Keeping Indian Contemporary Poetry Alive
By Shyama Krishna Kumar | Published: 09th February 2015 06:00 AM |
QUEEN'S ROAD:A literary press that strives to promote Indian contemporary poetry, The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective was established in Bengaluru, in 2013.
The three co-founders, Shikha Malaviya, Minal Hajratwala and Ellen Kombiyil, are practising poets based out of Bengaluru, who had received their writing education in the US.
"We were grateful for the resources and exposure to hone our writing skills, that we received in the US. We realised that this was a huge challenge in India, where there is no formal creative writing programme or structure and wanted to provide a platform for those serious about the craft of poetry. We also wanted to create a community where people who write or appreciate poetry are able to interact with and inspire one another," says Shikha Malaviya, who splits her time between San Francisco and Bengaluru.
The collective has published two books so far, Geography of Tongues and Bountiful Instructions for Enlightenment and their third book, Histories of the Future Perfect, is about to go to press soon.
The collective has a yearly call for submissions for their Emerging Poets Prize, where new and emerging poets can submit their works for possible publication via e-mail. Their inaugural call for submissions will open on February 15.
"We will anonymously choose three poets/manuscripts based solely on merit of their verse. We are so excited to have poet and writer Jeet Thayil as our judge for the winning manuscript. We will also hold workshops throughout the year for poets to sharpen their craft and learn more about Indian poetry," says Shikha.
As a press, they follow a peer mentorship model, in which new poets are selected, based on the merit of their verse, and then paired with published poets to hone and fine-tune their manuscripts through a rigorous editorial process, leading to publication.
Once their manuscript is ready, they involve the poet in various aspects of layout and design, working with talented graphic designers and artists. They help the poet launch and distribute their book, build an audience and give them an opportunity to share their work through various platforms such as readings and other events.
Poets who join the collective pay forward what they have received in terms of time—a year of mentorship and guidance to a new, incoming collective member.
Despite the growth in contemporary poetry in India over recent years, the group still believes there's a lot of work left. "Proper training and mentorship in poetry is a challenge, as there are no formal creative writing programmes in India," says Shikha.
Shikha adds, “We need more poetry workshops, more talks on the craft of poetry and more community activities that encourage writing poetry. We also need our libraries and bookstores to stock more poetry books and to support poets by organising events with them. Getting published is also a challenge, as mainstream presses opt for fiction and non-fiction that is commercially more viable. Small presses and collectives such as Poetrywala, Almost Island Books, and the legendary Calcutta Writers Workshop are producing beautiful books, with support from its authors and dedicated audience. Yet sadly, many poetry books don’t make it beyond a first print run, because of operational and printing costs.”
The collective is also all set to bring out their poetry mobile app, inPoetry. “Every week, we will present a new poem by one of India’s finest contemporary Indian poets. There will also be a short bio of each poet along with links to their books and other relevant information,” says Shikha.
The app is slated to be launched in mid-February. They will be launching an Android version first and then an iOS version.
The group also managed to raise a whopping $12,000 during their recent Indiegogo campaign. “This itself is proof that people support and care about poetry. We are planning on conducting poetry workshops in schools and colleges. We are also working on designing an online poetry class. We hope to make 2015 a fantastic year for poetry,” says Shikha.
More details are available on the website, www.greatindianpoetrycollective.org