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New Trends in Nepali Poetry This chapter presents some Nepali poetry that reflects the predominant trends of the past twenty years or so. I have resisted attaching the label contemporary to this poetry, partly because it is difficult to decide a specific date from whichcontemporary literature should be deemed to have commenced and partly because all literature is by its very nature contemporary when it is written. Qualities such as "modernity," "contemporaneity ," and so on can be assessed only subjectively, and assessments change with the passage of lime. Of course, this fact has not prevented most Nepali critics from debating ceaselessly about what is, and what is not, modern. The majority of these poems are drawn from an anthology entitled Samsdmayik Sdjhd Kavita (Contemporary Sajha Poetry) published in 1983 as a supplement to the important Sdjhd Kavita anthology of 1967.Because the youngest poet to appear in this latter volume was Banlra Giri (born in f946), it was originallysupposed by the publishers that the new anthology would be restricted to works by poets born after this date. The editor of Samsdmayik Sdjhd Kavita, Taranath Sharma, argued that, this was not an appropriate criterion for selection. Many poets born before 1946began to write rather later in life. He also pointed out that poets who were included in the earlier volume, such as Mohan Koirala and Ishwar Ballabh, could not be regarded as uncontemporary because their poetry had continued to evolve. In an interesting postscript to the anthology, Sharma described the features of the Nepali poetry heconsidered to be truly contemporary. After about 1965,Nepali poetry entered a period during which its accessibility and popularity seriously declined. The new class of intellectuals wrote in language that was pedantic and abstruse and made 141 142 THE POETS OF NEPAL references to mythologies and concepts that were alien to ordinary Nepalis . The old school continued to publish verse in time-honored metrical forms that imparted traditional values. Thus, the new poetry became innovatory and experimental to the extent that it was incomprehensible to all but a small intellectual elite, whereas the old style of poetry reworked well-worn themes and formulas, offering little that was new. Both of these styles retain some currency today, and the poems by Ishwar Ballabh and Avinash Shreshtha demonstrate that abstraction is alive and well. This style of poetry has been eclipsed in more recent years by a new and most welcome development. The distinctive features of the most recent poetry are linguistic simplicity, the complete absence of metrical forms, the use of symbols drawn from everyday life, and frequent references to present-day social and political issues. It therefore exhibits more than anything else the influence of Nepali poets such as Rimal and Sherchan and is deserving of the title contemporary poetry in the sense that it is clearly intended to speak to its times. During the early 1970s, and to some extent during the previous decade , too, most modern poetry was pessimisticand gloomy and gave evidence of a growing sense of social alienation among the educated urban young. Such tendencies are clearly apparent, in the poems of Bhairava Aryal and Haribhakta Katuval. In 1979, however, changing politicalcircumstances brought about some significant new developments in Nepali poetry. Since I960, Nepal had been governed by a pyramidal system of Panchdyat councils at local and national levels, headed by the monarch. Although all political parties were banned, dissatisfaction with the political status quo became increasingly apparent and eventually led to the national referendum of 1980. During the twelve months leading to this referendum, strenuous efforts to influence public opinion were made by both supporters and opponents of the Panchayal system. In the capital, a new atmosphere of political freedom produced the sudak kavitd krdnli (street poetry revolution). Young poets recited their poems on street corners, and people gathered on New Road each evening to purchase collections of political verse all supporting the alternative "multiparty" option. These collections were printed and sold in large numbers and were typified by the short-lived journal Swatanlrald (Freedom). The August 1979 issue of Swatantrata, a "Street Poetry Revolution Special," included political poems by young writers such as Ashesfi Malla, Bimal Nibha, and Mm Bahadur Bishta, who are now among the leading exponents of the "new" poetry. Nepali poetry had once again descended from its ivory tower to become a medium for the expression of popular sentiment. As a consequence, its language regained its former simplicity, NEW TRENDS IN NEPALI POETRY 143 and its references...


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