“I just turned 48, although I feel 50. I’ve probably lived in Thimphu for 30. It’s changed a lot. It used to be that if you sprouted a mullet those days you’d be called a “punk”. Or even if you’d a slight tear in your pants, shirts, jackets, etc. And if you smoked a “joint”, you were branded a “drug addict”. So things were far more conservative. I see these changes in attitude as a major factor toward a progressive Bhutan, where tolerance is on the rise. Hopefully, this trend will carry on so that substance replaces form (the right substance!), merit overshadows family background, and deeds trump reputation. I’ve been a subject of such appearances, and it’s cost me jobs. But I’m not complaining, really, just reflecting on changes in town.

Nowadays I look around and most of these appearances have become the norm. In school and later on in college, I took to the arts – particularly poetry. I love the poets of old, from the vaunted traditions of ancient China – the Taoists, the Zen wanderers of Japan, and the Sufis of Persia. Among the contemporary poets, although they’re dead, I’m drawn to Leonard Cohen, the singer-poet, and others such as Bukowski, whose guttural words resonate with my sense of how the streets that have no names function.

My poetry is a blend of these influences and the daily ebb and flow of life, with all its stagnancy. I enjoy writing about natural phenomena too, such as sunrises, sunsets, the filling-leaking moon, the falling stars, birdsongs, the passing seasons, and the veiled connection between that and our minds. “Mind”, in the philosophical context, has and continues to be a major theme in my writing. I know that’s the Buddhist hang-up in me but there’s rich material in it. And finally, daily life. I try and capture whatever little vignettes I can. I love that kind of poetry too; the attempt to grasp what’s already passed and is forever elusive.

I think Bhutanese folks have a natural inclination toward poetry, perhaps it’s the influence of the spiritual texts, like Milarepa’s songs. But when it comes to writing their poems, there’s a lack of the fundamentals; a habit of not reading, exploring, learning, writing, revising, etc. are some of the limitations. The recent fad of self-publishing is another curse. The last thing I’d like to see is the cultivation of mediocrity. Also, I don’t know the reasons for the poor grasp of grammar. Is it the teachers? Is it the curriculum? These are pressing problems that need to be redressed. In a time of information overload, I’d have guessed that everything would be better, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. But there’s hope yet, and every time I read a touching poem or a well-crafted essay written by a young person I go, “Wow!”
Each generation must outdo its predecessor, and in a way, I’m waiting to become redundant. Either that or I’m already expired. Now may I quote my favourite poet on poetry? I think it captures whatever poetry may be.

“Poetry is just the evidence of life; if your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash”

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