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In Bengal, proliferation without profit

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In Bengal, though poetry seems to be alive and well, it hasn't translated into poets selling more. "Bengalis have always been fond of poetry though it would be wrong to assume that there was great readership. There was a small section that loved it passionately, and a much bigger one that thought it was a waste of time. But, I feel, it is taken more seriously now than it was four decades back. Even though readership hasn't gone up. The sad part is that we have talented, young people writing very good stuff now, but their work is hardly ever noticed or appreciated, " says author Saibal Mitra.

Events like 'Kabita Utsab' have helped turn the focus on poetry, some feel. "At least, you have a platform where poets can come together and share ideas. Those interested in poetry can find out what's happening. But a poetry festival can't get more people reading poetry, " Mitra says, adding that the problem lies in the dated mindset of readers who love to visualise a poet as a "saintly, robe-clad figure" rather than an ordinary mortal who looks like them.

Veteran poet and author Sunil Gangopadhyay agrees. "Poets are a much mature lot now. I regularly come across 20-year-olds whose verses are extremely well thought-out, which is very heartening. Thanks to them, Bengali poetry is doing much better than it ever has. Also, we have more women writing poetry now, which has brought in a different dimension. Poetry is no longer looked down upon. Things are looking very upbeat, " says Gangopadhyay.

Raghab Bandyopadhyay, owner of publishing house Charchapad, says, "There indeed is a proliferation of poetry in Bengal. But ironically, writing poetry doesn't pay here. Many of the budding poets have to pay from their own pocket to publish their books. The problem with Bengal is that it's the myth about a poet or a writer that sells here. It's the Bohemian lifestyle of poet Shakti Chattopadhyay that prods many people to buy and read his books. That doesn't happen for young poets, which is sad. "

The publisher thinks the situation can change only if people connected to academics and journalism starts writing, as in Latin America.

Golen Singh, publisher of little magazine 'Kabi Sammelan', says, "Bengali poetry never had a booming market. Only a few poets manage to earn something from their books. It is unfortunate, but true. However, I still believe that proper marketing can help budding poets a lot in this regard. "

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