Gieve Patel makes poetry accessible and joyous for students

Gieve Patel is of the opinion that the “culture of poetry” does not exist in the country; he means that it is almost impossible to make a living of it.

Yet, this visual artist, playwright and poet spends a lot of time with students at the Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh teaching and discussing poetry with them. This three-week annual workshop has participants aged 12 to 18. He was recently in Bangalore introducing Ruth Padel at a reading organised by Toto Funds the Arts and the British Council.

Also a practicing doctor, Patel says that this workshop focuses on making children write poetry. “We look at great poems, discuss them in detail, and children also write their own poetry,” he says. “Through the course of the workshops and their teenage years, we see that the students are much less afraid of poetry,” he says. “It becomes more accessible and joyous.” The Sahitya Akademi brought out a collection of poems that the students wrote, which Patel edited and introduced, titled “Poetry with Young People”.

In it he famously quotes that “Poetry maybe the most misunderstood of all the genres.” Yet, he is steadily involved in simplifying the process of writing and understanding poetry for the young mind.

As he continues to write more poetry, he says some of the poets he has heard and liked in recent times have included Anand Thakore, Arundhati Subramaniam, and Bhisham Bherwani.

Meanwhile, Patel's visual art cannot be forgotten. He has made significant contributions to contemporary art and has even inspired the logo for the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA).

In May, a retrospective of his works will be exhibited, documenting his visual art work since 1971. “I want to see what impact my collective body of work has on those who see the retrospective, and also get feedback from those whose opinion I value.”