In the world of literature poetry is a subculture and a secondary art form to other genres, particularly fiction and non-fiction. The famous poet W H Auden has aptly put forward the thesis: “poetry makes nothing”.
The repetitive and common question that most poets face is as why they write poetry.
Poetry is derived from the Medieval Latin word poetria and poet origins from the Latin word poetia. Critical writers and historians have stated that poetry, perhaps, predates literacy. The argument comes from the concept that poetry was used as a form to maintain the oral history of tradition, culture, religion and events to pass on to the next generation when language hadn’t developed to its full form to writing. Irrespective of the general view about poetry, the media and publishers too have played a role in belittling it. This behaviour doesn’t augur well for the growth of English poetry in Nepal.
On that preface, it is almost impossible to get published and then make a living out of it if you write in English. Even published poets complain that their books rarely sell and barely few buy it. Only those who focus on a particular topic are likely to become famous in their lives. Others wait till their death to get known like Sylvia Plath who won the Pulitzer Prize posthumously. Poetry, in short, is already declining in the western world. In Nepal, however, it is just emerging as a strong genre.
English Poetry writing in Nepal goes back to post-Rana era in the 1950s. A young fiery poet in current time soon realizes that writing a poem would not guarantee a space for him. The problem with the commercialization of literature and writers; novelists and poets, who are trying to make a survival from it, is significantly fading since the advent of new media and technology. The existential question about why to write and how to consider writing is bad or good is debatable. The representation and media coverage of poets too in Nepal is negligible. They are not only underrepresented but also not given spaces in so-called literature festivals in Nepal. This culture, unlike in west where all genres are promoted and respected, in Nepal has seriously undermined the contributions, significance and the future of Nepalese English poetry.
I hope this trend and attitude towards English poetry in Nepal changes over the years and that enough space is given to poets too. So that the future poets don’t have to feel that their writings are secondary and inferior to fiction writers and go to hiding to write, almost sub rose, never to be known and failing to add richness to the English Literature of Nepal.