Verse Days Ahead in Delhi

New Delhi, March 31: In a first of its kind, Delhi will play host to the country’s first poetry biennale, VAK: The Raza Biennale of Indian Poetry, from April 7, 2017. The celebration of verses of all kinds will see 45 poets from 15 Indian languages converge at Triveni Kala Sangam in the Capital made possible by the Raza Foundation set up by the late illustrious artist Sayed Haider Raza.
The Raza Biennale has been spearheaded by Foundation’s executive secretary, Hindi poet and former bureaucrat Ashok Vajpeyi. “We want to draw people’s attention to the magic of poetry, not just in Hindi, English and Urdu but also in regional languages such as Kashmiri, Assamese and Manipuri. The inaugural festival will see the participation of 45 poets, both well known and upcoming ones, who will get 15 minutes to read their selected poem, including translations,” says Vajpeyi.
The Biennale will be inaugurated by five poets from Odia, Assamese, Manipuri, Tamil and Kashmiri.
Among the invited poets are K Satchidanandan (Malayalam), Sharmila Ray (English), Kanji Patel (Gujarati), Kutti Revathi (Tamil) and Ratan Thiyam (Manipuri).
Besides poetry readings session, there would be three panel discussions with writers and intellectuals on ‘Poetry as Freedom’, ‘Poetry as Memory’ and ‘Poetry as Conscience’.
“The triptych, as it were, would bring forth the rich plurality of voices, visions, resonances, memories, styles, languages, rhythms, innovations, structures, furious innovative verve, etc. in sharp focus,” says Vajpeyi.
Keki Daruwala, Sitanshu Yashaschandra, Shiv Visvanathan, Udayan Vajpeyi, Ashis Nandy, Ramin Jahanbegloo, Shamim Hanfi, Ananya Vajpeyi, Krishna Kumar, Apoorvanand, and K Satchidanandan are among those participating in the seminars.
A book edited by Ashok Vajpeyi and art writer Shruthi Issac containing poems by all the participating poets would be released on the occasion.
‘VAK’ as the Raza Biennales are a three edition event. The first one in 2017 is centered on Indian Poetry, the second in 2019 will feature Asian Poetry and the third in 2021 (the birth centenary year of Raza) would be devoted to World Poetry.
Conceived as an “ambitious project”, Vajpeyi hopes that the first biennale would affirm the vibrancy and vitality of contemporary poetic imagination as it manifests itself through different generations of poets, 45 in number belonging to 15 languages.
SH Raza, a widely acknowledged master of Modern Indian Art, was deeply interested in other arts, especially poetry. Unusually, he inscribed many lines of poetry in his canvases reviving a convention of miniature painting.
These lines came from the Vedas, the Upanishads, Sanskrit, Hindi and Urdu Poetry and included Kabir, Tulsidas, Surdas, Ghalib, Mahadevi, Agyeya, Muktibodh, Faiz amongst others.
In his diary, Raza used to note down many lines of poetry that he liked in Hindi, English, Sanskrit, French, etc. The diary which ran in several volumes was appropriately named ‘Dhai Akhar’ (Two and A Half Letters) a phrase Kabir used describing love.

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