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Giving Voice to the Poet Within – A Poetry Workshop at QTube Cafe

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

When taxed with the job of writing about a workshop, I mostly stick to the trusted fly on the wall routine. As a mute, non-participating spectator, I get the chance to observe and comment on all that’s going on without having to put myself in harm’s way, and by harm’s way I mean the activities going on. This workshop, however, was frightfully different, because, while most swear by the adage seeing is believing, for poets, feeling is believing. And since this workshop, titled ‘From the Brazen to the Golden: Creating and Chiseling Poetry,’ was one with poets, I was invited to participate before jotting down my observations. Visibly shaken and shaking, I got ready to explore all that goes on in a poetry workshop.

The workshop was conducted by Shrenik Mutha and Ankita Anand, both gifted poets and poetry lovers. Through creative exercises, they encouraged us to explore our relationship with poetry. We started off by answering questions like ‘Why I write poetry?’ ‘What do I like about poetry?’ Through our own answers we realized a range of problems that confront us as poets, whether it was the fear or not being profound enough, or articulate enough or simply running out of topics, each participant brought to the table unique problems which, quite strangely, resonated with all of us. On the one hand, these revelatory conversations comforted the hesitant poet in me while on the other, it motivated me to try harder to overcome my writing-related fears.

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All poets understand the importance of fair criticism and so, Ankita’s next exercise had us jot down our expectations from a ‘good’ poem and through our lists, she helped us understand how to share useful feedback. This exercise left us with a ready-made checklist we could revisit often and use to sharpen our own writing. The next exercise aimed to explore the relevance of poetry in a world fascinated by visual mediums. With motion pictures and photography claiming to be infinitely more captivating, can poetry still stimulate the mind and move the soul? After the exercise (which involved observing a photograph handed to us, and composing a poem inspired by that photograph,) we were convinced that poetry offers a kind of dynamism no other medium offers, because when language is your tool of choice, there is no limit to creativity. We were also asked to read out our poems, which were then praised and critiqued by the other participants.

After a quick lunch break, we dived into the next and last exercise for the day, which called on us to pen another poem. This time however, our inspiration had to come from a place closer to home, that is, from some chaotic incident weighing us down at the moment. This was an incredibly difficult exercise, but at the end of it, felt strangely therapeutic. Later, we had to read out our poems to the group.

Although this workshop was quite intensive for me, a person who doesn’t dare call herself a poet, by the end of it, I felt much more confident about my writing ability. I was even encouraged to call myself a poet, and thereby, own my talent, for as Ankita rightly pointed out, to become a better version of yourself, you have to first accept your current version, faults and all. It was an immensely empowering workshop for not just seasoned poets, but for upcoming ones like me and this is what both Ankita and Shrenik are trying to do through such sessions. When not conducting such workshops, Ankita uses her linguistic talents to help those without a voice. She helps those marginalized by society learn basic communication skills and even assists them in form-filling and other official procedures. If you’d like to know more about her work, read her poetry or get in touch with her, contact her at anandankita2@gmail.com / anandankita.blogspot.in or via Facebook

If you’d like to host something similar at a location near you, contact Shrenik at shrenik.mutha@gmail.com. You can read his work through his WordPress blog – Anthology of Thirst

This workshop had no fee of any kind because the organizers wanted to encourage participation from people belonging to different strata. However, to remind us that arts education is valuable in its own right, and so that we respect the efforts put in, participants were asked to donate a sum they felt fit. No minimum or maximum amount was prescribed. 

Greasing the Wheels of Love with Words

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Warning: The love we’re talking about here is the fiery and passionate kind, the type proudly labelled ‘Romantic Love.’ No “Love you like a friend” nonsense shall be alluded to. Tread carefully.

After watching the brilliant Marathi movie, Sairat, we were inspired to meditate on this complex and consuming emotion called love. Yes, that all-powerful emotion, notorious for making the wisest man abandon wisdom and imparting, even to the most foolish, a startling amount of insight and understanding. Why does it wield the power it does, making the world go round or stand still as per its whims? More importantly, what exactly is love, or rather, how does one know one is in love? Does it feel like the cold shock of a morning shower, or is it more insidious, creeping up on you when you least expect it? Or perhaps it’s like a Jack-in-the-box, springing out at you with such gusto, it makes you want to scream, or scram. Well, it’s hard to find answers to these questions. Generations of brilliant minds have turned these queries over in their brilliant heads, and yet, have been unable to come up with unanimous answers. If anything, they’ve only been able to give us their understanding of love, which is coloured by their experience of it. Perhaps that is why we find so much matter on this emotion, for by eluding definition, it throws open a plethora of understandings for us to explore. Here are some poems that do their bit to make sense of this mystifying emotion.

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Image courtesy: wikinewsindia

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart) – E.E Cummings

We might recognize this poem as the one read by Maggie Feller to her sister, Rose, in the movie ‘In Her shoes.’  Because of its depth and lyrical quality, this poem is quite the lover’s favourite. What is also interesting about this poem, however, is the manner in which it is written. The poet deliberately places the sentences with endearments within parenthesis, such that they are carried inside the lines of the poem, much like his lover’s heart!

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing, my darling)

Another Valentine – Wendy Cope

This smartly written poem is perfect for those in long-term relationships. Having felt and done it all before, the poet is quite blasé about Valentine’s Day, But, as she thinks and talk about this day, romantic feelings begin to creep and she can’t help but get mushy and affectionate with her valentine.

Today we are obliged to be romantic

And think of yet another valentine.

We know the rules and we are both pedantic:

Today’s the day we have to be romantic.

Our love is old and sure, not new and frantic.

You know I’m yours and I know you are mine.

And saying that has made me feel romantic,

My dearest love, my darling valentine.

Valentine – Carol Ann Duffy

In this poem, the poet calls a spade a spade. She isn’t starry-eyed about love, for she knows that it can be an incredibly difficult emotion. She also knows that love can hurt and the pain can stay for a long, long time, just like the odour of an onion. If you’re a realist and avoid soppy saying like the plague, this love poem is for you.

Here’s a snippet from the poem-

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.

It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.

It promises light

like the careful undressing of love.

Here.

It will blind you with tears

like a lover.

It will make your reflection

a wobbling photo of grief.

To his coy mistress – Andrew Marvell

This is probably one of the most flirtatious poems you’ll ever come across. Despite the very overt sexual advances the speaker seems to be making to his mistress, we can still see the truth in his words and this, combined with his wit and directness, make him probably one of the most endearing and persuasive speakers in the history of poems! If you’re trying to win over the affections of a rather shy person, this is the poem to read to him or her.

Read the full poem here: To His Coy Mistress

A Drinking Song – W.B. Yeats

Just six lines long and rather simple in content and form, you might think that the poem cannot take on this weighty and complex emotion. But, it does, simply and beautifully. Just like falling in love.

Wine comes in at the mouth

And love comes in at the eye;

That’s all we shall know for truth

Before we grow old and die.

I lift the glass to my mouth,

I look at you, and I sigh.

Well, we hope these poems help you draw your own understanding of love, well if not, at least you now have some fab lines to use on your next/on going crush.

P.S: Poetry makes good pick up lines.