Inaugural Himalayan Literature Festival concludes

KATHMANDU: The culmination of the New York Writers Workshop Kathmandu (NYWWK), Himalayan Literature Festival (HLF) concludes after a two-day event full of panel discussions, book launches, poetry and fiction readings, dramatic performances, and book signings. The two-day festival held three concurrent sessions covering more than twenty topics. The faculties of the NYWWK, as well as participating international writers from around the world, interacted with Nepali authors on areas ranging from translation to poetry and photography to travel writing.

On May 27, the festival was officially inaugurated by the Minister of Women, Children, and the Elderly, Honorable Bhagawati Chaudhary, together with the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Nepal, His Excellency Rob Fenn. Minister Chaudhary applauded the initiative of the Himalayan Literature Festival for organizing such a literary event in Nepal, bringing writers from around the world, inviting the New York Writers Workshop, and dedicating the festival to the great Nepali poet Gopal Prasad Rimal. She said, “Such festivals enhance the promotion of the entire nation through words.” Similarly, H.E. Rob Fenn recited his poem and emphasized the need for such cultural exchanges.

On the first day of the festival, sessions on topics such as Ghazal as Blues, the role of big and small magazines, Nepali poetry reading, conversations with poet K. Satchidananda, Home and Beyond, Culture of Silence, Nepal Bhasha poetry reading, Translation, English poetry by Nepali poets, the launch of literary magazines Pratik City Issue, and other five books, The Space of Nepali literature in Nepali media, Flash Fiction, Workshop on Constraint, Chance, and Discovery by Ruth Danon were held. A dedicated panel discussion and reading was held in the evening on Indian Letters Now where contemporary Indian poets and writers discussed Indian writings in English.

According to the curator of the festival, Yuyutsu RD Sharma, the inaugural festival is dedicated to the great Nepali poet Gopal Prasad Rimal for his immense contribution to Nepali poetry and literature. He said, “Rimal never compromised with the then ruthless regime. Though he faced wrongful accusations, he continued to revolt against authority with his powerful poems.” Shreejana Bhandari, the director of the festival, said that they are planning to continue organizing literature festivals dedicating a great Nepali poet to each edition of the festival.

More than forty-five poets recited their poems, some in English, some in Nepali, and some in Nepal Bhasha. Nepali poets like Dwarika Shrestha, Shailendra Shakar, Sita Pandey, Kishor Pahadi, Ramesh Chitiz, Shyam Rimal, Tanka Upreti, Avaya Shrestha, and Amar Aakash read their poetry on contemporary issues. Other poets like Rajni Mila, Sabina Maharjan, Dr. Ananda Raj, and Suresh Kiran recited their Nepal Bhasha poetry. Likewise, Nepali poets writing in English, Bhuwan Thapaliya, Paru Timilsina, Sushant Thapa, Sameen Shakya, Tejan Subba, and others performed their English poems.

Noted journalist turned author Narayan Wagle opined that the current crises in media have led to a decrease in the content of literature in media. Veteran journalist Yubaraj Ghimire opined that the content of literature in media depends mainly on the background of the editor. Poet Shakuntala Joshi expressed her views that poems are getting enough space in big media, though some are struggling to publish their initial works. Republica’s editor Kosh Raj Koirala opined that there are many platforms like Sahityapost to publish the works of literature. It is not a must to publish in big media to draw one’s attention.

On May 28, the festival started with workshops on metaphors by Prof. Tony Barnstone, Whittier College, with the workshop participant writers. The workshop was followed by another on Text, Image, and Sound with speakers Jami Proctor Xu, Da Mao, and Jah Rose Jafta. They discussed how such elements can be incorporated and utilized in the writing crafts. Concurrently, Nepali photographer Bikas Rauniar conversed with Boston-based photographer Julie Williams-Krishnan on the Art of Photography. They discussed how photography can be a powerful tool of expression through the medium of art.

 

Likewise, a dedicated session on the life and times of Gopal Prasad Rimal was held with moderation by Deepak Sapkota and speakers Yuyutsu Sharma, Raj Kumar Baniya, and Narayan Dhakal respectively. They discussed the contributions of Gopal Prasad Rimal and how his poetry can be representative of the then Nepali society. They also realized the need for translations of his works. Piia Mustamaki, professor of English at NYU Abu Dhabi, moderated a session on travel writing with writers David Drukan, B.N. Joshi, Tom Lutz, and Neville Sarony. They discussed their individual styles of writing travelogues and if some are more public and personal accounts. Tom Lutz shared his experience that he traveled to new places and countries where he lets the place and people there allow him to understand the location and culture.

Veteran Indian author Pankaj Bisht interacted with prolific Nepali author Narayan Dhakal on various themes of writing, including translation, South Asian literature, world literature, and their personal experiences regarding how they weave stories. The second day saw the launch of six new books written by authors such as Vinita Ramani, Yann Vagneux, Tim Tomlinson, Anish Ghimire, Sudeep Sen, and S.S. Dogra.

Moreover, Akhanda Bhandari’s new Nepali novel “Bora” was discussed by the critic Ganesh Khaniya, where the latter delved into the criticism of the book without spoilers. He unearthed the writing strategy that Bhandari applied while writing his book. The two spoke on how the book has tried to portray the bitter reality of dumping one’s mother at the cost of material wealth and individualism that is growing due to modernity.

In addition, Nepali writing trends were discussed by the panelists Raj Kumar Baniya, author Shailendra Adhikaree, poet Avaya Shrestha, Amar Aakash, and Bimala Tumkhewa. They discussed how increasing populism is encouraging authors to produce low-quality books and how authors should take the required time and make efforts to not sway with populism. They also discussed the chronicles of past Nepali writing and how Nepali writing has increased publications in various genres such as poetry, novels, and essays.

Towards the end, Rimal’s poems “Bhet” and “Hos” were dramatized and performed, paying tribute to the great Nepali poet. Likewise, poems of Yuyutsu Sharma “Khachharharu”, “Father”, “Rains”, poems of Ravi Shankar “Laloo the Handsome”, “Healthy Happy Hindoo”, “Exile”, and poems of Tony Barnstone “Roses & Death Birth” were also performed, creating an open theatre in the garden. The dramatization was directed by Che Shankar and produced by Garden Theatre Community.

The NYWW Kathmandu faculties and participating writers have headed towards Pokhara where they shall be writing and exercising their crafts on the natural beauty and splendor of the Lake city, historical sites, monuments of Pokhara and then towards Chitwan to delve deeper into the nature of the wildlife.

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