Beginning 22 June, Firstpost embarks on a 10 week-long journey of poetry. Featuring poets who write in English and Hindi, this project is meant to both showcase their art as well as their individual creative processes. These poets write for the page and for the stage, and the themes of their works range from love and friendships to how power-hungry human society can be. Their verses, expressed in the 'spoken word' format, are brought to life by visuals and supported by music.
Presenting — The Firstpost Poetry Project.
This is the second poet featured in this series
Shruti Sunderraman | 26
"Why do you write poetry?"
"Why do I breathe? Perhaps the way I look at structuring my poems, the metre, the shape I give them, have evolved over the years, or that I am more willing to experiment now, but I think I have always, without prompt, thought poetically. With not just my work and what I write, but at a more emotional level. It's the first and easiest form of expression for me — like a first aid kit for my emotions."
Shruti Sunderraman says that she has always been drawn to poetry. She thinks the strength of this art form lies in its ability to communicate ideas — difficult ideas or those about sensitive subjects — in a palatable manner. "It will be better received or have a better chance at being understood if it's in a poetic format."
She says that some people underestimate it because they consider it a softer medium of expression. "I don't understand how that softness is necessarily a bad thing. Strengths need not be very aggressive," she says.
Shruti believes that there is a "70:30 relationship" between the poet or their work and the audience. How a poet chooses to interpret their own work and perform it is determined by their audience, in her opinion. "A very simple analogy to explain this would be through food: The food you prepare for other people should be great. You have to put your everything into the food you're preparing, but it helps to know who you are going to be serving. Is it someone who is serious and who will be critical of you? Is it someone attentive?"
That being said, she does not think the medium of the poem — whether it is a page-poem or one that is meant to be performed — determines its effectiveness. "If you've written a poem for the page and you're asked to perform it, I feel it is a slight obligation to edit the poem for performance. How you read out a poem and perform it is different from how a reader reads it, by themselves." But the effectiveness of the poem is in the words themselves, she explains.
She says that what makes a poem more beautiful is a certain amount of mindfulness. "Be mindful about the fact that it is going to be read by other people. "Write for yourself, but when you're editing it, think about a larger audience.
It's arrogant to assume that my poem should be just my expression.
It comes with a responsibility; if you're not being understood, then what is the point?"
What seems to be missing from the culture of poetry today, in her opinion, is the practice of listening to other writers. "There are many poets who come and participate in poetry events, and they sit around till it is their turn to perform, but leave soon after they are done. This is in contrast to what she was used to seeing when she had just begun writing poetry; then, if someone was a poet, they wouldn't perform. They'd come just to listen, she recounts. "That is what's more important — it actually encourages one to write better. Listening to other poets drastically improves the larger poetry culture."
How to Love Art and Save Your Artist's Life
I do not think it cheap to fangirl at art.
I do not think it foul to want to tell artists they matter.
If I am a witness to beautiful music,
It's medium is witness to my unbridled love.
On most days,
Your words of affection will be lost in the sea of applause.
They won't notice you hanging on to their guitar solo like hope.
They won't look to the front-left corner of the stage
where sleepless nights of your prayers to see them live have set camp.
The newer ones won't know your name in a strange city where no one knows theirs
They won't know you know every vowel in their songs.
They won't know you stayed back home to listen to them alone.
They won't know you chose them over the people you love.
They won't know you chose them over sex.
They won't know.
But you do.
Send regular friend requests to the Universe
And inbox your love for someone's art
Leave a forwarding address to pass it on.
You'll eventually get out of the Other Folder.
If you chance upon physical proximity,
Tell them of the conversations you've had with your ceiling and their G minors on loop.
Tell them how their song references have led to social rejection.
Don't stop waiting in lines to get to the front-left corner.
Don't stop weiting shitty poems they'll never read.
Don't stop from trying to trick your way backstage.
Whisper "You matter — don't die," when they pass you by.
On most days, that whisper will be lost.
But on the day it is found, you might be the one that matters.
A whisper could've saved Nick Drake's life.
Flowers and Friends
Some flowers take a while to bloom
and some friends take a while to make.
blossoming friendships and flowers
in your own backyard;
you were looking out
through other windows.
curiosity and strength and time
to pry some windows open,
even if they've been a part
of your home all along.
Time is a curious thing.
you weren't ready to
befriend a chrysanthemum
and it was too tender
in your direction.
Maybe it takes
a mutual affection for light
to throw fistfuls of it
in every direction
to see who caugth it,
the little chrysanthemum
holding it in
its own pockets of light
finally ready to shine
finally eager to
open forgotten windows.
Read about the first poet of this series.