KOCHI: At French Toast in Kacheripady, sometimes lyrical, sometimes powerful, always emotive voices spoke up on the night of June 8. They spoke about the environment, the feeling of home, finding one’s identity, one’s sexuality, of breaking free, of embracing the feeling of home, of the uncertainty and fear of being alone, of memories, and hope, lust and anger, greed and control. Poems and conversations on every subject that one wanted to open up about, no subject was taboo. This was Un-Taboo, perhaps Kochi’s first open mic for poets.
“We wanted to have space where people could come and express themselves without fear of judgment, space where they could just be,” says Jayakrishnan Pillai, founder of Via Kochi, which is a magazine which brings out positive stories on the city, its people, lifestyle and culture.
“Un-Taboo was meant to be a small event where a few poets got together, performed and spoke about their work,” says Krishnanand Ravikumar, project head of Via Kochi. “However, the warm and enthusiastic response went beyond our expectations. Though it was a registration-only event, we did not expect an audience, but in the end, quite a few people walked in that day. And it was a crowd that was genuinely interested in creating meaningful conversations.”
Nine poets recited over 20 works during the two-and-a-half hour event; one of them came up with a short story which spoke about homosexuality. The poets could choose to discuss one of their poems with the audience, and often, the poem selected was quite close to the poet’s heart. “I am passionate about the environment, and about this beautiful state of Kerala, and wherever I can, I speak up about how living conditions in Kerala can be improved,” says Maya Varghese, an IT sector professional and entrepreneur, who is also an environmental activist.
Remya Nair, a published author and marketing professional, recited poetry about the importance of just being and about the plight of the victim in an abusive relationship. “Poems have a vulnerability to them,” says Remya. “It’s a piece of the poet that’s out on display in every poem they write. And to have space where you can stand in front of strangers and expose that side of you is very special. Un-taboo was like that for me. A safe place where I can be myself and get to meet others like me. A really wonderful experience.”
It was an event at which lesbianism and abusive relationships, childhood memories and erotica were all given space, side by side. Space where the words spoken out loud were given as much respect by the audience, as they were accorded by the poets who wrote them.