Renga through a Lockdown with Marilyn Hacker and Karthika Naïr
Shakespeare and Company
We were delighted to welcome Karthika Naïr and Marilyn Hacker back to the bookshop. During lockdown, Marilyn and Karthika began writing Renga — a collaborative form of Japanese poetry — to each other, building up a beautiful and compelling body of work that engages with both the micro and the macro of this unprecedented moment. This meeting was the first time that these close friends had been in the same room as each other for several months, and their readings ring with the sorrow of separation but also the joy of rediscovery.*Renga through a Lockdown: Shortly after France declared a full lockdown in March 2020, Marilyn Hacker invited Karthika Naïr to join her in creating a renga. Renga, literally “linked poem”, is the ancient Japanese form of collaborative poetry, which has evolved a little through the ages. Poets take turns to compose alternating tanka (5-7-5 and 7-7 syllabled-lines in the stanza) and each poet begins their opening line with word/s or idea/s from the preceding poem. Marilyn and Karthika’s renga are chronicles of their daily lives through the months of lockdown, triggered as much by immediate experiences in Paris as by echoes and concerns from friends and family in the US, Lebanon, India and elsewhere. And while both live in Paris, the distance between their homes (one in the 3rd arrondissement, the other in the 10th) - usually one of a few miles - seemed to multiply in this new world, with neighbourhoods transforming into distinct, new, terrain. If you’d like to see a video of some of these readings, keep an eye on the social media of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.*Marilyn Hacker is the author of fourteen poetry collections, including Blazons ( 2019) and A Stranger’s Mirror(2015) , a book of essays, Unauthorized Voices (2010), a collaborative book, Diaspo/Renga, written with Deema K. Shehabi (2014) and seventeen books of translations of French and Francophone poets, most recently Samira Negrouche’s The Olive Trees’ Jazz (2020). She received the 2009 American PEN Award for poetry in translation, and the international Argana Prize for Poetry from the Beit as-Sh’ir/ House of Poetry in Morocco in 2011. She lives in Paris. Find more of Marilyn’s work here:https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/marilyn-hackerKarthika Naïr is the author of several books, including The Honey Hunter, illustrated by Joëlle Jolivet. She has helmed the scripts of several dance productions, such as the multiple-award-winning DESH (2011), Akram Khan’s dance solo. Until the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata, her reimagining in verse of the Mahabharata, won the 2015 Tata Literature Live! Award for Book of the Year (Fiction), and was highly commended at the 2016 Forward Prizes (UK). Naïr’s poetry has been widely published in anthologies and journals across the world, including Granta, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Magazine, Indian Literature, The Wolf, and The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets. She is a 2012 Sangam House Fellow, a 2013 Toji Foundation Fellow and was awarded a Villa Marguerite Yourcenar Fellowship in 2015. Her latest book is the collaborative Over and Under Ground in Mumbai & Paris (2018), a travelogue in verse, written with Sampurna Chattarji, and illustrated by Joëlle Jolivet and Roshni Vyam.Find more of Karthika’s work here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/150393/remaindering-habitsAnd here:https://www.danceumbrella.co.uk/2017/08/29/six-degrees-otherness-part-2/
Drawing on two decades worth of award-winning poetry, Marilyn Hacker’s generous selections in A Stranger’s Mirror include work from four previous volumes along with twenty-five new poems, ranging in locale from a solitary bedroom to a refugee camp.In a multiplicity of voices, Hacker engages with translations of French and Francophone poets. Her poems belong to an urban world of cafés, bookshops, bridges, traffic, demonstrations, conversations, and solitudes. From there, Hacker reaches out to other sites and personas: a refugee camp on the Turkish/Syrian border; contrapuntal monologues of a Palestinian and an Israeli poet; intimate and international exchanges abbreviated on Skype—perhaps with gunfire in the background.A Stranger’s Mirror is not meant only for poets. These poems belong to anyone who has sought in language an expression and extension of his or her engagement with the world—far off or up close as the morning’s first cup of tea.Marilyn Hacker is the recipient of the National Book Award, the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, the Robert Fagles Translation Prize, and the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. Her collection Winter Numbers received a Lambda Literary Award and the Lenore Marshall Award of the Academy of American Poets. She lives in Paris, France. A Stranger’s Mirror was longlisted for the National Book Award. Poet and dance producer/curator, Karthika Naïr was born in Kerala and lives in Paris. Naïr is the author of Bearings (HarperCollins India, 2009), a poetry collection and The Honey Hunter/Le Tigre de Miel (Young Zubaan, India/Editions Hélium, France, 2013), a children’s book illustrated by Joëlle Jolivet. She was also the principal scriptwriter of DESH, choreographer Akram Khan’s award-winning dance production.In Karthika Naïr’s résumé as an enabler, one finds mention of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Damien Jalet, Käfig/Mourad Merzouki, two Olivier awards, Auditorium Musica per Roma, the Louvre, the Shaolin Temple, misadventures with ninja swords and pachyderms, among others, many of which make their way willy-nilly into her poetry (though, hopefully, not into this retelling of the Mahabharata)."
Award winning poet and translator Marilyn Hacker talks to Ryan about her love of and fascination for formal verse and how it can often be a stimulus for creativity. She chats about Muriel Rukeyser, how poets change over the years and how she believes poetry is a dialogue between other readers and writers. We also get the chance to hear her reading a few of her poems. Presented by Ryan Van Winkle. Produced by Colin Fraser of Anon Poetry Magazine http://www.anonpoetry.co.uk and @anonpoetry. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org