A celebration of the verse form

Poetry festival

Imagine the whole city getting together to rhyme and chime for poetry– that is what Kaafiya aspires to do,” says Yaseen Anwer, sharing his idea behind conceptualising a two-day poetry festival with the same name, adding that the main idea is to establish Delhi as the poetry capital of India, and the world.

“Kaafiya means rhyme in traditional Hindustani poetry. It is among the most significant features of Urdu poetry, and has been conversationally used in popular culture too as kaafiya milana - when you expect someone else to match their rhymes to yours. Metaphorically speaking, rhymes symbolise harmony, when line after line the same rhythm and pattern is maintained,” he tells Metrolife.

The vision and mission of the festival, which begins October 10, is two-fold. “First is to eliminate existing silos in the domain of poetry. There are many ghettos created under linguistic, cultural and structural aspects of poetry. We want poets - divided by age, languages, causes, backgrounds, cultures - to come together and lend a keen ear to each other. And that is why we've tried to create sessions and concepts where poets/scholars from different traditions are represented,” he says.

Adding, Anwer says that the second is to emphasise on the fluid character of art, especially where poetry is concerned. “Just like silos should not exist within poetry, they should not exist within the wider umbrella of art. And that is why, we have conceptualised sessions where poetry frolics with music or merges with dance,” he says.

The festival will include panel discussions, recitation sessions, spoken word poetry, mushaira, dramatic reading of poetry, talks on historically important poets of Delhi and dance and music performances. Many eminent people, including actor Deepti Naval, author and poet Dr Ashok Chakradhar, poet and critic Dr Sukrita Paul Kumar, linguist and writer Peggy Mohan, poet Keki N Daruwalla among others will be a part of the discussions during the festival.

Saumya Kulshreshtha, founding team member of Kaafiya, says that they wanted to create a two-day eco-system of poetry which leads to enrichment, engagement, cross-fertilisation of ideas which facilitates greater acceptance of and understanding between poets of different genres and traditions.

“Hence, our festival does not only comprise of poetry and its recitations, but also the debates and discourses congruent to it. The topics chosen are very relevant to the contemporary audience, but are rooted in the history of our collective existence. Revival of past poetry and traditions is also important to help the younger audience understand the roots,” she explains. Ask about poetry’s popularity and relevance today, and Anwer says it is “very popular and not popular”.

“By saying this we mean that it is a matter of exposure. A lot of poetry is happening in the city. While many young and old poets are now finding their avenues for expression, there is still a clear lack of mentorship and guidance for young and upcoming poets. The digital space has played a very significant role in bringing poets and poetry backinto mainstream or pop-culture. The marketing value around poetry yet needs to be developed manifold, but we are getting there. Almost,” he says.

Kulshreshtha shares that Dr Ashok Chakradhar, veteran Hindi poet, after listening to their concept, gave them his blessings in the these words, Aap udaan bhariye, hum aapka runway ban jaate hain. (You all take flight, let me be the runway).

Kaafiya will be held on October 10 and 11 at the India Habitat Centre.

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