The Poetry Society (India)
Indian poetry has flourished over the last 4000 years. Today, it
is composed and written in more than twenty Indian languages, including
English. It has always echoed the voice of the times and revealed the pains
and passions of the people. Its growth has also reflected our rich cultural
The history of Indian poetry makes us aware of its glorious past
in contrast to its present state. Today, as the world is shrinking and the
communication network projecting man on the global scene much faster, the past
values are getting lost in the struggle man is involved with. Issues
confronting man have multiplied and so have his efforts for survival. Poetry
today is facing the test of time. Poets need to be organized more vigorously
than in the past to voice effectively their innermost thoughts and interact
with each other more often. Giving away of awards to some of the few
distinguished ones is not enough. Poets in India need to be encouraged in
their creativity if we expect their contributions to transform our society.
New life is to be given to old values which had stood us in good stead for so
long. The poets should come to the forefront to undertake this job. As such,
organized efforts need to be made to promote the production and publication of
good Indian poetry. Poetry written in different parts of India needs to be
collected, interpreted and propagated.
We have no figures of the very many poetry lovers among our
masses. Though some of them still attend readings, mushairas or kavita
sammelans, the unprecedented growth of film songs and their regular broadcasts
and telecasts have rendered the populace less attracted to good poetry. This
effect ought to be counteracted by encouraging the reading and appreciation of
good poetry or by listening to it in suitable environments.
We also notice that the poets and poetry-lovers are divided into
segments due to several factors. Different linguistic and regional divisions
and language policies adopted by our State Government have brought about this
state of affairs. No single language can grow in the present circumstances
uniformly throughout the country. Poets are an indigent lot: after spending
much time and energy in composing their verses, by chance or persuasion if any
of their collection is published, they hardly gain financially. The lack of
coordination among poets has worsened the situation. As the Indian poets are
not organized they are hardly able to communicate with their readers and are
unable to receive the necessary feedback. Writing poetry may not be regarded
as a wholly professional activity as no poet lives on the earnings from his
poetry, but writing poetry is certainly an all too serious vocation of the
most sensitive. The writing of poetry is not mere pastime.
The distribution of anthologies is creating great problems for
the poets and publishers. The distribution systems facilitating the transport
of books and journals to readers living in different parts of the
country have not developed fully. Our readers are not able to know what is
being published elsewhere in the country and if they do know about a title,
they find it difficult to get it unless they are favourably located. It is for
this reason that the anthologies
do not reach a wide audience. Also, as poetry publications are priced low, the
distributors do not find the distribution of these works profitable. Thus,
only a very small number of poetry-readers are able to receive them. The rest
gradually lose interest in poetry, and turn to other pastimes.
Due to lack of better distribution facilities,
the publication of poetry has
remained a non-commercial activity in India. Publishers do not expect high or
quick returns. If they publish a volume they generally do it as an act of
charity to oblige the poet, or to maintain a growing list of new titles.
Some steps, therefore, need to be taken to bring the poets
together. In early 1980ís I
organized several meetings of
poets in Delhi and
discuss these problems with
them. I insisted that a forum
needed to be created which would exclusively be devoted to the
promotion of poetry in India. Many poets agreed with me and some also
disagreed. Nevertheless, with the aim of promoting poetry. The Poetry Society
(India) (TPS) was established in July 1984. Besides
myself, Keshav Malik, Dr. J.P.Das, Dr. Lakshmi Kannan, Man Mohan Singh,
Sunita Jain, S. Balu Rao, and Priya Devi became the founder members of The
Poetry Society (India). The Society was launched to (i) promote Indian Poetry
and look after the interests of poets in India; (ii) undertake collection,
interpretation, translation, publication, and propagation of Indian poetry in
India and other countries; (iii) arrange expert advice on composition,
publishing, distribution, and translation of Indian poetry; (iv) help maintain
the highest standards and foster a sense of literary affinity among the poets
writing in different languages in India; (v) undertake, facilitate and provide
for the publication of newsletters, and of a journal devoted to Indian poetry;
(vi) assist in settlement of differences and disputes between members of the
Society on the one hand and other bodies and individuals on the other; (vii)
award grants, fellowships, prizes, subventions and assistance to poets and
translators of poetry; and (viii) engage in such educational, literary, and
charitable activities, as would promote, provide and develop the
above objectives of the Society.
In the past TPS has organised several seminars, readings,
workshops, lectures, competitions and the releases of poetry anthologies. The
Poetry workshops conducted by Henry Taylor, Prof. Nissim Ezekiel, Dr. Tom
Paulin and Brian Patten were found useful by the poets in our early years.
Thereafter many well-known poets
conducted poetry workshops. Readings by many Indian and by foreign
poets too, are organized by the
Society almost every month.
Among the foreign poets invited to read were Shirley Kaufman
(USA), Alexander Mezhirov and Olazhas Suleimenov (USSR), Prof. Edwin Thumboo
(Singapore), Les Muray (Australia), Tom Paulin (Britain), Barbara Lefcowitz
(America), Sigurdur A Magnusson (Iceland), Christopher Levenson (Canada),
Tulasi Diwasa (Nepal), Madisson Morrison (USA) and Alan Brownjohn (U.K.). Ms.
Carol Bruce, specialist in the art of reading poems too participated in the
programmes of the Society. Christopher Moony,
an Australian poet who sang his ghazals in English
was yet another participant.
TPS has been holding conventions
and seminars from time to time. To give just a few examples, a convention of poets for
national integration was one of them. A seminar on Contemporary Australian
Literature was organized in July 1987 in collaboration with the Australian
High Commission and the India International Centre. An interesting group
discussion was organized in November 1987 on rhythm and sound in Indian poetry
in English. Prof. John Oliver Perry, Tufts University, led the discussion by
presenting a paper. It was noticed that the variations in the pronunciation of
English in different parts of India created major problems n establishing
uniformity in this aspect of Indian English poetry. The Society also organizes
poetry evenings to honour poets. Among those honoured include
Dylan Thomas, Gerald Manley Hopkins and Dinanath Nadim.
The Poetry Society in collaboration with the British Council
organsed nine All-India
Poetry Competitions since 1988.
Thousands of poets have participated in these competitions.
Nine volumes of short listed poems were published under the series
We have also been organizing the All-India Poetry Competitions
Among School Children with the support of the Department of
Secondary and Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development,
Government of India. Four such national poetry competitions for school children
have already been organized. TPS
has also been organizing with the support of the Department of Secondary and
Higher Education the Creative Writing Workshops
for students writing poetry
in Indian languages. Such
Creative Writing Workshops have been organized in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab,
Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bengal, Tamil Nadu,
Orissa, Karnataka and Kerala.
The Poetry Society (India) also publishes the Journal.
It was started in 1990. It
is regularly getting published. Poems written by some of the best Indian poets
in English and other Indian languages have been published in English in
The Poetry Society has its Life
Members and Associate Life Members actively
associated with its activities. TPS continues to organize programmes
from time to time. Poetry
lovers and poets are welcome to help and participate in these programmes. I
hope that the activities
of the Poetry Society (India) will spread
throughout India in due course of time.