When a parent first sees a child scribble poetry, they get that sinking feeling. Because, let’s face it, verse is rarely remunerative. We must henceforth classify the child as ‘sensitive’, and expect it to be hyper-aware of everything. It will ask awkward questions and its silence won’t augur well for the object of its thoughts, and, worse, it will lie awake at nights thinking what will rhyme with ‘circus’ or ‘witch’. They will inhabit a painful honesty all their life, at their own cost. Secretly, it is perhaps more comforting to see a child jump around repeating the table of 2, and demanding more pocket money off you.
Poets are, thus, the first rebels, those who suffer maximum from the errors of humanity, as they pause to dwell and delicately draw out from within themselves an interiority of such clarity and truth that we want to protect them from themselves, from all that pain and the concise chronicling of it.
The Bengaluru Poetry Festival, started five years ago as the very first such gathering in the city solely dedicated to verse, intended to provide poets a safe place, a happy place even, to come together as a community rippling into a larger circle of future poets, of poetry lovers and poetry skeptics.
This year the fest faces added challenges in the form of a virus and the utter inability to go out and buy bread, let alone congregate side by side anywhere in the world and that too to sway to words. This weekend BPF gamely goes online, like all else before them, and still tries to keep intact the intimacy between poets and their audience. Of course, the festival is shorter this year, but also as electric and emotional as it has always been, because of the sheer cadence of voices.
Every festival, once it ends, settles at the back of our mind as a certain mood or murmur in recollection. This one is already memorable even before it hits the screen. It was inconceivable until today to opt solely for the e-route – one-way, buffering, dependent on a good signal….
Of all the artists out there, poets must feel the handicap of the people-less format the most. When they read/recite on stage, they know immediately the reception, they react to that energy, that frank enjoyment, that understanding of their art and craft. The lack of a listener then is almost tragic.
Our brave poets include K Satchidanandan, Karthika Nair, Jayant Kaikini, Marilyn Hacker, Arundhathi Subramaniam, Tabish Khair, Hussain Haidry, Amit Majmudar, Venus Jones, Rudrakshi Bhattacharjee, Annie Finch, Gregory Kan, Mani Rao and many others from many places, in Urdu and Hindi and English and Malayalam and Khasi and Kannada and Swiss-German. Together they make up the bone structure of this new form, going up sportingly, be it a craft video or a poignant read. One must rhyme with the times.
The Bengaluru Poetry Festival is back, bards and all, composed in a never-before metre. Step into foreign streets in countries not traveled to yet or unlock the door to a home left long ago. It is time to access once again the ache and shocking magic of a poem.Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.