Verses in the time of coronavirus pandemic: Poetry takes the virtual route – art and culture

To keep creativity flowing and build a space for positive conversations in the present situation of a national lockdown, poetry clubs across the country are organising virtual poetry sessions.These sessions are witnessing performances by veteran poets and has also opened up avenues for newcomers.

Ankush Tiwari, founder of poetry club Chand Ka Tukda says, “Without poetry, this pandemic would feel suffocating. We regularly host online poetry sessions and hundreds of people join us – either through passion or out of boredom.”

During lockdown, when everyone is confined to their homes, live poetry sessions are a much needed relief for minds. Mandrita Bose, author and ambassador of poetry club Kommune Kolkata who has been hosting Instagram live sessions every Monday and Thursday says, “It is an opportunity to bring poets, storytellers, musicians and stand-up comics together to share their beautiful pieces and experiences.” Bose adds, “Poetry heals and inspires and when performed live, people connect very deeply with the words. It resonates with their emotions, thoughts and the current scenario.”

Read: Soulful song and poignant poetry… antidotes to Quarantine blues in this week’s WTF

Apart from creating solidarity through poetry during this pandemic, the online sessions have also been a way to trigger creative online challenges. One such is The Katha Challenge where five people write one story. Chinmay Munghate, the man behind it says, “Person A writes a part of the story, narrates it and tags Person B who takes the story forward, tags Person C and so on. Then we compile the five parts to create one video and upload it. These stories are told in the form of poetry.” He adds, “In the past few years the craft of storytelling is getting lost. I look at this lockdown as an opportunity where people now have time to tell and listen to stories/poetry.”

The lockdown is giving poets an opportunity e to interact with new people sharing similar passion. Nukkad Chai Online, an initiative of poetry club KuchPoetic has been brewing the poetic aroma by rolling out such sessions. Tulika Banerjee, editor of KuchPoetic says, “Many authors and poets recite their original compositions on myriad themes here. These sessions are just the perfect recipe to engage with others with a similar passion while respecting the boundaries of social distancing.”

After lockdown put a halt to the regular poetry meet-ups of Anugoonj, a poetry session in Gurguram, Nivedita Chakravorty, founder didn’t lose hope and resorted to the virtual space. She says, “These poetry and storytelling live sessions help people come alive in times of despair. Poets go live in our Facebook group and recite self-composed poems and stories.” They have also reached out to the old age homes and orphanages to screen these sessions.

Read: COVID-19: Live streaming of poetry and book reading sessions

While Gurpreet Kaur, founder of Onenest poetry club tries not to go overboard with live sessions and keep it limited, lest people lose interest, Shabnam Hashmi, founder of poetry club Anhad is hosting these sessions with just the popular faces known for their poetry. Till now, the likes of Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak, Javek Akhtar and Gauhar Raza among others have performed. Hashmi says, “People in big cities people aren’t used to sitting at home. So I thought about engaging them intellectually and culturally to fill that void by organizing virtual poetry and music series. We also taught a lot of senior people to do Facebook live cause many of them don’t know how to.”

Poet Ashish Ricchharya who has been an active member in the poetry circuit of open mics says, “Online poetry creates a good audience. People who earlier didn’t attend physical sessions are now attending online sessions in good numbers. Poetry is something that comes from inside your heart. It’s a feeling and that’s why it helps calm anxiety.”

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