Nepali Times
Toya Gurung’s


Poet and Member of the Royal Nepal Academy Toya Gurung adopts a taut, hallucinatory language to spin out poems that suggest rather than tell, evoke rather than explain. Some of her most bracing work comes in the form of long poems-like the wildly experimental poem Chha or her book-length poem Dhoopi. In these she is less restrained by the narrative drive, and more uninhibited in playing with collage and pastiche forms. Her tone is often wry, playful, and ironic, unlike much of Nepal's poetry, which tends towards being emotionally wrought.
The first poem translated below contains some of the freshest and most energetic aspects of Gurung's style. It takes on a small scene-a girl and boy playing on a rooftop-and shows us something of the quirky character of the human heart.


Lines of warmth and heat
city roofs-roofs city the sun-roof atop roof after roof
only roofs
if a tile loosens the boy will fall the girl will fall
Warm afternoon
as though there's nothing in the sky but sky to bother them
The art of directing traffic with one child, with the other
a drama of blowing a whistle mid-street

Then again on that roof an exhibition of judo and karate
what will happen if a foot slips
the basket of dried grains steps on the ledge what will happen
if with that basket a foot slips

Then without a word he lays a wooden pillow
she lies to one side and the other checks her pulse
looks for her veins-makes to place an injection with a needle
tapping and rubbing the vein
and lying on his arms raises her

And again another drama begins
dozing off sleepily he falls flat on the roof
screaming, the girl aims at the stomach and butt
and kicks him with her feet

In a recent interview on Radio Sagarmatha, Gurung mentioned that poetry is not merely the expression of emotions; the poet must also reflect his or her times through poetry. In keeping with this statement, Gurung's poems do take on larger social themes, often indirectly, and sometimes, as below, more directly.

History Can't Last In This Country
One is obliged to call them peace-seekers
though one may not wish to
What meaning does a watch have for those
who wander the city to sell freshly made curd
who walk loaded down with kharpan baskets
who arrive with ainselu and kaaphal berries
who have never seen more than one city
who carry fresh mushrooms and bamboo shoots
who bear gifts for highly esteemed dignitaries

What meaning does a watch have for those
who throng to watch traditional festivals
and who come to stage such spectacles

New years greetings to all
to statues
to dharaharaa tower
to the golden taps at sundhaaraa
to ghantaaghar's clock tower
to trees that have fallen on the old khari tree
to Asan, Indrachowk, Patan and Bhadgaon
to all the valley
to vast plains outside
to hills
to snow mountains
to sky
to earth

the sound of the mid-day cannon couldn't act as a greeting for you
You couldn't become history
For some reason history won't be able to last any more in this country

These and others of Toya Gurung's poems can be read in her poetry collections Dewal Ghumepachhi.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)