The first ever poetry festival in Odisha, Bhubaneswar Poetry Festival (BPF) 2016, which was held on October 8th, witnessed a huge gathering of around 500 poets from across the country that included senior poets from the state as well as from outside. Organised by PEN IN Publication and Media at Mayfair Lagoon, BPF 2016, in fact, was the first of its kind festival to be held in eastern as well as north-eastern India, Bhubaneswar being the fifth city in the country to host an exclusively poetry fest after Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai.
Senior poets from Odisha including Sitakanta Mohapatra, Ramakanta Rath, Soubhagya Kumar Mishra, Rajendra Kishore Panda and Haraprasad Das attended as guests for the inaugural session. Poet and Odisha’s Panchayati Raj and Law Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo also graced the inaugural event as a guest. Poets of different languages like Gujarati, Bengali, Hindi and Assamese participated in the one-day event, making it a grand success.
A talent hunt “30 under 30” was also organised as part of the festival to locate and encourage new voices in Odia poetry. Out of 158 entries by young Odia poets under the age group of 30, 30 poets were selected and their collections of poetry were also released during the festival. All 30 poets were also felicitated by the esteemed guests. That apart, the poetry collection of a young school going student, Srujanee Mishra, was released during the festival to encourage young poets.
Talking to MCL, festival director Subhranshu Panda said, “The core objective of the festival was to focus on the generations of poetry and how modern poetry is transforming the landscape of literature. Since Odia has been accorded classical status, there was a need to create a platform that brings in the experts and the young minds together and BPF, 2016 was an attempt in that direction.”
Meanwhile, MCL caught up with some of the poets from other states to find out their views regarding poetry and also the festival. Excerpts from the interviews:
PIYUSH THAKKAR (GUJARAT)
Piyush Thakkar is a leading poet in Gujarati language. His poems have been featured in anthologies of modern Gujarati poetry and also translated into myriad Indian languages. ‘Lakhun Chhun’ is his first collection of poems in Gujarati published by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi in 2015.
Thakkar is presently working as an Academic Associate and Program Officer at the Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics & Other Human Sciences, Vadodara after completing his Bachelors’ and Masters’ from faculty of Fine Arts, The M.S. University, Vadodara. He is also a regular speaker in distinguished literary meets for poetry reading across India.
How do you feel being a part of such a festival?
I am quite happy as I am visiting Odisha for the first time because of this festival. Thanks to this festival, I have also got the chance to meet poets whom I have read a lot in translations. So all in all, this occasion has given me the opportunity to visit a new place and meeting people and having dialogue with the poets whom I have liked and revered a lot all these years.
What are your poems generally based upon?
My poems are based upon my own surroundings and life and the times I have lived in. My poems generally have to do with experiences of love and that of being alienated in the society.
Do your poems portray any central idea?
My poems somehow don’t start up with certain kind of pre-fixed idea, but they do start with certain kind of emotions which muse me and make me write which in turn leads to certain kind of concrete experience.
Can you name some of your favorite poets?
From my language (Gujarati), I really look up to Sitanshu Yashaschandra, Labhshankar Thakar and Dileep Javeri. When I think of Odisha, I must name the poets Ramakant Rath and Haraprasad Das. I have also read in parts the poetry of Sitakant Mohapatra. I also like J.P.Das.
What do you think is “success” for a poet?
Success for a poet can’t be judged on parameters of awards. It should be judged by the poet himself in isolation based on factors like how he has been writing one poem after another or whether he has been able to move deeper into what he/she has been intending to write.
Who do you think are competitors in your field?
I think the notion of competition in poetry and arts shouldn’t be encouraged. Some poets get positive response from readers while some do not. But that doesn’t mean the ones who do not get enough response are not good poets and the ones who get applause are better poets. These criteria should not be applied to poetry as such.
Such poetry festivals are not conducted often. What is your take on that?
These kind of festivals should be encouraged because as I see there are a lot of young poets who have become part of this festival. Not only regional poets, but also poets from other languages across the country have participated in this event. This will lead to the enrichment of Indian literature in a larger way.
Do you have any message for aspiring and young poets?
See, today we have many platforms including social media and publications are very easy nowadays. If one periodical rejects your poem, there are 10 other periodicals eager to publish it. Youngsters who are keen to do poetry must read our classics and poems of other older and senior poets. Then one should also work in isolation silently on one’s own self and language.
SAUBHIK DE SARKAR (BENGALI)
Saubhik De Sarkar is a Bengali poet and translator based in Alipurduar, West Bengal. He loves to read and write poems. His first book of poems, ‘Sheet O Bayosandhir Haspatal’ was published in 1995. He has translated Saadat Hasan Manto, Federico Garcia Lorca, Roberto Bolano and Rudramurthy Cheran into Bengali. He is also the recipient of Kabita Pakshik Award (2005).
He likes to make a lot of friends in life because he feels that friends are very influential in his writings. And he also likes to travel to different places.
This is the first ever poetry festival to be organised in eastern and north-eastern region of India. How does it feel being a part of it?
I was very excited when I was invited to this poetry festival and I would firstly like to thank the organiser of the event, Subhransu Panda for coming up with such a unique festival. It is a wonderful experience for me because I was able to meet some stalwart writers and poets of Odisha like Sitakanta Mohapatra, Ramakant Rath and Haraprasad Das.
Do you think Bengali writers should translate Odia poems and other write-ups?
Yes, of course! In fact, we are already translating some Odia poems these days. I have translated some poems of Saroj Bal, Gayatribala Panda and some other contemporary writers. I believe in exchanging the views and writings of different languages which will subsequently help in enriching your own language.
When you write a poem, how do you get the idea for your subject?
Well, sometimes I don’t know how the first idea comes. Then I have to think of how to develop the idea. When I am thinking of a topic, sometimes it happens that some other idea crops up in my mind. Then again I have to keep it aside and refabricate it and enlarge the process. But, there is no such fixed idea to write poetry. Because if you have a specific and concrete idea and then you start writing according to that idea, then it is not poetry.
What are the criteria for success as a poet according to you?
Well, there is no specific criterion for success as a poet, because there is no such limit of success. First of all, you have to believe that you are writing poetry and you are enjoying it. Later, it may lead to participation in various programs and functions, and receiving other honours. But it is altogether a different thing. As a poet, one must enjoy the process when one is writing.
What do you think of awards and honours and how important are they to you?
Yes, awards and honours play a very crucial role in a poet’s or writer’s life and I think they are of great importance. They give you a boost and help you to go further ahead in your field. Getting an award or medal is an achievement and people come to know you as a poet. That means a lot when people recognise you because of your poetry.
Which are your favourite collection of poems and literature?
It is quite impossible for me to point out my favourite collection. There are so many names. In our Bengali poetry, I like Joy Goswami and Utpal Kumar Basu. I love the writings of Haraprasad Das in Odia poetry and he is very influential in my writings as well. Among foreign writers, I am currently absorbed with the Spanish writer, Roberto Bolano. I also like the poems of Julio Cortazar. Other Spanish writers I like to read are Federico Garcia Lorca and Pablo Neruda.
Is there anything from your own writings that is memorable for you?
My third book ‘Jatra Bari’ published in 2011 is the most memorable for me among my writings and there is a reason for it. During that time, I was travelling in Bangladesh in a bus, when suddenly it stopped at a place which was named as ‘Jatra Bari’. I found it to be very interesting. It meant a ‘Bari’ (house) which is in the process of ‘Jatra’ (travelling). So I picked the name and kept it for my third book and that’s why it is my favorite.
Any contemporary poets you admire?
I like Gayatribala Panda; she is a very interesting poet. Akhila Nayak is also good. Another poet who is very influential is Saroj Bal.
What is your advice to budding poets of the country?
First of all, I would like to say that they should learn and follow the traditions. They should know what has been done before them and what is being done in the present time. Reading the poems of the older generations will give them a lot of knowledge and strengthen their vocabulary. And following their contemporaries will help them know the latest trend. Lastly, I would say one should always enjoy the process of poetry.
Do you think such poetry festivals should be organised more often?
Yes, obviously. Festivals like these should be organised more frequently because they create spaces for interactions with different categories of people and most importantly poets. These festivals help us to know the different voices from different parts of our country and ultimately strengthen the Indian literature.