A couple of weeks ago, poets Karthika Nair and Sampurna Chattarji took a ride on the Chennai Metro. They were joined by a group of around 70 people, who listened to them read their work. It was art of a different kind, an inclusive act performed in a public space. Which is what Poetry with Prakriti is all about, says founder and curator of the event, Ranvir Shah.
“It was about replicating the December music season, but with poetry. Each poet reads at four different places. So with 25 participants, we can expect anywhere from 75 to 100 events over a two-week period,” says Shah. So if you drop in at Amdavadi, The Brew Room, Secret Society or Phoenix MarketCity, among other places, over the next two weeks, you might get to experience poetry in a completely different way.
A decade of poems
This year marks the 10th edition of the festival, and over the years, the city and its people have proved that Chennai deserves to be part of the Creative Cities Network of UNESCO, as announced last month, he adds.
The number of poets attending has remained the same since the first edition, as has the process of curation. “We want a good mix of established and young poets, those whose voices have been heard and those who have something new to say. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. Many poets are not natural performers, so in some cases, the show has not turned out quite the way we wanted it to,” he says with a laugh.
Mixing it up
The line-up this year is as diverse, featuring Jayanta Mahapatra, the first Indian poet to win the Sahitya Akademi award for English poetry, novelist Allan Irwin Sealy, who has written a book of poetry titled Zelaldinus , Tamil author and poet Perumal Murugan, and Chennai-based poet Parvathy Nair. As for the performances, Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna will sing Perumal Murugan’s poetry, Sikkil Gurucharan and Archana Venkatesan will explore the poetry of Andal, and Sofia Ashraf will present a rap and spoken word performance.
For those who want more than just verse, the poets have been hard at work to put a spin on things. Ishvar Krishnan, one of the newer poets who will be presenting at the festival, says, “I will be performing with an uddukai , which is a Tamil percussion instrument. There’s a mix of narrative, reusing traditional poetry and the Thirupugazh and Bharathiyar style with the Madras baashai .” Hard to imagine, yes. Which is why one ought to set aside time to attend the shows and find out more.
Poetry with Prakriti will take place at various venues across the city, from December 3 to 17. Entry is free. For details and schedule, visit prakritifoundation.com. 66848506