Anita Nair engages her audience with verses close to her heart

Love. A four letter word as ancient as man itself. Synonymous with so many other things — passion, desire, want, ardour, longing, need, devotion, obsession. Intangible, inexplicable, mysterious, ethereal but necessary. Especially for the poet. Love often feeds into verse—think Byron, Neruda, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Shelley, Kamala Das, Gulzar and others, who manage to create haunting verse from this basic, almost primeval emotion.

And the 162 edition of Tuesday with the Bard, held at the Urban Solace Café saw their Poet of the Month, best-selling writer Anita Nair, offer several odes to love, straight from her heart.

“I write poetry when emotion overwhelms me and I need to capture it in words. It is an emotional combustion that is almost cathartic,” she says.

With Valentine ’s Day around the corner, love was not surprisingly the theme for the day.

The evening progressed in two parts—the first saw Anita reading out the work of her favourite poets while the second saw her reading compositions from her book Malabar Mind.

She started with an English translation of our own Kalidasa, India’s greatest Sanskrit poets and dramatists—an excerpt from his play Shakuntala that talks about how love progresses through the various seasons. She then moved into a rendition from the Bible’s Song of Songs, a lyrical, passionate dialogue between two lovers. A quirky funny take on love by Adrian Henri titled Without You was followed by the poetry of Sachidanandan who she describes as one of the finest poets of Malayalam.

Next came an elegy of sorts — W. H. Auden’s Funeral Blues, made famous after it was used in Mike Newel’s 1994 British romantic comedy film, Four Weddings and a Funeral. And she ended the first part of the evening with not surprisingly, Pablo Neruda, reciting his haunting, bitter composition to lost love.

“From all the greats, another great—me,” quipped Anita before reading from her work. From the forbidden pleasures of the body, to transgressions of the soul and a wickedly funny ( and rather relatable) take on modern love titled Lets be friends, her renderings kept the audience engaged through the evening. She ended with a series of rain poems, “Rain has always been a metaphor for love,” she says.

“My prose is deliberate but my poetry is spontaneous. I started my writing career writing poetry,” she adds. “It is my first love—even before I knew what love is.”