We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for,” says John Keating, a character in the film Dead Poets Society. We create verses every day and use words artistically to communicate. But does that make us poets? Not really! Though poetry has a rich tradition in India, the niche literary circles celebrate and give space to mainstream English poetry.
Undoubtedly, some of the best poems were written in regional languages like Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, etc. To encourage Tamil poetry among youngsters, a few groups in the city organise regular meet-ups where they invite people to narrate the poems written by them.
Kavippom, started by poetry lovers in the city, is one of the prominent Tamil poetry groups in namma ooru. Sibu, the core member, says, “Most people in the country, irrespective of their mother tongue, prefer to read English novels and poems. We didn’t want to see the slow death of Tamil poetry and started a group to encourage youngsters to write poems in Tamil and give them a space to recite what they have written. We organise poetry meet-ups every month in a popular spot in the city. We announce the details of the programme on our Facebook page a couple of weeks before, so that interested participants can get in touch with us. Through our group activities, we are trying to redefine what poetry means to us and create an awareness of poetry.”
The group also invites celebrated authors, filmmakers and literary pundits to the get-togethers to encourage the young performers. “This would boost their confidence. Many people love to write poems but are hesitant to share it with others. We are trying to get rid of their fear through our meet-ups. People who are coming over can read, perform or even sing their original work,” adds Sibu.
Poet Madhu Raghavendra started Poetry Couture to provide a platform for poets and help them grow. “There is a huge fan following for writers like Sujatha, Kalki, Balakumaran, Perumal Murugan, Salma and Sharanya Manivannan. Poets are architects of language and they have given the world brahmastras like Tirukkurals and Rubaiyats. Words are mridangams that our lives dance on and language is like our heart that pumps blood. In times like these, poetry is powerful when it is local and the language hails from a village,” he says.
Even though it’s an exclusive space for Tamil poetry, Madhu says that people belonging to different states register to perform. “A mix of people comes to the open mics and we never discourage anyone. Even though they don’t understand the meaning of the poems, they love the way it is performed — it’s true that poetry connects people. Every section of society understands English. But somewhere we are losing the charm of Tamil and we need to preserve the language from dying. The government should come up with some interesting initiatives to promote the language among children.”
Ishvar Krishnan, who writes and performs Tamil poems, feels that the love for any language should be inculcated from childhood onwards. He is also a member of Mocking Birds, a project to inspire and spread the art of spoken word in India. “We shouldn’t force anyone to learn and write Tamil. Instead, we should allow the children to select their language. One of the reasons for less number of poets in Tamil is that the bar for writing a poem is already set high by stalwarts in the field. So many doubt what they write is up to the standard or not,” Ishvar tells us.
The youngster suggests that there are no hard and fast rules in penning a poem. “It should come in a flow. Stints at poetry sessions inspire many budding poets. I go as a judge to various colleges for slam poetry competitions and have met brilliant poets, who have got phenomenal stuff. They are very enthusiastic about Tamil poetry,” he remarks.