Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tampa & the Republican National Convention

Hickson Park, Tampa

The Republican National Convention (RNC) is in town: Tampa. If you live in this city, or any city that hosts a major national, or international event, there are mixed feelings. For a little time, however brief, your city is in the spotlight. You want it to look well. Some 50,000 to 70,000 visitors will descend on your city for a week. There are all sorts of concerns. There will be protests. There were will be traffic tie-ups. There will be speeches and presences—potentially the next president of one of, if not, the most important nations in the world—people who will go on to make a mark globally. And then there is the presence of a hurricane. School is cancelled. Work goes on: business as usual. Dark clouds hover: Rain and wind and flooding. Will you not see this city as we see it, as we love it, as we would have you love it?

A special place for many is the Hickson Park, on the Hillsborough River across from the University of Tampa, perhaps, the finest legacy of the last Mayor, Pam Iorio. A slice of Tampa in the following poem, recently published in South Asian Ensemble (Toronto).


I want to take you
where white lights
glow on deleafed winter
oaks like icicles,
where the dark river
floats a rubber slipper
inland – away from the bay
invading our souls,
where water erupts
under spotlights
like our love once
I want to take you
where laughter fills the night.

The Hillsborough River and spires of the University of Tampa, acorss from Hickson Park

South Asian Ensemble

In a time when the Internet has changed how we do things, when people are in love with a love of the latest digital gadgetry—tablets, i-pads, kindles, spindles, whatever—when “everyone is a publisher” on the web, it is delightful to see the rise of a print journal. Not any print journal, but a literary print journal, South Asian Ensemble: A Canadian Quarterly of Arts, Literature and Culture.

South Asian Ensemble, already into its fourth volume—a double issue Spring/Summer 2012, is very fine and eclectic journal. I am reading both this issue and the previous double issue (Autumn 2011/Winter 2012). The mix of pieces from writers with a South Asian connection from the sub-continent, Canada, the USA and writers of Indian origin by way of the Caribbean and South America is fascinating: the cutting edge poetry of Viswanauth Prasad Tiwari in a fine translation from the Hindi, to an essay on the Roma in two novels, to a brilliant essay in the current issue on poetics by Ajmer Rode, “Poetry and the Sacred.”

The Vedic poets, or the rishis as they were called, did not work out their poems laboriously, that is how the belief goes. They actually ‘saw’ complete poems or had darshana of them and simply transcribed them. That is why they were regarded as seers…their minds were not prisoners of long literary traditions (as the poet Haribhajan Singh notes). Every time they sat down to write, their minds were ready to experience afresh, their spirits free to cherish the new.
South Asian Ensemble is edited by Gurdev Chauhan in Toronto and co-edited by Rajesh Sharma in Patiala (India). The journal website: Both Chauhan (a writer and poet) and Sharma (Professor of English at Punjab University) are to be highly commended for putting together and editing this fine journal.