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Danish poet Claus Ankersen loves Chennai and spoken poetry

Claus Ankersen plays down the elitist aura around poetry, making it sound accessible and spiritual at the same time

A conversation with Danish poet Claus Ankersen meanders to fascinating points on life. Ankersen calls himself an intergalactic traveller, rather than a poet. An hour into our conversation, we manage to touch upon beat poetry, his love for ayila, relationship with India, the traffic here, and the myth of the Danish concept of happiness, hygge. Ankersen was in the city to launch his new book of poems called Grab Your Heart and Follow Me, at an event organised by the Prakriti Foundation.

He reads out his poems on a range of subjects to a congregation of literature lovers, writers and performers. He covers cats and cancer, to lovers and escapades with a vivaciousness not often associated with solemn poetry readings. Seeing Ankersen in action is like watching a play; he meows as he reads his poem, ‘A Welcome to Cat-God City’ and passionately reads an open love letter, ‘Dance of Illusion’, to the many women he fell for in his travels across the world.

“The book bloomed somehow. I wasn’t aware of it when I wrote these poems. The last poem called ‘Life Hack’ ends on Page 93. If you Google it, you will find the numerological value corresponds with two words: thalema, which means ‘will’ and agape, meaning divine love. If you analyse this with the title, you get the key to understanding the whole work.”

He feels the concept of performance poetry or slam poetry, which is picking up in the West and in some urban pockets in India, is inherently democratic. “I am not too keen on the distinction between “serious” poetry and spoken one. Nor am I for an elitist construction of poetry that is hard to access and decode. The conventional poets think the spoken word poets are not real, and the latter see them as nerdy and dysfunctional. The truth is individual. I recall a post-modernist statement that you say it is a poem because I tell you it is. As a writer, I created it. It is up to the reader or the spectator to figure it out.”

Ankersen is not a first timer to India. Back in 2009, a residency fellowship brought him to Adishakti in Puducherry. He recalls his first experience in Chennai as the most welcoming one. “When I landed in the airport, a wall of faces and traffic greeted me. And, all through my taxi ride to Puducherry, where I was doing my residency, the cows, barns and crows welcomeme home. At that moment, I fell for India.” The poet has also spent some time on a residency at the Cholamandal Artists’ Village. He says he loves the rava dosas and dal. “I have learnt to eat with my hand. I have realised there is an aesthetic to it. All this is another side of the world for me, but I love it.”

The literary circle in the West compares him with poets such as the American poet Allen Ginsberg, for his work’s esoteric nature and revolutionary elements. The anthropologist-turned-poet says he has never had formal training but has always been writing since he was 15.

His next book is a novel of fictional dream meetings with writers, both dead and alive. And, he is excited about a collaboration with a Romanian poet, with whom he bonded over common musical tastes. The poetry is an outcome of an excited exchange of YouTube links of Pink Floyd songs and emails in verse inspired by the band’s music. “The collection will be out in three languages. The best part is Floyd is touring this year!”

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 2:56:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/it-is-a-poem-if-you-say-so/article23434620.ece

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