Editor's Note

When “the factory of poetry” shuts down, the natural springs of poetry become audible – these three particular poems speak to such moments, and Avinash Sreshtha’s voice is that spring. In these poems, Shrestha is conscious of his poet self but seems to be speaking or muttering to himself than to the reader, attempting to locate himself through the writing.

— Mani Rao
The Bombay Literary Magazine

Translator's Note

Avinash Shrestha, I believe, is a unique case of a “double interloper” in Nepali poetry. In his poetry, he forged a quintessentially modern Nepali diction and imagery influenced by poets ranging from the French symbolist poets to Lorca, Neruda and Salvatore Quasimodo. Along with this, he infused a distinctly Sanskrit-heavy inflorescence—drawn from the Assamese, Urdu, Hindi and Bengali poetry of India—into the idiom of Nepali poetry that was, at the time, mired in themes of social issues. In a way, the poems in his four books of poetry, and particularly his third, Anubhuti Yatrama (1990), resuscitated Nepali poetry to the history and condition of its own utterance, reveling in dictions high and low, the sacred and the profane, making itself aware of its own rhizomatic linguistic relations. “Spell” from Anubhuti Yatrama exemplifies this new poetry that was necessarily syncretic, surrealist by design, and heavily influenced by the Collage poetry movement Shrestha spearheaded in Assam. “On Descending a Fog-rimmed Mountain” and “Song of the Five Elements” are both taken from his most recent full-length collection, Karodoun Suryaharuko Andhakar (2001)The poems in this collection intersect Shrestha’s distinct brand of religious surrealism perfected in his first three books with themes of ecology and climate justice.

— Rohan Chhetri

On Descending a Fog-rimmed Mountain


Shutting the factory of poetry

I’m descending toward the village of fog


The muted laughter of yellow-brown leaves

scattered along the trail

.                                     along the trail for some reason

.                                     I couldn’t bring myself to whistle


Like wind blowing from a thousand directions

unbidden—                     fragmented music

.                                     I couldn’t remember the words for

.                                     hard as I tried


I was high, high above—

Who knows how high

.                             in a sentimental world

Down, down below were tiny

poor, unsullied houses

.                             of reality

.                             and like the

cows and buffalos, sheep and lambs, horses and mules

.                              were people down there


Clutching a hungry contentment close

like a soul-companion

.                               I walked

.                               toward the drought-ridden weather


The poet inside whinnied, skittish,

imagining the smell of a stable

.                                    “Spring!” it neighed

.                                     stamping on winter’s ground—

The dry syllable of leaves falling

.                                      against each other

As when a green bird lifts off a trembling branch

.                                       the soughing of the wind

.                                       in the tree of desolation



by the fistful /

.    like a slithering fish / the loud river that flows

.                                       down the lowlands,

.                              I examine existence

.                              sifting the chaff of my own loneliness


Ripping this

musty quilt into tatters / —wracked

with inadequacy—     a great mutiny quakes

.                                inside me/ rumbling

.                                down the floodplains of

.                                a muscular song


In time

trampling these inviolable summits

.                                      of your intoxication

.                                      with these very soles

one day / I will pass— right above you


Shutting the factory of poetry

.                                 I’m descending

.                                 slowly into the fog-

.                                 shrouded village of my subconscious





Who knows where the Brahmaputra1; of my consciousness

Began, from what Mansarovar2 on high / & how far

The bay of its emptying?


The boatman fears poverty / & the fish

Fear the boatman

Sleep startled by dreams / & eyes

Stricken with sleep


The tides join their palms together / Salutations!

To the moon, to the sky—from the churning sea


Spilling a boundless blue silence over the sky’s great flare,

Where has he hidden, where? / Through fabric impenetrable

Did he hotfoot it / into the illusion of the universe?


Night of gardenia blooms drenched in September rain

Yoked to this night other memory rooms / mythical

.                                                                         body-fragrant


In the heart’s bereft forest / from one end to the other end

Who walked by unnamed





[1] A trans-boundary river which flows through Tibet, Northeastern India, and Bangladesh


[2] A high altitude freshwater lake fed by the Kailash Glaciers; along with Mount Kailash, a sacred site in four religions: Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Bön



Song of the Five Elements


The birds flew towards the sky

and became sky


Wild beasts that ran with the speed of wind

became wind itself


Humans rolled over in dirt

and became earth


The fish darted restlessly in water

and became water


The poor trees set to flames for nothing, cindered and became fire



the true souls






and trees


couldn’t be burnt so they burnished

and from them was forged the sun’s great flare

the constellations’ blue flash




the poet—                neither ready to be bird nor fish

.                                 neither ready to be human

.                                 nor dirt


Became— a sigh

an intimation

a cipher


Image credits:

@ Daniel Casson. Misty Mountains. All rights reserved. Reproduced here with the permission of the artist.

Daniel’s landscapes have an ethereal quality because they evoke the wordless wonder we fell when we gaze upon nature. As the Independent Photographer put it: “His images possess a painterly quality, owing in part to his subjects though more significantly, the skillful artistry with which he renders them.” Don’t take our word for it. Check out his website.


Born in India to Nepali immigrants, Avinash Shrestha migrated to Kathmandu, Nepal in 1984 from Assam, India to pursue graduate studies. Heavily influenced by the regional poetry movements in India, Shrestha had already written a book of poems in Assamese and two volumes of his Nepali poetry had been published in Assam. The second book of poetry in Nepali, Parewa: Seta Kala (1984), originally published in 1976 and destroyed in a press raid in Assam, established his foothold in the Nepali literary map. His third book, and his first to be published in Nepal, Anubhuti Yatrama, came out in 1990. His most recent full-length collection, Karodoun Suryaharuko Andhakar (Darkness of a Million Suns) was published in 2001. A prolific and versatile writer and editor in Nepal with numerous feature film and television scripts, songs, and plays to his credit, Shrestha’s literary works have been awarded the prestigious Dhaulagiri Sahitya Puraskar (for the poetry collection Anubhuti Yatrama), Yuva Barsha Moti Puraskar, Swarna Padak, among others. Most recently in June, 2022 he was awarded the prestigious lifetime achievement award in Nepali letters, Gopal Prasad Rimal Smriti Samman.

Translator | ROHAN CHHETRI

Rohan Chhetri is a writer and translator based in Houston, Texas. His latest book is Lost, Hurt, or in Transit Beautiful, winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize. A volume of translation of Avinash Shrestha’s poetry from the Nepali, The Dust Draws Its Face on the Wind, is forthcoming in 2024 from HarperCollins India. His poems and translations have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry London, Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Words Without Borders, among others.

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