A World Class Poetry Festival for South Asia
the opportunity to participate in the Kritya International
Poetry Festival, organized at the Mahatma Gandhi Hindi
International University at Wardha from 15-17 September 2013.
Poets from Argentina, Chile, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece,
India, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Palestine, Sweden, Turkey read
their poems at the festival. The poets at the festival included
Anne Addolorato, Zingonia Zingone from Italy, Müesser Yeniay,
Metin Cengiz from Turkey, Helena Sinervo and Nillas Holmberger
from Finland , Aurélia Lassaque from France, Anastassis
Vistonitis from Greece, Sergio Infante, Sergio Badilla Castillo
from Argentina, Gabriel Rosenstock, Liam O Muirthile , Mark
Granier from Ireland, Trim Soomets and Margus Lattik from
Estonia. Indian participants included a number of Sahitya
Akademi award winning poets such Sitanshu Yashaschandra, K.
Satchidanandan, H.S. Shivaprakash, besides them Subodh Sarkar,
Sudeep Sen, Vinod Shukla, Rituraj, Ramesh Dvik etc. The festival
was a soulful event as it was organized with passion for poetry
by Rati Saxena, a poet who along with her tiny and selfless team
has been putting together Kritya International Poetry Festival
since 2005. Rati's efforts have paid over the years and has
given India its first annual poetry festival.
The festival lasted for three days, each day with four poetry
sessions, two before the lunch break and two after the break.
Each session had four poets on an average, who read four to five
poems. All poems were translated into Hindi and were read after
the poet read them in its original language. Each session had a
mix of Indian poets and the poets from the foreign countries.
The first session of the first day began with poetry readings of
the Gujrati poet Sithanshu Yashaschandra, Greek poet Anastassis
Vistonitis, Malyalam and English poet K. Satchidanandan, Hindi
poet Rituraj and Turkish poet Muesser Yeniay. I got the
opportunity to read my poems on the first day of the festival
along with Helena Sinervo and Nillas Holmesberg of Finland and
Bengali poet Subodh Sarkar. The poems I read at the event
included 'The Puppet Show', 'The Flower Girl of Delhi' '
Shantipath', 'Shastri Bhawan', 'Ghalib' and prologue and
epilogue of my long poem 'Bureaucrab', a new word I have coined.
'Poetry is expression of imagination'- poet P.B. Shelly noted.
The poetry readings at the fest were variations in the intensity
of expression of imagination. The poets from the northern
Europe, from Finland and Estonia, expressed their Nordic
melancholy in their poems. Their poetry were hints of a
prosperous society facing deep melancholia. Indian poets were
far more cheerful in their expressions even though morbidity,
decadence, misery were present in ample amount in their poetry.
What I felt that there was a true connect between the way the
Nordic poets read their poems and the subject matter of their
poetry. There was a disconnect in the manner most Indian poets
read their poems and what they wanted to express through their
I sat through all the three days through most of the poetry
sessions and listened carefully to the poets. I had double
pleasure of listening poems in their original as well as their
Hindi translations, meticulously done by the Kritya team.
Translation of poetry is one of the strongest features of
international poetry festivals and Kritya Poetry Fest was strong
in this arena. All the international as well as the Indian poets
were translated into Hindi and a collection of poems titled 'One
Yet Many- The Cadence of Diversity' edited by Rati Saxena was
published on the occasion. Translation brought the poets of
different continents together and justified the theme of the
festival- 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.' The Earth Anthem written and
produced by me, in eight languages including six official UN
languages, was played during the fest. Italian poet Anne Addolorato
and Estonian poet Margus Lattik expressed their interest in
translating the Earth Anthem into Italian and Estonian. Rati
Saxena's Seventeen Poems translated into Irish by eminent Irish
poet Gabriel Rosenstock was also released during the festival.
Poets share a strong sense of camaraderie. One of the
interesting thing about these poetry festivals is that they help
a poet expand his or her horizons at an accelerated pace.
Meeting new poets with diverse world views, styles of writing
poetry, making new poet friends open new vistas of cooperation
and co-creation. At the festival I met remarkable poets from
India as well as Turkey, Greece, Argentina, Italy, Finland,
Ireland and Palestine. We became friends and have started
translating each others works.
On the last day of festival, I was invited by the Mahatma Gandhi
International University Faculty to give a talk on Poetry to the
students of the University. The two Turkish poets Müesser Yeniay,
Metin Cengiz also joined me to read their poems to the
university students. I believe, a poet should also promote
poetry in schools, colleges and universities so that the closet
poets come out in the public and their talent gets known and
recognized. After my talk on poetry, we listened to two students
reciting their poems. Later we visited Gandhi Sevagram at Wardha.
On the way back we stopped by an ice cream parlour where we met
a number of school students eating ice cream. They got curious
seeing us and after getting to know that we were poets, they
asked us to recite some of our poems. We sat with them and
recited our poems. They invited us to their school to meet other
students and read our poems but we could not accept their kind
offer as Müesser and Metin had to leave that evening for Turkey
and we were getting late. This was one of the most memorable
experiences on the sidelines of the Kritya Poetry Fest.
The evenings after the whole day of poetry used to be the
occasion for bonding among the poets. Wardha being a dry area
did come in the way of soulful evening sessions of socialization
as alcohol was in short supply and particularly some of the
poets could not do without it. However, the barriers were
overcome and the evenings became merrier with singing of Nillas
Holmberger, Aurélia Lassaque, Liam Muirthile and Sergio Badilla
Castillo. We slept very little for the three nights we spent at
the festival as there was so much to talk, share, revel in
company of each other and poetry. The Vice Chancellor of the
University, Vibhuti Narayan Rai was very kind and hosted a
reception and dinner in honour of the visiting poets.
The festival was soulful precisely because it was driven by
passion of a poet and her team and had personal touch. Many who
attended the festivals as well as some of the Kritya Festival
Advisers suggested to turn the festival into a grand event next
year getting corporate sponsorship, organize it at a fixed venue
i.e. Cochin in Kerala, and get an event management company to
run the festival. The international advisers include poets such
as Alicia Partnoy, Amir Or, Ataol Behramoglu while the Indian
advisers are K. Satchidanandan, H.S. Shivaprakash, Sudeep Sen,
Vikram Sampath and myself.
fact is that poetry does not sell as much as fiction or
non-fiction prose does. Therefore corporate sponsorship is out
of question for a poetry festival. A fixed venue seems to be a
great idea and can help in improving the festival hosting
conditions. Cochin, Kerala is an excellent choice between
November to February when the northern hemisphere is cold and a
large number of people want to spend a few days in warm tropics.
A good mix of passion and professionalism is what does wonders
to any event organization and Kritya organizing team would need
to pay attention to this.
I have been writing and advocating an annual International
Poetry Festival in South Asia since long and Kritya
International Poetry Festival seems to be South Asia's only
hope. I hope the community of poets in South Asia will work
together to give South Asia a world class annual poetry
Abhay K. a poet-diplomat, recipient of SAARC Literature
Award, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, is author of several
books and the lyricist of the Earth Anthem.