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Poetry with Prakriti

Prakriti Foundation’s poetry festival attempts to set poetry ‘free’

Photo S. Thanthoni

FOR BETTER VERSE Vasantha Surya, Ranvir Shah and BlaaZe

Poetry should shout in the streets. Not loll about on silken cushions at pretentious ‘poetry readings.’ Or be clinically deconstructed at academic seminars. Or rest between the covers of luxuriously bound books.

Which it why the Prakriti Foundation’s new poetry festival is such a brilliant idea: it sets poetry free. Instead of trundling along the road repeatedly taken, the foundation is getting together a kaleidoscope of poets from different backgrounds, all of whom will perform their work at various locations across the city. “Poetry With Prakriti will let poets from the city and different parts of India meet different kinds of audiences, and also each other,” says Ranvir Shah of Prakriti, adding that the idea is that 25 poets do short readings followed by interactive sessions across the city over the next two weeks. “It’s the Madras music and dance season,” he added, “So, we thought why not add a certain lyricism of the spoken word to the season.”

The idea behind it is “free democratic access to what is generally thought of as an elitist mode of expression,” says Shah. An idea that has been catching on across the world. Poetry is finding its way into jails and playgrounds, helping with catharsis and self-expression. It’s being used by social workers and reformers, entertainers and spoken word artistes. Dreadlockalien, popular Birmingham-based performance poet, talks of ‘live literature,’ which he says “encompasses most of the genres emerging from performance poetry, a wave of energy and decibel. Slam poetry, dub, hip hop, flow verse…” Nightclubs in some of the world’s hippest cities feature ‘poetry slams,’ a once-underground movement consisting of poets battling each other in verse.

So, appropriately enough, the launch of the festival featured the elegant Vasantha Surya, reading her quietly passionate verse, and BlaaZe, complete with his characteristic ‘B’ pendant and dazzling ear stud, belting out his catchy slam-dunk poetry. And it all happened at Landmark, currently celebrating 20 years of giving Chennai stories, poems and music.

“It’s really brave of Prakriti to do this,” said Vasantha, talking of how much courage it takes to give poetry importance, considering it’s generally seen as “ivory tower stuff.”

She added that when popular culture is so tuned into block busters and television, even a bookshop “must spring from an audacious seed.” Likening Landmark to the banyan in her poem, she spoke of how man should not “live by rotis alone.”

BlaaZe began by stating that he recently preformed for 100,000 people in Kolkata and 25,000 in Delhi. “There are 25 people in this room,” he added, ‘And I’ve never been this nervous.” He continued, “because this is now an opportunity for me to talk to each one of you. You’re not here just to dance, sing and be done with it.”

After a short, but powerful performance, he talked about how everyone uses poetry, even if they don’t realise it. “It’s a way of life. Your first crush for example, and ‘Roses are red…” From there to everything deeper and more sincere.” He concluded “It’s up to us to make sure poetry has its place, that it has its reason in this world.”

Landmark’s Poetry With Prakriti Festival is on from December 15 to 30. Look up www.poetrywithprakriti.in for more details.

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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