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Poetry from Burundi

Posted in Adams Sinarinzi, Autoren / poets, country portrait, Länderporträt, our network partners by Heiko Strunk on 20. April 2016

Presenting poetry from Burundi is not an easy task. T.S. Eliot seemed to think true poetry is hardly translated, and one needs to truly sense where those words are from. Until the emergence of the modern, there was no need of presentingpoetry, for poetry was part of life.

….do you feel her drive?
Look at his eyes,
Do you read his verse? 

But the unity of life, some will say, was lost with the last myth and cosmic societies, that Burundi belonged to until a century ago. Dissolved by the increasing requirements of the modern world, several separate and independent spheres were born. One of them, the arts and culture, has grown (often unwillingly) to acquire the function of precisely representing the lost unity.

Beyond their powers to express the various contradictions and sensitivities, the world literature offers us symbolic levers for an understanding and appropriation of our lives. The young contemporary Burundian literature is best understood in this context, which is of an attempt to understand its environment and express its sensibility to the world.

In his academic book La Littérature de langue française au Burundi, [2] Professor J. Ngorwanubusa of the University of Burundi regrets however the few avenues for the literature of Burundi. There is barely any publishing house; a few reviews had been existing in the 1960s and 1970s but never survived except a few Christian reviews run by a few members of the Burundi Catholic Church.


But the interested literary person won’t miss the corners behind the central market where the old (often stolen!) books are sold, the oldest book storeLibrairie St Paul, or the French cultural center (whose interesting café hosts the unfortunately more and more penniless intellectuals in the city!) and of course the newly opened Lire Africa in Gallerie Alexander, specializing in fiction from Africa. A blog by the poet Thierry Manirambona (“la plume burundaise”) lists an impressive archeology of Burundian books old and new, and a few poets do publish their poetry  directly on the internet as the acclaimed Ketty Nivyabandi.

Poetry in print might be hard to find in the country, but if you are insisting you will discover the underground intellectual and literary scene of the marvelous Café literaire Samandari that meets every Thursday evening at the Burundi Palace right in the middle of the city center. But one should say they met there, for since a year now these meetings are no longer held. (more…)

Map of a Thousand Lives – A Brief Introduction to Poetry in Malaysia

By Pauline Fan

An attempt to chart the origins and evolution of modern poetry in Malaysia unearths complex historical processes and cultural interactions that have shaped contemporary Malaysian society. To speak of the writing of poetry in Malaysia, one must grapple with – or at least try to imagine – the essentially pluralist and polyglot nature of its people as well as the changing socio-cultural landscape, where “the map of a thousand lives will be seen* ”.

Malaysia is a country where at least four main languages predominate – Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil, further punctuated by a multitude of dialects and colloquialisms according to clan or region. The multicultural and multilingual population of the Malay Peninsula has been evident since at least the 15th century, when the Sultanate of Malacca rose to become one of the most thriving entrepôts in Asia, drawing merchants, scholars, and envoys from neighbouring kingdoms and faraway empires alike. Successive waves of immigrants from all over the Malay Archipelago, China, and India – some of whom settled, intermarried, and formed new distinct communities and cultures such as the peranakan or Straits-born communities – added yet more layers to the inextricable diversity of Malaysian society.

The conquest of Malacca by Portuguese (1511) and Dutch (1641) imperial powers preceded British colonial control, and later the Japanese occupation, of the Malay Peninsula and the northern provinces of Borneo.  Each of these imperialist presences left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of Malaysia, including on the Malay language in the case of Portuguese, Dutch and English, adding to the vast compendium of loanwords in Malay from Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Chinese. The Malay language served as a lingua franca for the Malay Archipelago for centuries, and forms the basis of the standardised national languages of both Malaysia (Bahasa Malaysia) and Indonesia (Bahasa Indonesia), mutually intelligible with some differences in vocabulary and spelling.

Oral traditions and pan-Malay poets

The origins of Malay-language poetry can be traced to the vast and various oral traditions that have been cradled in the Malay Archipelago as well as classical Malay texts known as Hikayat that date back as far as the 14th century. Traditional Malay poetic forms include the syair, the pantun, the gurindamand seloka, all of which are found in both oral and written literature. While traditional or classical, many of these poetic forms are intrinsically innovative, urging improvisation and spontaneous composition. The pantun, for instance, was sometimes performed as balas pantun, a call-and-response ‘duel’ or ‘flirtation’ between two poets, especially during performances of the Dondang Sayang (love ballads) of Malacca. (more…)

Insights: Contemporary Poetry in Turkey

Posted in Autoren / poets, country portrait, Länderporträt, Metin Celal, our network partners by Heiko Strunk on 17. June 2011

by Metin Celal

The foundations of Turkish poetry are built upon Divan (Ottoman) Poetry and Folk Poetry. Divan Poetry is form driven by aruz-prosody and not easily understandable due to its mixed usage of Turkish, Arabic and Persian while Folk Poetry is content driven using syllabic meter and folkloric elements.

Turkish poetry grew from the conflicts and contrasts between these two approaches. Two major poets marked the beginning of contemporary Turkish poetry after the establishment of the Republic in 1923. Yahya Kemal, while providing important late examples of Divan Poetry, announced the onset of contemporary Turkish poetry with his use of language and image structures. Ahmet Haşim served a similar function by changing the usage of Divan Poetry’s forms, by his decisive search for innovation and by his introduction of new poetry from the West. Nâzım Hikmet and Necip Fazıl complement these two major poets, and contemporary Turkish poetry has since been developing in the footsteps of these four pioneers, always bearing traces of one or more of them.

The disengagement from Divan Literature, and the replacement of the Arabic Alphabet with the Latin Alphabet, changed the Turkish language and reintroduced syllabic meter to Turkish Poetry. Rising nationalism also established a “National Literature, New Language” movement. Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı, Ziya Osman Saba and Ahmet Muhip Dıranas, used syllabic meter to write poems according to their own unique styles. French Literature especially inspired the poets of the new generation who tried to overcome the limitations of syllabic poetry, limitations such as meter and rhyme, by enriching the poetry’s content. Nâzım Hikmet implemented the most important changes in this period. With his socialist approach, he reduced structure, brought in free verse and introduced new themes into Turkish poetry. Necip Fazıl, whose focus was on the spiritual and theindividual, brought a new voice to poetry by using syllabic meter with a modern edge. In time, Necip Fazıl moved towards a more mystical construct and pioneered a poetics driven by the religious, aesthetic and political roots of Islam.

One of the most important movements (more…)