With the seventh edition of “Poetry with Prakriti” concluding today, Apoorva Sripathi and Susanna Myrtle Lazarus take a look at how youngsters are taking to poetry and where it is headed…

In the seventh edition of Poetry with Prakriti was underway in Chennai, what was surprising was the large number of youngsters and college students who turned up for the readings. “Poetry has crossed barriers of age. More youth are looking for a way to express their thoughts through poetry,” says Meera Krishnan, coordinator of Prakriti Foundation.

Not just words

There seem to be several reasons for this trend. One might be a surge in the number of creative writing courses available to students and more importance being given to arts in education. “Poetry, like all forms of art, comes from one mysterious place inside and to be able to communicate properly, we use craft. The second part can be learned, while the first needs to be developed by self,” says Smita Sahay, a young poet. She adds that there are a good number of young poets in India and it’s because Indians are becoming aware of what they should do for society. “As India is growing slowly so is Indian writing. With all the exposure, we are certainly aware of what we want to do,” explains Smita. It’s not just about nature or relationships that they want to write about, says Rangeet Mitra, adding that political, societal and cultural norms dictate what they are allowed to share. “We want to be heard through poetry. It is also a way in which we [poets] want to reply to society. We’re in the middle of a male-dominated society and poetry is one way of breaking against it,” says the poet who writes on gender issues.

Rupali Kaluram Jadhav believes that poetry readings bring in a lot of those searching for answers. “Many do write poetry, but they do not have the right platform to share it on. They also have a lot of questions about politics and social mores that are not answered anywhere. They come to poetry for an answer, to find a way of understanding,” she says.

However, writing poetry isn’t going to change the world, says Rupali. “You have to act upon what you feel. If you feel strongly on an issue, it’s all very well to write about it, but it is field work that matters. It will really change your perspective and impact the way you write.”

Ankur Betageri: Growing up in a literary family, writing came naturally to Ankur Betageri. “I started writing as early as 12 and published my first collection of poems at the age of 16,” he says. “It’s hard to pick a theme or to write poems on a particular subject, but whatever I write on I give it a structure.” Poetry is not just an art form, according to Ankur. “It’s also about voicing against injustice and it’s something a poet can do most effectively.” Ankur believes poets like artists cannot be part of the mainstream society. “Like Banksy, poets have to be invisible from the society, yet identify important issues.”

Smita Sahay: The first time Smita Sahay remembers writing a poem was in Std I, recalling that she used to love poetry lessons in school. “It used to be about rabbit and fairies,” she laughs. “I usually write about people, places, emotions and I’m currently working on an anthology of poems that addresses the issues of women, with Dr Charles Fishman,” she says.

In 2009, inspired by poet Priya Sarukkai Chabria, Smita started writing poetry seriously being influenced by what went around her. “It’s all about how I respond to things or rather my internal response to external stimuli. A freelance writer, Smita says poetry, like all forms of art, comes from “one mysterious place inside”.

Rangeet Mitra: “Poetry is my life, it is in fact everything,” he exclaims. Rangeet Mitra, a 28-year-old poet and currently a student of shoe design at FDDI, finds the city of Kolkata has a deep effect on him and his poetry. Rangeet started writing poetry in the year 2000 (calling himself part of the ’00 generation of poets) focusing on women empowerment.

Now, Rangeet focuses on writing about “the shopping mall and multiplexes culture” that prevails in Kolkata. “I protest against it by writing about it; I express my politics through my poetry,” he says matter-of-factly, adding that he wants to change the male-dominated society and break the so-called Americanisation of it.

Rupali Kaluram Jadhav: Twenty-eight-year-old Rupali was always irked by the fact that she had to do household chores while her brother was exempt from such duties. “I guess you can say I was gender-sensitive from a very young age,” she says with a laugh. That passion for gender issues is what fuels her poetry today. “Where I’m from, women aren’t allowed to study. I began working part-time while in class X. I even worked in Chennai with an NGO for a couple of years, then moved back to Pune, but everywhere I see the same imbalance. Poetry helps me put down what I feel about these issues in a clear manner; that’s why I write,” she says.

Dhawla Kama Dhengle: Originally from a tribal village 100 kma away from Pune in Maharashtra, Dhawla writes about malnutrition, corruption, gender issues, farmer suicides, slum life and tribal issues. “This is what I have seen in my life. Even when I moved to the city from the village, I found similar problems plaguing the people,” he says. Dhawla was employed by the Corporation of Pune, but is on suspension due to problems caused by his poetry. “I only express the truth of what I experience. This has not gone down well with those in power. That’s the effect words can have,” he says, adding that imprisonment or getting beaten hasn’t deterred him from poetry.

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