Published: 23rd April 2020
Poetry Writing Month: The epicurean guide on how to channel your inner poet during the lockdown
We bring you some poetry gyan from some of India's most watched poets about how to keep your creativity alive during isolation and to find inspiration at the most unlikely of times
If you knew last year that this time around National Poetry Writing Month would come during a nationwide lockdown and your inspiration would have to come from within the four walls of your apartment, would you have gone out of your way to discover something new? To spare you the ifs and buts that come with spending too much time with yourself, we borrowed some insight from the poetry world to help walk you through poetry month under lockdown.
Before he contracted conjunctivitis, Shantanu Anand was conducting sessions with other artists, poets and musicians over Instagram Live. A community manager for Kommune and the co-founder of Airplane Poetry Movement, the spoken word poet says, “The lockdown has been equal parts frustrating, scary and filled with a lot of guilt looking at the privilege we have. It has also been equal parts motivation to indulge in and share art by myself and other people during this time.”
SPEAK FIRST: Shantanu features various artists on his Instagram page
Until his health got the best of him, Shantanu had spoken to some of Bengaluru’s best poet and musicians, asking their audience some difficult questions. He says, “For me, it is about creating this experience of intimacy every night at 11 pm. Everyone is so far away from each other but thanks to the internet, we are also close. In a situation where the negatives outweigh the positives worldwide, we have to cling on to these little sources of light like the closeness created among us and the people tuning in.”
Each night, around 200-300 people join Shantanu and stick around from start to finish. They create poetry about closeness, isolation and distance, while also speaking about things poets always speak about like heartbreak, God and the state of the country. He says, “Our lives and the things we care about continue. Everyone has their own way of dealing with a time like this. I think the healthiest thing for any artist to do is to either consume or create as regularly as they possibly can.”
Talking about consuming art, Rohini Kejriwal’s Alipore Post has been a window into art poetry, music and writing from across the internet. A poet, writer, photographer, musician and zine aficionado, she is also the marketing head of an F&B startup in Bengaluru. For her, the lockdown has been a time of introspection and self-expression. She says, “I’ve been reevaluating what really matters, and doing my best to take care of myself mentally and emotionally. Just the level of uncertainty we're experiencing and the kind of community engagement online has inspired me to create a lot during this time.”
POETRY MONTH: The online magazine has been conducting a poetry month of their own
Amidst indulging in online challenges like 36 Days of Type and Carson Ellis' Quarantine Art Club assignments, attending Wendy Mac's daily art classes, taking a photography course on Seeing by MOMA and doing a poetry workshop with Arjun Rajendran, she is also responsible for setting up three projects for The Alipore Post. Within a day of being in self quarantine, Rohini decided to host an online festival within a week. It started with talks, workshops and Q&As with over 30 creative people from different parts of India and the world.
She also decided set up The Alipore Post Poetry Month in honour of the official #NaPoWriMo challenge. She says, “Just 20 days in, we've already written over 4000 poems together as a community. I'm treating it almost like an Isolation Poetry Residency at home. The idea for the festival was to celebrate creativity and take peoples' minds off COVID-19. I did this before the country-wide lockdown started to give people a positive space to learn and be entertained, to use the Live format on Instagram to engage the 25k+ followers and inspire them to use this time to do personal projects.”
Rohini has decided to take it a step further by asking participants who finish all 30 poems to compile their poems into a PDF, which will be archived and published on The Alipore Post website. And what is her advice for people at home? “Read all the books in your to-read list. Write that book you've been meaning to. If you're interested in publishing your work, start writing to journals and publishers, or maybe learn a layout software like InDesign and start making your own poetry chapbook. And if you don't feel like doing any of it, that's absolutely fine too!”