For those who love the rhythm of words and enjoy unraveling the tempo, there are not many avenues to meet fellow poetry enthusiasts in the city. The city which has played a major role in the genesis of qawwali and Dakkani shayari has lost out in creating a space for appreciation of modern poetry and foster discussions on the changes and addition to the style beyond the meter. This gap was felt acutely by Linda Ashok when she moved to Hyderabad in 2010 as a part of her work with a multi-nationals in the finance sector.
“I wondered how could poetry be neglected in a metropolitan city like Hyderabad known for its culture,” shares the 26 year-old who graduated in English literature from Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata. Her love for poetry got her in touch with Nivedita Narasapuram on the social networking site Facebook, with whom Linda co-founded the poetry reading club Raed Leaf Poetry India, an allusion to reading a leaf of the poem and the colour red – marking the beginning.
The non-profit organisation was started in November 2012 and has conducted three major workshops in poetry reading and poetry appreciation so far. The club meets every month or bi-monthly to explore works across sub-genres, bringing up something new for their members each time. “In each meeting we try to find new talent in the field, new themes and concepts to keep discovering the art. Hope it helps the poets who attend our workshops,” says Nivedita who has a day job with Thomson Reuters. The 26 year-old started off as a poetry enthusiast who also pens her own poetry. Though not all members turn up for every event, the seven-member strong club conducts their sojourns at the Landmark bookstore, apart from taking poetry appreciation to schools.
Covering origins of poetry to conducting poetry writing sessions for students of Delhi Public School and Mosaica American School in the city, the group aims to bring in a sense of poetry-for-all. “Raed Leaf Poetry helps to break the hesistant approach to poetry and aims to spread the message that poetry exists within people. Usually poetry is considered to be the part of an elite and intellectual society but the club hopes to break this thought process and helps poetry become mainstream culture,” says Linda, who goes on to add that the students at the school workshops read out their compositions aloud after the end of the session, creating a poetry of the masses.
Recently the club organised an event centred on the Hip Hop sub genre. Linda has an interesting take on the commercial form of Hip Hop and the culture associated with it.
“We recognise Hip Hop as a dance form in the West, popularised by the idiot box. We do not recognise Hip Hop as a culture which also celebrates poetry. Raed Leaf was proud to provide the platform to the young Hip Hop poets from Hyderabad – Zeeshan, Ishan and Sameer. Around 40 people joined us and had fun listening to something different,” observes Linda.
One of the participant Hip Hop poets, Zeeshan, considers such an event nothing short of a revolution in the Hyderabadi culture scene. “I was really excited and am grateful to have been approached by Raed Leaf. Hip Hop poetry has various styles of rapping and and the writings were themed at giving out a message on social change in the city,” adds Zeeshan. The group also conducted a workshop on expressing paintings through the written word.
In an attempt to dedicate more time to nurturing the group, Linda has been on the look out for a flexible work routine. “In India where everything is moving fast in the area of communication, transport, infrastructure among other areas, there is hardly a change in the pace of Indian poetry. Though we read the works of foreign writers, we still haven’t progressed beyond the milieu of Rabindranath Tagore and to add to that, we do not have any representative at the global platform,” observes Linda. The dearth of chances of getting their works published also comes in the way of promising young poets, and to get them heard is what the president of the club hopes for.
For the next session of Raed Leaf Poetry, India, check out rlpoetry.org or get in touch with Linda Ashok on 91600 86400.