Ways of seeing Atiyagi Maya
By Phalguni Yumnam
Here is a rough translation of one of the poems in the book Atiyagi Maya, Thawan’s first volume of poetry published by Books & Coffee:
Skin bites hard on bones
Dying dreams long for life as human beings.
It has been said and I see it too, like a flimsy dance in that space between of that which is known and the unknown. In the foreword written in the book, it is mentioned about whether a writer shouldn’t be keeping up with the society or politics. But to that I add, such work is not the work of a mere writer but one of an artist and there’s a difference in that.
And this fleeting, mirage-like dreamy words of a rather philosophical poem is not just about being surreal — because people often assign this word ‘surreal’ to such a work and they stop looking. We find ourselves a preconceived idea and we sit on it, we stop contemplating, reflecting.
One thing Thawan’s works bring forth is this — a freshness and a disruption — a disruption which is so necessary today to breathe life into the dying monotonous collective creativity there is and a disruption that challenges the dominant conventional narratives. And in doing so, it shines light on Truth, peeling away on our worn-out everyday perceptions of the world. When was the last time you thought your skin is biting hard on your bones?
It is also in such works that our indigenous language which is closer to primitive Truth and which isn’t as tainted and corrupted as much as English is — is alive and gets to thrive. Meiteilon gets to thrive in/with the Truth Meiteilon was born with, in such freshness and originality.
In another poem titled Nupi, he talks about a woman enticing and seducing him while he is repulsed by it only to give in and to say it at the end — in this way, she tries to make me a man who’s alive. Then, there are poems which talk of pregnant clouds and lions that turn into butterflies, shirts that turn into butterflies and many more which livens up our ways of seeing.
His other art works also often touch upon these philosophical realms. Recently at artist Heeyairen’s art exhibition In a Momentary State at Books & Coffee, Noong-Paan, Thawan’s other work with Nongpok Arambam (The Koi) performed their experimental spoken poetry. One spoken piece was a poem from Atiyagi Maya itself titled Nakongna Kouri and it went something along the lines, when you clap, is it the ear or is it the hands or a hand?
If one is familiar with Zen literature, we will notice that it definitely touches on the Zen koan that says two hands clap and make a sound but what is the sound of one hand clapping? Such is the Truth Thawan’s works - his art and his use of Meiteilon touches upon.
What IS the sound of one hand clapping?
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])
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