Postcolonial poetry

Listen to a poem by Sujata Bhat: A Different History

Listen to another poem by the same writer: Search for My Tongue

A Different History Search for My Tongue
1Great Pan is not dead;
he simply emigrated
to India.
Here, the gods roam freely,
disguised as snakes or monkeys;
every tree is sacred
and it is a sin
to be rude to a book.
It is a sin to shove a book aside
with your foot,
a sin to slam books down
hard on a table,
a sin to toss one carelessly
across a room.
You must learn how to turn the pages gently
without disturbing Sarasvati,
without offending the tree
from whose wood the paper was made.

2

Whose language
has not been the oppressor’s tongue?
Which language
truly meant to murder someone?
And how does it happen
that after the torture,
after the soul has been cropped
with the long scythe swooping out
of the conqueror’s face –
the unborn grandchildren
grow to love that strange language?

 

You ask me what I mean
by saying I have lost my tongue.
I ask you, what would you do
if you had two tongues in your mouth,
and lost the first one,
the mother tongue,
and could not really know the other,
the foreign tongue.
You could not use them both together
even if you thought that way.
And if you lived in a place you had to
speak a foreign tongue,
your mother tongue would rot,
rot and die in your mouth
until you had to spit it out.
I thought I spit it out
but overnight while I dream, 

(munay hutoo kay aakhee jeebh aakhee bhasha)

(may thoonky nakhi chay)

(parantoo rattray svupnama mari bhasha pachi aavay chay)

(foolnee jaim mari bhasha nmari jeebh)

(modhama kheelay chay)

(fullnee jaim mari bhasha mari jeebh)

(modhama pakay chay)

 

it grows back, a stump of a shoot
grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins,
it ties the other tongue in knots,
the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth,
it pushes the other tongue aside.
Everytime I think I’ve forgotten,
I think I’ve lost the mother tongue,
it blossoms out of my mouth.

What the poems briefly are about:

Sujata Bhatt’s poem “Search for My Tongue” is about what it is like to live in a foreign country, feeling disconnected from your cultural background. The poet feels, at the start of her poem, that she has lost her original language now that she is living abroad.

The poem is also about the experience of colonialism and emigration.

The lost language can be seen as representative of the loss of a cultural heritage, of values and ways of thinking. The fact that Bhatt is Asian may suggest that she is referring to how the English colonised India, imposing laws and language.

The poem is exploratory; it is a form of thinking.By the end of the poem, the poet has changed her mind. In dreams, in thesub-conscious mind, the original language still lives. The imagery of ‘your mother tongue would rot’ in the first stanza is reversed in the last stanzaas the ‘bud’ of the mother tongue re-opens.

Two famous poets, Zawgyi and Min Thuwun, who led Khit San Sarpay (Tentative
literature for a new age) movement in the colonial period play a more eminent role than
others in the development of the new poetry. Dagon Taryar, the founder of Taryar
magazine, is also an eminent poet who takes the leading role among the young budding
poets who have produced numerous poems in magazines. Ngwe Tar Yi, Nu Yin, Kyi
Aye, Min Yu Wai, Htilar Sitthu, Abioseh Nicol, Gon Win, Naung, Kumar, Patience Agbabi, Benjamin Zephaniah, etc. are the names of some poets who have composed poems in great number in this period.

Choose a poem by any of these writers that deals with the themes of postcolonialism, double identity, displacement, identity, cultural clash, etc. and prepare a presentation similar to the in the slideshare.

Work on themes, tones, microcosm vs macrocosm (characters vs context) and the literary terms used by the writer to express ideas.

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7 Responses to Postcolonial poetry

  1. Agus y Luli says:

    1-She has described Gujarati and the Indian childhood it connects her to as “the deepest layer of my identity”.
    2-However, it’s in the non-verbal world of animals and plants that Bhatt finds a source of unity denied to humans except for the very young, as in her poem ‘The Stare’ in which the ‘monkey child’ and the ‘human child’ experience a moment of tender connection
    3-Bhatt acknowledges that language splits us from experience but through the physical intensity of her writing brings us closer to it so that “the word/is the thing itself”
    4-“When I am most deeply absorbed in writing a poem I feel that I am “translating” images, and sonunds, rythms and an emotional “tone” into words.” Sujata Bhatt
    5) Even though she lived in very different cultures, India is her native one, so she remained in love with that country and its culture. “I think I’ve lost the mother tongue,it blossoms out of my mouth”

  2. Guido Ciccone, Juan Pando y Juan Bautista Milhas says:

    Sujata Bhatt important features about her:
    1) She is very a religious woman because she was partly raised in India with Hindu religion. “Great Pan is not dead”
    2) She is a multicultural woman, she speaks a lot of languages highlighting the Gujarati, her native language. “munay hutoo kay aakhee jeebh aakhee bhasha”
    3) Many of Bhatt’s poems have themes of love and violence. This is because she lived in India under the british role. “that after the torture” “Whose language
    has not been the oppressor’s tongue?” “conqueror’s face”
    4) She explores issues such as racism and the interaction between Asian, European, and North American culture that allow her to compare the other culture with the Indian. “grow to love that strange language?”
    5) Even though she lived in very different cultures, India is her native one, so she remained in love with that country and its culture. “the mother tongue”

  3. Lucas G Ivan S And Tomas L says:

    Sujata Bhatt is a 57 year old woman born in Ahmedabad.
    – She has a multicultural perspective for language.
    – She won 6 poetry awards, among them we find the Commonwealth poetry prize (Asia) at 1988.
    – Many of her poems have as a theme love and violence.
    – Racism is explored in her poems and the relation between different cultures is discussed also.
    – She is recognised as one of the most influential poets of contemponary literature.

  4. sofi ballester -sofi honens- dama maffi -mica cardalda -sere griffin says:

    -She emigrated from India with her family to the United States in 1968.
    -English is the language she speaks every day and which she, largely, chooses to write in.
    -Won several awards for her poetry.
    -Preoccupation with cultural identity runs throughout her poetry about places, memories, paintings (especially those of Georgia O’Keefe and Paula Modersohn-Becker), science and politics.
    -In her first collection, “Brunizem” (1988), roughly half the poems are set in India, recalling her family as well as the sights, sounds and smells of village life

  5. Olivia Arcuri and Luisa Flores Piran says:

    5 Important features about Sujata Bhatt that will help us understand her writings:
    -Sujata Bhatt (b. 1956) grew up in Pune but emigrated with her family to the United States in 1968
    -For her, language is synonymous with the tongue, the physical act of speaking.
    -She has described Gujarati and the Indian childhood it connects her to as “the deepest layer of my identity”
    -English has become the language she speaks every day and which she, largely, chooses to write in.
    -Bhatt finds a source of unity which is denied to humans (except for the very young) in the non-verbal world of animals and plants.

  6. Juana and Violeta says:

    – Sujata Bhatt was born in Ahmedabad on May 6th 1956.
    – The poet Sujata Bhatt has been using both formal and informal diction in the poem.
    – English has become the language she speaks every day and which she, largely, chooses to write in.
    – For Bhatt, language is synonymous with the tongue, the physical act of speaking.
    – The repercussions of this divided heritage are explored in her work, most explicitly in ‘Search for My Tongue’ which alternates between the two languages.

  7. Tomas Burgio and Alejo Zubizarreta says:

    -Indian poet known for her award-winning collection, “Brunizem.”
    -Immigrated to U.S in 1968 but was born in Ahmedabad.
    -Bhatt’s poems have themes of love and violence. She explores issues such as racism and -The interaction between Asian, European, and North American culture.
    She received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa.
    – Her poems have appeared in various journals in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, and Canada, and have been widely anthologised, as well as being broadcast on British, German, and Dutch radio.

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