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A space for verse

At a poetry reading session in Coimbatore. K. Ananthan  

It’s a hot summer evening. There’s a power cut and no air-conditioning. Yet, poetry is in the air as 45 people sit down in an intimate space and share verses; of a man’s song to his beloved, racism and a poor man’s dreams. Poetry is happening in Coimbatore, and how!

There are poetry-reading sessions, where the young and old read, discuss and share poems. Poetry chains on Facebook have become a popular trend. Be it Wordsworth’s ode to daffodils, Sylvia Plath’s angry outburst against Daddy, or a tune from a Beatle’s song…these verses still resonate with young readers.

“A lot of young people venture into poetry,” observes poet Srividya Sivakumar. “From politics to personal dilemmas, their poems reflect myriad themes.” It is good to see the youngsters take up the pen, says Pierce Nigli of the Coimbatore Book Club Theatre Group. “In our times, we stopped with just reading poetry. But, kids today wish to see their work published. Tastes have also changed. Young writers are bolder and more powerful in their expression.”

Creative consultant and poet Madhumitha Varadaraj is in her twenties. Her poems deal with themes as everyday as break-ups or relationship tangles. “These are things we all relate to,” she says. Madhumitha, who has an active poetry blog, says the online space is a great platform to gain visibility.

Newer poets like the concept of an evening dedicated to poetry. Georgina Simmone, an associate professor at Hindusthan College of Arts and Science, says she finds the ambience of these spaces comfortable and welcoming. “You are always worried if your poem will find acceptance or not. These sessions serve as ice-breakers.”

From gender and race to personal and emotional upheavals, poetry allows you to explore a wide range of themes and that is why it is popular among contemporary writers, observes author-poet Shobhana Kumar. “You can pack so much into so little. Today, the rules of poetry are not so rigid. You do not have to stick to a perfect meter or rhyme. Many regional writers use free verse to express their ideas.”

But is poetry inaccessible to the layman? It need not be, says Srividya. “Poetry is not nourished in many educational institutions. In some schools, teachers use the library period to finish pending portions. That’s a good chance lost. I wish corporates come forward to create an organised environment for reading in schools.” And numbers don’t matter. Sometimes, all you need is 20 to 30 people, dedicated to poetry, to keep it alive, says Srividya.

World Poetry Day celebrations

It was an evening of poetry, songs and craft at Kites Café on World Poetry Day (March 21). People enjoyed a laid-back evening, glancing through the poems they were about to read. “We have a lot of people who are spirited about poetry,” says K.V. Siddhartha of CATS. “All we need to do is provide them a good platform.”

The first poem of the evening was ‘Adam's Curse’ by W.B. Yeats, read out by Pierce Nigli in his loud, operatic voice. Shobhana Kumar's poem on racism, in which she personified the villain as melanin, was poignant. Some poems dealt with social themes too. JVV Murthy vented out his angst against corrupt netas and fake rituals in our county through his Hindi poem. He had originally written it in Kannada.

It was a Friday that celebrated young poets. Many students of English literature took part. Krishnapriya from Krishnammal College read out a poem about how man has turned blind in his mad race for success. The cosy café filled with music as Lokesh, a student, played the guitar and sang Richard Cory, a song by Simon and Garfunkel. He followed this up with a lullaby by John Lennon.

A session by poets Srividya and Minoo Vania was thought provoking. Minoo encouraged young poets to not feel hesitant about writing. “You might not be a genius like Coleridge and P.B. Shelley, but don’t give up. Keep on writing.”

Outside the venue, vendors displayed chocolate cookies, beaded jewellery and jute bags at CATS’ newly-launched CATSHOP .

Says S. Sundar of Kites café: “We want our café to be more that just an eatery; it should also be a space for literature, culture and art.”


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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 1:18:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/a-space-for-verse/article5822391.ece

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