Last weekend, at multiple venues in Auroville and Pondicherry, 19 poets across India congregated for the second edition of the Pondicherry/Auroville Poetry Festival. An initiative by Pondicherry Poets and Brown Critique, the event, with ‘Earth Consciousness’ as its theme this year, hosted poetry readings, book launches, workshops and music performances, at three venues, namely Kalarigram (Udayan) in Auroville, TASMAI – A Center for Art & Culture, and Palais de Mahé (in association with People for Pondicherry’s Heritage) in Pondicherry.
Founded in 2017, Pondicherry Poets (PP) was launched as a platform for poets to exhibit their talent at various venues in Pondicherry, Auroville, and elsewhere. The brainchild of Anju Makhija (Sahitya Akademi award-winning poet, translator and playwright), and Gayatri Majumdar (poet, writer and founder-editor of The Brown Critique literary journal), PP has, since its launch, hosted various events, bringing poets, dancers and musicians together, out of which the Poetry Festival is one of the biggest gatherings.
Talking about how the idea for the Poetry Festival came about, Makhija said, “Since the past three years, we had isolated poetry readings in different offbeat venues mainly in Pondicherry. But last year, we decided to organise a three-day festival. The opening was at Adishakti and other events were held at the Aurobindo Society premises.”
Majority of the 19 poets in the second edition are from Auroville and Pondicherry, while the rest are coming down from cities like Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Mumbai and, of course, Chennai. “
Obviously, we chose those whose work reflects an interest in the theme. We also have a few scholars who happen to be poets, like Dr Anand Kumar, Director, SAARC Literary Festival. Then there are musicians who will express the central theme in their own style,” continued Makhija.
Another highlight is a conversation between Makhija and organic farming crusader Krishna McKenzie, who is also a songwriter for the band Emergence.
An Englishman who has been an Auroville resident for over two decades, Krishna owns the Solitude Farm, a permaculture and natural farming project. “We got him on board because he is a creative person in all aspects. He shows us the power of integration, and how food and culture are closely related,” says Makhija.
At a time when climate change is under the scanner like never before, the Poetry Festival is a timely one. Makhija elaborated, “The festival theme was inspired by climate change, but we hope to go a step further and look at our relationship with nature and examine our deepest values. In this world of social media, poetry becomes all the more important, just when there is a growing interest in it all over the world. It encourages us to go deeper within where long-lasting change can occur. Some amazing experiments are taking place in Auroville and Pondicherry. We should all take notice.”
Few of the many wordsmiths
K Srilata (Chennai); Prof Sehdev Kumar (Auroville/Toronto); Mihir Chitre (Mumbai); Noel Parent (Auroville); Sekhar Banerjee (Kolkata); Anandi Zhang (Auroville); Sivakami Velliangiri (Chennai;) Harvinder Kaur (Bengaluru/Pondicherry); Lina Krishnan (Bengaluru); Jhilam Chattaraj (Hyderabad); Subha Nilakanta (Bengaluru); Abha Iyengar (New Delhi); Kanchan Dhar (Rourkela).