Writers International Edition

A Review of ‘An Encounter with Death’ by Bhawani Shankar Nial

Death, like Eros, is one of the themes privileged by literature, which describes it, places it in a complex system, invests it with ethical and symbolic values. In contemporary poetry, it often happens to cross the vision of man as a being in transience, as a being in provisionality, for whom existence is not obvious. In the West, facing the theme of death is still taboo, because it is constantly removed. Of all the types of fear, the most subtle and stubborn is that of death. Overcoming it means freeing oneself from all the others. We are made of matter, we have a body, but it is only a tool, a means of expression, it is not our “I”. When we will realize that we are a spirit that guides the mind, uses the body and lives regardless of it, death will no longer be a cause of great fear. In the origin of Christianity, the rebirth of the soul was an important part and represented an essential piece of the Christian faith, but later the Fathers of the Church, in the Synod of 543, decreed that all those who spoke of the transmigration of souls from one body to another would be excommunicated. If there is a direction that contemporary poetry should take, it is undoubtedly that of a reconstruction of a lost humanism, in order to help man to ask himself questions, redesign himself, self-transcend, seek a “beyond” and to re-comprehend the relationship between life and death. In the anthology An Encounter with Death edited by Bhawani Shankar Nial, the poem speaks of death not as a theme, but with the awareness that man is a being for death and therefore cannot undress this possibility, indeed this is the truly human possibility because man can or cannot make use of the other possibilities, but death is support to him and therefore it is a possibility that man cannot shake off. And therefore, thinking about death does not trivialize life. Because when you trivialize death, you trivialize life. And death can be trivialized when it is seen as a random event (one dies by chance); when it is seen as a public event (everyone dies); or when it becomes a biological process (cells no longer reproduce, therefore one dies). The sacred text of the Bardo Thodol known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, invites us to reflect on the value of death which is not the end of life but only a crossing into another dimension where nothing ends but everything continues, is transformed and reborn. The word Bardo takes on the meaning of passage, transition, we could define it as a door of passage. In this Tibet, together with ancient Egypt with the Book of the Dead, is the only country in the world to have dedicated itself to interior exploration, to the search for that treasure chest that is hidden in the human being. St. Augustine in his 4th century letter 263 to Sapida will say:

Death is nothing. I have only passed
on the other side: it is as if I were hidden in the
next room.
I am always me and you are always you. What we
we were before for each other we still are.
Call me by the name you have always given me,
that is familiar to you; talk to me in the same
Affectionate as you have always used.

Thinking about death opens man to the most authentic human life, as it takes him away from despair and brings him back to unity; the man who at every moment knows that he may fail does not disengage, but tries to live an authentic life, instead of despairing, of letting himself be absorbed by things, by the facts that happen, he tries instead to dominate them. The poet who digs with the word, will sense that the thought of death opens man to the most concrete life, taking him away from the immediate and inauthentic possibilities, such as following what he likes, the childish teasing of many, living lightly. I believe that this is the ultimate goal of the anthology and that the poet is a voice along with others who fights for the things he believes in without trivializing life whenever he lives anonymously and politically.

Anita Piscazzi
Paris, France

Anita Piscazzi, poeta, pianista e ricercatrice. Si occupa di studi etnomusicologici e didattico-musicali, in questo settore ha pubblicato due monografie e numerosi saggi su riviste scientifiche italiane ed estere. Sue sono le raccolte poetiche: Amal (Palomar,2007), Maremàje (Campanotto,2012), Alba che non so (CartaCanta,2018) eFerma l’Ali, cd poetico-musicale (desuonatori, 2020). È in “Ossigeno Nascente” (Atlante dei poeti contemporanei italiani a cura del Dipartimento di Filologia Classica e Italianistica Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna), in Almanacco dei poeti e della poesia contemporanea (Raffaelli,2018), in diverse antologie tra cui Umana, troppo umana (Aragno, 2016),in blog letterari e sulle piattaforme di registrazioni fonetiche dei poeti contemporanei nel mondo, come “PoetrySoundLibrary” di Londra e “Voices of Italian Poets” dell’Università di Torino. Tradotta in varie lingue e in spagnolo da Emilio Coco in Poesìa de ida y vuelta/Poesie di andata e ritorno, (Prosa Amerian Editores, Argentina 2013). In georgiano da Nunu Geladze in Quando i paesi dormono, (La vita felice,2019). Impegnata in festival letterari, poetico musicali sia in Italia che all’estero, è stata ospite al Tblisi International Festival of Literature 2019 in Georgia. È premio Isabella Morra 2017 e premio InediTO 2017. Sue poesie sono state interpretate da Lella Costa al Salone del libro di Torino nel 2017, su SanMarinoRTV e su RaiRadio3. Ha collaborato ai progetti poetico-musicali : “Alda e il soldato rock” con Eugenio Finardi e Cosimo Damiano Damato, “Ferma l’Ali” con Michel Godard e al progetto teatrale: “Miss Kilimangiaro” in Kenya per “Avis for Children” con Lidia Pentassuglia.Collabora per diverse riviste poetico-letterarie e cura la rubrica di musica e dipoesia del “SimposioItaliano”, revue culturelle française bilingue.

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