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Poets Printery

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Love Poetry Rendezvous and Poetry Art Exhibition, 29 April 2008, Durban

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April was a great month and the 29 was the greatest day. I was looking forward to meeting the greatest of Durban Poets who had assembled at the Point Yacht Club to welcome me. Brett Beiles the former Chairperson of The Live Poets Society had extended an invitation to visit Durban and give a talk on Poetic matters. Brett is a great friend, to an extent that I call him up at all ungodly hours just to discuss trivial things. Brett’s poetry resounds of contemporary South Africa. His works have been published in ‘A Hudson View’. The other great friend whom I missed meeting was Kobus Moolman. I had taken his poetry book ‘Separating the Seas’ to India, Dubai and had brought it to this meeting too. Kobus is one of the main representative voices of Contemporary South African Poetry and it is always necessary to have his book close by during a discussion on various poets, their art and the necessity of incorporating the local landscape and sociological milieu in a poem that has to be showcased in World Poetry. Quoting from Live Poets News Letter written by its present Chairperson John Ballam also a well known poet and a former Zimbabwean, As always it was wonderful to sit at the feet of a contemporary master of the craft. Kobus is also a gifted teacher and so created a very intimate space where we could discuss his poetry and the creative process of writing in general. I so enjoyed his directedness, honesty and unassuming willingness to share with us all – to quote the master himself “Poetry is a bum discipline – you have to be willing to keep your bum on the seat until something happens!” I will now have to come to Petermaritzburg, just to meet him. April was also a great month for me for the simple reason that I had less hospital calls, lesser trauma patients and more time to contemplate on adventures of the heart in a runaway season. I was reading, writing, translating and preparing all sorts of strange concoctions with whiskey, cream, condensed milk, eggs and vanilla essence. It seems good in uncorking the writers block and even resistant sexual dysfunction problems as my friends tell me.

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Danny Naicker is a poet from Durban. His poetry reflects the authentic Indian aroma, a heart as big as the love that he caters for everybody and that yearns for preserving the proud Indian heritage within South Africa. His uncle was incarcerated in the Robben Island Prison and died a penniless Freedom Fighter, uncared by the government a few years back. I thought of our Freedom Fighters in India who get a regular monthly pension, there widows and children cared for and respected by all and sundry for their selfless service. Danny was a trade union leader during the apartheid era and had to face the police brutality a number of times. His poetry resounds of such specific emotions. I am proud to present his work in the print poetry journal, ‘A Hudson View’. It was such a pleasure, staying at his place in Chatsworth and being spoiled by his wonderful wife Gussie who has such wonderful culinary skills.

I met Dr. Deena Padayachee at Danny’s home. Deena is a medical practitioner, a well known poet and short story writer. I always feel hesitant for some strange reasons in meeting medical doctors like me who are involved deeply in the field of creative writing. It is partly because medicine and literature can make a real heady brew but unfortunately never taken seriously by the medical profession. Orthopaedic Surgeons hardly know much about Hugh Owen Thomas or his father who were instrumental in shaping modern orthopaedics. The History of Medicine and its reflection on literature of that time is as important as is the actual practice of Medicine. Meeting Deena was great fun, a complete turnabout of my belief. He talked to me about Kushwant Singh, Kamala Das and Nissim Ezekiel. Sipping J & B from my whisky tumbler, I remembered Kushwantji in a similar circumstance in 1985 at an altitude of 8000 feet in Bhutan asking me, ‘why I love writing love poetry’. Deena’s book, ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It? And Other Stories is a widely acclaimed book focussing on Indian community life in South Africa. He is the winner of Nadine Gordimer Award (1991) and the Olive Schreiner Prize (1994). He is passionate about Bollywood movies like me and his present day favourite is the hit movie ‘Veer Zara’. He has the CD of its music always playing in his car. He felt a bit let down after I told him that my favourite is ‘Om Shanti Om’ and my favourite actress is still Rekha.

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29 April, a sunny morning, I am off to the Chatsworth Plaza with Danny. Chatsworth is a lovely place, Danny shows me while driving, the Council houses which caters to the lower income group from the Indian Community. There were children playing outside and the mothers are busy putting clothes on the clothes line. Indians have been instrumental in making the province of Kwa Zulu Natal a prosperous state. The shopping centre is a state of the art three storied architecture. I bought the latest Bollywood dvds from a very kind looking Islamic lady. She insisted that I must buy ‘Jodha Akbar’ and see it again even if I have one at home. I think she is quite right; ‘Jodha Akbar’ is a movie that needs to be seen again and again. The Hare Krishna Temple towers over Chatsworth. An architectural beauty, it reminded me of the Baha’i Lotus Temple in New Delhi. There is an Indian sweet shop at the ground floor of the temple. Danny and I decided not to be tempted.

29 April evening 4 pm, Danny and I took off for the Point Yacht Club where I would be holding the exhibition of thirty of my paintings and deliver a talk on Love Poetry. The club is as spectacular as the site. It overlooks the wharf with its numerous yachts moored there and the sun setting over the Indian Ocean gave the shimmering ocean the look of the most beautiful woman. I was held in a bear hug by John Ballam, a big handsome man with a naughty twinkle in his eyes. John is the Chairperson of The Live Poets Society which has been instrumental in keeping poetry alive and vibrant in Kwa Zulu Natal. His two sons quickly unpacked my paintings and started organising them in the main hall. I was already imbibing on beers and the scenic beauty. It would be a crime not to drink in such an environment.

Soon the hall was filled with people. They had come from far off. John suddenly did the disappearing act. He told me later that he gone to pick up some poets who had problems in travelling. Brett arrived. It was really great meeting him. I had been talking to him on the phone regularly. His father a physician is very sick, yet he found time to come and be with us. I am grateful to you Brett. I had sent a special e mail to Mr. Purushottam, Consul In charge of the Indian Cultural Centre, Office of the Indian Consulate in Durban. He had apologised that he wouldn’t be there as he has to go overseas but he would be forwarding my invitation to the Consul General. I sent a separate mail to the Consul General requesting him to attend my exhibition with family and friends. Unfortunately the Indian Consulate was not represented. I remember being warmly welcomed by the South African Diplomats in Delhi when I received my Doctorate.

We were fortunate to have Ursula who is the founder of the Live Poets Society. She lives now in Johannesburg. From just a few poets in the beginning, the LIPS have grown to a tremendous extent. It is now an important partner in the prestigious Africa Poetry Festival held annually. I started of my talk about the poetry of the unknown poet and the poetry that needs to be integrated to art, music and drama. Poetry today is a massive movement of little known poets, artists, musicians and dramatists, all for that common aesthetic movement. I had repeatedly gone to Departments of English Literature requesting for permission to talk on Contemporary Poetry, but have always been refused. Teachers talk on pedantic wisdom while students dreamily think of sexual escapades in such classes. ‘A Hudson View’ will be a platform for such poets who have been refused, either because of not being published before or the poetry has no proper university affiliation. I and my friend Victoria Valentine will always strive to publish such poets. Victoria Valentine is the publisher of ‘A Hudson View’ and ‘Skyline Review’, based in New York. She owns Skyline Publishing which brings out Poetry books of established and first time poets. I am proud to inform that ‘A Hudson View’ is subscribed by numerous American Universities, the New York City Library and is archived at the Museum of English Literature in Grahamstown. ‘Poets Printery’ is a publishing company that I own, prints the Hudson View and publishes ‘Inyathi’, A Journal on Arts. A World Anthology on Love Poetry is being published by me, submissions for which are being accepted.

‘A Slow Train to Gwalior’ a CD of my ten most popular love poems was played. The CD has my recitation with a background of Indian and African traditional music. Brought out by Harp Records, Johannesburg, the CD is available on request from Musica or directly from me. It was launched in East London by the Premier of Eastern Cape, Nosimo Balindlela and at New Delhi by His Highness Jyotiraditya Scindia, Member of Parliament and the present Royal Monarch of Gwalior. As the music came to an end, the hall reverberated with clappings. I gave some performance of Love Poetry.

Graham Lancaster, a tall poet recited the shortest poem. Brinda Runghsawmee is from Mauritius. She recited her poems with a French accent. I enjoyed reading her stories in the online newspaper, lexpress. She presented me her book ‘Altar of Grace’. It is a book of poems published with the help of The President’s fund for Creative Writing in English. I requested her to recite her poem, ‘Tigris of Baghdad’. Danny Naicker recited a poem with a lot of passion. Danny, an intense personality has a great way in delivering his words. I have known Hannah Lurie for a long time. She is a sculptor and a poet. Her poems have been published in Hudson View. Her book ‘I’m too sexy for my hair’ is on Breast Cancer in recognition of those brave people fighting cancer. The book is in its sixth printing and has won the Mariette Loots Award. It is dedicated, ‘To all those for whom care never runs out of time.’ The programme ended with a song sung so melodiously by Vivienne Van Staaden.

Food for thoughts or Food for Poetry, whatever one may say, I take food very seriously and sincerely believe that great food is a precursor for great poetry. Deena suggested that we should visit his favourite restaurant. So off we went to Southern Sun’s Elangeni on the beach front. It has a Continental and an Indian restaurant. The name of the restaurant is ‘Jewel ofIndia’. We were ushered in by Kurta clad waiters. There were handicrafts from India all over and the ambience was perfect. It seems Deena knew everybody there. The Head Waiter came and asked me about the Indian language that I speak. I told him it is Urdu and Hindi. ‘That’s no problem Sir, We have Hindi and Urdu speaking waiters for you.’ I was wondering if Sanjay Dutt had visited this restaurant before. I hear that he loves South Africa, especially Durban. It was time to choose from the menu. I insisted that we should have the Rogan Josh. I told Deena about its Kashmiri origins and the subtle flavour of its various spices. The Rogan Josh was so delicious that we had to order it again and again accompanied with butter and garlic naan. Danny who has left eating meat long back ordered a fish dish. We all downed it with more beers. The dessert was Kulfi embedded with dry fruits which tasted just like the one of Old Delhi. I need to visit this Jewel again.

 

Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 11th, 2008 @18:21 #
     
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    Thanks for the report - liked the food almost as much as the poetry.

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  • <a href="http://poetsprintery.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Amitabh</a>
    Amitabh
    May 12th, 2008 @20:58 #
     
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    Thanks Ben. The food was really good. You must try the Roganjosh, a muuton dish from Kashmir. It is also called in India as 'Kashmiri Rogan Josh'. It goes well with poetry.
    Amitabh

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 12th, 2008 @21:12 #
     
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    I know rogan josh well! Here's something that might interest you:

    http://www.struik.co.za/book.book.detail.action?id=2024

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  • <a href="http://poetsprintery.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Amitabh</a>
    Amitabh
    May 15th, 2008 @11:48 #
     
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    Heartiest Congratulations Ben, you know more about Rogan Josh than me. Please do visit my home in East London with your family. I will cook for you 'Mutton do Pyaza'. My mind hovers around food and poetry.

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  • johnc
    johnc
    May 16th, 2008 @17:22 #
     
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    Thanks Amitabh, very pleasant reading about your Durban trip,,, and while your mind is hovering around food, don't forget i'm never hovering too far away :)

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