The Nepali Poetry of the 2015 Earthquakes and their Aftermath
‘Poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history.’ (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1836)).
Engineer Saab!/ For the earthquake of the heart / Poets and artists are what you need! (Bimal Nibha, 2012)
In their widely-cited analysis of post-disaster politics, Pelling and Dill (2010) identify three discursive moments in a typical aftermath. The first moment focuses attention on the unequal distribution of losses and can lead to a questioning of development failures and asymmetry in the social contract; the second draws attention to the mobilization of state and non-state actors to champion, direct, counter or capture evolving critical discourses; the third sees the discourse being institutionalized into policy. They discuss the potential for a disaster to provide either a ‘critical juncture’ (a contestation of established political, economic and cultural power) or an ‘accelerated status quo’ (a successful concentration of that power).
This paper will survey the large number of poems published in Nepali within about three months of the 2015 Gorkha and Dolakha earthquakes. Most of the poems considered will come from the bhukampa visheshank (earthquake special issues) of the literary journals Madhupark, Shabda Sanyojan, Shabdankur, Dayitva and Kalashri, with additional selections from the online newspaper Setopati and the literary journal Shivapuri Sandesh. The paper will identify recurrent themes in this body of literature and attempt to assess the extent to which the poetry under consideration articulates a sense that in the immediate aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes a ‘critical juncture’ was looming in the social and political history of Nepal.
Pelling, Mark and Kathleen Dill 2010. ‘Disaster politics: tipping points for change in the adaptation of socio-political regimes’ Progress in Human Geography 34(1): 21-37.