Global Voices At The Fourth Edition Of Chair Poetry Evenings, Kolkata’s International Poetry Festival

 By Suroopa Chatterjee

Creativity emerges in times of strife and turmoil through poetry, writings, art and celluloid. The last two years of human tragedy and triumphs gave way to continued pourings from creative artists and poetry has especially been active in uniting humanity through different ways and platforms. Kolkata was once again the beneficiary of some sensitive verses of global poets with Chair Literary Trust organizing its fourth edition of Chair Poetry Evenings-Kolkata’s International Poetry Festival with an impressive lineup in English and global languages keeping in tune to the festival ethos of poetry being universal sans language or geographical barriers. The festival had gone partially offline and online from 21st to 24th November 2021.

Literary figures from UK, USA, Brazil, France, Sudan, Lithuania and different parts of India enthralled poetry affiianadoes all through the four days.

‘The Chair Poetry Evenings’ is a celebration of varied poetic voices from all across the world. Transcending national, geographical, cultural and linguistic boundaries, the celebration, ultimately, is of poetry beyond language. 

In today’s conflict-ridden, pandemic stricken rugged times, poetry as the frontier of human conscience strives to keep the humane concerns alive. Poetry, in a sense, is an anti-thesis to terror and destruction, stated Tushar Dhawal Singh, Poet and Festival Director, Chair Poetry Evenings on an opening day.

The poets participating this year are highly acclaimed and are here to offer us insights into the human conditions of existence, aspirations and forebodings. With an urge to make the world a better place to live in, we hope we shall be able to touch the softer parts of human consciousness”, he added.

What emerged from the poetic renditions on day one was that most of the participants were poets and fine storytellers with award-winning poet Ruth Padel reading with gentle eloquence verses from her book Emerald and stating that poetry tries to touch and seek something of value, often giving a voice to the unheard.  Three sensitive poetry films were next presented by 2019 Pulitzer Prize winner in Poetry Forrest Gander.  A bilingual poet from Manipur Robin Singh Ngangom went on to narrate some evocative poetry on his own personal journeys, reflections from his boyhood days. French and Occitan poet Aurélia Lassaque read poems in French and Occitan, a  language especially concentrated around Southern France, parts of Spain, and Italy. The day closed with a poetry reading by US poet radio host editor, Lois P Jones who shared a few poems inspired by the life of Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca.

Day two had a mix of English and native language poetry with poet-writer-photographer Octavio Quintanilla from St Antonio, Texas reading poems in English and Spanish. Pondicherry based poet Gayatri Majumdar read poems In English some inspired by pandemic and some from nostalgic reflections. US-based Lithuanian poet Rimas Uzgiris recited verses that spoke of the immigrant story. Joining from  Austria was Egyptian Sudanese writer-poet Tarek Eltayebwho read his verses in Arabic, his mother tongue. The last speaker was SJ Fowler from London who shared some of his experimental poetry.

Day three was a session of  regional language poets with Patna born bureaucrat poet Muzaffar Abdali reciting some poignant ghazals and nazms. Following him was Bhojpur born Badrinarayan who read four poems in Hindi. Baby Shaw a young poet from Jhargram recited her beautiful Bengali poems captivating the listeners. Sahitya Akademi awardee Anamika presented a  few of her moving poems. Swami Antar Nirav was the last poet to read a few of his beautiful works in his native Punjabi.

The final day drew to a close with Poona-born Oxfordshire resident freelance journalist, writer, and poet Farrukh Dhondy reading some of his translated verses of Rumi and a few others .Next to read some of her poems on contemporary issues was poet Aditi Basu Roy . Following her was Rajasthan-born Hindi poet Prabhat who shared a few of his beautiful thought provoking compositions . Poet, essayist and columnist Chaitali Chattopadhyay read some of her poems . The evening and finale ended with a very moving poetry film by Marcio-Andre de Sousa Haz, poet, a multimedia artist from Rio de Janeiro.

 “We’ve been on a never-ending effort to raise literary awareness among the masses through poetry. Our audience has witnessed the sound of poetry in several languages since the beginning. This year’s festival takes us a step further in understanding the beauty of language poetry, with English language poets from the United Kingdom, the United States, and India, as well as Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, Occitan, Sudanese, Egyptian, and Spanish poets presenting their muse through their languages. In 2022, we’ll host more events with more such poets, allowing us to take a dip into the enticing ocean of poetry”, stated Sonnet Mondal, Poet and Festival Director, Chair Poetry Evenings.

The festival plans to have a series of programmes in the coming year with participation in World Book Fair in Delhi, the Kolkata Book Fair in 2022, organise poetry workshops in schools and start on its poet in residence programme.

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