Onions, romance, fireflies, friendships, cats…if you’re part of a poetry chain on Facebook, these are what you could be reading about.

Onions can be cruel. One evening, on my way back from work, I was already dreading slicing them for dinner. As I was peeling them, my Facebook alert beeped; I was tagged in a poetry chain. I was assigned a poet (Sumana Roy) and told to keep the game going.

I googled and discovered a lover of onion. Sumana had written a poem about a girl who likes onions so much that she even bakes an onion cake for her lover! My love for onions and poetry got a fresh lease of life.

Like others, as life got busier, I had shelved my interest in poetry. Now, W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound and T.S Eliot have again found space in my heart, and Facebook wall. I have been introduced to new poets too.

This poetry chain has become quite popular among youngsters. They quote lines of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and John Keats. They Google poetry blogs and select poems. “One does not get time to indulge in poetry due to the busy lives we lead,” says tech-writer Sabyasachi Biswas. “I used to keep looking at the books in my library and hope I’d get time to read them some day. Now, thanks to Facebook, I read Kabir, Vikram Seth and Dylan Thomas, people I have never read before.”

The best thing about this game is it has made poetry accessible to everyone. You don’t necessarily have to be a literature graduate to enjoy it. “The last time I read P.B. Shelly and William Wordsworth was in school. Many of the poets assigned to me ring a faint bell. Now, I scout for their poems online and realise I enjoy reading poetry more than I thought,” says homemaker R. Malini.

Poetry has been pulled out of the four walls of the classroom, says teacher Swathi Sudhakaran. “It has become more familiar to readers. This game recreates the old concept of poetry reading sessions in the digital age.”

Discovering new poets is the best part, says Rini Dasgupta, who specialises in culture studies. “My friend assigned me Sandra Cisneros and Cesar Vallejo Mendoza. I have downloaded an e-book of poetry. I fall back on it whenever I get free time.”

Budding, lesser known poets can also get better visibility this way, feels Maithili Sreedharan, a writer. “They no longer have to face the patronising scissors of an established scholar or a poet. If Emily Dickinson were to live today, we might not have had to wait till her death to know that she had been writing reams and reams of poetry, without getting published. All because, her editor warned her that she was much ahead of her times.”

Poetry on Facebook

I want you to know/one thing. /You know how this is: /if I look /at the crystal moon, at the red branch /of the slow autumn at my window, /if I touch /near the fire /the impalpable ash /or the wrinkled body of the log, /everything carries me to you,/as if everything that exists, /aromas, light, metals, /were little boats /that sail /toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Pablo Neruda, If You Forget Me

He wouldn’t let me cut onions,/That’s how he showed his love, he said./But I, then young/ and full of the stretch marks of love,/would seek red onions out,/peel their scaly skin,/slice off their scanty-haired heads,/cut them in two, /as if giving birth to a pair of shoes /on Shakespeare’s second-best bed.

Sumana Roy, Onions

A herd of legends/ on the hill slope/looked up from its grazing/when chaitanya came into sight/and the hills remained still/when chaitanya/was passing by,/a cowbell tinkled/ when he disappeared from view/ and the herd of legends/returned to its grazing....

Arun Kolatkar, Chaitanya