Thursday, October 13, 2022

Annapurna Poems Poems New and Collected By Yuyutsu Sharma


Annapurna Poems

Poems New and Collected

By Yuyutsu Sharma

Nirala Publications

New Delhi, India

ISBN: 81-8250-092-3

128 Pages


Review by Dennis Daly


Are poets good for nothing? Plato certainly didn’t trust them. He believed that poets make things happen, but they are immoral, specializing in the pleasure of illusion and falsity. Mimesis (imitation), poetry’s stock in trade, moreover, corrupts society’s youth. For Plato philosophy (truth-telling), rather than poetry is the real deal. On the other end of the spectrum Archibald MacLeish, taking his cue from Aristotle, argues in his Ars Poetica that “A poem should not mean/ But be.” He believed in the aesthetic value above all, art for art’s sake.


Between these two extremes of active ethical change and passive aesthetic stasis there is a third possibility—poets, through poetry, guide their readers to rarified perceptions of existing phenomena and, through them, unlimited, sometimes prototypical, potentialities.


Yuyutsu Sharma utilizes his classic collection entitled Annapurna Poems to usher, in true Sherpa fashion, presumably well-equipped readers onto the top of the world and then, while transmuting that majesty, to awe them with the elegant sights and sounds found there. The poet with a sheath of breathtaking and magnificently stark images reworks the utopian vision of the fictionalized Shangri-La into a vivid real-world haven of inspired exotica in horizontally challenging thin air.


Annapurna is among the highest and deadliest (to climb) mountains in the world and part of the Annapurna mountain-range located in the Himalayas. Sharma’s opening poem, In the Mountains, anticipates the oversized nature of this setting. Here is the heart of the poem,


From the balcony

of a clay plastered hut I see

a Sun rise in the clear sky of my life.

This is where last spring

a rainbow appeared

and seconds later

a Sun set at the same spot.

A huge Sun-sized moon

crept from behind the mountain

and lingered like a cherry-faced child

peering over the courtyard of the Annapurnas,

this gorge of the River Modi.


Love in the Himalayas is like love everywhere, but more so in Sharma’s poem Snow. The gods seem closer. The flowers more stark, more attentive. And birdsong omnipresent. The poet wonderfully clothes the sensual with perceptive and secretive imagery. Let your imagination lock onto these lines,


A blue magpie flashed past our vision,

in its wings drops of joy

from our new found world.

Sunflowers lifted their heads up

To make out the meaning of our mirth

in the dark Shangri-La balcony.

The news of our love spread

in the valley of gods like

song of the laughing thrush,

chattering magpie’s trick.

The snow peaks we imagined

from the sanctuary of our naked bodies,

Little Paradise Lodge atop Kimrong Khola

hot springs down below

in the crotch of the green glades—

all hidden beneath a blanket of the Monsoons.

Our minds mingled, our mouths met,

our eyes shared a sight of what

the Rains had veiled from our sight.


My favorite poem in this collection is a short one. Sharma entitled it Christ’s Cross. The imagistic preciseness of the piece stuns. Struggling under her burden, a Nepalese woman climbs the mountain path to her village. Like the passion of the Christ under his cross or Sisyphus from Greek mythology the drama drives a deepening empathy as the reader understands the angular distance and repetition involved. In an area noted for its mule paths here is an elderly woman doing what is necessary to survive. Over and over. It’s worth quoting the poem in its entirety. Consider,


Two sacks

of rice



on a fragile-boned


Grandma’s back

moving ahead


like a big wounded

beetle on a feverish slope


of Ulleri’s

steepest climb.


“Because it’s there,” uttered George Leigh Mallory as a justification of his ill-fated 1924 expedition and final assault of Mount Everest. Whether he made it to the summit remains a mystery. But man’s unquenchable need to meet near impossible challenges and conquer them could not be clearer. In his piece entitled Summit Sharma touches on other conjoined, sometimes contrasting, objectives, and, unquestionably, more natural truths. He expresses them this way in his opening lines,


‘Truth left behind,

In the fragrant villages and world’

I said to myself

after I climbed

the summit, weary and breathless,

wind whipping my eyes,

head giddy

from the inconceivable heights.

I bowed in awe

and positioned a primrose

on my Maya’s

snowy chest. She smiled

at the folly of it all—

empty looks, childish arrogance,

the blank stretch of

endless snow spaces,

and nothing beyond.


Juxtaposing foreign adventurers, who gained fame and sometimes untimely deaths in the high Himalayas, with the divine overlords of that region begs more than a few questions. Sharma, in his piece Eternal Snow: An Epilog, suggests more than a few red lines were crossed by these often valiant, but ignorant, colonialists. These are the telling lines,


In naming, renaming or de-naming

the house of the Lord’s soul, Devatatama,

they drew diagrams, sketched,

dreamt over her staggering heights,

raised questions—colonial, carnival,

existential and extra-territorial — ‘Because it’s there’

They endorsed a cause, carried long knives, oxygen, eggs,

Tea, telephones, sirdars and frozen spaghetti.

Did they bleed in the snow, lost limbs and lives

Goddess of the winds of the world

for victory that wasn’t theirs?

Did they bow down in humility

before her crotch, at Cho Oya,

Gorek Shep or Kala Pathar?

Did they remember their loved ones

in the last drowse of their dream’s dairy—

Francis, Younghusband, Mallory,

Bullock, Bruce, Nothern, Somervil, Irving, Hillary?

Was it their karma journeys to the gates of Paradise  


Paradise or potentialities, Sharma’s poetics, from the land of mysterious yetis, wilderness shamans, and mountain teahouses, deliver.

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