Ghalib would certainly approve. His Dilliwallahs may have forgotten him, but poetry manages to survive in his city. And poets are struggling with the same issues as Ghalib—with publishing, not drink. Though technology has come to their aid, they find it hard to sell.
However, forums have sprung up across cities in India, online and real, to promote the cause of poetry. Delhi Poetree is one such group dedicated to the revival of verse.
Far from Ghalib’s grave in Nizamuddin, amateur poets of the group hold their own version of the mushaira in a small room at Khan Market with the smell of coffee and cinnamon hanging in the air.
Delhi Poetree, founded by Amit Dahiyabadshah, aims to take verse out of stuffy academic institutions into the mainstream and hopes to bring back the romance of poetry. “We want poetry to be part of everyday life,’’ says Dahiyabadshah. “There is a crying need for people to destress and feel good about themselves. Our poetry aims to do that.”
Delhi is not the only city to have these tiny outlets for poetry. Two poets, four friends and a restaurant of hungry people was the start of a small poetry revolution in Mumbai, the city famous for its annual Kala Ghoda festival. The Bombay Elektrik Projekt (BEP) decided to give emerging poets a platform by following what seemed like a naïve thought, especially in the commercial capital of the country where “saleability’’ is an integral part of any project. “We had a poet who brief boxed and read his work,’’ says Sudeip Nair, one of the three men who started the BEP. “There was a guy who brought along a guitar. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Our concept is that you just have to come out and read it into the microphone,” says Nair.
The room for poetry on the shelf is still very slim. “Unfortunately, poetry remains pretty much invisible in mainstream English-language publishing,’’ says Ravi Singh, editor-in-chief and publisher of Penguin India. “The audience at poetry readings and slam nights may well be growing, but how many of them would actually buy a book of poems? The market is still unforgiving. It’s still the niche publisher and poetry groups that create and sustain the climate for poetry in English.”
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Image Source: surrealmuse