The power of poetry is, funnily enough, often untranslatable into words. Once you find a voice that speaks to your bones you feel a shiver with every one of its syllables. Poetry affects different people in different ways, and can easily do through words what many conversations fail at – it can heal, inspire, enrage and even spark joy in the darkest of spaces inside you. Poets have a special kind of power that allows them to speak to each and every person on an intimate level and keep them hooked, even if it’s a subject you have little-to-no interest in.
There is no dearth of young minds in India pouring out their heart and soul onto the pages of Instagram, ruffling feathers with their views on politics and inspiring their followers with romantic verses of self-love. Digital media has expanded the rigid notions of what poetry is and who can be a poet. While the pros and cons of this digital media are still up for debate, the accessibility has given space for everyone to find their creative niche.
Today we look at some of the young Indian poets who don’t hold back with their words. They’re a group of talented individuals across a variety of forums and mediums, from spoken-word performers to traditionally published poets.
This list is not in order of preference.
I. Karuna Ezara Parikh
Karuna Ezara Parikh is a multifaceted being. A travel writer as well as a model, she went viral for her compelling poem performed for the Women in the world India Summit, on the string of terrorist attacks in 2015 and how media coverage for sites other than Paris were seriously low. She called upon the world’s ignorance and lack of empathy for equally struck places like Beirut and Baghdad, captured in this striking line:
“Say a prayer for the world falling apart in all corners, and not simply in the towers and cafes we find so familiar.”
II. Srijan Dubey
Srijan Dubey is a writer, a poet as well as the founder of ASMI Youth Career Advisor, which gives educational and career-related counsel to students and parents. Well known in the slam poetry world, he has performed at many popular forums, like Airplane Poetry Movement, Pune Poetry Slam, and Bullock-cart Poetry. His performances are like a roller coaster ride and take you through a trajectory of emotions, at times exciting and hilarious then suddenly sombre and intense.
Dubey has a knack for capturing a spectrum of things in his poetry, from exploring who he becomes on drugs in his performance of ‘Drugs/Identity’ (“I love me when I’m on ecstacy”) to traversing his complex mindscape in ‘Blue’. Dubey’s voice is raw, honest and needs to be heard.
You can watch his performances on Airplane Poetry Movement’s youtube channel.
III. Vinatoli Yeptho
Vinatoli Yeptho is law-student at NLU Kolkata, who poured out her frustration at being discriminated for her gender and ethnic background into a fiery spoken-word poem, the performance of which went viral on Facebook. “Five Rules For Whomever It May Concern” sums up the harassment, judgement and objectification north-eastern women have to face, and is a call to society to do better.
“And if you still do not obey these rules, remember, my forefathers were headhunters. I was born out of a clan of warriors.”
The eldest of five children, Yeptho is the first of her family to go to college and hopes to use her law degree to fight for human rights, especially for women. She writes on her meanderings with love, freedom, and womanhood on her blog.
IV. Pavana Reddy
Los Angeles-based Pavana Reddy has quite a fan following among South Asian-Americans abroad, as she talks about experiences diaspora kids will definitely relate to. As someone who grew up in different countries, her experiences as a woman of colour as well as her personal struggles have given a distinctness to her poetry and makes it hard to forget.
She recognised that diasporic brown girls face struggles no one talks about, and hence found it important to vocalise these issues. Her first book, ‘Rangoli’ is a collection of raw thoughts and emotions over six years. “This is a book for girls of colour”, Pavana says on her website, “more specifically, it’s a book unapologetically documenting our landscape of hurt and healing.”
V. Sayujya Sankar
Sayujya Sankar, an Assistant Professor of English Literature at Stella Maris College, finds magic in the every day, from conversations with friends met after a long time, or even a discussion in class with her students. She’s moved to write by happiness or anger, and unlike her fiction writing, she finds that her poetry is situated in the specific location she’s in at the moment, as her college campus.
She also weaves in Tamil and vernacular words into her poetry but says she didn’t start doing it consciously. “If the word fit in the poem, it didn’t make sense to translate it as it wouldn’t sound right in English. I would also just use it if the word in itself was quite lyrical,” she tells us.
On the rising trend of Instagram poetry, she comments that while academically it might be hard for people to accept it, eventually they’ll come around. “Poetry is constantly evolving, if that’s where it’s going, then that’s where it’s going. In the end, poetry is at its essence an expression of individuals. Also, visual poetry has always been around, it’s just gaining a new medium.”
She published a limited edition collection of her poems, ‘Firefly In The City’ with Writer’s Workshop. If you’re interested in a copy, you can contact her through her Facebook profile. Her short story collection, ‘A Symphony of Chance Encounters’ is available on Amazon and NotionPress. Sankar also founded and facilitates Writer’s Block, a forum for aspiring writers to come to discuss their work and receive feedback.
VI. Akhil Katyal
Professor, poet and PhD scholar, Akhil Katyal’s works tend to have a political undertone to them – politics of people, relationships, society, and of course, governance. Katyal came to most readers attention with his writings on Kashmir, a contentious subject many tend to avoid.
Katyal doesn’t mince words when it comes to critiques of the government, of journalist assassinations and advocacy for LGBTQ rights and equality, and that’s what makes his work so powerful. Katyal strings together words in a manner that resonates with each and every reader regardless of your stance on the subject. Author of Night Charge Extra, Katyal plays an active role in the Delhi art and cultural space, as well as University issues and movements.
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