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Roger Harris:
"Alchemies of the night"

 

 

(extract from the preface by Anuradha Maumdar)

 

Roger Harris came to Auroville in 1978. At first he lived in Forecomers, in a small house overlooking bare canyon cliffs and the sky. Auroville was mythic then, bordering an unknown adventure. Around him lay vast stretches of barren land where men and women were gathering from around the world to build an invisible city of the future. It was a time when the Dream whispered quite loudly in the wind and it was then that the notebook scribbles began.

 

Auroville is…

A temple in the sun…

A whisper in the wind…

A battlefield of bliss…

A child against the sun….

 

Soon after, Roger began working at the Matrimandir construction site, moving out of Forecomers to live in the Camp, in the Peace area. Poems filled up his notebook even as he became one of those Matrimandir fixtures. One could find him up on the scaffolding or down by the workshop, in the tea-room, at all-night concretings, at guitar strumming binges with his construction buddies, or else, doing lone night watch. He swung between eternal and mundane things. Between City of peace and God's unguarded light and I got them 8 AM steelyard blues…

 

He put all those poems together in a dossier and gave them to Amal Kiran, of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, who published a few in Mother India.

 

Eventually, Roger moved on to other things: teaching, translating and recording splendid voice-overs for documentary films and performances. He wrote for Auroville Today, co-edited Invisible Ships, a temporary publication for collective sanity, edited a multilingual collection of Auroville poetry called Dust and Dreams, Kenneth Fator's book of poems, Trek, and even had a close brush with theatre.

 

But in between all this, Roger vanished from time to time, hitting the road, both literally and metaphorically, for Derry, for Paris, for Dharamsala, and for a place called Sophie: a personal continent of love and loss, of beauty and transcendence. Thus he became a journeyman's poet with the voice of a balladeer, reminiscent sometimes of his favourite singer Dylan; with the haunting music of the sea that Yeats yielded; and an inner mystical imagery and landscape, suggestive of Sri Aurobindo's poetry.

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