Poetic ritual keeps verse alive


“Will we see some action from the home minister or will he be another condolence messenger?” recited Sahitya Akademi award-winner Keki N Daruwalla from his poem Goodbye Autumn (after Louis MacNeice) at the event Hope Street Poets, a poetry reading session held at the David Sassoon Library on Friday.

A regular feature of the festival, the event and its name hold a special meaning for many poets who congregated on the seventh day of the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. “This session is like a ritual to us,” said programme curator Ranjit Hoskote. “Earlier, it was called Under the Tree of Towns, but we decided to change it to Hope Street two years ago.”

Hoskote said the event was named after a street between Elphinstone College and the David Sassoon Library. The road is now called the David Sassoon Library Marg. “It is a loaded, beautiful word. It has topographical reality and, at the same time, it is filled with memories,” he said.

Both Hoskote and poet-translator Priya Sarukkai Chhabria were happy with the turnout and response to the three sessions that had been spread out over four hours.

The platform had a medley of voices — from Sahitya Akademi award-winner Adil Jussawalla, a regular at the event, to 30-year-old Aditi Rao, who has won the Toto Funds the Arts Award for Creative Writing in 2012 and the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize in 2011. “I enjoyed listening to the poets. There were different generations and styles. I was introduced to how the young are writing verse,” said HR professional Albert Nongrun, 50.

Speaking about poetry readership, Hoskote said, “There is no single readership. Publishers Ravi Singh of Speaking Tree books and Yodakin Press’ Arpita Das speak have often talked about how the market is growing. In fact, there is a range of micro publics for all kinds of texts.”

With many interpretations, the session had the audience captivated. “Poetry is sound not just words on paper,” said ex-IPS officer Daruwalla. “The best way to read poetry is when the poet and the audience have the book in front of them.”

The reading was annotated by the poet’s own insights. Jussawalla admitted he had started with metaphysical leanings in his poems and the pre-occupation was returning in his work. Priya Sarukkal Chhabria reflected on her own motivations. Quoting Italian writer Roberto Calasso, she said, “The idea of absolute literature where people are urged to go beyond the material affects me. I want to punch right through the reflection in the mirror and reveal the veil on the other side.”