Poetry prize Books

Remembering poet Deepankar Khiwani

Poets are good actors,/ Good actors as they say are fresh,/ They are elses to the part they play/ So I play out this frowning poet’s role/ And you look at me tenderly.

— from Entr’acte by Deepankar Khiwani

Deepankar Khiwani died at the age of 47 on March 28 last year. A fortnight before his death, Khiwani had shared his latest poems, where he describes art as “a dark condemned space with the door unlocked”, with Arundhathi Subramaniam. “I shall revisit those finely-wrought last poems, reminding myself that, for all the darkness and incarceration around us, somewhere there is an ‘unlocked’ door,” wrote Subramaniam two days after Khiwani’s death.

On May 8, 2021, Subramaniam was the guest of honour at the inaugural Deepankar Khiwani Memorial (DKM) Prize, a poetry competition organised by Arjun Rajendran, who is a Pune-based poet and founder of the poetry collective, The Quarantine Train (TQT). Created during the pandemic in 2020, TQT has 75 members from across the country including scholars, academicians and authors. The DKM Prize 2021 was open to all Indians, except members of TQT. Winners were selected through a blind judging process that included 18 readers and 12 members of TQT’s core team. The first three prizes were won by Kunjara Parashar, Fathima Zahra and Sandip Baidya respectively.

“I wanted to commemorate Deepankar, a friend and an outstanding poet. He was erudite, had read the classics extensively and had a photographic memory of literature. That reflected in his verse. He always wanted to do something for poetry in India,” said Rajendran. During the virtual awards ceremony, fellow poets relived their memories of Khiwani. Writer Dinesh Prasad recalled Khiwani’s penchant for writing poetry “anywhere and everywhere, once under a palm tree in Ladakh.”

Describing Khiwani as a “fellow Bomabyite”, Subramaniam said she had detected a “new sound” in the last poems he shared with her. She read out from her poem, ‘Zoom’s Day’, which speaks about “A world full of windows, but no sign of a door,” harking back to Khiwani’s unlocked door ‘somewhere’, which may lead us out of the current catastrophe.

First-prize winner Kunjara Parashar, a 27-year-old Mumbaikar, said, “When I saw that this prize was instituted to honour a dear friend’s memory and vision, I immediately wanted to submit because I’m sustained by my friendships.” Having won the prize, she looks forward to joining TQT and learning more from the poets there.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 3:09:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/remembering-poet-deepankar-khiwani/article34532916.ece

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