Chair Poetry Evenings-Kolkata’s International Poetry festival greeted the first day of November with the inauguration of its yearly poetic meet on a virtual platform this year. The opening took poetry and cultural lovers on an impressive and captivating journey with some of the most impressive poetic verses from around the globe.
The Festival in its third year owing to the pandemic had gone online from the dates 1st to 5th November. The festival was initiated in 2018 by poets Sonnet Mondal and Tushar Dhawal Singh who are currently directors of the annual event. Booker Prize-winning internationally acclaimed London based Nigerian poet Ben Okri was the first to open the doors to the poetic festival as he read his poignant compositions and spoke with simplicity and profundity about poetry, life and his inspiration. Tagore according to Ben Okri is a poet that you need to have in your bloodstream early because he is a poet of beauty and vision. His is the poetry you go back to when your life has clouded over. Poetry for me consists of three great things-Profound listenings, an ability to go over your lines, your words till you can see past your own roughness, your own imperfections in the face of a gifted inspiration and the third is love for the difficulty because poetry is difficult.”
The first day’s final session saw Iranian born US-based poet Kaveh Akbar read some very interesting compositions in his unique style. Vijay Seshadri, the renowned American Pulitzer prize-winning poet, essayist, and literary critic next read from his new book,” That Was Now, This Is Then” among other poems. This was followed by Hindi poetry by Ashok Vajpeyi, a Sahitya Akademi award recipient. Among the poem, he recited one was penned during the recent lockdown India faced from 29th March. Keki N Daruwalla, English poet, short story writer, winner of Sahitya Akademi Award, followed with a session of his compositions that were about death, migration and climate. Estonian poet Triin Soomets, recited her poem “Kolkata” in English which she had composed after her moving trip to the city.
Day two saw poets Nikola Madzirov from Macedonian, Elisa Biagini from Florence, Italy, Harry Man, a British poet and George Szirtes, winner of UNESCO Bridges of Struga Award reciting poems across screens. The poems talked of uncertainties, dislocation about borders, connection and translation of poetry.
Day three had regional language poets like Ajmer Rode who recited in Punjabi and English, Neelesh Raghuwanshi who recited in Hindi, Ganesh Visputay who read in his native Marathi and city poets Bibhas Roy Chowdhury and Prabal Kumar Basu who read their compositions in Bengali and English.
Day four continued the enchanting flow by poetic recitations from celebrated names like A.J. Thomas, Nabina Das, Priya Sarukkai Chabria and Nilim Kumar giving the listeners the flavors of different lands across the country.
The finale had a global line up again from across the world like Tsead Bruinja from Amsterdam, Senior Indian poet Manohar Shetty based in Goa, Christopher Merrill from the U.S., Christina Davis from the US and lastly Amir Or from Israel. The Poets talked about politics, poetry and its meanings and discussed other reflections of life. Poets Sarabjeet Garcha, Saima Afreen, Sunil Bhandari, Ashwani Kumar were session moderators.
The festival concluded on a musical note with songs from Singer-Songwriter Prajna Dutta who also opened the festival with his music. The festival directors, Sonnet Mondal and Tushar Dhawal Singh expressed their wish to see the festival back in its original format of real meets and exchanges the following year.