Exiled Tibetan poet and writer Bhuchung D. Sonam launched his latest book, “Yak Horns,” at Dharamsala on July 15.
The book is a collection of personal essays on contemporary Tibetan arts and social issues. Bhuchung Sonam was born in Tibet, educated in Tibetan Children’s Village School, St. Xavier’s College, University of Baroda and Emerson College. He has published two books of poetry, “Dandelions of Tibet” and “Muses in Exile: An Anthology of Tibetan Poetry."
On inspiration behind writing Yak Horns
“As an artist living in exile and seeking freedom for a country, it is important to achieve a definite aim and purpose. In writing Yak Horns, my aims are twofold. Firstly, when I think about books on Tibetan history and Tibetan society, those written by westerners have an outlook as an outsider, influenced by their own cultural background. From China, there are many misinterpretations. There is a risk of losing Tibetan feelings and voice in the middle of western writing and Chinese propaganda. Therefore, as a Tibetan, I saw it important to write a book regardless of in what language. That was my first reason in writing the book.
Secondly, especially glancing back since 2008, there were many books written by experts and scholars inside Tibet, especially on politics, societal issues and situation inside Tibet. These are books written from inside Tibet. But in exile, since the 1990s, there were many Tibetans who migrated to different places in the west including the United States. For such reasons, many younger Tibetans lack language proficiency to read the Tibetan writings from Tibet. Thus there is a widening gap between the two. Therefore, in my book, I have written about the books from Tibet, under what circumstances, the books were written. And I hope that this would bridge the gap between the writers from inside Tibet and these new generations of Tibetans so that they can learn about the situation inside Tibet and find new inspiration.”
On choosing the title
“As a child in Tibet, I remember yak horns put outside our house door. I remember the presence of Yak in my everyday life. When I recall my childhood, I think of Yak. Also while in conversation with non-Tibetans about Yak, there is this an established fact of Yak being an animal from Tibet. Just like everyone knows His Holiness the Dalai Lama hails from Tibet, Yak makes one think of Tibet right away. Since Yak brings imagery of highlands of Tibet and is tied to my childhood memories of Tibet and is largely identified with Tibet, I named the book as such.”
On contents of the book
“The book is about contemporary arts and is divided into 4 chapters. The first one highlights books published inside and outside Tibet such as Nag-Tsang-Shi-Lui-Kyi Dug, Therang’s “Written in Blood", Jamyang Kyi’s "A Sequence of Tortures: A Diary of Interrogation” and Gartse Jigme’s books, and those written in exile: Tenzin Tsundue’s poetry, Tsering Namgyal’s book, and Thupten Samphel’s book. The first chapter introduces Tibetan writers inside Tibet and in exile.
The second chapter is about the many movies made in the Tibetan refugee community. Although many of the movies might not have been seen internationally, these movies show Tibetan youth’s take and future aspirations with a Tibetan style.
And there is a chapter about Tibetan music: traditional nangma music and contemporary music and how China is using traditional Tibetan music as a political propaganda tool. Lastly, the fourth chapter consists of political changes in the exile community after His Holiness the Dalai Lama relinquished his political power on March 14, 2011. These are namely the four chapters.”
On poem recitals during Yak Horn's launch
“There was no specific theme of poem recital during the book launch. Tenzin Tsundue, Tenzin Dickyi, and Tibetan women writer and poet Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, who came from the United States, and I did not discuss specifically what we were going to read but generally, all of our poems were about challenges in exile, longing for Tibet and oyr experiences as refugees.”
On length of the book
“There are about more than 170 pages in the book. Additionally, there are four footnotes that include His Holiness’s March 14 address, his address in March 1963 which promulgated a draft constitution for Tibet, and his 1991 address on Tibetan political movement. I have also included our elected exile Tibetan leader Lobsang Sangay’s inaugural address given in August 2011.”
On publishing financial support
“Usually it is hard to publish books in the exile community but luckily we received help from some Dutch poets from Holland for Tibetwrites, a nonprofit that promotes writings by Tibetan writers and poets. We have been able to publish some books including mine.”