वेगळं करत जातो. शब्दांची डिकोडिंग करण्याची ही प्रक्रिया असते. अयप्पा पणिक्कर, बालामणीअम्मा यांच्या कवितांचे अनुवाद करताना मला शब्दांशी पुन:पुन्हा झुंज द्यावी लागली. नंतरच्या ड्राफ्टमध्ये रचनेतील कवितापणाची पुनःस्थापना करावी लागते. त्यामुळे मी पुन्हा सांगेन की, भाषांतराचं आपलं स्वतःचं महत्त्व आहे, आणि इतरांना समजून घेणे त्याच्याशिवाय शक्य नाही.
डॉ. पृथ्वीराज तौर (स्वामी रामानंद तीर्थ मराठवाडा विद्यापीठ, नांदेड)
पृथ्वीराज तौर संपर्क : ७५८८४१२१५३
रती सक्सेना संपर्क : ९४९७०१११०५
Some times your own poem is read in such a way that poet her self get a new dimension , the poem mountain night was riddle for me, and i am reading it in the words a English scholer Ramesh Mukhopadhyay ji that make me understand the poem.
Mountain Night – rereading by Ramesh Mukhopadhyaya
The title of the poem is curious. It is Mountain Night. Could a night be like a mountain that is vast and insurmountable? Or else could a
night be littered with mountains in a dream?
The addressee of the poem is a mountain. The poet recollects her dream. It was in the dream that a mountain engrossed the poet. The
poet addresses the mountain of her dream and says-
there was a dream
In the dream -You
Where was I?
The lay out of the poem reminds one of Cummings. The word you has been emphasized through repetition that reminds one of Dante A fytte of the poem is twice built with one word- you. With the poet the you of the mountain was all in all. The notion of I was totally absent in the poets mind. It is said that Guru Nanak was once running a shop in his adolescence. And his head was full of yours. That is whoever came to his shop to buy something would hear from Nanakji that the article did not belong to Nanakji but to the customer only. Once one can love the other like that, forgetful of ones self one attains bliss so says the Upanishads. In the light of Freud the mountain could stand for
phallus. And if one could forget oneself to give pleasure to the other even in physical relation one could perhaps attain the same bliss of forgetting ones self and merging into the other. Edward Said has made us aware of the other. If we try to dominate the other we enter into strife. If we forget the self and are dominated by the other we attain bliss. The poet engrossed with the other all of a sudden enquired of her own self and did not find its separate identity and cried –Where was I? In fact during perfect bliss although the ego vanishes some awareness of the self still lingers in the consciousness. This baffles description The poet tells the Mountain that before the mountain arrived she knew certain things such as mountain river stream and dewpod only in name.
But now that the mountain is her friend it is through the mountain that the poet has a first hand experience not only of the dewponds or the ponds atop the hill but also the rivers and the streams that flow down the mountain and charge the environment with vitality and thrill. Yes the mountain introduced the poet with snow thunder encampment in mountains typhoons in rivers small waves in the pond and the song of the dancing stream. They became the poets friends. What is snow ? We are aware of the conscious mind. But there could be minds below the conscious mind . It is the snow of forgetfulness that keeps in unknown unknowable store the experiences of earlier births if any.
It is the snow that melts in the sun to invoke new births. Thunder accompanied the giving of Law of Sinai. Being introduced to thunder the poet experiences fresh revelations. Encampments in mountains might mean hard to reach mental spiritual and emotional state. It is the dwelling place of holy beings and God. The existence is in a flux. The human body is in a flux. The blood vessels the nerves are rivers. And the poet experiences typhoons in them. The typhoon over there could be small waves in ponds. Then there is the tranquillity as heard in the song of the dancing stream. Thus there has been a transition from snow to dancing stream through different stages. The dancing stream fertilizes the soil.
This is a wonderful imagery dwelling on the communion of the self with oneself..Physical sensations as a result of the communion with the oneself have been delineated in terms of objective symbols such as mountains and typhoons .And they lay bare the whole gamut of Nature with its terrible beauty that evokes holy dread. The body itself is Nature or Prakriti. So through physical sensations one might experiemce the whole gamut of Nature. Seen from another angle it is the different aspects of Nature that work together to create human body, In Durgasaptasati of Markandeya Purana it is Death that creates the hair it is the Ocean or Varuna who forges the thighs of the goddess Durga and it is the Moon that creates her breasts and so on. Practically through this communion with the other one becomes aware of her greater self the Prakriti. One understands how ones body is the world. The body is not what it seems to be made of flesh and bones only. But the poet is not satisfied with the realization of her greater self. She wants to be the friend of nonself or the friend of the Beyond. An infinite as it were aware of its finitude wants to befriend another infinite perhaps larger and greater And what happens in the realm of the unconscious mind of the poet? Therein lives the earthworms and the snakes. The earth worm cannot tolerate the sun .It always hides from the sun in the tunnels inside the earth forged by itself. It upturns the soil of the earth and makes the earth fertile. It has no bones no eyes. But it can perceive the world by feeling vibrations. The earthworm popping up from the unconscious sneaks into the holes of the snakes. The holes of the snakes also belong to the plane of the unconscious where they hibernate throughout the winter. The sensations and feelings that are the earthworm as if take refuge in hibernation. The snakes now finding their shelters usurped go to the seas and forge billows where they can retire. The deep in us or the billows now call out to the deep in God
The poet in course of her narration of her experience of the communion with the nonself switches to a fairy tale. The earthworms enter into the holes of the snake. The snake enters the sea. Now the poet takes the role of the listener and asks What happens to the fish? Well if the entrails of the earth are symbolic of the unconscious the waters are symbolic of the subconscious. The snake hiding in the earth is wisdom. When wisdom alights on the subconscious the fishes forget to swim and are lost in themselves as it were engrossed with creativity.
They do not fidget any more being in close neighbourhood of snakes or wisdom. Charged with the billows of wisdom the poet in a vision sees the earth nesting on a tree throughout the night. What night is to the common run of men is the hour when the poets undertake voyages in the world within alight with the light of wisdom. This is the tree along the trunk of which the shamans go up to the heaven and go down to the netherland. It is the tree that connects the three worlds of the conscious subconscious and unconscious. When information moves to and fro among the three world we can attain the wholeness of our personality.
In the next phase of the poets meditation the poet finds herself very close to the skies and she covers herself with that only. In human terms to be covered with the sky implies to be decked with no cover. But nay the sky stands for the nihil that covers the world and lurks inside the world. Near her the mountain is aburning like a cigar. Will the poet climb the mountain and vanish like Moses . No the poet now engrossed with the nihil of the existence is not drawn to the contingent. She adventures in the jungles and probes into the caves amidst wild animals. She now encounters her wild desires lurking in the subconscious and unconscious four square. This she does impelled by her itch. Often the wounds created by the beasts in an encounter with them could tranquillise such itches. An imagery that might allude to physical communion with the other where mind is absent.
The beasts claim that the all embracing night is like mountain. As it were the mountain is all in all with them. So the desires are all taking refuge in the mountain or in the phallus. But the poet tells them that although she is with the mountain all the time she knows that it is stagnant water. What could be the mountain then? Well it is the world of the contingent with which we are always engaged in intercourse. But the poet tells the Desires that the big bazaars and shopping malls and the physical comforts are but shallow water. This is the world view of a shaman who visits the three worlds in dreams
This is a poem that depicts a spiritual voyage
there was a dream
In the dream -You
Where was I?
Before your arrival
A few names were known to me
Mountain, river, stream and dewpond
You made me a friend
Snow thunder encampment in the mountain
Typhoons in rivers
Tiny waves in the pond
And to the song of
The dancing stream
And my self
I wanted to be a friend of yours!.
The earth worms forgot their way
And came into the holes of snakes
When snakes could not find their place
They went to the sea to make billows
nothing happened to fishes
they remained in the sea
lost in themselves
forgot completely to swim.
nobody called to the bubbling earth
neither the sky or nor the earth
the earth was on the tree
the whole night
the sky was so close
that I could cover myself
and pass the night
the mountain was sitting near to me
with a burning cigar on his lips
the sea was at my feet
gently caressing my feet
but I was not there,
roaming in the jungle, caves
with wild animals
to reduce my itch
by their sharp teeth
they say that
their nights are like mountains
but mine was like
I was sleeping
and waking with it
the whole night
Ramesh Mukhopadhyaya ji on the poem My sheet
That morning when I woke, I saw
a small hole in my sheet,
the result of being lost in sleep.
So I struggled with silken thread throughout the day
and by night had stitched a window
for glimpsing a few, new dreams.
The next day I woke to a new hole
and this time added paint to the thread.
Before dark I’d built a door.
My dreams could leave now and wander
instead of gazing out a window,
dreams freed to roam the entirety of the night.
Each morning brought new holes;
each day bustled with thread and paint.
Today my sheet is an enormous courtyard
with a banyan tree filled with birds with beaks like red stars,
though both sun and moon remain absent.
So I spend my mornings searching for holes
where a sun and moon might be woven,
not only in this galaxy
but also across
the many, layered others,
knowing at the end there’s a final hole
through which to exit
and join the great beyond
in a seamless realm of light.
The poet wakes up in the morning only to discover a hole in the sheet. Was it the dream that revealed a hole in what seemed to be solid and continuous? The poet says that it has been the result of her being lost in the sleep. One wonders whether the subconscious mind explores the holes in the perception of the conscious mind. The poet however
takes the cue from her dream and labours the whole day to weave a window out of the hole. It seems as it were the truths of subconscious seek to have room in the solid and continuous matrix of the perceptions of the conscious. The poet does not repress the
aspirations of the subconscious mind. On the contrary she makes a window of the hole so that she can have a glimpse of the workings in the subconscious. Instead of looking without she seeks to look within. Once you let dreams have their free play they overwhelm the conscious mind. The next morning the poet wakes up to find another hole in the sheet. The poet is amused. With coloured threads with great care she weaves a door out of the second hole. And now the dreams of the poet can get out of her body and descry the sights that the veil of the body does not allow them to espy. The sojourns of the poets dream now freed from the cabin of the body every night opens up fresh
horizons of perception. And everyday morning there is a fresh hole and the poet works at that. Here is an aesthetics. What is poetry but weaving the dreams into the matrix of the conscious mind? Consequently the sheet becomes as big as a courtyard. Of course this cannot be detected with the aid of the five senses. There must be room to accommodate the sixth sense the mind. So the sheet has become big/.This can be seen only with the aid of the mind’s eye. The courtyard has a banyan tree loud with birds with beaks like red stars. The poet is now transported to a new world. While a factory produces one consumer good only the banyan tree serves numerous functions. It gives shelter
to birds and snakes and squirrels it feeds the birds and other creatures. Tired men and women can rest in its shadow and so on. While our factories do not last for more than two decades the banyan tree gives service for thousand years. And it is below the trees that the Buddhas sit and attain enlightenment. One wonders whether this dream figment beacons the poet to plunge into meditation. But there is no sun and the moon. The poet stitches the sun and the moon into the matrix. In the contingent world consciousness perceives the sun and the moon. The poet weaves them into the embroidery. Thus the poet enriches the visions of the subconscious with the wealth of the perceptions in the conscious state.. But this is not all. The poet stretches her imagination beyond the earth and espies the countless galaxies that people the multiverse which is beyond our ken. Thus the imagination of the waking state and dreams together stuff the canvass of the sheet only to find that however much we load any vacuum with substance the vacuum becomes wider. The more we try to stuff the vacuum the more it grows till it gobbles up whatever substance is in the contingent. . And the poet instinctively escapes through the all compassing vacuum or sunya from the bondage of the many layered contingent and reaches the great beyond in a seamless realm of light. And hence forth we can hear the blithe spirit of the poet shut up in the privacy of glorious light singing hymns unbidden till the world is wrought to sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not. This is truly an outstanding poem. On one level it is a narrative made of the stuff of dream. We find how a person paying attention to her dreams discovers fresh worlds one after another and there is no end of them. Poetry and dream are similar. But while poetry has a medium
dream has none. But here is a poem embodying a dream that dreams on dream and hence it is an instance of meta dream embodied in a poem. The sojourns of dreams lead to the dreaming of dreams. But this is not all. The nuptials of imagination with dream is an emergent motif in the poem. The poem also seeks to decode the self and removes sheath after sheath of the self. The subconscious self creates a hole in the conscious. And when the poet probes into the hole she discovers n levels of sub conscious self till she discovers the null as her own self winging and singing in the blue deep of nihil. The poem reminds of Shankaracharyya Buddha and Nagarjuna
A comment on Rati Saxena’s poem
BY Ayyappa Paniker
“The Serpent Coiling Woman Body” achieves a rare kind of precision in verbal expression commensurate with the gravity of its theme. It may be said to aim at an epic presentation, of course, in a very miniature form, of the condition of woman all through history—from the time of Eve or Shraddha. Most of the epics of the world center around a male heroic figure, and the suffering image of the woman is invoked only to hold it up to pity. The first woman is said to have been produced from the rib of a man, and that rib tickling with its bizarre sense of irony or humour still continues. Woman has been denied her identity, and she herself has been so conditioned as not to challenge or protest this denial. In her childhood she is as smart and sprightly as any male child, but once the serpent starts coiling, turning her own body into her enemy, even love and affection only serve to make a slave of her. Her measured breaths cannot help her seek self-expression, although even in man-made history or philosophy her role is by no means inferior to her partner. But this has been hidden or obscured by social factors, and woman’s physiology and psychology are made a means of continued enslavement. Rati Saxena’s poem constitutes a challenge to this received notion, and she highlights here woman’s quest for her own space in the world. In poignant terms, but without self-pity, she explores the nature of woman’s position, and naturally some of the lines are filled with bitterness:
Oh, where is she? And where is her enemy, the woman body?
It is found only when
her skin has been turned into footwear
her fangs begin to spurt venom
the tightening coils grip her throat.
Time was when she could spin like a top or bounce like a ball, but as she grew up the taboos throttled her natural joyous spirit. She is denied even the freedom to be herself.
The raindrops invite her
come, come, do not stop, do come.
The breeze murmurs—come, O come,
But the forefinger of the woman body wakes up each time
and she goes a step behind her friends each time.
.. .. .. .. ..
Within the coiled serpent of her woman body
rises every month the storm of pain
the squeezing coils
the spearheads of taboos
the flood of blood
The words and images of the poem reveal the suppressed agony and anguish of the woman:
Over their own bodies they have no right
Their effort brought no knowledge of the self
nor of God
Here there is no happiness no divine bliss
Her groan is full of pain, but through she asserts herself, her independence that society has taken away from her:
Take not my self away from me
give me one life, just for me
my body and I are a unity
my body is my self
the storms that swell in it
the pains that swim in it
all are mine
The quest continues: “she searches for herself, within herself, /within her body, /
her woman body”
The poem covers the entire life span of a woman from childhood until her skin is tanned to make footwear: and all through this long span of time we find no means of realizing her selfhood. But the strength of the poem comes from the woman’s refusal to submit, her boldness to assert herself and question the powers that be. A unique utterance of defiance in quest of identity. The struggle imposed by the burden of history continues.
The poem is thus a magnificent evocation of pain and protest at once.
On the kanyakumari , a poem by Rati Saxena
by Ayyappa Paniker
This poem can be thought of as a tour de force of demystifying the popular myth centred around the deity installed in the holy temple at Cape Kanyakumari. Among the legends woven round the temple and the deity is one that says that Goddess Parvati who had got ready to marry Lord Shiva, is still waiting there on the seashore. She is believed to be waiting there for her wedding with her Lord and all the preparations for the ceremony had been arranged, but the bridegroom has not turned up to this day, thereby the people of the locality has the good luck of having the goddess stay in their midst for long. It may be one of the ways in which sthalapurana is invoked to add to the holiness of the place. Call it superstition or old world commercial concern to promote the faith centred around a place of worship, the fact remains that the myth is an ancient one and still very popular. No one seems to have tried to peep behind the mystery, which is considered sacrosanct and inviolable by the believers. For a poet, therefore, to question the mystification fostered by generations is bound to raise the eyebrows of readers not used to this kind of an exercise. This is precisely what this poem about Kanyakaumari tries to do. The goddess who is often supposed to be a passive and patient accomplice caught in her own trap is held up as an ideal and devoted woman, willing to wait till the end of time: but the poem seems to undermine this supposition, since this could be thought of as a way of subjugating woman. This is a false image of woman, and behind the mythical façade is the real woman. “I become Bhairavi,” she declares, tearing to tatters the superimposed image of frigid passivity. Her mind is like an elephant in rut; why should she be subjected to psychological torture? She protests violently against this glorified victimization; the garland of skulls around her neck is a tell-tale testimony to her suffering. at each turn of life, but far from being an expression of self-pity, it is a poem of anger and fury. The recurring images of fire and blood and skull and thunder showers point to the underlying secret of the famous red sands of the Cape, the burning truth of her passion behind the apparent numbness or gentleness, and the fierce protest that makes the blood-stained waves swallow the sons of the sea. The interiorization of Bhairavi within the benign smiling idol flaunting the diamond nose-ring is an unusual achievement in so far as it deconstructs the conventional, anaesthetized picture of blessedness enshrined in the minds of the devotees,who have obviously failed to understand the cry of the soul within the woman represented by the object of their worship. They have installed an unfeeling sstone image in the place of the warm-hearted, flesh and blood reality of the woman buried in the goddess, waiting till eternity like an ideal Indian bride, sacrificing her inmost desires and hungers raging within her. And the poem ends with a cruel ironic twist, like the proverbial scorpion tail::
Haven’t you now understood
the secret of my gentleness?
To watch the dark by Federico Federici ( while translating Rati Saxena;s poems)
What if incarnation seeks the ancient inspiration it swallowed in the tangle of nerves and blood and bones which the text is made of? Words are but this. And again can Life have many incarnations at the same time, like one in many different ones? What can you do when poetry comes with many a root out of rocks and seeds, breaking the compulsion of innumerable things, under many languages?
It’s neither a matter of some part and its counterparts. Nor a fact of sheer imitations, reckless variations, obvious transliteration, sharp nails digging up in search of some deeper tone. Is it worth trying to sink images on the rear dull side of a mirror? What delights in that, not yet fallen to the page?
Here is the closest encounter with the many bodies longing for one more
«My poems are different from Indian poets’ too, as I write in isolation, so I write what I feel in me – not impressed by contemporary Hindi poetry. That is why your understanding will be good for my poems, they may get a new dimension, see, translation can give a
new life to poetry, as when you are taking my poems to Italian readers, they may be talking in new a language, their expression may get a new life. So, do not worry, just ask me if there is any cultural difference or some confusion.»
(excerpt from a letter of Rati Saxena)
A translators note— Seth Michelson
Assume that you may have now to deal like with a couple of twins: you ask the first
and listen to the other answer. So, who is who? They both resemble some truth
and seem to attain it at once. Which text brings instead the original inspiration and which gives it back as a minor, rough, borrowed tone of it? Words, draping all things together under a new whiteness, in-shape the world, though deeply along the thread of the Fate, maintain and protect their good conduct to the ripest experiences of life. «Before
your arrival / I knew some names / mountain, river, lake, waterfall / You introduced me // […] to myself». The veiled secrecy of birth and re-birth, of growth and death, is all at once revealed within the eternal enmeshment of spirit and matter, among the planes of heaven, and then «Try talking / everything will come again / flesh, bones and tongue / and sound too». All those bodies are one and only shelter built for Life: «everyone has to make his lace / by cutting the hardness without teeth». As regards the fact of the perfect singularity of inspiration which resists translation, against the multiplicity of the tensions, the sometimes laborious inventions to create “the” purest, unnameable language from the one soaked in the other many languages, you need to abandon any strict grammar register, the clean, easy line of basic structures combination and risk re-writing.
Metaphors are the brown curses of bones, the black branch with some delight of imagination. Where to begin? All of one life you read certain verses and write certain others, you do as if you had nothing to read, nothing to write, as if you had already heard all the music pause in silence. New signs swarms on your body: you head for the endpoint and gauge you are too heavy, too tall, too thick to pass through. Something must be left behind, thousands of year old.
So, first: leave the verses to become the awaited guest inside you, a complete, underneath stream of sounds and ideograms out of the same sheet of music, vibrating on
different strings, swallowed by black resonance boxes. Then you cross the thick forest dwelling on their symbols, like to interpret the thumb on the lips of a child, «While passing through a strange dream / crossing the way full of thorny bushes».Arms, legs, beaks, feet, wings, fingers, trunks, boughs, roots, rats, worms,moths: not mute parts of a common scene, where the poem is spoken, mouldered, spread out of randomness. They are bred out of Love. All celebrate incarnation. These are all bare skin covering the same underlying bones, swinging between the different stages of time: late age and youth, are just two more meaningful turn of the same wheel, of the turning world, nodding at any new turn. «Father loved this saying: /“When an ant dies, it grows wings” / He said this whenever our dreams / seemed ready to take–off». Nothing thus ever comes to a polluted end, fearful, finally accepted as a relief from pain. «In the dark fearful jungle / atop the thorns / a beautiful dream blossoms».
Death is holy, quietly welcomed when it is time, like a guest you took all life to get acquainted with. It establishes itself as a quality which requires some effort not a violent, enraged, disposal of nature «On the earth / I started decaying / earthworm was also there / where I fall». The scriptures encourage a joyous release to the heaven worlds. Ashes, remains collected on a tray, white fragments of bones – flowers – the water sprinkled over.
Then it comes with no disbelief, exhuming spirit from its old skinned-shape, like the fragrant secretion from the dried flower, an outer dream, an enlarging bark ring «[…] as soon as I open my mouth, / my dream slips out / and hangs on a branch like a ghoul. // My very own dream, now outside the window. / while I’m inside».
Grafted beyond the window, all trees invite the dead under their green spine to take a seat alone and watch the dark.
Translator’s Note: On Dreaming in Another Land
In discussions of literary translation, one often encounters the claim that it is impossible to translate poetry. That is, at some point in conversations about the translatability of poetry, someone will opine that it simply cannot be done. Typically the speaker means this linguistically: poetry in one language, with all of its rich and layered denotative and connotative depth and resonance, cannot be rendered adequately in another. But such a claim is more properly an interrogation of adequacy than possibility, no?
Other rationales for claiming the translation of poetry to be impossible foreground cultural, aesthetic, and/or political emphases. For instance, one hears relatively undertheorized claims about the incommensurability of cultures, the lack of aural equivalents between languages, and the untranslatability of metaphor due to both the intrinsic and relational instability of both signifiers and significations.
But to my mind, regardless of the specific terms of its instantiation, the assertion that poetry is untranslatable is as dull as it is glib, and it may even be downright dangerous. For, from my perspective, claims to the untranslatability of poetry are foreclosures of possibility. They are a violent censoring of communicative potentiality, disallowing new modes of being, new modes of perceiving, and new networks of solidarity.
Why, then, are claims to the untranslatability of poetry so prevalent in literary discussions and beyond? One answer might be that these claims abound due to the relative difficulty of theorizing, practicing, and understanding literary translation. I would therefore like to offer some introductory remarks about the translation of poetry, including the efforts that have resulted in the book currently in your hands.
To begin to theorize translation in relation to poetry, one might consider how poetry is always already translation. This is evident in Rati Saxena’s work, and a clarifying example might come in a poem of hers included herein in translation as “The Sea.” In the original poem, one notes how the lines pivot upon metaphors built of a linguistic blend of Sanskrit and Hindi. That is, Sanskrit words like “samidha” and “homa kund” propel that poem, in part by transfiguring theological significance transhistorically and transculturally through poetic imagery. That is, the poetic verve emerges from the linguistic energy born of the juxtaposition and integration of two language traditions into a contemporary, comprehensible Hindi syntax and speech, which invokes a vibrant historicity, theology, and politics through extended metaphor.
And perhaps this fails in English-language translation. Perhaps the intricate hybridity of the original poem is mismanaged and muted in “The Sea,” wherein the contemporary Hindu reader in India might lament the lack of Vedic resonance, for instance. That is, the translation might compromise the complex pastiche of theological, historical, political, epistemological, cultural, and ontological markers that create the symphonic beauty of the original poem. Of course such imagining problematically presupposes the existence of a singular Indian reader, not to mention a singular reading of the poem.And, more broadly, aren’t such normativizing presuppositions and insistences antithetical to very nature of poetry, which aims to expose, disturb, unbind, and disrupt the violence of normativity?
Consequently I would suggest most generally that the translation of poetry is not an impossibility but an emergence. It is a praxis of poetically formulating the conditions for the realization of resistance and alternatives to dangerous logics of purity. It bears mention, too, that such logics are purposefully exposed by Rati’s work. In other words, the plurivocality, transculturality, and transhistoricity of Rati’s poetry are its defining features, so to argue for purity in the face of her poetry is to misconstrue it. More generally, to argue a logic of purity is to perpetuate an essentialist ideology, with all of the fascistic imaginative heft that such ideologies entail, and that doesn’t seem propitious for poetry or people.
In other words, readers of poetry are gifted the opportunity to reckon the hybridity of language. This is as true of so-called original poems as their translations. In both cases, the poetry compels careful readersto think through the mobility, elasticity, and vitality of language(s), which demands continuous attention to transformations, excisions, invocations, and extensions. This is another variation on the aforementioned idea of language being in motion; it is always already translation. After all, isn’t that one of the key promises and possibilities of language? Doesn’t the poem offer itself as a mode of emerging through new networks of discursivity via the orchestration of language(s) via the manipulation of the tropes and figures of poetry?
In this manner, Rati’s translators must grapple with the importance of the aforementioned example of her blend of Sanskrit and Hindi, for instance, recognizing the original poem as always already a translation. That is, even before its translation into English, for example, the poem’s language is already hybrid, forging and extending translingual, transhistorical, and transcultural affinities and possibilities. How else to reckon the resurgence of Sanskrit in a poem reinvoking the Iron Age in northern India to speak in twisted tongues through the syntax of a contemporary Hindi, feminist poetry emerging from southern India during a twenty first-century crisis of globalization?
More deeply, Rati’s invocation of sacred Sanskrit signals both a return and departure. It enacts a subtle and intricate historiography of linguistic transformations in the service of theological reflection on the past, and it concurrently enacts the past in order to challenge the conditions of the present. Moreover, in challenging the present, the always-already-translation of this work serves to effloresce and ramify the possibility of the future. In other words, it necessarily postpones the future by contesting the present through rememorations of the past.
And this disordering of time offers itself further as a point of consideration for me to clarify my theoretical interest in translational poetics in general and my work with Rati’s poetry in particular. From my perspective, the translation of poetry, hers or otherwise, is precisely a possibility because it struggles towards the horizon of escape from the censorious and oversimplifying rigidity of (false) binaries, such as original/translation, purity/impurity, self/other, male/female, etc.
That is, to think translation impossible is to reassert predetermined taxonomies. Meanwhile poetry aims differently; it aspires to expose, undermine, and escape the tyranny of such rigidities. To claim the translation of poetry impossible, then, is to reduce the potentiality of poetry. In other words, language exists only through its actuation, and the limits of language are therefore the limits of possibility, meaning here the limits of world(s).
This is not to hyperbolize or melodramatize the work of poetry and poetry-in-translation. Rather it is to emphasize the theoretical underpinnings of a praxis of translational poetics that understands wor(l)ds as infinitely prismatic, schismatic, and adaptive, meaning they are riddled with irruptive potentiality, which is the possibility to conjure entropy, to create through emergence.
In other words, the work of translating poetry is not an agonistic process of immersion in the irresolvable tensions between antinomies. Nor is it an impossible struggle with incommensurable binaries that cancel the art as aptly as the audience. Rather translation is a faith in the possibility of transformation and emergence. It is the promise of the possibility of future(s), meaning an opening of formerly foreclosed potentiality. It is the blossoming of possibility returned, a (re)discovery and (re)articulation of form from within itself, a chance to surge forth and illuminate former absences and previous erasures of potentiality.
Thus translation can stand as a horizon of possibility for the recuperation of self. And therein lies its initial impossibility, which is undone, or released from stasis, by its reckoning through a translational praxis. In this manner, translational poetics also signal a foundational condition of democracy; it is a mode of thinking through the non-subject, she who has been pushed beyond the frontier of legibility through a series of sacrificial violences. And here again Rati’s poetry might prove clarifying.
Specifically Rati’s poetry explores these sacrificial violences, or erasures of subjective possibility, via her poetic revelation and consideration of gendered, economic, political, and intellectual inequalities. Moreover, through those poetic renderings, we can theorize the potentiality of a translational poetics. It is engaged in the study of apparition from and through absence, lack, negativity, and erasure. So in working to wrest an English-language poetry from Rati’s gorgeous already-translations, a translational praxis extends Rati’s effort to cancel former failures, disappearances, exclusions, and censorships.
It is a politics of exposure, then.It is a belief in the value of grappling with the concept of legibility. In the case of translating Rati’s poetry, that legibility emerges through a process of discovery, meaning one could not foreknow the eruptive force of the poetic realizations to come from translating. Otherwise they would be merelythe formulaic promulgation of preconceived logic. Instead the translational poetics created the conditions for the emergence of new possibilities, and this came from working closely with Rati in a diversity of forms and media, including the continuous re-reading of her poetry in multiple languages, listening to recordings of her reading her poetry in Hindi, and talking with her in person, by phone, by email, and by Skype.
Of importance, each of those modes of reflection and discussion engendered its own temporalities, meaning its own synchronization of absences and erasures, whether they be attributable to the miscommunications of multilingual conversation, the absences intrinsic to phone calls due to their disproportionate emphasis on disembodied voice, the delays and gaps in email conversations, and/or the insuperable silences and forfeitures intrinsic to working by Skype across a dozen time zones and with inconsistent Internet service. Of course this stammered, multimodal network of conversation of and through poetry was facilitated by Rati’s unflagging grace, patience, and intelligence, which time and again made clear to me the unclarity of worlds, and the potentiality of poetry or, more properly, poetry-in-translation.
So please join Rati now and struggle to realize through her always-already-translations some of the possibilities for rupturing the false constraints of the subjectivated being, whether they be grounded by gender bias, economic exploitation, hawkish militarists, ontological dogma, or otherwise. Rati’s way is the way of irruption; it is to live by availing oneself to the violence of re-emerging, of realizing oneself by destroying her through the languages of new potentialities. It is an ontology of dreaming the self in another land, with that concept having everything and nothing to do with travel. Rati’s poetry encourages valiant defiance, a courageous challenging of the capture of the subject. And she first and foremost makes this possibility known poetically, as this book makes clear.
This book dares to dream in another land, through and of oneself, who is many, meaning you are traveling alone and with other selves, yours and otherwise, via Rati’s animated and vital poetry, which cleaves possibility from deep within the word. She risks everything to transform it, understanding the importance of entropy, and trusting that what was sacrificed might return: through her, of her, from her, and for you.
Lexington, Virgina, U.S.A.