The stage was decked up with five wonderful ladies, all of them poets, and were there to read out selective pieces of their poems themselves. It was the first day of the Bangalore Literature Festival 2020, and these ladies just pushed the radar with an all-woman panel of poets.
Up first, we had author Mani Rao; she got featured in the Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry. She has poems and essays published in journals like the poetry magazine, Fulcrum, Wasafiri, Meanjin, Washington Square, West Coast Line, and Tinfish. She reads out her poem titled, ‘2020’. She expressed her concerns about how this year has been a roller coaster of feelings—a mixture of fear and gratitude simultaneously. A sense of community and sharing, at the same time, a tinge of self-centeredness is how Mani expressed the strangeness of the year 2020. Here are a few lines of the poem 2020 she recited:
There’s nobody I know in the ten thousand dead on the front page of New York times.
Give us this day our daily spread; don’t read the news before going to bed.
Her poem spoke of the uncertainty that this year has been.
Next, we had author Maitreyee Chowdhury; she has four books to her credit “Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen: Bengali Cinema’s First Couple,” “The Hungryalists: The Poets Who Sparked a Revolution,” “Where Even the Present Is Ancient: Benaras,” and “Reflections on My India: An Indian Insight.” She teaches poetry and design at NIFT Bangalore. Maitreyee read out her first poem, which speaks to lengths about an ancient farmers’ life. She described the spirit of the farmers to keep their mother nature always nurtured and alive. The next poem she read was about her father, which mainly revolves around the woes of partition. She said that even if it has been decades since the partition, she carries the pain that her father felt even now, and that lot of her work is directed towards immigration and borders that separate people. Here are a few lines from her poem:
Both brother and sister laugh and cry at once
Their stories last all night in me; they last forever.
Next, we had author Mamta Sagar; she is a noted poet, writer, and translator. She is an active participant in various art and literature-oriented workshops and exhibits. She teaches at the Srishti Institute of art, design, and technology. Mamta reads out Kannada poems and their translations. However, ‘reads-out’ is quite an undertone because she literally enacted her poems! One such verse goes like this:
When words are picked up, carefully splattered, the poem floats out of reach.
Does a poem need order in this chaotic world?
Here she explained how words can have a free fall in a poem and do not necessarily need an orderly arrangement.
Next, we had author Nandita Bose; she is a fiction writer, poet, and book reviewer. She occasionally indulges in writing about films, politics, and current events. She opened up by saying that her poems are usually short and meaningful. She read out beautiful poems about how we should take care of mother earth and nature. Here are a few lines:
On a long hollow night of no ounce
It is up to the stars to sing of emptiness.
Next, we had author Prathibha Nandakumar; she is a bi-lingual author, poet, journalist, film maker, columnist, and translator. She has various publications to her credit: autobiographies, poems, short stories, columns in Kannada, and English. She is also honoured with several awards, including the Karnataka Sahitya academy book award, Bangalore Literature Festival Literary Achievement award. Pratibha mainly read out her Kannada poems, and most of them had a socio-political edge to them. But interestingly, she presented them in a very humorous way, which was quite engaging! Here’s one of the translations titled ‘The Mad Monkey and the Master Act’:
Sanity and insanity are not equal and opposite in my case
And hence measure your words carefully.
Eccentric maybe, but I’m condemned by my master
To obey and perform all things different and dangerous
Normal is boring.
Reading a book is a joyous feeling, but hearing the same from the writer is blissful. That is the experience here; you know what the writer means by the expressions, voice modulation, and body language. Moreover, as far as poetry is concerned, it has great meanings to it in the few verses that they have! This panel was indeed a sight to watch, with the authors being so animate with every line of poetry they read. It thoroughly took me to different worlds and left me meandering with the words.
About the Author: Puja Ambalgekar is an IT employee who finds writing, reading, and books in general as an outer space experience. She believes that words have the power to make the difference you intend to. She likes writing poetry, mythology, and technology. You can find her here. She currently writes for TheSeer.