The Hindu Lit for Life 2018

The function of the poet

Space-searching (Left to Right) K. Srilata, Tishani Doshi, Sadaf Saaz, Jeet Thayil.   | Photo Credit: K.V. Srinivasan

Is there really a place for the poet in society? Writer, musician and poet Jeet Thayil didn’t seem to think so. “I don’t know if society has a place for poets and I don’t know if poets have a place for society, “ said Thayil, who was part of a session on Day 3 of Lit for Life titled ‘The Poet in Society’.

He drew a parallel between the ecclesiastical calm of a place of worship and poetry. “I think of poetry as a substitute for what people used to do in churches and temples: to have a moment of silence and hear some kind of inner voice that helps you be there.”

“And most people, don’t want that. They don’t want to hear that inner voice,” he said, at the session where he shared the stage with three other poets: Tishani Doshi, Sadaf Saaz and moderator, K. Srilata.

“The common belief about poetry — which is why so few take to writing it — is that it does not sell,” agreed Srilata, recalling a comment made by a senior colleague when she told him that she wrote poetry. “He asked me why I chose to write in such a minor genre,” she said.

And yet, as the session progressed — metaphor, verse, angst and memory flying fast and thick all through it — you come somewhat closer to understanding why the poet, of the “scattered reckless life” as Thayil puts it, remains important.

“People have an idea that poetry is not for them, that there something inaccessible about it,” Tishani said, admitting that for she has been in “evangelical mode” for the past few years, trying to change that.

“To me, the biggest challenge is to find the audience. And increasingly we have to put ourselves out there more, to go to areas you wouldn’t normally go to.”

Reading from her poem Contract, that refers to, “an immortal mosquito/ hastening you towards fury/ towards incandescence,” she adds that the mosquito is a metaphor for what the poet does “which is to be constantly there by your ear, hoping that someone would listen.”


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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 12:35:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/lit-for-life/the-function-of-the-poet/article22471994.ece

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