What good fortune it was to listen to five wonderful poets, each one distinct in the content, language, style and rhythm of their work.
Salma began the session by reading her work in Tamil with such delicacy that a young guy sitting next to me whispered, ‘Dammit I gotta learn Tamil’. She read from her poem Contract, The Evening, a poem about experiences of her life, childbirth, sex, loneliness in a room full of ‘human vessels’: ‘this body is not a curtain you can cut and craft. ‘
Rukmini Nair read five poems about mythology. In Kali she recited, ‘No God is hampered by his sins’, ‘Kali, mistress of the temporal world…Returns each night to eerie in her heart.’ Reinterpreting Kali, Shiva, Ganesh, Gulmohar, Nair’s poems were complex and mysterious. In her last reading, Making Ends Meet, she beautiful observed, ‘A poem is water in a women’s hands.’
C.P. Surendra read a sequence of his work, giving vent to the complicated relationship he shared with his father. His poem Catafock was a poetic narration of the stories of Nachiketa.
Margret Mascarenhas read from her collection Triage: Causalities of Love and Sex. She depicted romantic love as a sickness to be cured and poignantly expressed a wounded concept of love: ‘If I don’t see you tomorrow, my life would last forever. In her poem Echo gets a Second Chance, the audience softly chanted with her: ‘Look, Look, Behold, Behold.’’
Continuing with the theme of wounded love, Bejan Katur, who writes in Turkish, shared the lines: ‘We know some best while making love/ Then we corroded our hearts together’. Rahul Soni, English translator of the works of Srikant Verma’s voluminous work Magadh mesmerized the audience with his words: ‘Here I see Magadh. Here it disappears.’
When asked why her poetry sounded like prose and her prose read like poetry, Nair responded that her work was ‘embroidery on the paper,’ and she didn’t believe in labelling it. She elaborated that an excellent way of understanding literature is to question everything you read.