Pushpa Raj Acharya grew up in Pokhara, Nepal, and came to Canada in 2012. His first poetry book, Chhayakal (“The Shadows of Time”), is in Nepali, and his second, Dream Catcher, is in English. His collaborative poetry and art book Somnio: The Way We See It was published in 2015. Pushpa was a member of Borderlines Writers Circle/Writer-In-Exile Program, Edmonton. He is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto.
Pushpa dropped by the blog this weekend and told us a little about himself and his poetry ahead of his May 4 visit.
A Jackfruit Tree
My father used to recite verses—including his own—in Nepali and Sanskrit. When he bought a National Panasonic 3 Band Radio Cassette Recorder, he recorded some of them. For several days when the world went quiet late at night, the room would resound with his recital. A curious, albeit rather trying occasion for a sleepy kid. A huge jackfruit tree in front of the house stood as an unwavering witness. I would play the recordings for several years to come.
Poetry Flows from Writing to Speech
Many years passed. After I finished high school, I tried my hand at writing verses in Nepali. My inspiration came not from the force of feelings but from a compelling desire to recite verses. I composed verses in Sanskrit meters, learnt them by heart, and recited them among the poets in Pokhara. Later, the surging, loosening emotions steered me to an open form. I wrote free verse poems, committed them to memory, and spoke them out, mostly.
Poetry’s perpetual fugitiveness marks its beginnings. Poetry slips from the fixed to the fluid, from the fluid to the fixed. The recital transformed the fixed memory of scripts into the fluidity of sound. The sound of poetry was inscribed on the jackfruit tree invisibly and written on the magnetic tapes tangibly. An illiterate village poet, Pahalman Subedi, from eastern Nepal composed oral verses, which survived only in the listeners’ memory. Nepali poet and playwright, Abhi Subedi remembered a couple of them and wrote them down on his notebook. One poem says: “Once uttered, all sentences are written on the universe (boleka jati vakya chhan ti ta sabai brahmanda ma lekhine)”. He knew that the fluidity of his oral poetry was at the same time a fixed inscription on the cosmos. Or on the jackfruit tree and the sky that covered it.
Or on the mountains like the Annapurna, when a group of poets in 1998 read poems to a small group of the community members at Muktinath. Nepali poet Sarubhakta read out five points of the manifesto of the Conservation Poetry Movement (Samrakshan Kavita Andolan). We would write environmental, ecological poems and travel to villages. Reading poetry with villagers and schoolchildren, I realized the counter-flows of poetry. Poetry is a flow from a pensive mood to the communal celebrations.
In 2010, I listened to Dylan Thomas—his voice, poems, and the play, Under Milk Wood, fixed on a digital recording. So potent was the experience that I began to write poetry in English. The flow from one language to another has been a liberating experience.
Pushpa Raj Acharya visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, May 4, 2016 – full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (6:30pm, PWYC) – along with Shari Kasman, Larissa Lai, Melanie Mah, and a special guest talk, “Shall We Dance? The Importance of the Author-Editor Relationship”, by Dundurn Press acquisitions editor Shannon Whibbs.