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'Art got it's due, poetry will too'
What is poetry?
Poetry is just a churning of emotions. It is words set to a lay (cadence). At one time it was compulsory to have rhyme in a poem. Then newer forms evolved and even blank verse became acceptable. But there's always been a law and a meter to this expression. In my case, the first version is never my final version.
Has poetry stopped evolving?
No. In fact, both poets and poetry have been evolving, society around them hasn't. Books, movies and music have all kept pace with time and been appreciated by the world at large. Why, then, do people want to limit poetry to age-old perceptions of pink sunsets, wine goblets and the first blush of youth? In a century that gave us the wheel, the lens, cameras, railways and computers, how can we, as poets, not include any or all of these in our expression?
I'm not saying my poetry is the best, but my style is to use everyday words. In a song in Maachis, I've used the words chulha and chimta. In 'Kajra re', I've said "Aankhein bhi kamal karti hain;personal se sawal karti hain". In Omkara, there was "beedi". Why are we sitting in our penthouses still looking for the "main tulsi tere aangan ki" variety of lyrics? And if I, the poet, only keep finding different ways to express what Krishna said to Radha, when will I write to my own beloved?
Do you read poetry?
Of course! I've lost the patience for a novel. I'm one of those people who reach the airport much before my flight time - only so I can browse through the short story and poetry sections at the bookstore. I've noticed a number of additions to the poetry section over the last five years, which is a very promising trend. I usually read translations of poetry in various languages. I believe Marathi, Malayalam and Bengali have the largest poetry collection for children and I'm moved by the strength, honesty and starkness of Dalit poetry. Romanian poet Marin Sorescu is an international favourite.
Unlike the West, poetry in India gets no institutional support. Would you recommend poetry as a profession?
Why not? I was a misfit in a business family. My father said if I pursued poetry, I'd either be living off my brothers or eating at the gurdwara langar. But I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do. I decided I'd be a failed poet or a bad poet, but I just had to keep writing. Over the years, I have picked up quite a few 'unpoetic' habits. For one, I shave. Then, I have a 5 am to 10 pm day. Plus, I play tennis, that too wearing shorts! But why should either poetry or poets play to the poor, bearded, kurta-wearing stereotype?
Having said that, poetry is not a gift from God and nobody is born a poet. It's a skill that has to be honed. You may be born with poetic sensibility, but you still have to learn and practice its expression. It's a profession like any other and must be respected like that. Art has recently got its due and I have faith that with the spread of literacy and the growth of the economy, poetry will also get there.
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