Poetry in the city – alive, but not kicking

Bangalore has a small group of poetry enthusiasts with the numbers slowly growing. But with the rise of the internet, there are more avenues for poets to reach out, share their work and get feedback.

According to Mohammed Fakhruddin, the founder of Poets International, a 27-year old poetry appreciation society, poetry is a form of wisdom. Fakhruddin, a well-accomplished poet and writer himself, believes that poetry is a form of lifestyle. Most poetry has its origin in topics of daily life – love, life, death or nature. “Poetry can be taken up at any age. What matters is the inspiration and this can be triggered off at any time.”

Started as a quarterly journal in 1983, Poets International has gained popularity over the years, prompting Fakhruddin to expand it, first into a monthly journal and as of the year 2000, a website. It has since become a popular platform for poets all over the world. Although the print journal has been largely confined to Indian writers, the website is open to all poets around the world to both enjoy others poetry as well as show case their own. The team also conducts a yearly poetry festival in Bangalore.

Poetry International’s meet in August at Koshy’s Chill Out. Pic: Aakanksha Devi.

Recently, Poets International, met at Koshy’s Chill Out and was attended by over twenty poets and poetry enthusiasts across ages. The sponsor of the event was Prem Koshy, actor and owner of Koshy’s cafe, who said he was very pleased and proud to play host to such a creative bunch of people. “It is wonderful to see people in the city appreciating poetry. It is a wonderful art and is a beautiful way of expression.” says Koshy.

The audience was treated to poems written and performed by members of Poets International and other poets from the city. Despite having differing styles and interests, the attendees enthusiastically listened to the recitals. The poems, in different languages on varying topics, drove home the fact that poetry can surpass the boundaries of culture, language and age.

Fakhruddin gives the example of Vimala Seshadri, 63, who has been writing poetry for several years now, and has published over 160 Haikus in Kannada.

Caferati, another forum for writers and poets, with a Bangalore chapter, has also had poetry conventions as well as workshops on writing. Their website, though primarily for Indian writers, is read and critiqued for the content by writers and poets all over the world, allowing for people to both read and share their works.

But as most people may wonder, what is it that has brought about this change in culture, especially among the youth. There has been a small rise in the number of poets and people who appreciate this written art. Many poets and writers estimate there may be over 200 active poets in Bangalore.

Kala Ramesh, a poetry enthusiast and teacher of Communication Studies at Mount Carmel College believes that the past five years has seen a very positive change in the world of poetry.

“The internet really helps because in addition to providing a platform, there’s also that much more feedback coming in because it’s in public spaces. Also, the internet makes it possible to display newer, non-print forms of poetry.”

 

For those who were earlier shy to showcase their poetry in public forums, the internet provides a vast platform to share their passion. They can do this with a blanket of anonymity yet still be recognised and given due credit for their talents. “I used to be really awkward about my poetry. I tried to hide my book when people asked to read it but now that I have been appreciated on my blog and on other sites, I have gained the confidence to actually come out with my poetry,” says Divya Sesha, a Master’s student of business who writes poetry as a hobby.

“The internet really helps because in addition to providing a platform, there’s also that much more feedback coming in because it’s in public spaces. Also, the internet makes it possible to display newer, non-print forms of poetry.”

And it really is boon for artists who can then receive valuable feed back from fellow poets all over the world. Also, much like in the film Dead Poets’ Society, the myth of poetry being written and appreciated by the middle aged or older, is also being proved wrong. Although there may not be a huge interest in studying poetry, the creative aspect of writing it, has certainly appealed to the youngsters.

“I think in Bangalore there are many more poetry events than say about five years ago, and it’s not only older people, quite a lot of poetry is being written, read and performed by young people,” says Kala.

Despite believing that schools and colleges do not emphasise enough on teaching the style and technique of poetry, Fakhruddin says that poetry is popular because it can be short and precise. “There is a lot of creative talent in the youth of today, but the present generation world over has no time to read long poems. Compressed thoughts and brevity of expression in poetic forms has become the order of the day. Haiku has filled this vacuum and served as new era poetry. All the Japanese forms of poetry trigger the imagination of not only poets but also readers,” he says.

Kala feels that the art would do much better with more public platforms in the city. “Bangalore does have a few poetry enthusiasts but really it needs to give more time in the spotlight before people actually catch on to the trend,” she says. Even Vasudha Murthy, one of the earliest members of Poets International and Board Member of the Haiku Society of India, believes that Bangalore is lagging behind in the field of poetry.

Vasudha is of the opinion that poetry has caught on to some level, it doesn’t seem to have captured the heart completely.

“There is simply no platform for poets. I also feel that the youth are not very enamoured by poetry. They have other interests. Although we do have some poetry reading sessions, it is the same people and there hasn’t really been a growth in the poet population,” she laments.

This poetry enthusiast also believes that the market is really small and people are unwilling to spend money on publishing poetry book. The few other avenues for budding poets include Bizz Buzz Publications and Muse India, an online journal.

“There is simply no platform for poets. I also feel that the youth are not very enamoured by poetry. They have other interests. Although we do have some poetry reading sessions, it is the same people and there hasn’t really been a growth in the poet population,”

“It is not really about the money. It’s about being appreciated for an art. It is a risk to invest in publishing a book of poetry only to have your book gathering dust in the corner of a book store,” she says.

According to Vasudha, it isn’t that no one has tried though. Initiated by M S Venkatramaiah, M Nagaraja and Vasudha Murthy, the Garden City Poetry Circle was formed earlier this decade, with poetry sessions every second Saturday in Nagaraja’s house in Jayanagar 5th block, but soon faded away. Beginning on a rather promising note, the Poetry Circle built up quite a following only to disband when fewer people had time to come together for the appreciation of the art. However Vasudha says, “we are planning to revive it again”.

Even as Bangalore has a vibrant scene for arts like music, dance, theatre and film, it really does, fall short of being a poetry hub. Although there is a market for writing, scope for poetry is still small and will certainly have to break out of its shell if it is to have a wider appeal.

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