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A glimpse into the soul of a Naga poetess

By November 8, 2017No Comments

Source : Nagaland Post

‘Be it a song, a painting or a soulful photography, everything you create is because there is a poet in you’


Tialila Kikon, one of Northeast’s best-known contemporary poets has a natural prowess and elegance with which she brings words to life. A poet as well as a lecturer, she explores the teachable aspects of life and spills the contradictions and complexities of the world in her own words. Her poems which reflect themes like that of John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelly, Khalil Gibran and Rumi are friendly reminders of how poetry can be a sustaining part of everyday life.
She was teaching literature at Mount Tiyi Government College Nagaland since 1998 and transferred to Peren Government College. She lives in Dimapur with her husband and two lovely children, Limhachan and Monalisa, who she says inspire her every day. When she is juggling between home and work, she scribbles poems that portray experience and imagination while also revealing the consequences of conflicts and human existence.
In her poem called “Weeping Earth”, she writes, “The earth weeps tonight, a witness to the plight, of poor helpless children victimised by games of adult greed, terror and hate”. The poem frames the harsh reality of today’s world where innocent children are torn in between conflicts that have marred and permanently disabled millions of children – an injustice that seems insurmountable. As we discussed about writing and its various processes, Tialila Kikon explained that to her, writing required leaving the world behind, so one could hold fast to what was unlit. “Poetry happens anywhere, anytime and I am not very particular about where I am because sometimes even though I am physically in a crowded place, my spirit wanders everywhere and that’s when the best thoughts strike. I keep repeating them in my mind until I finally put them down in a paper or type them down”, she said. She echoes what John Keating from Dead Poets Society tells about poetry that “law, business and engineering are noble pursuits, but poetry, beauty, romance and love are what we live for”.
It was the desire to give her scattered thoughts a home that prompted her to publish “Paper Cranes”, a book containing about 120 poems that indicates the enormous power of her words. The title of the book was inspired by Sadako Sasaki and her paper cranes which is a universal symbol of peace, hope and recovery. It was published by Cyberwit Publishers Allahabad in October, 2016. Her poems in the book serve as a gentle reminder to the world about the pain of divide, war, greed, intolerance, conflicts and fear, especially upon innocent children and the less privileged. They are expressed with faith and hope that humans can still find peace both within and without a little acceptance.
Tialila Kokon’s breakthrough happened in the year 2015 when her poem, “Human beings as we are” was selected as one of the top-100 poems of 2015 by Poetry First Publishing International. Later, some of her remarkable poems were published in “Feminist voices across cultures: A poetry anthology” and her Tanka poems appeared in “Winter Writes: Poems, Stories and Sagas”, a kindle eBook published by the Whitesboro group of writers, New York. Poems like “Indeed” and “Children of Conflict” were also selected out of 300 poems from around the world and displayed at the Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre, Vancouver, Canada on March 12, 2016 at WIN-UNESCO World Poetry Month Celebration under the theme of Love and World Peace. Paper Cranes was recently selected to be shelved at the Library of Congress, Washington DC – the official research library of the United States Congress.
As a young girl, Tialila Kikon was quiet and shy and always admired wordsmiths. Today, her admiration has transformed her into a poet who effortlessly alters surroundings and experiences into words that has touched the hearts of many. Words that not only exemplify despair and joy all at once but they give us confidence and hope. To touch and be touched soulfully is imperative to a harmonious state of being herself and poetry to her, is the best medium to achieve wholeness. It is a vehicle that drives away pent-up anger and frustrations which would otherwise harden the human in us. She finds inspiration from the sun to the moon, the sky to the sea and the colours and the seasons. “Even an ignored weed inspires me. The universe is full of voices, we just have to keep the mind’s eye open and listen to solitude” she says.
When she is not writing, Tialila Kikon loves clicking pictures of ordinary objects that often go unnoticed. The pictures inspire her quoetry which she inscribes upon. Quoetry is a contemporary poetry form which plays on the numerous quotes that make up the modern lexicon, a concept which was introduced by Micah Krahn, a poet from Pemberton, Canada in 2015. She loves micropoetry as well, a poetic art form which doesn’t really have any rules or titles, although it consists of certain forms of short poetry with fixed rules such as Haiku, Tanka, Senryu, Nonet, Gogyohka, etc.

“It is a creative blend of passion and art and there is a great sense of fulfillment when you can actually express huge amount of emotion within a few words. Some say that it lacks lyrical beauty but I feel this is a good strategy to keep poetry alive in this fast moving generation and yes, I love and enjoy reading and writing longer poems as well but not everyone has the leisure of a lazy wordsmith like me to read a long poem” Tia says.

When I asked her why people, especially in Nagaland have only recently begun to learn the art of poetry, she said that poetry had always been more academic in its approach and that maybe we failed to enjoy the beauty of poetry because we were taught to learn it by heart or line by line, while sidelining its essence. As she said this, I could not help but think about how many school students miss out on the depth of a poem and think of them as just sequences of words because there is no room for imagination and very less creative exercises for students to understand the poem.
When asked about how lucrative poetry is, she said “Poetry can only feed your soul’s need and as for your physical need, you ought to have a day job as even great poets like T.S Elliot worked as a clerk in a bank and Robert Frost was a teacher”. “Your poetry book can never pay your car loan”, that’s what people close to me have said. Moreover, a publisher would not want to hoard unsold copies of poetry books in their publishing houses then come to the book stores that may not have enough space for poetry books to dust forever. There is a vast difference between passion and business and we cannot force the dwindling community of readers to love poetry if they are not interested. However, against all odds, the joy of doing what you passionately love is priceless. And hopefully, I pray that people would realise how soulless, how barren the world would be without poetry, say a colder world with lost lyrics and no songs because words matter after all, Tialila Kikon said.
There is no denying in the fact that although many can write poetry, there are very few publications that would be willing to publish poetry as it does not make sales in the market. “It was Purushottma Lal, commonly known as P. Lal, founder and publisher of Writers Workshop in Calcutta (1958), who was the first publisher to believe in Indian poets and without bias published a number of poetry books, opening avenues for poets in the future. Unfortunately, not many publishers are as accommodating as P. Lal and we cannot blame them as well”. She said.
Tialila Kikon said that there were many upcoming brilliant young Naga poets and that if we can keep poetry alive, there was hope for many artistic creations because poetry is the seed of all art. She said, “Poetry is a glamourless art, a poor man’s tool of expression and people at times give it a step-motherly treatment. I wish there were more people in love with poetry because I believe it is an intellectual as well as spiritual art which calms the mind, comforts the heart and heals the soul. I want people to know the spiritual and healing value of poetry and I long to see a world where human emotions and feelings will not be ignored, a world where no one must starve for want of peace and love”.
Perhaps it must be true what many people say. That poetry is the only art form where the number of people creating it is far greater than the number of people appreciating it. It has been so institutionalised that a lot of students regard poetry in a grudging manner. But as more poets like Tialilla Kikon emerge in Nagaland, we are given hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that there is plenty of energy driving the art form, especially because the internet is slowly starting to make poetry more accessible than ever.
With one published book of poetry alongside contributions to various anthologies, being featured on international websites and blogs, Tialila Kikon is an important presence on the map of poetry in English today, especially in a place like Nagaland. She is currently working on her second book of poems titled, “Dandelion Dreams”, a book for dreamers.
Her book Paper Cranes is available at Amazon and one can connect with her via her instagram handle soulscape73, which she believes is a sweet escapade from the daily chores of life and a good place to be connected with instapoets from all over the world.
Tia’s beguiling and arresting words will continue to help readers enjoy a certain degree of solitude and introspection while also finding profound resonances.

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