The year was 2017. I met this common friend who expressed his willingness to start an open mic focussing on poetry, storytelling and music. I, who have always been a page poet, was sceptical with the idea of hosting spoken word performances, but the friend turned out to be a good negotiator. As we started this small group of close reading of poetry, which is now defunct, I realised how many good poets I would have missed interacting with otherwise. The gatherings were hosted in free spaces where any poet – serious or amateur – could come up and read their works. The reading would more likely end up in serious discussions circling around literature, books, music and cinema. These added dimensions to my perspective and I often collected book recommendations from these close intimate groups.
Poetry reading helps in many ways than one. It connects us with writers whose work we get to listen to, many a times critique and discuss the craft a tad bit seriously. Sometimes, the platform gives you the boost that you need as a writer and sometimes it offers you just a light conversation. Poetry reading in Bangalore has been growing. Of course, the pandemic has put many things to a pause but not to a stop. Everything will bounce back, sooner than later.
Let us take a look at some of the thriving poetry reading platforms in Bangalore.
1. Poetry in the Park
Imagine this. Cubbon Park and reading under the shadows of those huge rain trees. Can it be more exciting? Yes, it can be. Because Lynessa Coutto serves you some tea and coffee in between too! Poetry in the Park began in March 2015 and has grown over in the years. In the first year, they averaged around 15 people per session, and most were friends and friends of friends. It was wonderfully intimate, but not as diverse. Over time, participants grew not only in number but also became diverse in age, language and even poetry forms shared. The platform has been positioned as an ‘open event’ rather than a ‘poetry club’, and though there are tradeoffs and challenges in being so open, it is enriching in its own way.
“Another interesting evolution has been the format. Initially, we began by sharing our own writing or reciting inspiring work, however over time as younger participants joined, we noticed that they were writing, but not actively reading poetry. Thus, came the idea of splitting each gathering into two sessions, one for sharing and one for exploring/learning about poetry. As participants themselves volunteer to conduct these learning sessions, our sense of community has grown as well.
The diversity in the group has also allowed for diverse learning sessions, which have taken people out of their comfort zones while still being in an inclusive environment. For example, a Hindi poet could have never imagined himself attending a session on Rap as poetry, and similarly a rapper could never have imagined himself attending a session exploring the intricacies of Urdu Ghazals.”, says Lynessa.
2. Poets of Bangalore
When I went to an event hosted by PoB as a published writer, little did I expect to discover over 25 young poets. These poets shared their work in Hindi and English. Ravi Vishwakarma, the founder of PoB believes in the plain fact that poetry is a form of dissent and their themes generally circle around this idea. He believes that poetry has always produced songs of revolution and that it can carry forward change. Ravi says that Bangalore has a diverse migrant crowd, and it is this collective that becomes a strong voice of the city. He says that one can find a rainbow of languages here in Bangalore and that has been the seed to start this initiative. Poetry can be used to raise awareness of various issues and PoB becomes a platform for people’s poetry. PoB also operates in four other cities and has been doing incredibly well across.
3. Anjuman Literary Club
Anjuman has been organising open mic events for Hindi-Urdu poetry in Bengaluru, ever since its inception in 2011. Once an informal community of poetry lovers, Anjuman was registered as a Trust in FY 2017-18. Over the past years, these monthly poetry events have become more theme-driven, encouraging poets to explore newer subjects for poetry. Anjuman also organises bi-monthly events Qissa Corner (an event on storytelling) and Romhas (an event where poetry lovers discuss their favourite poets).
Anjuman also organises meet-ups and poetry workshops and was instrumental in the publishing of Karnakavita (Atta Galatta Press, 2015), an anthology of 30 Hindi-Urdu poets from Bengaluru. With a strong digital presence, Anjuman engages a community 2,500 members by publishing daily videos of poetry and building dialog around different poets and poetry movements of the past.
As the cloud of the pandemic seems to be clearing out, we hope we get to see these platforms spring back into action soon. We miss listening to poetry and connecting with fresh ideas and voices. With a hope that 2021 makes intimate group readings an old normal, we look forward to hearing from these platforms making the announcements soon.