Codex-Tempus

Foreword

Time. Even as I write this, I hear my heart beat. I see the sun set. I see my nails have grown and look different from last week. The length of shadows are increasing right in front of my eyes, as the sun is moving across the horizon. My hair has grown stealthily. As I write, lives are coming and going, people are meeting and parting, bodies are burning and healing, Venus is moving in its orbit, slowly trudging across the waist of the sun, and time is making itself known through every little particle, visible or invisible. ‘Tempus’ in Latin means time, and in Finnish, Swedish and German, means ‘grammatical tense’. I chose to name my collection Codex-Tempus because it is both a temporal and a spatial journey. The grammatical tense is important as it often determines past, present and future, which necessarily implies a certain sense of travel through time and space. The poems in this collection travel to and fro, and even across borders of consciousness.

This collection of poems is my meditation on time – time in its various forms – fleeting time, extended time, contracted time, time in the body, time in the mind, time stored in the form of memories, time as origin, time as travel, time as movement and migration, and finally, time as my time, my mortality, my earth-time. I arrange the poems according to my relationship with time. I have had a dynamic relationship with time ever since I left home. I came to the United States in 2010, and ever since I feel I have lived in the zones of ‘in-between’ liminal time. Often, I find myself living in between time zones – my people from home stay in India, some of my friends and family on the East Coast in Maryland and New Jersey, and I stay here in Stanford, on campus. I have often experienced two sunrises a day; and I have three clocks displaying three times at one point of time. Telephones and skype, Internet and e-mails – virtual time is my time, where I have lived online, and have also experienced time in my mind, in my memories of home and land and my people, and also as a cosmic force, which aroused prayers in my mind.

My first poem, ‘Prayer’ is a prayer to this cosmic force, which is time. I worship time, and I think of time as a divine, all-powerful force. Time is illusion, time is magical – time is both destroyer and a healer. Since I came to Stanford, I went through two bike accidents, and I saw myself heal. Very closely. I woke up every morning, looked at myself in the mirror, and saw colors in my body change. Sometimes, I would feel like my body has become the playground of time. And yet, the body is resilient, and does not give in easily – it’s a play and a fight with and against time.

I also find myself riding time, across time, cutting through time in this endless ocean. As I recollect some of my childhood memories and my fears of loss, I re-member and re-collect pieces of time in poems like ‘Vanishing point’, ‘Traces’, ‘Cell-death’ and ‘This is my heart’. Time is also interlinked with place and my sense of home, which is often a temporal and also a spatial point of origin for me. I express that through poems such as ‘Origin story’, ‘22, Lansdowne Road’ and ‘I have this rock in my hand’. The final poem, ‘While you fly’, is an ode to time. The poem was inspired by my visualizations of time and space, how time travels through space, how time makes itself visible through my body parts, and also how I envision myself traveling through time. The poems in this collection are linked and yet I feel that I could have experimented more with the form. Some of the visual images are quite similar in many of the poems, and perhaps I can work on trying to create more diverse and different images. I would also love to see myself write more prose poems and narrative poems, and would love to experiment with their visual form on the page. I feel that both the strength and the weakness of this collection is that I have a distinguishable style of writing – even though the poems are somewhere all related, I would want to work on them to make them more versatile, more mobile and formless (poems that need not necessarily follow a certain pattern or similar visual images on the page).

I feel that I learnt to be more sensitive towards visual and auditory stimuli, as I worked through this quarter. So many things around us numb us to the point of insensitivity that we often don’t realize that we are seeing less, hearing lesser, feeling little, and sensing hardly. In the course of this quarter, I learnt to be more open to impulses, and stimuli, and braver to be able to lay down my emotional nakedness on pages of poems. I learnt to be receptive to sensations and emotions and also more fearless about writing them down. Just as I fear loss and separation, I fear attachment and inscription – but I allowed myself to fear, and feel, and touch, and be touched. I allowed myself to write.

 

Addendum

  • Prayer: This is a prayer song for the cosmic force that is time. I try to compose this poem out of my reverence for time. In this poem, I try to establish the failure of language, or even to a certain extent, the futility of language in communicating prayers. What language do we use to communicate with the divine, with the cosmic energy, with the spirit of nature, with time?
  • Origin story: I wrote this poem after reading ‘Indígena as Scribe -- The (W)rite to Remember,’ in Cherrie Moraga’s A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness. This is an attempt to (w)rite to remember, and to remember to (w)rite the story of my origin, and in a way, our collective consciousness traveling through lives and memories.
  • Life bled through the pores: I wrote the following poem after the Alley Cats poetry-reading session. I was thinking a lot about life, decay and death, and the nature of wounds and pain. The poem grew out of my meditation on a wound I experienced, but then it expanded into something else.
  • Vanishing point: I wrote this poem after I woke up from a nap, and trying to remember the dreams I had – inspired by the dream exercise. The poem is a result of half-forgotten dreams and the remembrance of a certain afternoon in my childhood in Kolkata. There is an enmeshing of memories and dreams in this act of recollection, after waking up from sleep.
  • 22, Lansdowne Road: This is a poem of place and recollection. The poem is enmeshed in images and imaginings of my stay and travels in the city of my birth, childhood and growing-up years that I spent in my aunt’s house – a dilapidated, old house smelling of history.
  • Traces: I wrote this poem after I read Martin and Meditations on the South Valley. I was also reflecting on my relationship with my mother, as I felt it during the early years of my life. I realized I had a deep sense of betrayal floating around in my subconscious, as I realized how much I missed not having her around for as much as I wanted her. She was a working mother, and during the time I was growing up, a lot of my friends’ mothers would be housewives, and spend a lot of time at home. During the initial period of my life, I would feel betrayed that she was not one of them, and that she spent a lot of time in a school with other children, where she taught. This is a poem that resulted from my childhood memories of insecurity, jealousy and greed to have more of the woman whom I loved the first.
  • Cell-death: I wrote this poem as I was thinking of the rule of memory and remembrance in our lives. Our histories can be erased or not, based on the power of remembrance. Thinking specifically of my mother, detected with Parkinson’s Disease, and more generically about history, I wrote this poem.
  • This is my heart: This poem is inspired by Joy Harjo’s poem, ‘This is my heart’. This too is influenced by ideas of time and mortality, body and memory.
  • I have this rock in my hand: Prof. Cherrie Moraga showed us a rock in class. I don’t know where it came from, but she gave us a line, ‘I have this rock in my hand, it is my memory’. This poem was triggered off by this line, and I imagined the journey of this rock in my poem.
  • While you fly: This poem is an ode to time. I watched a video on the law of thermodynamics and entropy. The poem is a reflection on the nature of time, memory and remembrance.
 

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Welcome

Sukanya Thumbnail I received my doctoral degree in Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford in June 2016. My dissertation, completed under the guidance of Dr. Jisha Menon, was awarded the Charles R. Lyons Memorial Prize for Outstanding Dissertation. My research project was supported by the Graduate Research Opportunities Award in Stanford, which facilitated my fieldwork in India and Bangladesh during the summer of 2013 and 2014; and the Wisch Fellowship by the Center for South Asia, Stanford University, for my work in South Asian theater and performance studies. I identify as an artist-scholar, and my training and specialization are in the area of oral history; postcolonial and ethnic studies (with a focus on South Asian performance studies); ethnomusicology; dramatic literature; transcultural theater and performance; experimental devised performances; and community-based performance-making.

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It would be wonderful to hear back from you, and you can always reach me via email.

Sukanya C.