BENGALURU: “Iwill not stop writing and I will write in my way,” says Shubham Shree, a 25-year-old JNU student who has taken the poetic world by storm with her controversial Hindi poem ‘Poetry Management’ that bagged Bharat Bhushan Agrawal Prize.
Her work is about the business of writing poetry and how pointless the exercise can be, and then imagines a world where poetry could dictate the Sensex, hairstyles, international affairs and matrimonial ads. But what got the powers-that-be’s goat was her use of English - Repo Rate, Chief Poetry Officer, Drawing Room, etc -- in her Hindi poem.
The young poetess is unapologetic. She believes language should evolve with the times. “As a contemporary writer, I believe, the language that suited poems 30-years-ago is no more relevant. I used English words to compensate missing words,” she says. Many regional poets dismissed it as a ‘Hinglish’ poem and were furious when it was awarded a prestigious honour reserved for Hindi poems.
The poem was written in 2013 and her friend Asad Zaidi published her poem in Three-Years-Collective Journal. The poem is a satire and Shubham laughingly confesses that she can’t help herself. “I cannot stop myself from using ironies, parodies and sarcasm.”
Poetry Management is not the first of her poems to become controversial and it will surely not be her last. After writing Poetry Management she wrote another poem titled ‘Saraswati’ two years ago that went viral on social media. Her gender, her motive and her caste was questioned. She says that most of the criticism has come from the right-wing, but does not mind the opinions of the literary public on social-media platforms.
She began writing poetry around the age of 18 and since then it has become her life blood. “People criticize me like hell,” says Shubham talking of the hate messages she had received. But the silver lining is the compliments she receives from poets she admires.
On the eve of the award announcement, the Indian literati was split over Shubham Shree’s Poetry Management. A great support came from Uday Prakash, a renowned Hindi poet, who selected the young poetess for Bharat Bhushan Agrawal Prize. Mangalesh Dabral, a prominent contemporary Indian poet, wrote a summary on Shubham’s ‘Poetry Management’.
“Those who misunderstand Poetry Management have simply shown how business management has clouded our ability to see beneath the surface of language and read between the lines. “
However, other rejected it mainly because the language used was “not pure”, according to Shubham. One critic said that Hindi was sufficient to describe contemporary subjects, and that many Hindi poets had creatively reinvented the language during the Chhayavaad era (Indian Romantic era) and not mauled it like Shubham has.
Unchanged by circumstances or recognition, Shubham thinks her best poem is still unwritten. “Sometimes I reflect on the purpose of my writing. So many writers have written pages and nothing has changed, but I cannot live without writing. It borders on madness,” she says.