Listen, Breathe, Experience Poems

 Subodh and Lakshmi Sankar, founders of Atta Galatta who are spearheading the festival.

“The mind of man is a thousand times more beautiful than the earth on which he dwells”, wrote the famous English poet, William Wordsworth. And to encourage everyone to unlock their minds and express themselves through a multitude of thoughts, the Bengaluru Poetry Festival (BPF) aims to establish itself as a premier platform for all things poetry. RITZ catches up with Subodh and Lakshmi Sankar, founders of Atta Galatta who are spearheading the festival along with a committee of renowned poets. 

Poetry is a growing, emerging form of self-expression and the festival is a celebration of poetry, says Subodh as he outlines the ethos behind BPF, which is a unique first-of-its-kind event to be held in Bengaluru. The festival promises to excite not just poetry enthusiasts, but even individuals without an iota of interest in the domain. People for whom poetry implied learning by rote the works of a poet while at school, and then reproducing the same in exams.

“At literature festivals, we’ve seen people who don’t read ‘story books’ walk with a friend, get inspired and then end up buying their first book. We’ve seen that happen at Atta Galatta also, wherein people just come along with their folks and probably end up having an interest in reading and literature. This could happen at BPF as well,” says Subodh.  And to ignite sparks of interest in poetry, the festival has worked out an engaging mix of events over a span of two days.

Both poetry connoisseurs and amateurs will get to not just read poems, but listen to, watch, discuss, and get closely involved in the art. When you hear poetry, you like it more, say Subodh and Lakshmi, “as reading kind of limits since people feel they won’t understand. Poetry makes more sense once you relax instead of breaking your head trying to analyse.”

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BPF has poets performing on stage and also exploring the musical aspects by setting poems to music. “People like Anand Thakore, Raja Shekhar are into music and we are having performances by such artistes who are musically inclined,” says Lakshmi. There are also a series of talks and discussions around poetry, interactive learning opportunities through workshops that will help people get started by guiding them to craft poems and sharpen their poetic skills. To motivate young kids towards poetry, workshops have been organised that will introduce the art of poems through music, rhymes and Indian heritage. Moreover, BPF’s publishing partner, Raindrops Company is conducting a poetry contest through which selected poems will get compiled into Po’try – Bengaluru Poetry Festival 2016 Anthology and released at the event.

“We are also having a Bharatanatyam performance set to the poetry of Andal. Poems can be appreciated through multiple media and our intention is to explore all such media to provide our audience with a complete sensory experience which goes way beyond merely reading a poem,” says Subodh.

To bridge the divide between the star performer on stage and the audience, BPF has a mix of renowned poets from across India and the globe performing side-by-side with hitherto unknown names.  The festival has partnered with poetry groups such as Ink Weaver, Airplane Poetry Movement, Poetry at the Park, Open Sky Slam, etc. that will pull in local poets to perform alongside stalwarts.

“So say someone like Javed Akhtar might be followed by a biotechie who otherwise wears a lab coat and researches on molecules, but writes superb poetry as an amateur,” says Subodh, adding that they want to excite the local community and bring on stage budding poets. “It’s not just the ‘arty’ types who throng at such events, but people from backgrounds like IT and biotech as well who look for an outlet to express themselves,” says Lakshmi.

Boasting of a big bouquet of languages, the festival is having performances in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Maithili, Urdu, Hindi and English.

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The husband-wife duo thought of putting together such an event when they realised that although literature festivals do exist, the scope for poetry per se is minimal. There isn’t much encouragement or recognition given to poetry as a medium of expression.  At Atta Galatta, poetry events like Let Poetry Be and 100 Thousand Poets for Change are held regularly and witness active participation from both young and old. In fact, the poetry events draw in more crowds than the author meets that the bookstore holds, reveals Lakshmi. “This got us thinking. We discussed the idea of a festival dedicated to poetry initially with Shinie Antony (from Bengaluru Literature Festival) who liked it. We then formed a committee that has a lot of poets and that’s how we got cracking,” says the soft-spoken Lakshmi. Subodh adds that everyone who is invited has been extremely supportive. “People have also been generous with their contributions.”

So personally, are the two passionate about poems? “I’m a reader of poetry but I don’t think I can write much,” says Lakshmi. Any favourite poets? “I like the works of Arvind Krishna Mehrotra and Rumi. I like poetry that is simple yet deep. It’s all about emotions. You should feel something when you read it.” Subodh on the other hand does enjoy poetry, but doesn’t quite understand the nuances. He doesn’t read poetry like Lakshmi, but when a poet reads, he gets moved by the words. “There is a certain beauty attached to the way a poet reads his or her works that gives your goose bumps,” says Subodh, going on to recall school poetry “which used to be terrible. You would quickly forget after the exams as it was all about by-hearting and getting your marks cut if you’d have forgotten to put a comma or an exclamation.”

“Yes we would go to sleep then as teachers weren’t good at teaching poetry. I think you develop much of your liberal arts interests later in life, in spite of your school teachers, and not because of them,” adds Lakshmi.

Atta Galatta Presents – Bengaluru Poetry Festival in association with RITZ on 6th and 7th August 2016 at The Leela Palace, Old Airport Road, Bengaluru. Entry Free.