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Nepali Poetry Poetry is the richest genre of twentieth-century Nepali literature. Although the short story has developed strongly, the drama holds its ground in the face of fierce competition from the cinema, and the novel is increasingly popular, almost every Nepali writer composes poetry. Since the appearance of Shdradd, Nepali poetry has become diverse and sophisticated . The poets I have selected for inclusion represent different stages and strands of this development, and I have attempted to present them in an order that reflects the chronology of literary change. The direction that this process of evolution has taken should be clear from the introduction to individual poets and the translations of their poems. Here, a few general comments are offered by way of introduction. Lekhnath Paudyal, Balkrishna Sama, and Lakshmlprasad Devkota were undoubtedly the founders of twentieth-centuryNepali poetry, and each wasa distinctly different poet. Lekhnath was the supreme exponent of meter, alliteration,and melody and the first to perfect the art of formal composition in Nepali. His impact on poets contemporary with him was powerful, eventually producing a kind of "school." Although his influence has waned, this school retains some notable members.1 Sama was primarily a dramatist, but his poems were also important. He began as a disciple of Lekhnath but later rebelled against the restraints of conventional forms with the same vigor that he brought to his opposition to Rana autocracy. Sanaa's compositions are colored by sensitivity, intellectualism , and clarity, and because of his role as a social reformer and the accessibility of his work, he is still highly respected. Both Lekhnath 1. These include Madhav Prasad Ghimire (b. 1919), whose long lyric poem on the loss of his wife, Gaur! (1947), remains extremelypopular. 13 14 THE POETS OF NEPAL and Sama were deliberate, methodical craftsmen and masters of particular modes of poetic composition, but the erratic genius of Lakshmlprasad Devkota brought an entirelynew tone and spirit to Nepali poetry. Early in his career, he took the revolutionary step of using folk meters in the long narrative poems that are now among the most popular works of Nepali literature. Later, he produced the greatest epics of his language and finally, adopting free-verse forms, he composed some of its most eloquent poems. It would be difficult to overstate Devkota's importance in the modern literature of Nepal: his appearance on the scene has been compared to that of a meteor in the sky or as Nepali poetry reaching full maturity "with a kind of explosion" (Rubin 1980, 4). The Sharada era produced poets who were influenced by their three great contemporaries, but also made their own distinctive contributions to the development of the genre. In his early years, Siddhicharan was obviously a disciple of Devkota, but his poems are calmer, clearer, and less rhapsodic. Vyathit also had much in common with Lekhnath, but he differed in his obvious social concern and his gift for composing short epigrammatic poems. Rimal was motivated principally by his political views, but he also did much to establish free verse and the prose poem in Nepali. His influence is more apparent in the work of young poets today than is that of most of his contemporaries. The Sharada poets were men who were in their prime during the 1940s and 1950s, although both Siddhicharan and Vyathit remain active today. The revolution of 1950—1951 certainly brought an atmosphere of greater freedom to Nepal , and a large number of works were published that had been withheld for fear of censorship. Few immediate changes took place in the Nepali literary scene, however, and the prerevolutionary poets continued to occupy a preeminent position until the following decade. During the 1960s, Nepali poetry departed quite radically from the norms of the preceding twenty-five years, which was a result of the unprecedented changes that occurred in Nepali society in general and in intellectual circles in particular. After 1960, a new literary journal, Rilprekhd (Outline) quickly became Nepal's major organ for aspiring new writers. Among these was Mohan Koirala, arguably the most significant poet to have emerged in Nepal since Devkota.The philosophical outlook of the generation of poets who emerged after 1960 differed from that of its predecessors in many respects. The immense expansion of education spread literacy throughout Nepal and produced a generation of graduates who were familiar with philosophies and literatures other than their own. The initial effects of this intellectual opening out in Nepal could be seen clearly in the poetry...


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