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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

CLRI Nimba Issue 1 January 2012

Contemporary Literary Review: India Nimba Issue 1, January 2012


Contemporary Literary Review: India (CLR: I) is primarily an online literary journal where you find a mix of Life, Arts, Culture, and Literature that can make you a complete man you can proud on. CLRI publishes a wide variety of writings including poetry, stories, criticism, reviews, non-fiction, and other genres of the best quality of the time from around the world.

Contemporary Literary Review: India has been started with a mission to provide a platform where writers and their writings are exposed. We are not a journal started by an academic institution where the academia dominates and the writers not belonging to the academia or not submitting to its conditions do not see the sunlight. We are not run by biggies whose creased eyebrows easily get raised with the kinda genres, forms, meters and so on, and so forth. Such things create a world where genuine writers find it too difficult to be exposed on time. Even if they get, it is too late in their life. For no good reasons.

CLRI does not pride on creating hurdles before writers, for many of us think if a literary journal is too choosy, it is the best one.  Surprisingly even the writers who are barred from being selected in journals respect such journals, and so the journals expel arrogance, unnecessarily. We do pride but we pride for INCLUSION and not for EXCLUSION. Our approach for selecting a writing piece is very inclusive. When we see a new form we do not say the writer is not following a form, we say this is the form that should be published, this is the form that has been left out hitherto, this is what we were looking for. More surprisingly this has been our centrifugal force which has won respect to CLRI and we are growing leaps and bounds since we came out on the Web space.

At CLRI we believe that the genuine writers are those who tread upon prohibited territories: who may not necessarily be moving along the wall of forms, dancing on the rhythmic beats, or preaching philosophies. Their speech may be without preach, their poetry may be without rhyme, without form, yet artistic and yet creative. Creativity is not that forte where you can be easily located but that forte where you are lost, without a trace.  Or yeah, that may become a form by itself later. No objection to it! CLRI promotes such writers. We want to bring young writers before they get old.

Contemporary Literary Review: India began its journey online and wanted to restrict itself to be online. But its growing popularity among writers and readers alike for our approach has made us to try other media such as Kindle, Nook and Pothi editions. Soon CLRI observed that there are yet a large number of readers from other walks of life who have been left untouched because they have access to other types of media and more importantly writers show more respect to the materials published in the print media even now so we started the print version as well.

Now Contemporary Literary Review: India is available online, and in Kindle, Nook, Pothi, and print versions. We hope you will keep us supporting as before.

Ok with best compliments and new year’s greetings, I bid you bye. Meet me online!

Khurshid Alam

Sample Copy of Contemporary Literary Review: India Nimba Issue 1, January 2012
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Buy Poetry Before You Sell Your Poetry

by Khurshid Alam


In India writing poetry is too much, as it is anywhere in the world. Years back, when I was in college I used to visit an adda at Nanadan cinema in Kolkata where people of all sorts use to gather in the evening and engage themselves in an endless discussion. Here students, intellectuals, writers, and a milieu of voracious readers and other people come and go adding at least few points to the evening chat whether they are reckoning matters little. I too was no different from the crowd. During my visits to Nandan adda I made many friends whom I used to meet there, watched movies together, shared snacks, and lolled a lot.

Once I saw Sunil Gangopadhyay, a famous contemporary Bengali writer, who was surrounded by some seemingly-intellectual people. I recognized him easily and had a desire to meet him personally but my childish awe did not allow me to. I expressed this to one of my friends to meet Gangopadhyay but he did not support my desire. During discussion with him, I said I wanted to understand what writing is in general and what poetry is in particular. To this, he replied why ask this silly question, here everyone has written at least two poems in his life, so no need to discuss too much on this. I was quiet for some time thinking he is right, I too had written many poems by then.

When I grew and became a writer myself, I was much worried about why poetry does not sell as other genres sell—I wanted to sell my poems. But I found hardly any publishers are ready to publish poetry anthology, though they publish fiction, stories, and other genres without a bias. I started getting many of my poems published with literary journals, some reputed ones but gained no money till date. Out of my philanthropic desire, I started Contemporary Literary Review: India to provide a platform where not only the writers but also those who do write whether poems or stories get a fair chance of being published. Running the literary journal I gradually got a clear picture why poetry does not sell—though this remark may be apocryphal, it is a very vital reason without a doubt.

People write too much poetry, they read poetry less, and buy it seldom. People show interest in reading poetry of only those who are great names and are biggies such as William Shakespeare, John Milton, William Wordsworth, John Keats, TS Eliot and so on. They limit their reading of contemporary writers to only those who wear big wigs of honours and awards—till they become famous they are already old. We show least interest in reading young and emerging writers, those who are our age and face similar issues. We seem too excited to show our own poetry wherever we go and cherish a desire everyone just loves it but when we are in a situation we must lend an ear to an emerging writer, we are loath. Surprisingly this applies to one and all poets and writers—even the emerging poets (or better say struggling poets) do not read their contemporary writers much.

Poetry as a saleable genre has met a fatal death. Once there was a time when poets used to sell poems—many when faced financial crunch sold poems and earned life. W. Shakespeare sold his collection of sonnets to Thomas Thorpe, W. Wordsworth sold his poems, Descriptive Sketches and An Evening Walk, in order to settle his life, John Keats prepared some of his early poems for financial gains, as late as in twentieth century TS Eliot sold his Inventions of the March Hare: Poems, 1909-1917 to John Quinn. There are many such stories. In earlier days many newspapers used to have a column dedicated to poetry (and fiction as well) but such columns went off baring a handful. Here it is important to mention Times Literary Supplement which is a reputed supplement of the Times newspaper and is highly successful in its endeavor of publishing literary writings. The Hindu newspaper too has such a supplement among a few in India.

But the question is how poetry is no more a saleable genre any longer, even in the English speaking countries the poets find it difficult to be published; in India it is even bleaker. Different critics cite different reasons for this. However some of the common points among others are: that obscure language of verse, and lack of form and meter post modernism are the possible reasons of poetry on waning, as Rupkatha too cites in its editorial1. But obscurity is the very essence that differentiates verse from other genres. It is rather its force than its weakness, it is an “aesthetic of difficulty” (TS Eliot) that makes poetry poetry. When Eliot sent The Waste Land to Allan Tate, a famous twentieth century critic, Allen said he did not understand a single word of it. Later on Eliot had to write a forward to it that helped Tate to understand The Waste Land, the same poetry won Eliot Nobel prize later. Edgar Allan Poe, Dylan Thomas, Malarme, and Valery are notorious for using obscurity in their verses of the highest degree. Nevertheless obscurity creates a hurdle to understating poetry at first read that is why poetry has not been a very favourite genre among common readers, as fiction is; and as great poets as Rosalia de Castro (Spain), Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo (France), Akka Mahadevi (India), Barrie Philip Nichol (Canada), Syzette Haden Elgin (US), faced challenges in their lifetime for recognition.

But I think the reasons are many more and some beyond remedy. Prominent among the reasons are—the growth of poetry writers along with poets, being too much engrossed in “loose emotion” of self-expression, following no genre, form or metre, and English being a medium of expression for those whose mother tongue is other than English. Poetry writers are different from poets. I classify those who write poetry casually or just to express their personal feelings are poetry writers. Never forget poets also do pour out their personal feelings in their poetry but the difference lies in the style. The poets transform their feelings into universal appeal while poetry writers restrict themselves to the writings that are more like personal diary or impromptu blog stuff sans aesthetic beauty of poetry. Moreover it is quite difficult to distinguish poets from poetry writers as everyone may prefer to be considered as a poet than a poetry writer. This flock of poetry writers has been very much a part of poetry genre in every age, but earlier they were distinctly categorized under either mediocre poets or second rung poets.

Poets are those who read a lot of poetry, write a lot of poetry, adhere to some form or metre—even if they do not conform to conventional form they invent theirs and adhere to it their literary life time. They have certain themes, they have “ism” that distinguishes them from others. For example, William Wordsworth, Samuel Tyler Coleridge, William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelly and Jon Keats all belonged to the romantic poetry canon but each had a different artistic beauty which is so distinct and unique yet uniform.

“I write to seek a release from myself as much as from others; to feel free by unburdening myself in verses; to experience an inner balance, feeling, probing, sensing, recalling, or whatever.”, says Professor R K Singh in an interview with Dr Arbind Kumar Chaudhary3. Moreover this is the truth that most of the poets pick up the pen for. They want to exercise to relieve themselves; they enjoy what they express regardless whether anyone can understand them. Any writing is the outcome of a writer’s own experience but the technique of writing should be as such that transforms the writing into universalism. The poets who express from “loose emotion” are half successful but the poets who transform their feeling into universalism are successful to a greater extent and the very reason of writing is met.

The approach of a poet should be rather an escape from loose emotion. To say in better words, I would like to quote David Michael Jackson who said this in an interview with Ward Kelly: “It is from outside that the poet works, always taking a step back for observation, peeling the cover off the sardine can, so to speak. My painting of the apples is made of paint not apples, my poem about the apples is comprised of words not apples. We are outside of the "thing itself".  Outside of the herd?  No, the poet is carried along by the herd too. It seems we observe things as we are bounced along.”4 This is a very apt understating even better than Eliot’s on escape-from-lose-emotion fame tag. Because the expression should drive the feeling amix.

For example I will cite two stanzas here and you judge which piece is better”

Stanza 1
“My daughter is very talkative
She is scolded for this
At school, at tuition, at home
Yet she keeps on talking.”

Stanza 2
“My daughter is very talkative
When there is no one around
She picks up a pencil and goes on
Talking, scribbling, writing.”

See both the pieces can be poetry lines as both express situations the poet faces. The poet has a daughter who is talkative. But in the first example the feeling is too personal and has no universal appeal. It is just an explanation of a behaviour. There are many people whose children may be of this nature, yet hardly anyone would like the thing. But in the second example the feeling has universal appeal, it eulogies a simple behaviour into a good thing, and the theme climaxed with a new habit. Many people would like to associate their children to the second type of behaviour and smile if some have really such children.

To cite David’s lines

Love is like a flower
blooming in the spring
from a lowly seedling
to a stately king

if it is not cared for
if it's left alone
love will surely wither
gone forever gone

See there is no didacticism, no appeal but the teaching is passed across.
I would like to say in the words of Jayanta Mahapatra, “Write whatever you feel, feel from your heart, from your inside. One thing will also help you. Just you write from the level, tilt a little higher level.” Though Jayanta teaches to associate oneself to god, his views are very supportive to write better if it is worked towards writing better poetry.

The writing scenario in India is too unorganized and unsupported. We do not have poetry gurus to whom we would have turned to and who then would have pruned the young poets. Nevertheless if anyone puts suggestions to a young poet, he is easily miffed, for he is too arrogant to accept the suggestion. This attitude makes a poet too slow to improve with time, and there are a good number of poets who though have grown old in writing and have become popular still lack the beauty of early poets. If John Keats would not have accepted his reviewer’s suggestion, his line: “A thing of beauty is forever a joy” would not have changed to “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever” and would not have been immortalized. And those who are seniors find it little alluring to teach their juniors. They lack genuine desire.

There are thousands of literary journals and magazines in India but a larger number is of those which are brought out by either colleges or universities. Here the selection criteria are too typical and limited to those who fall within the vicinity of the colleges and universities, alumni or the like. When they select the writings of those outside such borders, they are too choosy. Then there are a good number of individual writers and poets who run journals but they pamper their journals by being too obsessive and by being too selective. Many seem not to be communicating well with their own writers. When you submit to them they hardly communicate about whether they got the submission, whether their pieces are selected or rejected. If they publish they simply carry out and send a mass message. Some are so arrogant that they do not communicate even if the writers’ pieces are published; they are left clueless about what happened to their submission. If you enquire them, they hardly reply. This has kept many genuine writers out of the gamut of writing world, waiting.

I will tell you my own story. Once I submitted a poem to one of the reputed current affairs magazines based in Delhi. It did not send a single word back about anything. After a few months I thought it might have been rejected and I submitted the same piece to other journal. My piece was published with the later one. After more than eight months when I was searching some of my published pieces on Google, I suddenly came to the poem that I had submitted to the Delhi-based magazine months back. I was surprised that it had published my piece but I did not know anything about it. This is the story of a reputed magazine and not an unprofessional one. And for your kind information it is illegal to submit a previously published material to another journal without notifying about it. But in my case I did not know this. Second example is I wanted to run a campaign to popularize the writers and their writings (as it is the prime motto with CLRI) so I wanted to dedicate a column to the best pieces published around. I sent messages about this to many journals but none replied till date.

We have dearth of professional journals where the writers, editors, and those who run the journals behave very professionally to the writing and writing in the making. We lack journals of the quality at par with those such as Granta, Times Literary Supplement, The London Review, The New Criterion, The American Poetry Review to name a few, where if you submit you get a reply howsoever small a writer you are. However Writers Workshop (Kolkata) in publishing new writers and teachers such as P Gopichand and P Nagashushila of English literature with JKC College (Guntur, Andhra Pradesh) who organize annual poetry festivals are doing a very recommendable job in this regard. We need such platforms more in number.

Literary journals which are not brought out by a college or university are not supported in any manners by any public organisation in India. While many journals in many countries get financial aids and are well supported by the government organisations such as Arts Council in England, Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (US), National Endowment for the Arts (US), the New York State Council on the Arts (US) among many others in many ways. They carry the symbol of recognition on their pages, get financial aids, are archived or listed with the universities as valuable resources and hence they are considered a part of literary embodiment of the current time.

While we now have a good number of open universities along with the conventional ones which can enlist or archive leading literary journals, they can encourage students to read them and contribute to them, or quote from them in preparing their semester papers, or discuss on the points or happenings around them. But the sky does not seem that much clear.

Wait I hear a knock at my door. I have called one of my friends Abhay Chowksi to come to me and recite a poem he is excited about. I have told him I will buy it if it moves me. Are you ready to buy a poem from a person who you know writes poetry or so? Before you sell your poetry, develop the habit of buying it. The situation will change automatically.

1. Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities (ISSN 0975-2935), Volume 3, Number 2.

Hints: adda means a common place where people gather together and talk causally such as at coffee house.

Sample Copy of Contemporary Literary Review: India Nimba Issue 1, January 2012:

Book Your Issue Now!

Source: These two topics are taken from Contemporary Literary Review: India Nimba Issue 1, January 2012.

CLRI Reviews December 2011 Released.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Khurshid,
    An excellent piece of information on the literary world!You have hit the nail on the head, when you say that upcoming poets/writers are dying a slow death.
    I wish CLRI a great future and succes.

    Manohar Bhatia.


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