March 19, 2020, by pressoffice

Two new books mark World Poetry Day

University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) academics Professor Malachi Edwin Vethamani and Dr Shivani Sivagurunathan announced their compilation books of poetry in conjunction with World Poetry Day on 21 March. The books titled Insights: Malaysian Poems and Creating Devotional Poetry will be launched this year.

Both Professor Vethamani and Dr Shivani are poets and academics at UNM’s School of English.

Creating Devotional Poetry by Dr Shivani

The book titled Creating Devotional Poetry is a collection of devotional poems, similar in approach, spirit and nature to the poems of the Sufi poets and the Christian mystics. The collection, however, departs from a traditional collection of devotional poems in that a reflective essay accompanies each poem, describing and clarifying the processes of meditation, contemplation and the evocation and expression of devotional states.

“The collection would be of interest to lovers of poetry, contemplatives and spiritual seekers who enjoy the literary demonstration of heightened inner states and the act of reflecting upon the nature of mind, and moving beyond it,” Dr Shivani said.

Creating Devotional Poetry, which will be launched at the end of 2020, is Dr Shivani’s second collection of poems. Her first collection, Chiaroscuro, was published in 2010 by Bedouin Books.

Her poems have been published in numerous international journals and magazines including “Agenda”, “Construction”, “Cha: An Asian Literary Magazine” and “Wolf Magazine”. Her collection of short stories, Wildlife on Coal Island, was published by HarperCollins India in 2012, and her novel, Yalpanam, published by Penguin Southeast Asia, will be out at the end of 2020.

Insights: Malaysian Poems by Professor Vethamani

Insights: Malaysian Poems was first published by Maya Press in 2003 and was a sold out success. The demand for this book has driven the need for a second edition which is an updated and revised edition of the book. It is targeted at young readers and Malaysian school students.

“The second edition will now contain poems which have been published since 2003. It is a thematically organised anthology that will continue to address issues that are of interest to young adults,” Professor Vethamani said.

In conjunction with World Poetry Day and UNM’s 20th anniversary this year, UNM had initially planned a Pantun and Haiku Writing Competition on 20 March. The competition was opened to staff and students and who would have read their respective pieces at the event if their submission was selected. This event was inevitably cancelled due to the movement control order in Malaysia from 18 to 31 March 2020.

UNM’s World Poetry celebration is the brainchild of Professor Vethamani, who organised a poetry reading in 2018. During that event staff, students and other poets were invited to read any poetry in their native language.

“The observance of World Poetry Day is also meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting.

It also somewhat supports small publishers and creates an attractive image of poetry in the media, so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity,” Professor Vethamani said.

Professor Vethamani has also published other books including his most recent publication is Ronggeng-Ronggeng: Malaysian Short Stories (Petaling Jaya, Maya Press), which highlights 60 years Malaysian short-story writing. His first collection of short stories, Coitus Interruptus and Other Stories, was published in January 2018. His second volume of poems Life Happens was published in July 2017, (Maya Press). His first volume of poems, Complicated Lives (Maya Press, Kuala Lumpur) was published in 2016. He has been invited to participate in various international literary festivals. Three of his stories from this collection were reworked as monologues as performed as Love Matters by Playpen Performing Arts Trust in Mumbai in 2017 and 2018. His short story Best Man’s Kiss was reworked into a short play for an event called Inqueerable organised by Queer Ink in Mumbai on 8 September 2019.

In 2003, he edited a volume of poems for young adults entitled In-Sights: Malaysian Poems (Maya Press, Kuala Lumpur). He published A Bibliography of Malaysian Literature in English (Maya Press, Kuala Lumpur) in 2015. This is the first bibliography to trace literary publications in English by Malaysians, from the 1950s to 2014.

Professor Vethamani is also an alumni of the University of Nottingham and a recipient of UNM’s Vice-Chancellor’s Achievement Award 2019. The Vice-Chancellor Medal is awarded for exceptional achievement by the current staff or students of the University of Nottingham. Winners of the award would have contributed to advancing equality, diversity and inclusion in University life or made notable endeavours that made a difference to the University, and within the local community.

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