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Tonight, An Anthology of World Love Poetry

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It has always been my greatest desire to know the different ways love is expressed in words, around the world. Poetry has found its way in words as early as the history of mankind. I would be partial if I may say that the most beautiful love poetry came from Urdu and Arabic literature dating back to sixteenth century but love poetry has been there far before that in the hieroglyphics of Egyptian pyramids and Mayan temples.

Extract from a 3,000 year-old Egyptian papyrus:

She is one girl, there is no one like her.
She is more beautiful than any other.
Look, she is like a star goddess arising
at the beginning of a happy new year;

I wouldn’t even hesitate to say that love poetry remains the only poetry I recognise, a poetry that has limitless horizons, unlimited landscapes, the flavour of humid earthy togetherness, the rain drop on a first kiss, summer of cobweb memories and winter of unflinching promises clouded with time.

I have always been in love, a voice, a word, lifting of an eyelash, a lilting voice across a street, poetry comes tumbling forth. Love poetry happens on an everyday colour, a swish of pink cutting a long standing evening in two, lips that close on to each other defying the darkness of a night. More than a million couple utter ‘I love you’ every day, its poetry takes immediate roots, leaves sprout and a sapling challenge the gods of the sky.

Yet love poetry is the poetry of the unfulfilled, a poem untraditional, iconoclastic and incomplete that bear the brunt of merciless seasons and superfluous hopes. Love tortured to an extent that it just turned gold, priceless to those lucky few who attained it. You and I spoke and uttered strange words in the hush of a long closed silence, touched its meaning in a breath that had bound us for that day.

I came across Pritish Nandy’s ‘Strangertime’ An Anthology of Love Poetry, edited by him in 1974 and which had the most representative voices of Indo–English literature during that time. Maqbool Fida Hussain an artist of international repute and one that every Indian is proud of had his share of love poetry in that book. I believe that the desire to edit an international collection went back from that year after reading that anthology.

I am happy to witness that poetry of today is not captured by the few but by myriad of unknown poets to whom this movement belongs. I didn’t have to work hard to bring this book together as poets from all over the world whom I knew and others who came to know of my desire, contributed generously in bringing out this collection.
Love Poetry came from all corners of the globe to be included in this unique anthology.

These are not mere poems in this anthology but words that have life in it. I as a medical doctor encounter death in my busy everyday trauma practice but instead these are immortals, the throbbing heart that would beat inexorably even after time has long passed by.

Victoria Valentine is a well known poet, lives in New York has a vast following and is a dreamer like me. I have known her for long and have been comrades in many a venture in publishing poetry. We share the common concept of publishing the unknown poet even at our own cost. This anthology is a mark of her remarkable contribution in bringing contemporary American Poetry as the published word. I thank her for helping me once again to fulfil a longstanding wish of publishing this volume of love poetry.

Glory Sasikala Franklin lives in Chennai, India, a poet at heart and action, I sometimes wonder whether she bursts into poetry on some days to a group of nonchalant colleagues working with her in her office. I do that often in my hospital much to the amazement of patients and fellow doctors. She is instrumental in introducing me to poets in India and abroad who have now become my great friends. I thank her for giving me all support for this anthology.

To my South African fellow poets who have accepted me as their brother, I can only bow down in reverence. The colours, I assure you are far brighter and more beautiful than what even Nelson Mandela imagined in his concept of a rainbow nation. South African love poetry has broken race, class and creed forging ahead in its unique expression that defies explanation.

Philip Bell is a British poet and an environmental engineer. He is a renowned children’s poet. I have always been in awe at his vast knowledge on every aspect of world literature and poetry and poems for children that he can compose within seconds of giving a topic. None of my poetry performance in various parts of the world is complete without reciting one of his poems. I thank him for proof reading the entire anthology.

Today as I write, I come to know that popular Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish has passed away at the age of 67. Never have I seen before such millions of people mourning the death of a poet. Darwish was cherished among the Arab world for his poetry and literature, and in 1988 wrote the Palestinian declaration of Independence. His funeral, it is claimed was attended by the poorest of poor, a vast sea of humanity, far more than that attended on the demise of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. “Today we say goodbye to a star whom we loved to the point of adoration, you will remain with us. We tell you we will meet again and we will not say goodbye” said the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. I and my fellow poets salute Mahmoud Darwish with this love poem from his collection, “No more and No less”

…As for me
I liked to be loved as I am
not as a color photo
in the paper, or as an idea
composed in a poem amid the stags…
I hear Laila’s faraway scream
from the bedroom: Do not leave me
a prisoner of rhyme in the tribal nights
do not leave me to them as news…

The title of this book, ‘Tonight’ is inspired by a poem of Pritish Nandy from his celebrated book ‘Riding the Midnight River’

…tonight when the sun cries
i shall unopen this gypsy love
and ride the midnight river to your eyes
where an autumnal lust will declare
your absence in my skies
tonight …

Tonight, An Anthology of World Love Poetry’ may get lost one day like so many books and anthologies that are published, read and left in the far corner of a book shelf, libraries, flea markets and second hand book shops, to gather dust. Its poets may have succumbed to ravages of time but definitely not their words. It would continue to bring immense happiness, joy and even sadness to those few who chance upon it. I would have completed my journey by then.

Amitabh Mitra
August 2008

 

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