This Bengalurean contemporary dancer won the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize for her passion for poetry

While in Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, she learnt poetry from Karen Osborn, Pulitzer awardee Richard Wilbur and so on and has been in workshops conducted by American poets like Rosanna Warren
Poorna Swami during a performance | (Pic: Richa Bhavanam)
Poorna Swami during a performance | (Pic: Richa Bhavanam)

For someone who was born into a family of artists and has been breathing and living around art since she was a child, Poorna Swami too, naturally, was always inclined towards art — particularly, writing and performance art. It was for the former that this Bengalurean was awarded the tenth Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize in Hyderabad last week at an event hosted by The Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust and Department of English, University of Hyderabad. 

A citation and cash prize of Rs 15,000 was presented to Poorna as a part of the award

Upon connecting with Poorna, who currently divides her time between Bengaluru and Mumbai, we learnt that she has been writing poetry for a very long time. While in Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, she learnt from Karen Osborn, Pulitzer awardee Richard Wilbur and so on and has been in workshops conducted by American poets Rosanna Warren, Campbell McGrath and others. “But I would hardly send my poetry out,” says Poorna. But the writing did not stop. 

The way she smiles: Poorna Swami, the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize winner | (Pic: Poorna Swami)

Learning Bharatanatyam since age eight, volunteering with theatre groups since age 13 and starring in small roles in theatre performances since 16, it’s safe to say that performing arts has been an integral part of Poorna’s life. Poorna identifies herself as a contemporary dancer and sees herself as a creator. “I like putting things together and see them come to life,” says the 27-year-old. And apart from formally learning Dance Theatre, she has volunteered backstage quite a bit. She has worked with the Ranga Shankara theatre in Bengaluru and with Indian People’s Theatre Association as well. She has performed in New York as well as in India.    

She has also presented her poems at Judson Memorial Church, New York; Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst; New England Translators Association Reading Series, Boston and more

Currently, she is touring this country for her latest piece The Long and Short of It. Consciously choosing to not perform this one, she collaborated with Swiss composer Marcel Zaes for it. “There is a certain perspective you get once you are on the outside,” she says. This act is about the recurring cycle of displacement in which the performers are constantly wandering around the audience. Cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Ahmedabad have already had the pleasure of witnessing this act and next, New Delhi and Pune are going to be regaled by it. Poorna also loves travelling and loves chatting with strangers and observing her surroundings, but it is the conversations that she strikes that she holds most dear, whether it’s the weaver who loves Sivaji Ganesan songs or the auto driver who advised her to read Sherlock Holmes to keep her mind sharp. Poorna also believes in creating the right kind of noise through art, especially in the scenario that we currently live in. “So, it’s time for artists to come together and scream even louder,” she says.

In her element: A still from Poorna Swami's performance | (Pic: Richa Bhavanam) 

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