Yuyutsu R D Sharma


Today one of the most cherished stories that the distinguished American poet Michael Annis has is about Allen Ginsberg making brightly coloured chalk drawings on the city sidewalks in the early 1990s. “There was a huge crowd,” recalls Michael, “of people around him as he drew gargoyles and jesters and phalluses. He was their clown prince of poetic revolution and he was having fun entertaining them with his artwork.”

Michael describes at length how Allen looked up and saw Michael and his family across the street. Michael was holding his oldest son in his arms — only three years old. Allen smiled full face and waved at them. He tossed aside the chalk and came scurrying across the street, stopping the traffic as he glided over to Michael. He hugged and kissed them all. Then taking the little son’s hands, he kissed them repeatedly and recited a little poem for him. Then he left to give another poetry reading.

Months later, when he sent me the e-version of Omega, an online magazine of Howling Dog Press, focusing on new Nepali writers, it appeared analogous to what years ago Allen had done to his son on the sidewalk.

The way Michael put his faith in young Nepali poetry, it appeared as if he held the soft rosy palms of young Nepali poets and repeatedly kissed them, reading aloud their poems over and over again so that the whole world would listen to the roaring vitality of their thundering recitals. And unlike typical western editors and publisher bourgeoning on the false concept of one-book- wonders and advance royalties, Michael has fittingly picked up regular writers and dedicated the ‘Special Nepal Issue’ to great the Nepali poet Gopal Prasad Rimal, valuing the lifetime achievement of a poet who decades after his death has remained under rated in Nepal and almost obscure in the world at large.

The special issue of Omega, entitled, ‘Hunger of our Huddled Huts’, has proved a significant breakthrough in capturing the attention of world’s artistic community. ‘The Bloomsbury Review’ has called the journal and the website, howlingdogpress.com “an important addition to the literary dialogue of our times”, ‘Booklist’ considers it “sexy, surreal and overwhelming... It’s all first rate — the definitive work of an era of alternative thinking, composition, visual art and publishing”.

The idea of bringing out a special Hunger Issue came from another American poet, Gregory. Greyhawk. On first knowing the title of my second collection of poetry, ‘Hunger of our Huddled Huts’, Gregory expressed his appreciation to Michael and asked him to bring out an issue by this name. It’s not just physical hunger that gnaws at the heart of our famished nations, but also the starvation and the sterility of the soul as degraded artistic corruption stands on the crossroads and prostitutes itself to the corporations.

“It’s wonderful,” wrote Michael on hearing that we arranged a special programme on the Hunger issue last month in Kathmandu., “that you live in a nation that celebrates and honours poets and their works. Often we are not so honoured here, but instead viewed with contempt and disdain, as if we should get another job driving a truck or peeling potatoes and operating bazookas for the military or similar — in other words, poets should be doing something that those in power consider worthwhile occupation and also something that does not threaten the power of politicians — particularly corrupt ones — or corporate executives.”

In addition to material on Rimal and fresh works by nine Nepali poets — Bimal Bhokaji, Promod Snehi, Buddhisagar Chepain, Rasa, Rajan Mukarang, RM Dongol, Shyam Rimal and Chunkay Shrestha, the current Omega issue carries works by several award winning writers including world famous poet David Ray, Frank Winters, Tom Bradley, Y-St Michel Anon, Inara Cidrens and others.

“Many people,” wrote Michael, “thought Nepali poetry brilliant and some said it was a work of genius”. These poems, the poets in America said, keep speaking the truth, the courageous ones. Senior critic Gloria Vando Hikok once wrote, “Michael does for poets what Michelangelo did for the saints.” And for Nepali poetry Michael does an equally significant job — he salutes the dagger of justice shimmering in the heart of Nepali poetry.