Poetry with Prakriti 2017: Ishvar Krishnan on Madras as an emotion

An interaction with the poet Ishvar Krishnan, leading up to the festival Poetry with Prakriti.

Jaideep Sen Published :  02nd December 2017 03:28 PM   |   Published :   |  02nd December 2017 03:28 PM
Ishvar Krishnan

Ishvar Krishnan

An interaction with the poet Ishvar Krishnan, leading up to the festival Poetry with Prakriti 2017, set to be held from December 3-17, across multiple venues in Chennai.

How do you see the space for poetry changing and evolving in India - specifically, for regional language poetry alongside writing in English?
It has become much more democratic with the advent of digital platforms and social media. The space is not that restricted to a "class" of the society anymore but is more accessible: many closet poets are coming out to showcase their work. Furthermore, there are newer avenues that are being explored, apart from publishing poetry in a book, through which to reach the right audience. Regional poetry is gaining momentum, but not as much as English poetry. It is again related to the "class" of the society and the audience. Once It reaches the ones who speak the vernacular, it would grow leaps and bounds.

Tell us a little about your plans at the Prakriti Festival. What can audiences expect, given your participation at the event?
I would be performing poetry with an "Udukkai" - a traditional tamil percussion. The performance would be a mix of narratives where I would be revisiting traditional poetry forms through the lens of the present day and will add a little mix of fantasy in "Madras-baashai". It is all about the city, its beauty and Madras as an emotion: Tamizh and its people.

How would you like to see the Prakriti Festival holding its own alongside various other new events and biennales dedicated to poetry, across the country?
This is the only poetry festival which has been happening in Chennai for ten years now. In here, patrons get to interact with the poets which is so much different from poets just reading out their poetry. Poets from around the world and regional poets are featured which gives a lot of exposure to aspiring poets. With time, if this becomes accessible to everyone, all strata of the society, then nothing like it!

Would you consider poetry readings to be rather similar to performance art pieces? How does the performative aspect of a public reading change things in terms of engaging listeners, and disseminating and offering poetry? 
Poetry performances are much different from reading out poetry straight out of the book. Performance elements add much more depth to the poetry and keeps the listener engaged. It is an interpretation of an artwork by the artist. With more engaging performances, the audience is bound to increase and the art is bound to grow.

Please tell us a little about how poetry is gaining significance as a form of protest, in the present day. How can activism through poetry be more effective?
Poetry has always been a part of any movement, revolution or protest, take the two-line slogans which were a fight against oppression during the Indian Freedom struggle. With the National anthem being a symbol of patriotism, it shows what part poetry had to play in the struggle. However, activism is for the people and it should reach the ones whose voice it reflects and should also reach the ones who needs to hear it. Every word is a voice, and every voice brings in a change. 

Navkirat Sodhi, Ashwani Kumar & Ishvar Krishnan will perform a reading at Writer's Café, Chennai, on Tuesday December 5.