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Issue 41/42 : July - December, 2008 : Volume 11 No 1/2

Tenth Anniversary of the Magazine

The Third Shabdaguchha Poetry Festival

On June 14, 2008, the Third Shabdaguchha Poetry Festival along with a Multilingual Book Fair, arranged by the International Poetry Journal, Shabdaguchha, marking the tenth anniversary of the magazine was held at PS 114, Astoria, Queens. The Book Fair opened at 1PM and the Festival started at 2:30 PM. Lighting a candle, Rafiq Azad, one of the leading poets of Bangladesh who was visiting New York as the guest of honor of the event, announced the opening of the festival. Stanley H. Barkan, poet and publisher from Merrick, NY, Carolyne Wright, poet and translator from Seattle, WA, Charles Fishman, poet and the editor of New Work Review, Syed Mohammed Ullah, editor of the first weekly Bangla Paper in NY, and Hassanal Abdullah, editor of Shabdaguchha and convener of the event joined Rafiq Azad on the day. In his opening speech, Mr. Azad welcomed everyone to the festival by saying that it was not easy for a little magazine to continue for ten years without the hard work and dedication of the editor. He thanks the editor “for building a bridge that brought the poets of the East and the West together on platform,” and expressed his hope that this process would continue.

Stanley H. Barkan, followed with his speech alluding to the various achievements of Shabdaguchha for the last ten years. He went on to say, “The tenth anniversary issue of Shabdaguchha is a milestone of the history of poetry. Shabdaguchha is a bridge across the wide waters, from Barisal to Briarwood and beyond, from Woodhaven to the world, as well as across the large divide between man's basest instincts and his higher civilizing vision.” In the seminar on Contemporary Bengali Poetry, Prof. Nicholas Birns, the keynote speaker of the seminar and the guest editor of the translated issue (#39), read a few poems from the issue and discussed the richness of those poems. He said, “Although there was great modern poetry in, say, Arabic (Taha Hussein, Khalil Gibran) and Urdu (Mohammed Iqbal), there was not an organized 'modernism' in the Arab world or in the rest of British-ruled India as there was in Bengal. This makes Bangladeshi postmodernism different from poetry written in Middle Eastern or South Asian in a postmodern time.” Charles Fishman also read a few poems from the issue (#39) and offered his opinion on those poems by saying, “These poems are related to me. I hope I would be able to read more of them in translation.” Carolyne Wright—who was called an “American-Bengali” by the editor of Shabdaguchha, since she is not only fluent in speaking Bengali, but also has a deep understanding of the Bengali culture—read a few poems in her own translations from the Bengali women poets. Minakshi Datta and Naznin Seamon recited from Budhadeva Bose’s poetry. Leigh Harrison offered a love song along with the sweet and persuasive musical notes of her guitar. Julio Marzán, the Poet Laureate of Queens, Robert Dunn, editor of Asbestos, Tushar Gayen, a Bengali postmodernist, Yuyutsu RD Sharma, visiting poet from Nepal, Maria Lisella, honorable mention of the Poet Laureate of Queens 2007, Laura Zelasnic, Manhattan Neighborhood Radio host of Words on Wings, Kenol Anglade, computer teacher at Washington Irving High School, and Jean Jocelyn, a visiting poet from Haiti, were among the other poets who read from their work during the festival.

Two book launching events were also held at the festival: The first, Love Environment and Other Difficultie, a translation of Rafiq Azad's poetry. This part of the program was moderated by Shameem Chawdhury, a Voice of America radio journalist who traveled from Washington, DC for the festival. Syed Muhammed Ullah, Shah Fazle Rabbi, and Shameed Chawdhury participated in the discussion session along with the poet Rafiq Azad. Lutfunnahar Lata recited two poems of Mr. Azad’s in Bengali.

The second book, Majestic Nights: Love Poems of Bengali Women (White Pine Press, 2008), translated with a foreword by Carolyne Wright. Hassanal Abdullah, Rafiq Azad, and Shameem Chawdhury participated in the discussion along with the translator. Soud Choudhury and Mujub bin Haq offered two separate recitals with their groups: Sharfuzzaman Mukul, Shubra Goswami, Sroboni Roy, Mumu Answari, Samonti Wahed, and Golam Mostafa recited poems from 18th century–20th century Bengali poets.

Rafiq Azad and Stanley H. Barkan respectively presented the Plaque and a $200 check to Naznin Seamon, the winner of the Shabdaguchha Award 2007. The legendary singer of Bangladesh Rathindranath Roy performed near the end, which was followed by Mutallib Biswas, Nadia Ahmedm, and Tasneem Kazi. Nadim Ahmed accompanied them with the tabla.

Cross-cultural Communications, Lebu-bhai Foundation, Mukto-mona, Shabdaguchha Press, and Bud Publication took part in the Book Fair. A special festival tee-shirt was designed by Shahed with the map of Bangladesh and the following lines of poetry taken from Breath of Bengal by Hassanal Abdullah, translated by Nazrul Islam Naz(Cross-Cultural Communications, 2000):

Bangladesh, take note of it
I will rest my head upon your breast
And sleep all night in tranquility
If I just have a little cash.

The first, second and the third place winner of the children’s art contest were Ornab, Sabrina, and Ekok. The judges of the event were Clare Saviola, Aka Babul, and Tushar Gayen.

The festival and the book fair ended at 10 PM. The program was moderated by Hassanal Abdullah and Clare Saviola.

Note: Shabdaguchha is grateful to ATN Bangla TV (Bangladesh), NTV (Bangladesh), Weekly Banglee (NY), Weekly Bangla Patrika (NY), Weekly Dashi Talk (NY), Weekly Aknon Somoy (NY), and (Webzine, NY) for carrying the news right after the festival.

Shabdaguchha, an International Bilingual Poetry Journal, edited by Hassanal Abdullah