In the Spotlight
BLINK Turns 30
Believe it or not, the poetry journal, BLINK, published by the Kelaniya University’s English Department, turns thirty years, soon! That it has been in publication for so long is in itself a factor to celebrate. Its founder and first editor, Sharmini Jaywardena, says in the Preface to the first issue, “This is the first issue of a collection of verse and prose in English, published by the students of the Kelaniya Unitversity. It is hoped that this will be an annual publication which in time to come will include contributions from students of all the universities in Sri Lanka.” The fact that at least part of the dream has come to fruition is an achievement. Everyone was wondering, and asking why BLINK, well as one of the lecturers, Dr Lakshmi de Silva, without whose encouragement the publication would not have been a reality, said; it had some very erudite meaning to it. But to the editor it was just a blink, or even more than that; and happy was the day for her when a rock band later came to be called Blink 182!
The late Ajith Samaranayake as Aravinda reviewed the first issue in the Island of Friday, April 23, 1982, and titled it ‘Blink Proof of Promise’, and very rightly so. The writers he goes on to comment on, Dhani, now Dharini Abeysekera’s Twilight – You and I/ We met and mingled/ On the air of a stormy afternoon./ We watched/ Blood red sun/ Slip between/ The darkening legs of the sky/ while robot moon/ Sliding silver-stiff/Waxed to a colourless throne. Rashmi Q, now Sharmini Jayawardena’s Open Ended – Group of defeated students/ Glass panes shattered to smithereens/ Furniture heaped in the open/ A blaze/ Gloomy suffocating fumes/ Smoky unending feuds/ A day of heroism/ A show of terrorism…and Rajan Perera, now Arjuna Parakrama’s Crinkled bags, as sad as briefcases,/ Clutching folded news/ In newspapers you must eat for hate; have all continued writing into their years. That was the promise Aravinda was talking about I guess and this too- a long life for BLINK!
He goes on to say, “Kelaniya University it appears has suddenly erupted into activity… It is fitting of course that Kelaniya should be in the vanguard of a movement to promote English prose and poetry among a new generation of the country’s English- educated intelligentsia…having inherited the mantle of Passe Ludowyke and Halpe from the genteel groves of Peradeniya academy. ‘Blink’ offers refreshing proof that English teaching at Kelaniya is not confined to the lecture room and tutorial class and that the new literati is ready to grapple with other issues a part from the purely academic.
At a radio review of the second issue edited by Arnjali Edrisinhe now Arnjali Rowe, the late Richard de Soysa was to commend the poem by N.S., ‘Monotony’, which later appeared in Wet Paint, a collection of poems by Sharmini Jayawardena. She also went on to edit Options, the journal of the Women and Media Collective, and contributed to it. Dharini Abeysekera continued writing poetry and her poems were published in Options vols 27 and 28, 3rd and 4th Quarter 2001. Arjuna Parakrama has published his own collection of poems. Kumar de Silva the editor of the 4th issue of BLINK continues to write poetry and his poetry appeared in the Sunday Observer edition of 18th December, 2011.
Through Professor Manique Gunesekera, Head of Department of English, University of Kelaniya, the students who are leaving have been introduced to those of the day. I spoke to Lochana Liyanage, the Editor of BLINK 10 of 2010, the latest issue to be out. He passed it on to me on a PDF and that in itself was a huge leap forward. There is much in this issue in the form of writing, both verse and prose.
As Professor Manique Gunesekera, says, BLINK comes of age in every sense!
“I am delighted that the Editor of BLINK 2010, Lochana, and the editorial team, invited me to give the Preface to this edition, in my capacity… I have witnessed the birth and growth of BLINK, from a fledgling student magazine of short poems to what it is today: a repository of student thoughts spanning a range of topics from Facebook to Nostradamus…At one time BLINK was all in verse, at another time it was strongly bilingual, in another it was one with the night: death, darkness, war, suicide, pain, totally noir. Today it has morphed into a state-of-the-art magazine by students who are comfortable with themselves… It is a proud moment to acknowledge that our students are no longer passive watchers…”
“In the writing, this time’s BLINK demonstrates the awareness of life in all its colours and textures; the students are not symbols of extremism…aware of the responsibilities they have acquired, or in the words of one of this year’s contributor’s, Thilini Gunathilake, in A Dark Passage- I wear a heart seemingly brave/ I can’t go home with an empty hand.”
“This publication symbolizes the richness of diversity in the Department, and the true test of language acquisition: sociolinguists confirm the test of acquisition of language and culture it the ability to use humour effectively.” –
As Lochana Liyanage writes in his Adventures of Lozenge-
‘On his first trip to the warcity, after being overwhelmed at the sight of numerous “Intelligent conversations” taking place among students on both sides of the road that led to the Department of Mordam Languages, Just met his colleagues, the Greek students.
They were engaged in their sizzling conversations of effortless GOD KNOWS WHAT?! The loudness of their speech became a humming sensation, in which everything minus meaning was audible at stupendous volume. Just couldn’t understand a word of it and assumed that they were speaking in Greek slang. Even after retiring as a seasoned alien after three years, an embarrassed Just said that he still couldn’t figure out what the nose length conversations were all about’.”
“The influences of the cultures of the East and West, the Ramayanaya, the Renaissance, Absurdity, Poetic Drama, Realism, Feminism, Marxism, Existentialism, etc. have borne fruit – and the eclectic blend is visible in the output of the students”.
I would like to close this account of BLINK, looking forward for richer, better times to come by quoting from a poem The Green Leaf by Thakshila Jayasekara from BLINK 10, which the editor has picked for its “self-contained richness” and which I like very much-
Dust covers me
making me wait-
for a mild rain,…
to collapse me
to the ground.
Yet, I’m silent
my greenery fade away
and enrich the soil
with my whole soul…