Ballad on the stage

Whoever said 'Poetry is food for the soul' couldn't have expressed its worth more succintly.

Written by Debjani Paul | Published: September 20, 2012 3:47:09 am

Whoever said ‘Poetry is food for the soul’ couldn’t have expressed its worth more succintly. Since the time of great epics such as Iliad,Odyssey,and the Ramayana,poetry has been used not just as a tool to pass on knowledge but also as an art form to express thoughts and emotions. It is perhaps the same principle that has revived a love for the art form in the city,with several poetry events being organised in the city over the recent past. What is unusual about these events though,is that they are not just poetry writing and reading sessions. Instead,the poets have to ‘perform’ their pieces,either by singing,dancing,acting or even rapping. With sessions organised at malls,bookshops,cafes and even public spaces such as libraries and railway stations,a new wave of performance poetry seems to be sweeping across the city.

Performance poetry,also known as poetry slamming is a popular activity in Europe,Australia,New Zealand,USA and other countries. In India,it has been picking up in metro cities like Mumbai,Delhi,Kolkata and Pune. Film and theatre actor Pankaj Jha presented some of his poems at Inorbit Mall and Akshar Nandan School on September 14 and 16. Even the prestigious Pune Festival,to be held till September 29,will have an event dedicated to poetry,titled ‘Hasyadhara’ Marathi Kavi Sammelan on September 28.

Shantanu Verma is looking forward to his first time organising a poetry slam session on September 23 at Landmark in SGS Mall. Verma manages Pune Diaries,a platform for people to share their experiences and anecdotes and organises activities for members every month. What makes the concept modern and relevant to the youth is the fact that it’s not a plain poetry reading session. “One of the participants on Sunday is a contemporary dancer and her performance will include poetry and dance. It should be interesting to watch,” he adds.

Last year,Devang Bhandari,a student at Symbiosis Institute for Media Studies (UG),was thinking of what he could do for his college project. On a trip home to Kolkata,he noticed that the youth there would often attend poetry slams and it struck him that the idea might work in Pune too. “I approached the British Library here and they gladly agreed to help me out. So last year in August,we invited people to come and perform the pieces they wanted to,” Bhandari says. Over 80 people turned up for the event and the participants ranged from 14 years to 75 years.

Dipalle Parmar,writer and artist,has been organising poetry performances for the past two years. Parmar works with children and teachers in schools in the city and uses poetry to help them express themselves. “Poetry performance is a great way to introduce poetry to children and to teachers so that they are not bombarded with Wordsworth and Shakespeare in the beginning,” she says.

Parmar is conducting poetry reading sessions for the 100 Thousand Poets For Change project at Open Space throughout this month. “Two years ago,we had barely five to six people attending. Last Saturday though,we had 35 people turn up and 30 of those people read poems,” she says.

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