'Freedom to disturb and agitate is the right of all poets'
Observing that it is often in times when poetry is impossible, that the best kind of poetry is written, pioneering Malayalam poet and theorist K Satchidandan said it was important to be able to hurt and affect sentiments in an increasingly charged and gentrified world.
"The freedom to disturb and agitate is one of the most important rights a poet has, especially in the history we find ourselves living in today.
Poetry is the freedom to conceive, to create alternative worlds, different ways of seeing, going beyond reality to escape it. Or perhaps even oppose the real and inhabit other realities," said Satchidanandan, during a thought-provoking evening conversation at Vak: Raza Biennale of Indian Poetry, an event held in the Capital recently.
The scholarly panel discussion, titled 'Poetry as Freedom', was held at the Triveni Kala Sangam as part of the three-day Biennale. The first-of-its-kind celebration of verse in the country was organised by the Raza Foundation – set up by the late master artist Sayed Haider Raza in 2001 and helmed by eminent Hindi poet Ashok Vajpeyi, the Managing Trustee.
"Though it is but words, poetry is ultimately an act of imagination and a kind of conversation. To use meter, rhythm, metaphor, rhyme, syntax, structure, style and imagery to follow or break with diktats and rejuvenate and recreate language in order to make apparent the invisible," added K Satchidandan. Citing the importance of the discussion, Vajpeyi said, "Poetry is perhaps the best embodiment of the ideals of freedom. It has become all the more crucial today when there are many curbs on freedom of expression and in a world where the idea of freedom has been divorced from ideas of equality and justice." The hour-long conversation also featured prominent educationist and former NCERT director Krishna Kumar, award-winning author and academic Ananya Vajpeyi and Apoorvanand, renowned professor of Hindi at Delhi University.
Describing poetry as the "last refuge" against tendencies of systemic oppression and reductionism, Ananya Vajpeyi traced the influence poets and their works have exercised on the sub-continent across epochs.
Contending that a "little amnesia" would help the contemporary shake off the shackles of the past, iconic litterateur Keki N Daruwalla said that poetry was an important counterweight against the canonisation of myth as memory.
"The danger of myth becoming scripture and memory, as something to be remembered as having lived or occurred is something we must all be wary of. This sort of co-option – the darker side of memory – is linked to nostalgia. A little amnesia would benefit us all," said Daruwalla, sparking a lively discussion at event. He linked the conflation of myth with historical and racial anger and distrust. The discussion saw impassioned rebuttal arguments from noted social scientist Shiv Visvanathan and celebrated Gujarati poet-playwright Sitanshu Yashaschandra at the Biennale.
"Indian poetics understands that memory, like literature, gives you space for and elasticity of interpretation. Indian literature traditionally used memory as metaphor. Like literature, memory should be permitted to cheat us and play with us," Yashaschandra said.