In recognition of its recent announcement by Edexcel, owned by Pearson, that from this September Schools will offer more poems, plays and novels from writers and poets from the BAME background, on 13th August, at its celebration of new books by diaspora poets worldwide, Word Masala Foundation awarded its coveted Champion of the Diaspora Poetry Award to Katy Lewis, the Head of English Art and Languages, and her team at Pearson.
The Pearson spokesperson responded with, “We are happy that the work done by Katy and her team is being recognised not just by students and teachers but by the voices we want them to hear.”
At the same event in the High Commission of India‘s Nehru Centre, the Word Masala Debut Poet 2019 was conferred on Reshma Ruia with her collection pencilled in for October 2019.
Apart from the founder-poet- editor Yogesh Patel, who was recently a Poet-of-Honor at the literary festival in NYU, Ravi Shankar (USA), Dr Debjani Chatterjee MBE FRSL, Kavita A Jindal, Jason Lee (Hong Kong), Rishi Dastidar, a Chair of Spread the Word, Jess Mookherjee, and Dr Reshma Ruia read their work. They demonstrated the variety that exists but has been missing from the national consciousness.
A poetry film ‘Swimming with Whales’ by Yogesh Patel (https://youtu.be/QuiRfnFaYkU) shown at the event also added a dimension to think about the genre generally not available in the education system.
“It will stretch minds of the students if diversity can also mean to include more aspects of literary and creative work“, reflects Yogesh Patel. This Glorious Noise, a concept of poetry readings anchored in new books published by the diaspora poets had its first outing at The National Poetry Library. In its second edition on 13th August at the Nehru Centre, Word Masala brought together the reading by the Indian diaspora poets changing the landscape of English poetry. As a showcase of diaspora poets, the event offered unfamiliar themes and diaspora experiences that affect us daily but normally not represented in literature. The poets present also had a variety of backgrounds.
Yogesh Patel: “And yet, I feel left out by the mainstream literature. A token poet or two published by publishers does not redeem them as the exponents of equal opportunity but can be the first step if a genuine desire does exit such as shown by the Edexcel team at Pearson. I believe strongly that there is every reason for celebrating such efforts with awards such as ours.
“Poets who read demonstrated that they were on the stage by their right and not just because they are from diaspora. There is also a need to define diaspora literature. Is it only about the diasporic experience? Does it have to bring in its narrative deliberately the cultural elements of the heritage country?
“If it is so, then why the writers from the other background can also not be included in it? That raises another spectre: Does it mean it has to be related to the skin colour an in the acronym BAME? Why then must they only write about being an immigrant or being in minority?
“This leads to a fascinating real debate. In the end, all things should be a guide and not a hard rule! Who decides or judges how it is to be the diasporic literature? The idea of the background of the individual works for me, but I also need to understand that if we go down that route what are we looking? I believe it will be one thing for the education purpose and another for the general integration.”
Yogesh Patel adds that to discuss this further as agreed by the Pearson team he will be meeting them soon.
The driving principles of Word Masala Foundation about promoting diasporic literature are thus in harmony with the recognition that is bestowed on Edexcel.