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    Contemporary World Poetry - focus on Latin American and Asian Poetry

    February 11, 2024

    Contemporary World Poetry - focus on

     Latin American and Asian Poetry!

    Aminur Rahman


    What is Poetry? Colridge says Poetry is the best word in best order. Paul Valerie says The first line of a poem comes from heaven you have to write the rest. Wordsworth says Emotion recollected in tranquility. Keats says A poem should come as a leaf to a tree, if it does not, it is better it does not come at all. 

    Acually what really is Poetry? The poets all around the world, why are they writing poetry? Why the poetry lovers all around? Why the people of this discrete beauty of Cairo, Egypt have the intense love for poetry?  Do we really know what is poetry? Why do we love poetry? There is no real definition of why poets keep on writing poetry neither there is any explanation of why the poetry lovers keep on absorbing the aroma of its inner sense.

    Every human has poetic soul some gives it a name by expressing it, on the other hand, some have this knack of culturing it and those are real poetry lovers. Even than the number of poetry lovers all over the world is less. Why? The nature, the culture, the practice, the heritage which expedite the soft corner of people and makes them crazy to adore poetry.

    There is no distinct language or colour of poetry in reality, poets from one corner of the world write poetry and that inspires and aspires the lovers in the other corner of the world. This means we are all human  beings, may be colour, nature, behavior, language are different but we are created from the same soul. That is the reason, why a maiden loves the man from different part of the world,  that is the reason, why men sacrifice life for men from different end and for the same reason, when poets writes from one end of the world and the same is reciprocated by the poet lovers at the other end.

    Poetry is that strength which rises above all and touches the inner being of one. Poetry is that strength which creates humanity. Poetry is that strength which helps human to live anew.

    The beauty of poetry is that it can take any shape or form just like water. It can be long and short just like trees and bushes, metered or free form just like landscape, lyrical or profane just like chirping of birds. It can be written with the intention of wooing or mourning, healing or shocking, loving or caring and memory evoking. In the time of violence, the task of poetry is in some way to reconcile us to our world and to allow us a measure of tenderness and grace with which to exist.

    Modernist poetry refers to poetry written between 1890 and 1950 in the tradition of modernist literature, but the dates of the term depend upon a number of factors, including the nation of origin, the particular school in question, and the biases of the critic setting the dates.

    While modern poetry or the poetry evolving in the twenty-first century has adopted a more favourable style towards free verse and a greater emphasis on artistic expression, it has evolved with features like disrupted or unkempt syntax, irregular stanza structure and lacking rhyme schemes. What are the themes of contemporary literature? Some common themes in contemporary literature include coming of age, redemption, good versus evil, courage, feminism, oppression, and more. Contemporary style embraces minimalistic elements highlighting grays, beiges and shades of white. Sleek, thoughtful, hidden details emphasize an edited aesthetic. Contemporary style offers an 'everything in its place' interior featuring designs that are high on function and simplicity and low on collections and fuss.

    In contrast to traditional poetry, modern or contemporary poetry is much more flexible and does not follow a specific form. It is typically written in free verse, which does not require any specific rhyme or meter. Contemporary poetry often uses more accessible language familiar to modern readers. Common themes in Modernist poetry are society, disillusionment, collectivism vs. individualism, and societal changes.

    Modernist poetry in English started in the early years of the 20th century with the appearance of the Imagists. In common with many other modernists, these poets wrote in reaction to the perceived excesses of Victorian poetry, with its emphasis on traditional formalism and ornate diction. In many respects, their criticism echoes what William Wordsworth wrote in Preface to Lyrical Ballads to instigate the Romantic movement in British poetry over a century earlier, criticising the gauche and pompous school which then pervaded, and seeking to bring poetry to the layman.

    The roots of English-language poetic modernism can be traced back to the works of a number of earlier writers, including Walt Whitman, whose long lines approached a type of free verse, the prose poetry of Oscar Wilde, Robert Browning's subversion of the poetic self, Emily Dickinson's compression….

    There are so many great English poets who had contributed tremendously in contemporary world poetry.. T S Eliot, W H Auden, Yeats, Shelly, Ezra pound, H Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney.. I got an opportunity to meet and talked to Ted Hughes in eighties. I think Ted and Heaney and certain extend Allen Ginsberg had spread the aroma of poetry in the modern poetry. What happen after that! My friend Derek Walcott who passed few years back, had created a little influence even after his death! How London poets my dearest friends’ active poets Fiona Sampson or Agnes Meadows, can they touched the heart of the poetry lovers!!

    I am reading few lines from Ted Hughes with whom I spent one full day in 1987

    Remember how we picked the daffodils?
    Nobody else remembers, but I remember.
    Your daughter came with her armfuls, eager and happy,
    Helping the harvest. She has forgotten.

    Undoubtedly, one of the main classic French poet Charles Baudelaire had a solid influence of modern poets even at today. But what about Rainer Maria Rilke, Federico Garcia Lorca, Kahlil Gibran, Alexander Pushkin, I am sure till now all are as modern as before. None of the them wrote in English, even though they are as popular as before.

    I am reading few lines of Charles Baudelaire:

    I am like the king of a rainy country
    Rich, and yet powerless, young and yet most old
    Who, distrustful of the bows his tutors make
    Sits bored among his dogs as with his other beasts
    Nothing can lift his spirits, neither hawk nor game
    The dying subjects gathered to his balcony…..

    Today I don’t want to discuss about mainstream English poets. Reputed publishers are available for them, also readers.

    I don’t know how many people will agree here that NOW Poetry belongs to Latin America, Poetry belongs to Asia, Poetry belongs to Arab and certain extent in Africa too. Poetry is no more belongs to Europe or North America! I will not go on debate today, dear friends, when you will go back to your home just think about it! I am sure you will get your answer!!

    Today I would like to discuss about only two part of the world where now poetry belongs to - Latin America and Asia.     

    As far as great literary traditions go, Latin American poetry boasts an interesting history of styles and influences. Written primarily in Spanish and Portuguese and influenced by Spanish, Indigenous, African, and Caribbean island cultures. Latin American and Latino poetry is as vibrant, diverse, complex, and colorful as the varied landscapes from which it originates. Many great works of poetry were written in the colonial and pre-colonial time periods, but it was in the 1960s that the world began to notice the poetry of Latin America. Through the modernismo movement, and the international success of Latin American authors, poetry from this region became increasingly influential. Modernismo, a literary movement that arose in Spanish America in the late 19th century and was subsequently transmitted to Spain. Introduced by Rubén Darío with the publication of "Azul" (1888), it is commonly accepted that it concluded with Darío's death in 1916. This new style of poetry was strongly influenced by the French symbolist and Parnassians. In rebellion against romanticism, the modernists attempted to renew poetic language and to create a poetry characterized by formal perfection, musicality, and strongly evocative imagery. 

    There are so many genius poets were born in Latin America and contributed in their Spanish literature. Spanish literature is no more belongs to mainland Spain (very strong comment, please don’t offended, it is hypothetical!) but in Latin America. In the contemporary world poetry all most all Latin countries has at least one poet to feel proud of. Even in Prose too. All largest and recognized poetry festival are running for many years are also in Latin America, Medellin Poetry Festival in Colombia. Granada Poetry Festival in Nicaragua, Cuba Poetry Festival, Caracas Poetry Festival in Venezuela are world famous. Chilean poets Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, Argentinian poet Luis Borges, Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti, El Salvadorian poet Roque Dalton, Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal, Guatemalan poet Miguel Angel Esturias, Colombian poet Candelario Obese, Peru’s poet Cesar Vallejo, Cuban poet Jose Marti, Nicolas Guillen, Mexican poet Octavio Paz, Venezuelan poet Romulo Gallegos many more spread the horizon of Spanish poetry.

    I would like to read few lines from my dearest friend Ernesto Cardinal famous Nicaraguan poets who just died few years back:

    I give to you, Claudia, these verses, because you are their owner.

    I have written them to be simple, so that you may understand.

    They are for you only, but if you don’t like them,

    One day they will spread through all of Latin America;

    And if the love, with which I have penned them, you also reject,

    Other women will dream with this love that had not been for them.

    Perhaps then you will see, Claudia, that these poems…….


    mportant feature of much modernist poetry in English is a clear focus on

    the surface of the poem. Much of this work focuses on the literal meaning

    of the words on the page rather than any metaphorical or symbolic

    meanings that might be imputed to them. This approach to writing is

    reflected in Ezra Pound's advice to young writers (in his 1937 book The

    ABC of Reading) to 'buy a dictionary and learn the meanings of words'

    and T.S. Eliot's response when asked the meaning of the line 'Lady, three

    white leopards sat under a juniper tree in the cool of the day...' from Ash

    Wednesday (1927); he said "It means 'Lady, three white leopards sat

    under a juniper tree in the cool of the day...". Also pertinent is William

    Carlos Williams' 1944 statement that 'A poem is a small (or large)

    machine made out of words'. The emergence of English-language

    modernism The roots of English-language poetic modernism can be

    traced back to the works of a number of earlier writers, including Walt

    Whitman, whose long lines approached a type of free verse, the prose

    poetry of Oscar Wilde, Robert Browning's subversion of the poetic self,

    Emily Dickinson's compression and the writings of the early English

    Symbolists, especially Arthur Symons. However, these poets essentially

    remained true to the basic tenets of the Romantic movement and the

    appearance of the Imagists marked the first emergence of a   distinctly

    modernist poetic in the language. One anomalous figure of the early

    period of modernism also deserves mention: Gerard Manley Hopkins

    wrote in a radically experimental prosody about radically conservative

    ideals (not unlike a later Ezra Pound), and he believed that sound could

    drive poetry. Specifically, poetic sonic effects (selected for verbal and

    aural felicity, not just images selected for their visual evocativeness)

    would also, therefore, become an influential poetic device of modernism.

    Imagism The American poet Ezra Pound was introduced to this group

    and they found that their ideas resembled his. In 1911, Pound introduced

    two other poets, H.D. and Richard Aldington, to the Eiffel Tower group.

    Both of these poets were students of the early Greek lyric poetry,

    especially the works of Sappho. In October 1912, he submitted three

    poems each by H.D. and Aldington under the rubric Imagist to Poetry

    magazine. That month Pound's book Ripostes was published with an

    appendix called The Complete Poetical Works of T. E. Hulme, which

    carried a note that saw the first appearance of the word Imagist in print.

    Aldington's poems were in the November issue of Poetry and H.D.'s in

    January 1913 and Imagism as a movement was launched. The March

    issue contained Pound's A Few Don'ts by an Imagist and Flint's Imagism.

    The latter contained this succinct statement of the group's position:

     1. Direct treatment of the "thing", whether subjective or objective. 

    2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.

     3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase,

    not in sequence of the metronome.

     In setting these criteria for poetry, the Imagists saw themselves as

    looking backward to the best practices of pre- Romantic writing. Imagists

    poets used sharp language and embrace imagery. Their work, however,

    was to have a      revolutionary impact on English-language writing for

    the rest of the 20th century. Between 1914 and 1917, four anthologies of

    Imagist poetry were published. In addition to Pound, Flint, H.D. and

    Aldington, these included work by Skipwith Cannell, Amy Lowell,

    William Carlos Williams, James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, Allen Upward,

    John Cournos, D. H. Lawrence and Marianne Moore. With a few

    exceptions, this represents a roll-call of English-language modernist poets

    of the time. After the 1914 volume, Pound distanced himself from the

    group and the remaining anthologies appeared under the editorial control

    of Amy Lowell. 

    World War I and after

     The outbreak of World War I represented a setback for the budding

    modernist movement for a number of reasons. Firstly, writers like

    Aldington ended up on active service. Secondly, paper shortages and

    other factors meant that publication of new work became increasingly

    difficult. Thirdly, public sentiment in time of war meant that war poets

    like Wilfred Owen, who wrote formally more conventional verse, became

    increasingly popular. One poet who served in the war, the visual artist

    David Jones, would later resist this trend in his long experimental war

    poem In Parenthesis, which was written directly out of his experiences in

    the trenches but was not published until 1937. The war also tended to

    undermine the optimism of the Imagists, and this fact was reflected in a

    number of major poems written in its aftermath. For instance, Pound's

    Homage to Sextus Propertius (1919) uses loose translations and

    transformations of the Latin poet Propertius to ridicule war propaganda

    and the idea of empire. His Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1921) represents

    his farewell to Imagism and lyric poetry in general. The writing of these

    poems coincided with Pound's decision to abandon London permanently.

    The most famous English-language modernist work arising out of this

    post-war disillusionment is T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land (1922).

    Eliot was an American poet who had been living in London for some

    time. Although never  formally associated with the Imagist group , Eliot's

    work was admired by Pound , who , in 1915 , helped him to publish a

    poem , The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock , which brought him to

    prominence . When Eliot completed his original draft of a long poem

    based on both the disintegration of his personal life and mental stability

    and of the culture around him , provisionally titled He Do the Police in

    Different Voices , he gave the manuscript to Pound for comment . After

    some heavy editing , The Waste Land in the form we now know it was

    published and Eliot came to be seen as the voice of a generation . The

    addition of notes to the published poem served to highlight the use of

    collage as a literary technique , paralleling similar practice by the cubists

    and other visual artists . From this point on , modernism in English

    tended towards a poetry of the fragment that rejected the idea that the

    poet could present a comfortingly coherent view of life

    Poetry is all around in Asia, every country has a vibrant and different poetical scenario. We can pronounce ten active important contemporary poets in India, it is same in Bangladesh also! Music has a strong influence of Asian poetry. Not only Bangla also in other languages .. Urdu, Hindi, Kannara, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Nepalese and many more. The modern Bangla poetry began with poet Michael Madhusudan Dutta. However, the main stream of Bangla poetry surfaces with Nobel laureate Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. He has created an enormous world of creativity in poetry as well as stories, novels, prose, art and memorable songs. The people of West Bengal of India and Bangladesh are still following the paths of creativity in line with his works. Another great poet of Bangla literature was Kazi Nazrul Islam, who has also left behind a treasure of creativity in the field of writing poetry, prose, novels, short stories and memorable songs. After them three great poets have evolved in the thirties. These poets were Jibanananda Das, Shudhindranath Dutta, Buddhadev Bose. Each of them created and established their own different style and their specific literary world. The main contribution they made was to bring foreign literature into the country by translating into Bangla particularly European literature. Among those five poets Jibanananda Das opened a new door of modern poetry depicting nature. Jibanananda Das was arguably the most important Bengali poet after Rabindranath Tagore, undoubtedly one of the leading modern poets of Bengal, and certainly one of the greatest Bengali poets of all times. Nevertheless, he is a poet who is hardly known outside the West Bengal and Bangladesh.

    Japanese literature, Persian literature, Turkish literature, Indian literature of many languages have a strong footage in the world of contemporary poetry.

    The thousands of year history of Persian literature now unveiling to the world, In North America now one of the bestselling book is Jalaluddin Rumi. Japanese prose writers have captured the Nobel prizes for many years, also a big line in que. Though I am remembering my dearest friend famous Japanese poet Kazuko Shiraishi who have also nominated for Nobel prize:

    A woodpecker shows up, industriously

    Opening up a hole in a wooden house

    A man flies out and threatens it

    For 8 years the man

    Built a house

    For his wife and 2 sons


    Before the woodpecker opened a hole

    An invisible woodpecker arrived

    And opened a hole in the man’s wife

    From there the wife

    Flew out somewhere

    Never return again …..

    How can we forget my dearest friends Malaysian poet Ahmad Khamal Abdullah or Samad Said, who are spreading aroma of poetry for many years. Also famous Singaporean poet Edwin Thumboo, we were in the same Ger in Karakorum in 2006. How we can forget great poet of Taiwan my dearest friend Dr Lee Kuei-shien, had a long discussion in Mr President’s party in 2006. How can you forget my dearest friend great poet of Nepal, Madhab Prashad Gimire who had died very recently at the age of ninety + years, who’s world was only poetry. How we can forget great poet of Mongolia G Mend-Ooyo who is trying his best to spread Mongolian literature to the world for many years.

    Mend-Ooyo’s poem:

    Travelling through the years along the winding road

    Left by old wise men, climbing mountains and high hills,

    Fording rivers, the sun and moon my constant companions,

    I do not know when we may meet but I am thinking

    About the words that I will say to you:

    I am coming to you

    There are so many poets in Africa, we only know few of them… Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Leopold Senghar …. Others are still unexplored.

    We only know few of Arab poets Nazim Hikmet, Mahmoud Darwish, Al Mutanabbi, Adunis, others are unknown and explored. I will discuss Arab poetry here but want to mention one great poets name: Mohammad Afifi   

    Once I met Mohammad Afifi, the great Egyptian poet at Medellin in 2002. He asked me to guess his age.. my guess was worng.. then he introduced himself and said that he lived 90 km from Cairo and cultivated the fields himself. He had given his phone number and few pages of his poems in English. A beautiful afternoon was spent in the mountains.. A great poet is like a great man. We talked a lot of social issues and international issues too. I didn’t know him well then, After several attempted on phone I did not get him any more..

    For a poet at the beginning of the 21st century; I think the most difficult thing is how to navigate this brave new world, where we are in the midst of making up our collective mind about what it means to be mutually connected from different parts of the globe to form a common platform of friendship.

    This multilateral dialogue and poetry reading by Bangladeshi, Egyptian, Indian, Norwegian, German, Spanish, Italian etc poets hosted by Cairo International Book Fair is focused on getting poets and poetry lovers together to define path for the development and propagation of the poetic arts in Egypt Bangladesh and others. The objective is to use this meeting and its agenda, as a space for discussions centering in the various strategies for developing literature. This will create a forum for leading poets to participate as leaders in the development of poetic arts across the globe.

    Lastly I am reciting a poem of Tagore:

    "On the way to the rising, I hear the words of those who have no fear / He has no fear / In the end, life, which will give charity/ No loss, no loss...’’


    AMINUR RAHMAN was born in Dhaka and graduated with an M-PHAR[acy] degree. At present he is considered to be one of the most well-known poets in abroad from Bangladesh. He has published seven collections of poems in Bangla. His work has been translated in more than twenty-five languages and has poetry books in English (5), Spanish (4), German, Japanese, Mongolian, Arabic, Chinese, Bahasa Malay, Russian, Assamese, Serbian and French. He is a renowned writer and art critic and has three prose books in his credit. As an accomplished translator he has translated thirteen books of poetry and edited few poetry magazines and books including, The Dhaka Review, SAARC Anthology of poems and short stories etc. As an invited author, Aminur Rahman has read his work world-wide at various international arts & literary festivals, universities and cultural venues. He has represented Bangladesh in the Poetry Festival in Colombia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Austria, India, Iraq, Japan, Sri Lanka, Spain, Egypt, Nicaragua etc. He was Awarded Chinggish Khaan Gold Medal (2006), Heaven Horse Award (2015) in Mongolia, Numera World Award of Letters (2016) in Malaysia, Contribution Award for International Poetry (2016) in Taiwan, Poet Dinesh Das Award (2019) in India, Menada Award (2019) in Macedonia, Bangla Academy Award (2021) Bangladesh, Golden Knight Award (2022) in Russia, IMLF Award (2023) in Indonesia





    Last modified on Sunday, 11 February 2024 18:15

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