Editorial – 1999

The response that we at the North-East Writers’ Forum received after the release of the first issue of the Forum’s journal, NEWFrontiers, has indeed been encouraging. Readers have, by and large, expressed their satisfaction at the quality of the material that it contained, and also, about the get-up of the offering. This is indeed gratifying. For we at the Editorial Offices see NEWFrontiers as very special. The journal seeks to showcase the literary sensibilities of the entire region as a cohesive, interlinked, vital entity, while, at the same time, always keeping in mind that the various parts that make up the intricate mosaic of this region are, in the end, unique unto themselves. And, in so doing, the journal has proved, with the very first issue, the vital importance of English as a vehicle of expression for the thoughts and feelings of writers who work in this region. English, legacy of colonialism though it may be, has certainly gone much beyond what it was fifty-one years ago in our country, and is now flourishing as a post-colonial means of communication that is indispensable in this region.

Of course this in no way undermines the importance of the various regional languages of the area. The several tongues which add colour and vitality to this region’s cultural life have their own vibrant literatures, both written as well as oral. But unfortunately, this wealth remains locked within the caskets created by the languages themselves. Even geographical neighbours, alas, do not have access to each other’s literary heritage.

It is for this reason that a special section on Translations has been included in this second volume. Besides renditions into English of contemporary poets writing in the various languages in this region,
we have also included a transcreation of a folk tale of Nagaland. This assumes its own importance when seen in the context of the oral rendition of traditional tales of this kind which have always added richness and meaning to the myths and legends that this region is so steeped in. Indeed, as is well known, folk-tales embody both the values and literary traditions of a particular culture. Of course the section on Translations ( as, indeed, most other sections, ) is still rather small at present. For it to be able to reflect the wealth, prodigality and diversity of the surrounding reality more faithfully, it needs to be much bigger. Hopefully, this goal will be achieved when the journal itself progresses from its present small size to becoming a larger and more representative presentation: a dream that we at North-East Writers’ Forum share with our well-wishers and patrons.

The essay section in this issue has just the one work on noted poet Jayanta Mahapatra. This was read out at the “Meet the Poet” session of the Forum’s highly successful “Expressions ’98” event in November, ’98 by its co-author, Liza Das. (Pradip Acharya was her collaborator in this endeavour). Being a comprehensive and highly illuminating piece which was heard by the poet himself, it was decided to include it in the Essay section as its contents would no doubt enlighten readers generally as well as specifically, that is, both on contemporary Indo-Anglian poetry, and also on the poet himself. Several suggestions were mooted by the eminent literateurs gathered at the release function of the first edition of NEWFrontiers. We have not been able to incorporate all of them in this issue, though certainly the feedback we have been receiving here has been of tremendous value. One of them (mooted by an eminent Assamese writer and critic) was that there ought to be a section devoted to specific cultural facets of this region: art, architecture, dance, music, and so on, so that the contents of the journal become rather more varied, while remaining mostly literary. This is still under consideration. But we have been able to incorporate the suggestion about devoting a section to Guest Writers, that is, writers who do not belong to the North-East but who have been specially invited to contribute to the journal. This has been done so that we get a rather more comprehensive view of the outside world through a small open window. And in this section, we have certainly been fortunate in our contributors. Jayanta Mahapatra, when requested for his contribution to NEWFrontiers at Expressions ’98, readily expressed his acquiescence. We are also proud to present a work by the 1998 winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Prize for Fiction for “The Warp and the Weft”, Sujata Sankranti. And then we have the poems (original and translated) by Avinoam Mann, a noted Israeli writer, poet, translator and mathematician, who expressed his willingness to contribute to our journal when contacted by his colleague, the Forum’s dynamic treasurer, Meenaxi. His work brings in the flavour of a desert land so different from ours, while his translation of the Greek poem adds, we think, another dimension to the journal.

To the regional selections, we have been able to add Sikkim with this issue. This has enriched the volume considerably, since the writers from Sikkim whose contributions we have included here are a sensitive, gifted group, whose vision and world-view, shaped by the dominant mountain-scape of the land, is unique. We already have Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur in our fold. Unfortunately, we have yet to include work from three north-eastern states: Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, and Mizoram. Efforts are on to fill this lacuna.

This issue has involved out of much discussion, based on the feedback that we received. The general consensus was that the rule involving the limitation of authors from the home state (i.e. the state in which a particular issue of the journal is being edited and published) should be scrapped. The first issue, being published from Guwahati, stuck to this rule. As a result, contributors from Assam got only one piece each published. From this issue, however, with that rule relegated to the dustbin, it has been decided that these considerations will not be valid in the selection of a piece: only merit and excellence will prevail.

Editorship of NEWFrontiers is a rotating one. Each new editor will put his or her own imprint on the two issues of the journal that pass through his/her hands. For us here in this editorial board, bringing out the first two volumes of NEWFrontiers has been an exciting experience. Meeting new authors, being privileged to read their work, getting glimpses of fertile, creative minds: all of this has been a marvellous adventure. True, we have made our share of mistakes, bloomers have crept in, but our readers and well-wishers have supported us throughout. We are sure that the next editor and the new editorial board, too, will find the job as deeply satisfying as we did. Finally, I would like to convey my appreciation of the editorial team consisting of Indrani Raimedhi, Babita Rajkhowa, D’Com Bhuyan and Meenaxi Bhattacharjee, without whose ample help and support, bringing out
this issue would not have been possible.

Guwahati

15th January, 1999
Mitra Phukan


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