There were allusions and alliterations, ballads and blank verses as poets new and old raised a toast to World Poetry Day
“I am not a poet,” said J.V.V Murthy, by way of introduction. And promptly rattled off lines in praise of sparrows, women, the youth, mosquitoes and public toilets in bus stands. Just before him, Minoo Vania recited verses he had composed many years ago on love, and, more recently, on power cuts. Poetry rent the air as men and women read out from their own works or from poets they admired.
Coimbatore Art and Theatrical Society (CATS) once again organised a splendid evening. This time, in celebration of World Poetry Day, and Coimbatoreans rose to the occasion.
Writer/poet Shobhana Kumar's opening poem was stark and brutal. “I died when I was 12”, she began softly. The poem describes a woman's feelings at being raped by a man old enough to be her father, when she was 12 years old. Bereft of flourishes and clever word play the poem was hard hitting. Shobana confessed her fondness for writing about the darker side of life. When people wanted to hear more, she obliged with “Time Waits”, and the charming “Cobwebs”.
It was “New Beginnings” for Srividya Sivakumar who hoped, in verse, publishers would treat her better. When she approached them with her writing, they would usually brush her off with “sorry, our publishing schedule is full for the next three years”! Happily, for all of us, Srividya has been published since, many times. She followed that up with another two poems – “Paired” and the chilling “Abused”.
One got a taste of poetry from other parts of the country too — from distant Tripura and Punjab to the closer-to-home Karnataka, when Jayashree Murthy read out translations.
Manjit Diwana's poem on husbands being hungry wolves drew appreciative laughter as did her sister Pratibha Nandakumar's poem about the mistake of asking for directions on the road. Strangers confounded her with their well-meaning but way-off-the-mark advice. Thanks to Jayashree, one also enjoyed Raghuvir Sahay's “Hanso Hanso” written on the Emergency, and Chandrakanta Mura Singh on the agonies of life in contemporary Tripura. Peirce Nigli read Pablo Neruda. Husband and wife Raju and Swapna took part too. While he composed the poems, it was she who read out his lines. He called his compositions, Poetry in Motion.
Those who had no lines of their own borrowed them from favourite poets. Oliver Goldsmith, Wiliam Blake, Hilaire Belloc, Clive James, Joanna Fuchs. Then there were carefully preserved poems written by favourite nieces and some truly memorable children's poems.
Pheroza Hataria read out some of them, the funniest being an irritated kid's lament on grown ups who were all such “Nosey Parkers”.
One met the unlikeliest of poets. A bunch of engineering students proved to be enthusiastic poetry buffs. From a tribute to Michael Jackson to the plight of the environment, Shivaguru, Mukund, Raghavan and Gautam showed plenty of poetry love. They thought nothing of reading out from their mobile phones! The sight inspired Minoo to dash off lines then and there on “Poetry in the time of mobiles”.
Jaswant and Siddhartha who are responsible for these great soirees (remember the R.K Narayan evening they had organised), had another surprise in store. They, along with Rohan sang Blowin' In the Wind by the wonderful Bob Dylan. And, every one sang along.