Poetry reading can be very intimate: Sharanya Manivannan
Give us your overview of how you see the space for poetry changing and evolving in India - specifically, for regional language poetry alongside writing in English.
If poetry in regional languages has thrived in ways that poetry in English hasn’t, some of that is because of the publishing industry, but most of it is because of readers - or the lack thereof. I don’t think English language poetry in India will experience the real momentum until the number of readers of poetry exceeds the number of writers of poetry. For some strange reason, there are many people who write poetry without reading any.
Tell us a little about your plans at the Prakriti Festival. What can audiences expect, given your participation at the event.
I’m delighted to launch my second book of poems, The Altar of the Only World, at this year’s festival. The Prakriti Foundation have been very supportive friends of mine for a decade now. The Altar of the Only World is my first book of poems in nine years, since 2008’s Witchcraft. (I also had a book of short stories, The High Priestess Never Marries, and a children’s picturebook, The Ammuchi Puchi, published last year). It is a mythical meta-narrative chronicling exile, a journey through hell, and resurrection.
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?
The Poetry With Prakriti Festival is a very generous endeavour. Poets are invited and hosted and given classroom or auditorium-ised audiences, not relegated to an afterthought among commercially successful authors. I say it more than holds its own nationally; in fact, it arguably maintains the standard.
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?
Yes and no. I find that the need to distinguish page poetry from stage poetry can sometimes negatively impact both. There is certainly poetry that is purely meant for performance, that simply cannot work as a text in the hand. But there is also a great deal of poetry that benefits from a kind of layering - the page in hand, but a voice in the room as well. A poetry reading can be a very intimate experience.
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?
Where protest is concerned, spoken word and Instapoetry can be especially effective, as both grab the attention quickly, and can be disseminated online through video and images easily. However, there are limits to this as well. It cannot end with a performative gesture alone. The best political poets are engaged on every level, not just in what they write but in how they live, the choices they make, how they resist.