Who’s playing

  for Renata Fontenla

who’s playing
the symphony of quivering shadows

the water drips drop by drop
leaves imprints on stones

the sun rises
and small pieces of darkness are
spread on the white wall of your house

                                            of the olive tree
                                of the lamp post
                                                            of the bird perching on it

the white wall
soaks the shadows
                                 drop by drop
                                 leaf by leaf

from the crevices of the wall
                     little plants
                     little shadows sprout

to reach the roots of the tree
the lamp post
the bird
the sun has come to your house

the door is open
the house is empty

the sun stands on your threshold in silence

by Amarjit Chandan

‘Who’s playing’, copyright © Amarjit Chandan, 2010, is taken from Sonata for Four Hands by Amarjit Chandan, a bilingual edition edited & introduced by Stephen Watts, with a foreword by John Berger, and translated by the author with Stephen Watts, Julia Casterton, Shashi Joshi, Amin Mughal, Ajmer Rode and John Welch.

Notes courtesy of Arc:

Amarjit Chandan was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1946, and lives and works in London. He has published seven collections of poetry and four books of essays in Punjabi and his poems have appeared in anthologies and magazines world-wide. He has edited and translated into Punjabi about thirty anthologies of Indian and world poetry and fiction by, among others, Brecht, Neruda, Ritsos, Hikmet, Cardenal, Martin Carter and John Berger. He was one of ten British poets selected by the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, on National Poetry Day in 2001, and he participated in the International Aldeburgh Poetry Festival the same year. He has given many readings throughout the world including at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest and, in the USA, at the University of California Santa Barbara and Columbia University. Sonata for Four Hands is the first collection by Amarjit Chandan to be published in the UK.

He has received numerous literary awards for his work, including the Life-time Achievement Award by the Language Department of the Punjab Government, India in 2004; the Life-time Achievement Award by the Panjabis in Britain All-Party Parliamentary Group, London in 2006; and the Life-time Achievement Award by the Anad Foundation New Delhi in November 2009. A short poem by Amarjit Chandan in both Punjabi and English is engraved in granite by the artist Alec Peever and installed in a square in Slough High Street.

Amin Mughal (co-translator) was born in the Punjab in 1935 and has lived in England as a political exile since 1984. He is a critic of Urdu and Punjabi literature. He taught English at Islamia College and Shah Hussain College in Lahore. As a leader of the National Awami Party, he was imprisoned a number of times. He worked for the weekly magazine Viewpoint in Lahore and was editor of Awaz, an Urdu daily published in London.

Since it was founded in 1969, Arc has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians.

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