posted by pooja das sarkar
Picture this. A winter evening with the sun just about to set, a cool breeze making the warm clothes a pleasure to wear in the usually sweltering city of Kolkata, a mike, a custom-made chair for the poet, an orange paper lamp hanging from the ceiling above the makeshift stage and rows of people sitting on the luxuriously spread out mats on the rooftop of Kalam’s office. What does it sound like? A perfect setting for a poetry adda. Poetry and adda – two things Bengalis are famous (and a little infamous) for!
Providing a stage for the two passions of the average kolkatabashi was Kalam’s initiative of monthly poetry readings which we call ‘Second Sundays’. Held on the second Sunday of every month, these poetry addas are meant to be a platform for anyone (read: of any age, class, gender) to come and read their original poems. Not only is it a platform for reading, but as envisioned (and as it turned out), it is also an open and organic forum for discussions and critique of poetry.
This ( 14 january) was the second month of the poetry adda but this one was special because invited for the adda were the contributors of the soon-to-be-launched magazine – Khola Baksho.The rooftop was brimming with bright young faces excited to share their poems created in the isolation of their homes with a roof full of strangers eager to listen to the unheard voices. About ten odd poets whose poems have been selected were present and shared their poetry as the audience listened intently while cups of steaming tea and samosas did the rounds.
Reshma (a.k.a Bobby), one of the Kalam youth staff and a poet herself, made an excellent MC for the evening. Among the poems read, Rahul Goswami’s ‘Aami je Dishahara’ touched a chord with all the writers in the audience as it spoke about the pains of experiencing writer’s block as well as a general sense of directionlessness (which was the feeling he said he had experienced during the writing the poem). Shikha Roy’s ‘Chokh’ brought up the issue of using real names of the people one writes about in a poem. Some among the audience were not as cofortable with revealing the names of people they were writing about but shikha stood by her poem.
Abhijit Lodh’s ‘Ekti Meye’ was the dark horse which won everybody’s hearts. Reading his long and difficult poem with much emotion and voice-modulation, his poem sounded remarkably better read-out-loud than when the review team had selected the poem. Both Bobby and I expressed our pleasant surprise at the results of the well-read poem. This also led to much post-reading brainstorming and discussion.
Mounik Lahiri, a second-time audience and critic at the poetry-reading, made the crucial point of reading as performance. He expressed his awe at the quality of the poems read by the youth (indistinguishable from established poets he said) but also pointed out the necessity of reading one’s work with clarity while reading to reach an audience. He came up with suggestion of training the Khola Baksho poets for the public reading during the launch on 18th February. Kalam thanks Mounik for the brilliant idea and for promising to do the needful himsef.
Shreya Ghosh, another keen observer, commented on the interesting repetition of the theme of death/life in a number of poems and wondered why this was. Commenting on Bobby Makal’s ‘Jibon Ki?’ she wished the poets would see life as a positive thing rather than as a negative and always as a binary to death – thus making death more important that life itself. Bishan pointed out the human and maybe poetic tendency to see and understand things in binaries. Samrat, a poet and critic present at the reading raised the point that peraps it was just a poet’s concern with existence.
As the pleasant cool breeze was gradually becoming a chilly one, Bobby read the last poem of the evening. Sitting under the soft lights of the orange paper lamp, the dark blue sky behind her and mike in hand, Bobby looked like the quintessential poet. Her poem suited the mood of the late evening – she spoke courageously about the moment of physical intimacy between lovers. Short and powerful – just like the rest of the evening.