In 1860, almost a decade after Moby Dick was published, Melville writes to his brother during his efforts to position and publish himself as a poet – “of all human events, perhaps, the publication of a first volume of verse is the most insignificant; but though a matter of no moment to the world, it is still of some concern to the author.” These are words that will readily resonate with poets around the world. It takes courage and recklessness in equal doses, along with generous helpings of conviction in the value of one’s own work to cross that magic bridge. In the last few years, there have been very few things that I have waited for as eagerly as I am for Nivedita’s first volume of poems – Writing by the Window.
She launches it at 10 am, Sunday, Feb 15, 2015, where else but at our second home, Our Sacred Space, Secunderabad. For event details (which includes an open mic poetry reading session for poets of Hyderabad) and to RSVP, please visit our event page.
For those who might not know, Nivedita is a publisher, and getting her to agree to publish Writing by the Window took her friends a few years. Her publishing house, Nivasini, sources and publishes some of the finest writing from around the world, writing that is at par with the best in the world.
Nivasini also partners several initiatives that connect stakeholders in the creative change process. Nivedita and Nivasini (along with friends and wellwishers) are key contributors to the blogger community through the Hyderabad Bloggers’ Meet, the writing community through Writers’ Carnival and other literary activities, and the changemaker community through SoCh. She is also friend to many, and she is one of the very few people I have met who practice being present to you one hundred percent. When she gets time away from all of this, she is a daughter and a wife. When you meet her family, please do not talk about how valuable her work is. And did I tell you that she has a day job with a global publishing major? Bills really should pay themselves.
This book presents Nivedita, the poet. The choice of poems and subjects give you a controlled glimpse of the person behind the words. You get to guess at what makes her go bump in the night, what tears her up, or how she feels about her land and people. All a poet can do is warn, and Nivedita does it with grace and compassion, weeping and praying along with you as you traverse the lines, letting you add lines of your own to the journey she takes you on. The verses straddle relationships, love, betrayal, suffering, politics, loss, and many more areas that are close to the contemporary heart. I love the humor that runs through much of her writing, even where she is dealing with anger, sorrow or grief.
The one thing that I missed was a specific chronology. It is not difficult to conclude that these poems are from different times of the poet’s life. It is helpful to have dates on poems for this reason. Moby Dick did not sell much more than 3000 copies in Melville’s lifetime (he lived for 40 years after it was published). Most people have still not read Melville’s poetry – which he pursued quite determinedly for a significant part of his later life. Endurance or greatness might not be poetic objectives, but it is equally presumptuous to believe that one’s work is not valuable enough for all posterity. I know from personal experience that when one feels that way, one does not write.
I am glad Nivedita writes. I am glad she has chosen to publish. I am glad to have her as a friend. About that typo on page 27 though…