Thursday, March 26, 2020

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #12 [translated poetry]

Art by Theobald Carreras
Well oops! Looks like when I was reading the last issue of Mithila Review, I overlooked two translated poems. My bad! I’m fixing my mistake now, and I must say the poems do not disappoint. There’s great skill on display both from the poets and the translators, and the works take on ideas big (alien refugees and possible global catastrophe) and small (laboratory experiments thrown off by something miniscule and overlooked). Together the pieces offer a nice one-two punch, and make for a great way to close out what was a huge and excellent issue of SFF fiction and poetry. To the reviews!


“The Shuttle Took Off” by Arvind Dubey, translated by Kshama Gautam

To me, this piece speaks to the cost of lost opportunities. To the sorrow of having to turn away someone in need because you know that you’re not able to truly help. The piece features a people presumably from space, alien refugees from a nuclear devastation, who are looking for a new home. Who need help. And the people of Earth, where this shuttle lands, having to recognize that this would be no safe home for them. And being caught between wanting to help, wanting to be better, and knowing that as long as these people have the ability to maybe find another world, one not so torn and on the verge of the same kind of violence that made refugees out of these aliens. And for me it’s a piece that walks a rather interesting line. Because it’s not about the need to turn these aliens away because they would be a burden. Because there’s no room. Because of prejudice or hatred. This isn’t a failure to be compassionate, in telling these people to try for somewhere else. And there’s no guns, no threats, no move to force them to move along. Rather, it’s a recognition that this is no place (at the moment, at least, and maybe ever) to welcome people hoping to find peace and a release from the horrors of war. That for the health fo the people flying, they should keep going, not invest in a new home that might be rubble, too. And tucked into that is a recognition that if things keep going, it might be people from Earth flying through space, desperate to find a place of peace, and if we come to a planet like our own was, might too might be turned away. Keeping alive a cycle that hurts everyone, a cycle we must break if we are to find and believe in a world of peace, where weary refugees will have a place to heal. It’s a poem full of loss and sorrow, a warning that we need to change our ways and step away from war if we hope to have a planet much longer. A wonderful read!

“Litmus” by Shirish Gopal Deshpande, translated by Narendra Petkar

This is a very short poem that evokes the feeling of scientific testing while brushing against something that feels to me a bit more haunting, a bit more dangerous. In some ways the piece feels to me about being ignored. Overlooked. The speaker is a bubble, overlooked, inside of some titration equipment. Small, unnoticed, they still manage to remain and to throw off the results of the titrations by taking up space that was supposed to be carefully controlled. Worse, they are growing, moving, and there is a desire from the narrator to reach toward some unknown “you” who is presumably running the experiments. This desire ont he part of the narrator is a bit unnerving, a bit creepy, because it speaks to me at least of someone or something purposefully trying to throw things off. Perhaps trying to be noticed. But doing so in a way that doesn’t care really for the wellfare of the “you.” Indeed, the intentions of the narrator seem to be kind of dark, a kind of violence or tranformation, changing something about you. In science terms, it is effecting the pH of the result by throwing off the titration, and perhaps the implication is that the color change is now going to be red insteaad of what it would otherwise have been. And it’s really a short and sharp poem, one that places the reader and the speaker in a lab, and for me describes how malevolent something can seem, something small that is still playing spoiler, throwing off results, making QC fail. All so innocently, but with an aura of wickedness. It’s a fun read, and I very much recommend giving it some time and attention!


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