Change the wor(l)d

Shikha Malaviya  

Don’t leave them together

Don’t allow them to talk to each other

They may form a trade union

- Gopal Honnalgere, How To Tame A New Pair Of Chappals

If you’ve ever found yourself moved by a poem that speaks from a social or political context, you’ll perhaps be on board with what Shikha Malaviya’s seeking to do this weekend: bringing writers together for a social cause.

Malaviya is organising the Bangalore edition of a worldwide initiative called 100 Thousand Poets For Change. First floated in 2011, the initiative seeks to hold simultaneous events that explore the use of poetry for ‘change’. What kind of change? Broadly, social justice that falls under the ‘peace’ and ‘sustainability’ frameworks, according to the website – which also points out that 800 events have been registered so far for this year’s edition on September 29.

Shikha, a published poet who is interested in promoting South Asian literature and poetry, stumbled on the concept earlier this year, and decided to hold an event in Bangalore. “It’s not just an event for poets to come and read their work,” she said recently at an interview at Atta Galatta, where the event will be held on Saturday. “Poetry is a medium, to get out this message, of awareness — for any issue.”

For instance, Shikha is concerned by the city’s waste disposal woes, and hopes to see poems about garbage. “Just recently there was also a huge commotion about the Right To Education…I hope to see people talk about these issues.”

Obviously, ‘awareness’ and ‘change’ aren’t monolithic concepts, with fixed meanings; what one sees as positive change may not be so for another, “which is fine. I’m looking to create a dialogue,” she said, before adding that she hadn’t yet been bogged down by a structure. “I’m trying to let this grow in an organic way.”

At this stage, she’s hoping for a ripple effect, in which people attend the event, think about issues that come up, and, perhaps, act. Even just a move away from the schoolbook conception of poetry — as something written by only the Elizabethans (“horrible and miserable”, she describes it as) — would count as a success. Contemporary writing — that speaks to our times, our realities — is more accessible. “Modern poems are brief…my hope is that people will realise that poetry is a very powerful medium.”

But not all poetry needs to have a message, surely. “Not at all. Poetry can be like photographs. That’s the beauty; it’s all so malleable.”

100 Thousand Poets For Change Bangalore is on at Atta Galatta tomorrow at 6p.m. Call 9632510126 to register.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 2:07:38 AM |

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