“I still have a little Pakistan inside me, so I ask, would you draw a line through me too?” Budding poet Samreen Chhabra finished her performance with these resonating lines, an appeal trapped in it. Her poem was about the 10 things India has in common with Pakistan that her grandfather had jotted down, the last being the ‘line’ drawn between us.
Given the recent tension between the two neighbouring countries, her ‘lines’ hit the right notes with the audience made up of young poets, poetry lovers, friends, professors and family members who gathered at Chandigarh’s iconic Open Hand monument in Sector 1 on Friday for an evening of recitation and music. Not an easy task. But such was the urgency that Kavitactic, a collective of young poets, decided to put an application in the Punjab and Haryana High Court to ask for permission for holding the event here.
“We wanted to hold the event at the Open Hand because it is symbolic of the vision of Le Corbusier, the creator of the city,” said Gursaya Grewal, one of the founders. Kavitactic started a year ago to provide a platform to poets and poetry lovers in the tricity.
The other founder, Prerit Rajput, said, “We have broken the myth that poetry is a declining art form among the youth. We now have around 80 to 90 members and meet regularly to discuss poetry. We have also started a Shimla chapter that has around 30 members.”
The collective holds a poetry event towards the end of each month. The event, a Diwali special, started around 5pm and saw 20 poets performing one after the other on a wide range of topics from love and romance to Diwali and its festivities.
Slamming it out
Having redefined performance poetry by opening it to more people in a short span of time, these youngsters have made poetry more accessible. These poets also call themselves the first generation ‘slam poets’ of Chandigarh. With slam poetry becoming a phenomenon in India, poetry is headed towards a new future that focuses more on freestyle writing.
Last month, three girls from MCM DAV College made it to the top 10 of the National Youth Poetry Slam (NYPS) that was adjudged by prominent spoken word poet Sarah Kay from New York and Bollywood actor Kalki Koechlin, who made headlines with her poem ‘The Printing Machine’, a powerful critique of sensationalism in the media. Avleen Kaur Lamba, Gursahiba Grewal and Samreen Chhabra were the only poets from the region to participate in the competition held in Bengaluru.
Kamaljeet Kaur, the mother of a performer, said, “There was a lull in the poetry scene in the city. But they have taken up the initiative to revive the scene, something that you wouldn’t expect youngsters to do. It’s a big thing to see so many young poets together as one,” adding, “they are performing in all languages, which is commendable.”
There was a balanced mix of English, Hindi and Punjabi poetry at the event.
Plans for the future
So, what plans do they have for the future? Gursaya said, “After each event, we’re reminded that we started something different. There are so many new performers every time we do an event. Our first and foremost aim is to keep the community united so that the discussion grows and the poet grows as an artist.”
To this, Prerit added, “Other than that, a slam poetry competition is in the works. But as of now, our job is to give poets and poetry lovers a platform to perform.”
What is spoken word poetry
Spoken word poetry is conversational in tone making it more relatable to listeners. Since it is not metaphorical in nature, it provides an instant connect to the subject. American poet Marc Smith is credited with starting the poetry slam at Chicago in November 1984. There are poetry slam competitions across the globe now. (Source: Wikipedia)