DOES ANYONE READ POETRY ANYMORE?

Poetry Out Loud: Poetry retreats offer a platform for poets to share their work and network with each other and their mentors to improve the quality of the poetry they are writing. Participating poets in this second edition of the retreat were Ishmeet Nagpal, Swara Naik, Kevon Abadian, Sayandeep Kundu, Stuti Desai, Dhruvi Shah and Amy Singh. Amongst the mentors were senior poets Rochelle D’Silva and Menka Shivdasani. The venue of the poetry retreat was Saraya at Sangolda which offers quaint tree cottages by way of accommodation

By Tara Narayan

It’s debatable how many people young or old read poetry these days! But you’ll be surprised how many do write it — and it can be quite rewarding too in a myriad ways! Catch up with a Poetry Retreat organized by entrepreneurial poet Rochelle d’Silva, who has introduced an element of performance in poetry…

DON’T ask me how but I found myself listening to the poetry of young poets-in-the-making at a poetry retreat-cum-workshop christened “Poetry Out Loud” (part of the workshop providing music and songs by Valerie d’Silva) organized and curated by the now Goa-based Rochelle d’Silva and Mumbai-based Menka Shivdasani from January 22 to 25, 2020. The four-day poetry retreat took place out at the tranquil woodsy farmhouse cultural spaces and eco-friendly tree cottages of Saraya at Sangolda, half-rustic, half-urban outskirts of Panaji in north Goa, with some interesting eateries around about.
Saraya Art Café Bed & Breakfast belongs to Deeksha Thind and it offers a sylvan setting designed along as natural as possible permaculture lines, altogether a likely place to invoke and evoke any muses of poetry if they’re inherent in the participants. Traditionally, poetry is a solitary engagement but presumably it’s better written collectively and performed for one another and an invitee-based audience.

Rochelle D’Silva


Both Rochelle d’Silva and Menka Shivdasani are poets of an older (not so old either) vintage with a couple of poetry collections (look up d’Silva’s When Home Is An Idea’ published by Bombaykala in 2017, Shivdasani’sNirvana at Ten Rupees’, Stet’,Safe House’ and recent Frazil’). Both poets feature at literary festivals in India and abroad and from the sound of it both are entrepreneurial in spirit, united in promoting poetry reading, writing, performing to up the stakes of a literary genre which many aspire towards, only dabble in and only rarely take seriously -- as they get swamped by life’s immediate demands. Mainly the nitty gritty of staying alive materially even if they may be rotting immaterially or so to speak, but then these may well be excuses and some more excuses… This is to say it was a lively robust evening presentation at the end of the four-day poetry retreat with various participants beguiling the sensorial seeking mind with freshly written poems (in free verse for the days of old-fashioned versifying and rhyming have long since faded to give way to more contemporary language to express the mysteries of the mind). If one poet spoke on the subject of being dead but continuing to be alive, another painted a scenario of building walls only to see if anyone would come along to dismantle his walls of painful cynicism….one poet treated everyone to a poem about how loose a woman she was, the kind parents warn their precious sons to stay away from. And so on and so forth, yet another poet’s summing up of being trapped in a “quicksand of a colorless culture” lingers memorably. To remember just a few of the participating poets there was Ishmeet Nagpal (an articulate dentist from Mumbai who publishes her own glossy poetry journal titledRogue’, there was also Amrapali or Amy Singh, the heavily bearded Sayandeep Kundu (from Kolkotta but lives in Mumbai) who treated everyone to some baol singing which is according to him the Bengali equivalent of Sufi dancing and singing; Stuti Desai and Dhruvi Shah are both also from Mumbai, Kevon Abadian is from Goa. The poetry retreat reserves only eight spots to facilitate practical one-to-one interaction between participating poets and poetry mentors selected for the retreat.
On the last evening before they bid farewell the next day there is a presentation with a gathering of an estimated 30 to 35 in the audience along with Saraya’s gentle owner Deeksha Thind, lending her efforts to make the retreat roll along smoothly. It was a remarkably vital evening courtesy a group of young and not-so-young people seeking to express themselves, several of them having imbibed and by-hearted their own poems (written during the course of the retreat) well enough to read and even perform them, all clearly energized by “godmother” Rochelle d’Silva with her warming up introductions and generous impromptu hugs.
Such poetry workshops work against a salubrious background of peace, tranquility, demanding more or no more than that the participants spend time looking at the scene-scenary around of wintry dry, dusty trees breaking into some green here and there…listen to birdsong at dawn, dusk, in between tuck in a wood-fired oven’s pizza selection, or meals prepared by Saraya’s vegan kitchen. They presumably also effortlessly offer interesting exchanges of thoughts, ideas and bonding, amongst those who think it’s worth their while learning how to make time for poetry, music, any of the performing arts, to sensitize mind and body, heart and soul.
Hopefully to reap a better, kinder world to live in the longer run of living their lives. Surely poetry writing and reading can be a cathartic experience in the presence of mentors tempered, seasoned and molded in the tempestuous brewery of their own poetry? Say it is communicating at a finer level of consciousness to better cope with life’s myriad stresses, perennial depressions…or for that matter for no reason at all on which button one may put one’s finger on. Some may disagree with this evaluation.
But I dare say in any of the contexts poetry writing and performing workshops are welcome, each workshop detailed over Facebook postings may be priced from Rs20,000 to Rs35,000 or less depending on the discretion of the organizers (or if you live in Goa); but this comes inclusive of accommodation, plus whatever material required by the participants. Familiar celebrated names figure on the mentors list and surely they too come for a price. Creativity is very much a business proposition in our times.
I’m reminded of the tea-party poetry sessions the late iconic poet Kamala Das used to host in her RBI banker husband’s spacious apartment in upmarket Nariman Point in the mid-70s in Mumbai that was Bombay at one time. Mrs Kamala Das exuded genial warmth and offered tea and biscuits hospitality and as many came to look and talk to her, she being a remarkable poet herself.

Menka Shivdasani


I remember one of the poetry soirees and coming away not a little untouched by the magic of poetry in the air! Many a poet must have been born at these poetry evenings and as many may have given up their ghost. The Kamala Das poetry evenings were impromptu freebie affairs and fizzled out too soon. All one had to have to qualify for attendance was an invitation from a friend of a friend if need be…and soon one was looking into the mischievous dancing dark eyes of the hostess herself, compare her to Vincent Van Gogh sunflowers if you wish! Of course I was smitten by the touch.
Yes of course, then as now there are many takers for poetry, readings and what not. The one difference is that in today’s more hard-boiled times obviously, poetry has moved out of its old realms of just turning up to fumblingly plain read one’s poetry. Poetry evenings my dears, have moved on to more exciting and entertaining forms of presentation, with the introducing of musical backgrounds and even dancing scores.
Poetry comes alive better if costumed with presentation and a bit of flair real or put on…if you can pull it off! Well, whatever it takes to put back poetry in our lives exotic or bleak, take a bow Rochelle d’Silva and Menka Shivdasani and anybody else who makes these poetry retreats possible, undoubtedly a labor as much of love as survival. A pity we can’t eat poetry, or can we?

Poetry of the contemporary kind…

Home

Is someone else’s dream
On loan for the weekend
And I can’t help but
Wonder if something is missing

The journey back is longer
I slouch
And sleep until Flinders
Keep my eyes down
And my hands in my pockets
Waiting for Brunswick to embrace me again
Next weekend will be mind
Grocery shopping in my PJs
20-min commute o anywhere that matters

I was born in Bombay
UI lived in Bahrain
I studied in Bangalore
I arrived in Brisbane
I live in Brunswick

Melbourne is home now

(Selected from Rochelle D’Silva’s `When Home Is An Idea’)

The Paradox

Bricks,
One, two, three, four,
Raise the wall,
Close the door,
People,
They’re all the same,
No stomach for truth,
No threshold for pain,
So be silent,
Stop giving your heart to those who dont matter,
Dont be a victim of your own kindness,
Shut it all down,
They dont understand your story,
They dont know your journey,
How a lonely child’s mind wanders,
And falls into the abyss,
Lost in his own madness,
Alone and afraid.
How can he grow into a man,
Confident, unblemished and pure?
No one cares,
No one hears your cries in the dead of the night,
As your soul is devoured by your growing cynicism,
It grows like the bubonic plague,
Spreading through your brain.

Your mind was once like a river,
Flowing into the sea of unlimited possibilities,
But not anymore,
All that is left is barren land,
And that’s all they see,
Nothing,
Nothing but their fruitless assumptions,
Nothing.

So build that wall,
Dont let them in,
Humans without humanity.
Misplaced layalty,
Ignorance,
Oh how they love their ignorance.

Five, six, seven, eight.
Get used to it,
Unforgiven, unwanted and unloved,
Get over it.

They stare at you with their judgementtal eyes,
Your first impression etched in stone,
With no chance for redemption,
So forget about them,
Make your life your own.

Nine, ten, eleven, twelve,
Keep your troubles on a shelf,
For you are not worthy of pleasant memories,
Moements spent with friendly company,
But they are not worthy of your love.
Remember the boy lost in time,
How he struggled to stay alive,
Popping pills and a blood soaked knife,
To release himself from this life.

People,
They’re all the same,
As stupid as they’re intellegent,
Intellegence,
Born with a higher conciousness,
We invented the wheel,
Manipulated fire,
Built metal birds to soar across the skies,
So intellegent,
But still so stupid,
They know everything but undertand so little,
Willful ignorance,
The root of all evil.
Sexists, recists, and facists all the same,
People.
How can a species so beatiful be so ugly?

The devil smiles,
He cheats us all,
Fooling us with unrealistic dreams,
Of freedom and of happiness,
Be yourself,
Such a fucking lie,
But we believe him,
They accept him,
Trapped in his world wide web of deciet.
Giving into their impulses.

A wise prophet once said,
They know not what they do,
He was right,
Unaware of our blindspots,
They create monsters,
But they dont think they do,
Such self righteous fools.

Thirteen, forteen, fifteen, sixteen,
Time running out,
When the wall is done,
Not a single one,
Will break you.
As time goes by,
A little bit of hope stays alive,
But dont wait for better days,
For the human monkey is a stupid monkey,
And will take forever to evolve,
An ideal world for future generations,
But you cant wait that long.

Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty,
The wall is almost done,
Turn around and take a look one last time,
Is there anyone around,
Anybody,
Somebody,
To make you feel alive,
Somebody,
To tear your wall down.

— Kevon Abadian

FALLING FROM GRACE

I have become the loose woman your mother warned you about.

I pluck men like the choicest fruit, off the city’s platter,
And though I devour them whole, I always remember to spit out the seed.
I am the charlatan with too much swing in her hips, too much wine on her lips.
I have colored my hair blue, covered my skin with tattoos, I even smoke weed;

And indeed,

I have become the loose woman your mother warned you about.

I exploit business and pleasure in equal measure,
And turn tricks on the street or flip boardroom tables.
I’ll send you running-errands or egos- and to this pay heed:
I have had many lovers yet love is a necessity, not need.

So, yes indeed,

I have become the loose woman your mother warned you about.

Your hallowed books and narrowed minds may not comprehend,
And I am no longer going to pretend, that the world is thinkers’ home;
For here I am alone, doing whatever I condone,
And you can shove your judgement up your own- nose;

Because everyone knows,

I have become the loose woman your mother warned you about.

— Ishmeet Nagpal

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