The people behind Kavi — The Poetry-Art Project talk about their initiative and the unusual uses of poetry

Like many poets, or perhaps because of them, poetry often lives in closets. The privacy of poetry is precious to some, necessary even, but can its oxygen liven up our drawing rooms, our streets, our daily lives? Kavi — The Poetry-Art Project, a four member collective comprising poetry lovers, artists and entrepreneurs, believes it can.

“We started Kavi with the simple thought that something as beautiful as poetry deserves to be seen, read and realised more in our day-to-day lives than only breathed in blogs, books, private journals and recitals,” they say.

The people behind the thought — Kalpana the visual artist, Madhuri and Soumya the poetry lovers and Amit the entrepreneur — got together in August last year and have since been ‘arting up’ poetry — on bookmarks, lamps, walls, wine bottles and gullaks among others. Kavi also conducts workshops to imagine poetry the way they do.

They first created poetry-art from their own work. An invitation for poems was sent out later, and from the submissions they received and continue receiving (563 till now) the group keeps a selection in its database to present to anyone looking for poem-art for a particular mood or occasion. “If a poem is chosen by a collector, the poet gets their due royalty, a display in our photogallery and of course, lots of readers and admirers in the collector's home,” they say.

But how do they go about finding the right form for a poem? “It's more like you're reading through a poem and you suddenly know, as if by instinct and the soul's eye, how it can come alive visually… For instance, we turned a poem titled ‘Experimenting with the canvas’ into what we call a ‘Canverse’ – a verse etched on canvas, taking from the poem metaphorically…Most of our media is as experimental as the concept itself, and evolves and changes with each poem's personality,” they say.

The most difficult poem to render visually thus far has been the one they are working on currently, titled “Mother”. “The identity, ‘Mother’, is superlative, and so should be the medium for it. There were many ideas that crossed our minds, we thought of using the sari as a medium, or traditional bindis, and everything we relate to as supremely ‘motherly’… We're still dabbling in it and figuring out which one is the best.”

While the shorter poems mostly find their way into bookmarks, what about the longer ones? “The longest one was from a young lady in Bangalore who had written it for her parents' anniversary and wanted it arted up in a useful way…it could be comfortably spread around a conical lamp shade we figured, and so created an upcyled wine bottle lamp with a very classic flower-vine to suit mature tastes…”

The visual realm can give the poem an unintended dimension, but a poem can also suffer from the limitations of a particular medium. One can also begin to write solely for the medium, and not for writing’s sake. Has the way they write changed since the project started?

“…the way we write has not changed. Of course, we encourage short poems since they are best suited to the visual medium and try to come up with short ones ourselves if our own poetry is on an artwork, but if that doesn't work, there’s always the option of excerpting. To limit the flow itself is unfair, even if in some case, yes, it consciously or subconsciously happens.”

(To see more of their work, visit http://www.facebook.com/KaviThePoetryArtProject/)

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