Poetry and its fight for survival

July 25, 2017 12:30 am | Updated 08:15 am IST - Bengaluru

Author Anita Nair.

Author Anita Nair.

Where does poetry stand today? Is the popular notion that poetry is losing ground to other forms of literature true?

While many would say no to this, it is impossible to ignore the fact that mainstream publishers remain reluctant to pick up and publish works of poets. Even those that are published are stocked by very few book houses, and the number of people buying these books is fewer still.

Jamuna Rao, founder-director of Dronequill, a city-based publishing house, said the publishing world has undergone a paradigm change in the face of technological revolution. “In such an environment, the publishing industry itself is struggling. Nothing really is selling much. That goes for poetry too,” she said.

But the bigger issue with poetry is that the nature of the form itself has changed. From being considered a high art form associated with spirituality, society and philosophy, poetry today has lost these associations and, hence, its value. As a consequence, the appreciation among readers has also gone down, Ms. Rao said. “Moreover, publishers are driven by market forces, and lifestyle literature and non-fiction sells more than fiction today. In such a scenario, only celebrity poets’ works get published,” she said.

Calling poetry a niche art form, best-selling author Anita Nair said very few people are able to understand and appreciate the complexities of poetry. “Poetry demands a lot of expertise from the reader. It is not really accessible to all. It’s also not saleable, so publishers keep away from it. As a result, new poets don’t get opportunities to showcase their talent,” said Ms. Nair, who has been offering workshops on creative writing, including poetry, as part of her Attic programme in the city.

‘Still relevant’

However, Kannada poet Mamta Sagar, who was part of the first edition of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival last year, argues that poetry still holds a lot of relevance. And festivals such as BPF help negate the perception that poetry has a very limited market. “There is a big change in how people perceive poetry today. Poetry is not just about the art of writing beautiful verses, but is a perfect blend of culture, visual arts and music. A single poem has so many sub-texts, which add to the richness of the art form. And today, poetry draws audiences from all walks of life,” she told The Hindu , adding that her programme Kaavya Sanje brings global poetry to India and takes Indian poetry to the world.

“Poetry is a tool to speak about society, politics and life. Therefore, it needs a bigger platform. I am glad that Atta Galatta is organising the poetry festival,” she said.

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