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Davis, California

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Poetry from the top of the world

On Feb. 9, the spirit of the Himalayas will come alive at UC Davis. Nepali poet and author Yuyutsu Ram Dass Sharma will hold a poetry reading and workshop from noon to 2 p.m. in 126 Voorhies. The event will primarily concentrate on his new book, Way to Everest, a collection of his poems and photographs by Andreas Stimm about the culture of the Himalayan Mountains.

Born in Punjab, Sharma grew up in Kathmandu, Nepal, where he was touched by the Himalayan spirits at a very young age.

“When I was seven years old, I was told that a spirit [would] visit me,” Sharma said. “The spirit would shake me, and I would shake all around the street. In the village I was so famous – everyone thought I was a god. Even my own grandfather would bow to me.”

Embarrassed by his power as a child, Sharma said he did not cultivate his relationship with the gods and goddesses for many years. Now he is trying to revive the spirits again through his poetry.

“When I grew up, I realized how terrible I was, how I forgot everything,” he said. “And somehow, the power of the goddess came through poetry. And now I can write poetry, it shakes me, the goddess comes and possesses me even now.”

Sharma, who has published eight poetry collections and translated several Nepali poetry anthologies, writes primarily about the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal – home of the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest.

But for Sharma and the Himalayan people, the Himalayas are much more than a geographical formation. To them, they are a place of great worship, where humans can be close to the gods and goddesses of their culture.

“The Western world wants to conquer the mountains. It’s not like slaying a bull,” Sharma said. “It’s worshipping the mountains. It’s saying, ‘Goddess, I am coming to you.’ The mountains are our family members.”

In his workshop, Sharma will share Himalayan music, poems and photographs from his new book about the culture, mythology and issues concerning the Himalayas and its people. He will also invite participants to write their own poetry and discuss the rich culture of his homeland.

The event is sponsored by Poets & Writers, Inc. and the Center for Arts & the Muse at the university.

Rebecca Morrison, UC Davis alumna and published poet, met Sharma through a mutual friend. She invited him to speak at UC Davis as part of his North American tour.

“We hope to sponsor more literary and artistic events at UC Davis in the future,” Morrison said.

University Writing Program and technocultural studies professor Andy Jones is looking forward to welcoming Sharma to UC Davis. He hopes the event will increase student interest in poetry, creative writing and photography through Sharma’s unique perspective.

“From my point of view as a teacher, this is a very exciting event,” said Jones, who also organizes Poetry Night at Bistro 33 and hosts KDVS 90.3 FM’s “Poetry and Technology Hour.” “He’s going to be talking about the relationship between photography and the poems that he writes, as a poly-literature and culture.”

Jones believes Sharma’s visit is a good opportunity for UC Davis to learn about and experience a fascinating culture.

“He’s a voice that is difficult to encounter even on a college campus,” Jones said. “Nepal has a rich written culture, a rich musical culture, and obviously a rich religious culture. These are not topics that are often taught at UC Davis or any other university.”

Jones also said the event will reflect the diverse community principles of UC Davis.

“It provides a chance for a campus that cares deeply about our principles of community and celebrating diverse voices,” he said. There is certain to be no shortage of cultural celebration at Tuesday’s event. For Sharma, the culture of the Himalayas is never far away. Despite his travels, he says, he keeps the spirit of his homeland close by.

“Even in my book about Europe and America, there is a lot of the mountains. My world, my gods and goddesses, my celestial beings are in that,” he said. “I carry my cultural backpack with me.”

ROBIN MIGDOL can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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