'In Conversation, an evening in conversation with poetry' made it evident that poetry definitely did hold a vital role in the public arena

In a little room full of colourful books were present a group of poetry enthusiasts. Some researchers, some journalists, most just lovers of poetry; they sat in a circle, ready to share what they loved with others who shared their love.

‘In Conversation, an evening in conversation with poetry’ was an initiative by Maara, at the Alternative Law Forum on Infantry Road, on May 22, to take the personal journey of poetry a step forward by making it a communal experience.

Public poetry

“What position does poetry hold in the public sphere? We have always grappled with this question,” shared a representative from Maara at the beginning of the event. By the end of the reading that evening, lasting about one and a half hours, it was quite evident that poetry definitely did hold a vital role in the public arena, just as it did in the confines of one’s bedroom or study.

Conversations

With about 30 people from around the city coming forward to share their own poems — which they wrote in response to poems they read and liked — ‘In Conversation’ was actually like a conversation between the poet and his/her reader.

“I hope you all understand Punjabi,” said Sartaj Ghuman, getting ready to read a poem by Shiv Kumar Batalvi. Looking at faces that said they did not, he was quick to say he would translate it before he read his own response. Following his expression was poetry in Hindi and even Spanish, sprinkled between a whole range of responses in English to poets such as Emily Dickinson, Laura Riding and Frank O’Hara.

Melee of styles

The style of responses by participants were as varied as the poets they responded to.

While one participant said he’d like to imitate people in his writing, and brought out the poet’s style to his own response, another participant felt the poet he chose to respond to brooded too much and hence peppered up his response to totally contradict the original poem.

A freelance writer who was also present expressed her love for Emily Dickinson. “I did not understand why she spoke of death when I read her poem as a teenager, but now I do,” she shared going on to thank this poet in her response.

Shreyas, a student of class six and the youngest of the lot, read his response to a poem by Ruskin Bond, as he was cheered on by other enthusiasts like himself.

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