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Sunday, October 2, 2011

CLRI 2/5 October 2011

Editor's Line

Growing Space for Letter-Writing by Khurshid Alam
--Need to Recognize New Forms of Letter-Writing

Shrinking space for letters from our life has drawn attention of many people. People lament that they do not write letters as frequently as before and the art of letter writing is lost now. We cite lots of reasons to it like introduction of penny post in the 1900s when Carlyle and others were on the verge of ending to send letters through costly letter posting system, invention of telephone through which you can get connected to people from any corner of the world instantly, then the mobile phone and finally—not finally though as many new electronic media may be invented which may be even faster, easier and cheaper— the immediacy of the Internet have erased the very reason to write letters to people. But is it so that these are the only reasons that killed the art of fine letter writing?

What I find that judging the art of letter writing is not fair enough, apart from all these reasons. I would like to repeat the words of C. E. Whitmore, who opined this on essay writing, that a single continuous tradition for ‘letter writing’ is vain (The Field of the Essay, P.M.L.A., XXXVI, 551 ff). We are opiated to a structure of writing where we begin with writing address and date on the far right, to salutation on the left, to main letter body in the middle, to closing words and signature at the end and then we recognize that structure as letter. The second big thing is letters written on papers with pen are regarded as the real letters. We have to first break from this ‘single continuous tradition for letter writing structure’. Then we can move ahead and recognize other letters as letters and give them due value.

Though it is true that the space for letters in the print media—newspapers and magazines—has been continuously shrinking, yet we find the letters that see light are worthy to read. There is more importance attached to letters appearing in the print media. The print media want to associate the relationship with the readers through letters the readers send. And the letters submitted to print media are too many. The media cannot dare suspend their relation with the readers by closing the column for ‘Letters to the Editor’. So the space for letters has shrunk, its importance has grown.

Here I would like to mention the name of Keith Flett, the voice of the readers, whose letters have appeared in all leading British papers including The Guardian, The Independent, The Mirror, the Evening Standard, the London Review of Books, New Statesman, The Morning Star, Tribune, New Musical Express and What's Brewing among others. Keith is the most famous letter writer of Britain and is known for ‘good writing and clear speech’. He has faced ban by many editors one time or the other for his free voice but has never stopped from dropping his letters in the letter-boxes of the presses for years now.

He writes in all media available today but he finds that the letters appearing in the press attract people more.
In the age of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, texts and YouTube, why bother to write a letter to the editor? I use all the above formats, but it is only when I have a letter published in a national paper that people stop me to say: “I saw your letter”. They hardly ever say “I saw your tweet” or “I saw your post on Facebook”. (Keith, August 2010)

This is what we have to break from.

Short Messaging Service (SMS) and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) are the messaging systems which are no less important media than letter writing to the people in relation: if we accept that letter writing is done to send messages to the people. The advent of social networking sites such as Orkut, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tweeter, blogs and others are more powerful media where we communicate our personal views on board. While through letters our communication is one-on-one basis, talking on social networking sites is one-to-hundreds basis communication; where the population of readers you are not acquainted with constitutes more. So the advantage is more with the new age communication media.

There are many instances when a message on social networking sites has created great hue. For example, when Shashi Tharoor talked about the ‘cattle class’ to the ‘economy class’ in air service on Tweeter, it created so much fuss and it was termed as racial. Amitabh Bachchan shared his personal joys about his daughter-in-law’s pregnancy on Tweeter. Many big personalities tweet their feelings and share information on such sites, which sometimes run into controversies. This shows that these media have strong value.

Email communication is the best alternative to letter writing! As hard copy format of letter has address and date, the email has email id and date auto-generated, then we write the body message, with the same popular closing words and signature. The Internet-based communication has a good easily formattable signature also, of which we can take great advantage.

Many may be still hooked to the idea that email communication does not enjoy the same reverence, I can argue further with all humbleness that all letters written in olden days are not as worthy to read and make record of. We know letters of only a few writers who when writing used to write ideas, thoughts, and feelings, or describe the immediate environment they lived in, in picturesque words. People in those days too lacked the art of fine letter writing as A. G. Gardiner shows in his essay On Letter-Writing.

So the fashion of letter writing in hard copy formats is waning but both the space and the art of letter writing are growing instead. Now we have to give value to it by applying ideas, thoughts while shooting an email to our people, or talking in leisure on social networking sites, or sending too fast SMS through mobiles in the same picturesque words. We are waiting for the John Keats, the Madame de Sevigny, the Lord Byron, the Mirza Ghalib in writing ever memorable email communications.


CLRI Nominees for Best of the Net 2011 award Declared

We had a brain storming session to read the pieces and collect the ratings from the readers from all walks of life and from around the world. We worked hard to select only few pieces from the list we first collected. Then we concentrated on fewer pieces. Finally CLRI rates the following five poems (chronologically) as best:
  1. Three Visionaries by Khurshid Alam
  2. The House of My Old-man by Aditya Shankar
  3. Lotus-reused as a metaphor by Dr Sonnet Mondal
  4. Bharatnatyam by Tahera Mannan
  5. A Birthplace But No Memories by Vinita Agrawal
which are worth winning awards. However CLRI declares the following pieces as its nominees to the Best of the Net.

Poetry:
  1. The House of My Old-man by Aditya Shankar
  2. Birthplace But No Memories by Vinita Agrawal
Essay:
  1. Muslim Community has Failed as a Community by Khurshid Alam
CLRI 2/5 October 2011 issue

CLRI 2/5 October 2011 issue is special in the way that it has some pieces on our themed issue: Corruption. Corruption is presently a very hot issue in India. Mother India Wails by Pankajam and Forced by Carolyn Agee are on the Corruption theme.

While CLRI includes an essay on psychology by Amir Aziz (The Netherlands), and poems by Abhishek Tiwari (West Bengal, India), April Avon (St. Petersberg, Russia), and Jéanpaul Ferro (Rhode Island, US).

We request the readers to leave feedback as it helps us improve our quality and prove to be true to their expectation.

Khurshid Alam,
Editor, CLRI, October 2011.

Mother India Wails by Pankajam

Mother India Wails (Poem) by Pankajam

Mother India revisits to see her subjects
and the legacy she left behind, like Mahabali to Kerala.
After six decades of her unshackling
matchless grace alone existed in her guess.

And she witnesses….

Passive press, poverty at the peak 
In pitiable shape are pillars of democracy
Citadel of justice no place for seekers,
delayed are denied as well.

Depleting water bodies, drinking water dear
ecology neglected, greens go vanishing
sprawling slums, suffocating cities, air stinking 
a disaster we gift to the generation next.

Dreaming to build a casteless society
one discloses caste at each step!
And in supposedly a secular society
morals not taught in schools, a pity! 

Total prohibition, only an exposition 
alcohol abundant, addicts ever on the rise
values weak, crimes glorified, 
corruption in politics, a secret open.

Prices sky-high, boom in black markets
power games in politics surpass all limits  
self seeking rulers, values not virulent
disparity in income scales new heights.

Sinking legitimate hopes to walk off in full might,
as an epitome of delight, pining stood she instead,
beset with gloom, thorns in her throat bleeding
muttering mournful prayers to save her children,
stuck by the epidemic of inertia.

Deeply wounded, disillusioned, dismayed
she thought, enough is enough.
Nothing of the sort to rejoice or relish.
Oh, the apostle of truth and ahimsa
You too exist only in pictures.

Hopes not fully withered, faith in the youth she still has
a wish forcefully pops up and she visualizes India
regaining her past glories, if only children realize
her greatness, her virtues.

Oh, the great lovers of this country
come down from your heavenly abode
to take a rebirth on this sacred soil,
your mission here is sure to succeed.

Author’s Bio: Pankajam, raised in the Trichur District of Kerala, is a Finance Officer by profession and currently lives in Chennai. She writes in her leisure time.  She has two volumes of poetry to her credit and has been published in Deccan Herald, Muse India, Poem Hunter, Reading Hour and others and many other pieces are forthcoming in other journals.

Forced by Carolyn Agee

Forced (A Poem) by Carolyn Agee

To see her face, wracked with anguish, which a thousand uterine scrapings could never cleanse.
Scars gently held like an infant
ceaseless in her wails,
a phantom in this place, where it is better to be born
a man. Better not to be born
at all.

Rubber degrades in the tropics.
Humanity degrades in these narrow streets.
How heavy the carnage weighed in the
name of desire. 20 baht. The price of a human soul.

Author’s Bio: Carolyn Agee is an actress and author living in the United States. Her work has recently been published in Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing, Perspectives Magazine, and FairTrade Journal. She can be reached at: carolynagee@ymail.com.

I Versus I Feuds at the Self’s Introspective Fronts by Amir Aziz

I Versus I Feuds at the Self’s Introspective Fronts (Essay) by Amir Aziz

The profound excellence, an artist’s work of art achieves from translating an idea into a concrete shape, principly owes its credit to the inner drive for expression that artists experience in some superior quantum than laymen. The locus of all thoughts and feelings is always the self, comprising of mind, heart and body. The events inside a self can be both blithe and anarchic. Therefore, artistic expressions oscillate between the beautiful and the grotesque, the living and the dead, the happy and the melancholic and so on. For instance, art can manifest all moods which are fortressed in a turbulent heart, in a perturbed mind and in a bruised body. In this vastly split territory of aesthetic dualism, the artist is found encroaching upon the haze in the grey areas of the self which can also be called the no man’s land. A serious artist is the one who crazily weaves cryptic cobwebs in those lands like a spider while inundating his/her whole body and soul (heart and mind) in this holy enterprise of discovery, invention and creation. In the world of so called “high culture,” the artists with this brand of habits and work ethics are revered as the worshippers of their art.

A subtle shift of perspective from the abstract world of art to the realm of real life, will reveal an unending territory of identical intellectual conundrums and ambivalent moral choices, that a common individual has to tread like a scared squirrel upon the land mines of uncertainties or like a careless child’s gallops on the beach sand. The latter approach is the most widely followed one by the contemporary hedonists, realists and the empiricists whereas the idealists, reflecting ideologues and the contemplative souls wage a secret battle between their body and soul to forge an amicable pact between the two. And this perpetually and simultaneously updating and breaking up pact, is tinned according to their understanding of truth, reality and goodness at the given moment of time. There is a scarce margin of doing a biased value judgment of either of the approaches as neither has harboured humanity to the eternal peace and calm that could theme the plot of an ideal narrative of life. This is especially because of a noticeable decline by one camp to accept the other’s thrust upon material and this worldly success as the yard stick to a purposeful life. From this spot of difference, the fountains of theology, ethics, morals, values and philosophic speculations are untapped to irrigate a dry terrain of opportunism and selfish interest based competitions. This insurrection against a Darwinian view of the world is actually against the notion which states that competition inheres in all individual collectivities like communes, cultures and nations and therefore, ‘winner take it all’ elixir is justified.

A further zeroing in of our focus upon any individual’s maiden steps in such an unforgiving pool of devourers, yields spells of complicated and baffling cross question sessions that only an introspective soul can stage in the court of its mind. The first amongst those questions which inadvertently shakes walls of one’s mind is related to education, both spiritual and conventional. If education is meant to tame and pacify human impulses to avarice, greed, murder, immorality and all other inhuman and wild frailties; why do the professionally trained and erudite individuals end up in a compromising moral position at their very first altar i.e. by becoming part of a ruthless and valueless market based system where individuals are treated like tools and commodities? An obvious escape from the self-flogging curses of one’s conscience is an argument of self preservation and survival. And in most other scenarios, the voices of conscience are muted by the craftiness of the justificatory discourse at the tail ends of an unconfessed guilt which reposes in some dullest chambers of one’s heart.

The third and the rarest of the scenarios is an open confession of one’s guilt in the absence of outside duress. Individuals rarely reflect justly enough in a process of self accountability to charge themselves as guilty and worthy of persecution. Man is too biased a beast. On the other side of the picture, crime and sin are not mere aberrations of an inherently virtuous statue of the Homo sapiens. It is worth not overlooking that as there are people consciously dedicated to good, there is a genuine propensity and love for wickedness in people with a full knowledge of it as evil. Hence, evil in people is not an error of their judgment or a mistake. It is a conscious moral choice. The riddles of fate, on the other hand, are a usual recourse to shift the blame of their undoing, amongst the criminals. It is the prerogative of only the conscientious souls to indulge in a Hegelian sort of dialectical process of bringing in equation, thesis with the antithesis of virtually every idea to formulate a synthesis. In a mammon worshiping society whose foundations are devoid of a talk of morals, ethics and didacticism; the self of a conscientious individual will be left to itself to have feuds with itself about the choices it has been granted by the external world and those she deems best and moral for itself.

Beside carrying the historic tradition of imparting knowledge, if contemporary education system and the educational institutions are viewed in the post-modern world as mere instruments to wield power and strengthen edifices of power (government and its sister institutions) in society; an individual with genuine zeal to entrust his/her distinguished ideologies and thoughts to the world treasury of knowledge is found lacking in his/her amity for this whole system. This is one of those situations in which the universities polish the pebbles and waste the diamonds because this is their prescribed role by the system in which they breathe in. And that role is to manufacture a work force that market demands from them, so that they may chip in its structure without much fuss. Hence, the modalities of power are determined and spread right throughout the social system and its sister institutions. In this so called free market economic structure, this is a myth to postulate that individuals are free. It is a matter of paramount importance that in honour of the nuances of every individual self, the individuals should be empowered exactly on the pattern of the leverage the institutions enjoy. This has a promise of a more responsible and a loyal citizenry.

Author's Bio: Aamir Aziz is a PhD Fellow in Leiden University Institute of Cultural Disciplines, The Netherlands. His is doing research on American play, The Crucible, as a case of hunt for spectres in post 9/11 world of fear.

His present article is themed around art, life and culture motifs in contemporary interdisciplinary perspective.

I Should Have Jumped by Abhishek Tiwari

I Should Have Jumped (Poem) by Abhishek Tiwari


There is a wall around our house
Dad says it protects us
and is necessary to survive in the society,
Mom says it looks good and she is used to it.
This wall is neither too high to jump over
Nor too dwarf to ignore.

There are holes through which I used to see
beyond it, when I was a child.
I could see my dreams walking,
the bubbles, which I could have touched, if
I would have been that side.
Then I grew up and was confused,
Which side I should take to.
And now, down so many years
the wall is still there and
I am still on the same side
and the wall looks at me instead
jeering at me as if asking:
You’d have jumped that side earlier.

Author's Bio: Abhishek Tiwari is a second year student of Masters of Engineering in Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, India.

In his poem Abhishek is confused between what should be done and so misses out the thing he wanted to do in time.

Three Poems by April Avalon

Evening

I'm breathing the smoke of fruit cigarettes,
One's already burnt; I am craving for more.
I'm lighting the last one with no regrets—
If you were beside me, it well could be four.

I'm slowly turning the key in my lock;
It usually takes me two minutes or three,
But I have been blind to the obstinate clock—
Alas, there is no one waiting for me.

My room has no present but treasures the past;
Its walls will recall every breath that we share...
I'm feeling so cold. I break down at last:
My papers will choke on the ink of despair.

My heart's like a violin's sound, unclear;
It's out of tune for a permanent matter.
I'll sign all these verses with only one tear
And seal with a sigh just to send with a letter.

Heartless-can-be?

I'm wild and sometimes even heartless-can-be,
I'm fond of collecting illusions to ruin,
I'm breaking the rules life has written for me,
"Create to destroy" best describes what I'm doing.
I'm scarily dangerous, silently loud—
A walking disaster you'd better ignore,
The pain in the neck of a desperate crowd.
But I'm like a magnet—you'll only want more.

You'll figure me out, you'll get to the core—
One beauty, two fears, three dangers —it's me.
You'll enter my heartspace and close the door
For anyone else who I wanted to be.
My truth was denying devotion and faith,
And now you've proved right the opposite true.
A chain of mistakes is the sign of my days;
My strength will forgive me—it led me to you

Fate And Fortune

This northern city with headlights-eyes
Has buried me in its cold and gloom;
You'll see this place in a dreadful guise
And once sweet home will seem a tomb
Once you're aware there's no way out,
Once dreams of youth say goodbye and grin.
It goes farther and makes me doubt
In all the things I have ever seen.
Its blood has turned into ice and snow—
It's endless winter in every heart.
The winds of grief never cease to blow,
The art of grief is the greatest art.

And once in this cradle of dirt and despair
A wandering stranger demanded my mind.
He asked me about this damned northern air
I'd better not breathe—I would leave it behind.
He said: "I'm in love with this misery, miss.
Destruction is right what we need to create.
True art is in grief, I've been dreaming of this.
My yesterday's fortune's tomorrow's fate.
I know all secrets my destiny knows,
So this boring dwelling won't be a surprise".
I thought: "He's my twin, and it clearly shows".
That evening he opened my widely shut eyes.

A perfect stranger has built a wall
To be a shield from this gloom and lies,
From endless rains of this city's gall
That falls on me from the shattered skies.
The wave of feelings can warm the days
Of dull existence in Bitterland
And melt the ice in this rotten place,
In every heart that it's due to mend.
This northern city with headlights-eyes
Has turned us down in its nasty voice
And... brought together. We've paid the price
Of fate to fortune. We've made the choice.

Author’s Bio: April Avalon has been writing for almost five years. She is a great life observer and gets inspiration from the various facets of life. The purpose of her creativity is to urge people to see beyond the bounds, to be themselves, to speak their minds loud, not to be afraid to differ from the crowd. She creates to destroy…to destroy the naive beliefs...to destroy the stereotypes.

April lives in St. Petersburg and hopes to succeed further both as a poet and a songwriter. She can be reached at: beautiful-disaster-90@hotmail.com.

Three Poems by Jéanpaul Ferro

Apartment Building

Life comes alive only at night,
the singers and the workers of it,
the smell of the blood pulp
as it simmers atop the stove,
all these hackneyed kids play-fighting
down in the stairways,

pretty twenty-somethings,
brunettes with their red dresses on,
tired, sitting there on stools round
the corner at the bar,

fighting off madness—
every guy wanting to steal their soul.

The Worried Boats

In Spain , we sat out on balconies all through the late evenings,
a whitish moon floating atop the olive canopy of trees,
your feet touching mine playfully under the table,
brandy stinging our lips, our lips full of nudity,
nude like your skin under your bodice, half-naked like the
uncertainty of my own soul,

lanterns lit up across town; and then there was this rhythmic
singing that went on over on the furthest most streets;
you smiled when you spotted a mother in a window cutting
an apple for her son; you asked me what I thought his name
might be:
            In a hushed tone, I whispered: “Gypsy of darkness.”

The Formal Gardens (Planet Earth)

That afternoon the garden gate had
mistakenly been left open,

the wind creeping in, hot, like a cyclone,
leaving scars and passages of lilac,

cutting blue-topaz across the sky until
it was suddenly drunk and dark,

going around, crushing all the perfectly
pruned borders of the columnar evergreens,

knocking the cypress and bay laurel straight
down,

draining all the fountains until all the waters
of the garden had become like molten ash.

Author’s Bio: Jéanpaul Ferro is a novelist, short fiction author, and poet from Providence, Rhode Island. An 8-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Jéanpaul’s work has appeared on NPR, Contemporary American Voices, Columbia Review, Emerson Review, Connecticut Review, Portland Monthly, and others. He is the author of All The Good Promises (Plowman Press, 1994), Becoming X (BlazeVox Books, 2008), You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers (Thumbscrew Press, 2009), Hemispheres (Maverick Duck Press, 2009) Essendo Morti – Being Dead (Goldfish Press, 2009), nominated for the 2010 Griffin Prize in Poetry; and Jazz (Honest Publishing, 2011).  He is represented by the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency.  Website: www.jeanpaulferro.com. E-mail: jeanpaulferro@netzero.net.

His latest collection of poetry, Jazz, is now out by Honest Publishing.  Here is a review of it featured in Rattle Magazine: http://rattle.com/blog/2011/06/jazz-by-jeanpaul-ferro/.

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