Poetry publishers at Gurugram lit fest
The city of concrete and glass, usually considered to be the business capital of North India, got a unique taste of poetry during the first edition of the DLF Gurugram Poetry Festival held on 20-21 August 2022. The two-day event was organised in association with two independent poetry publishers based in Delhi — Hawakal Publishers and Red River. The event was curated by the well-known poet and founder of Poetry Couture, Madhu Raghavendra.
24 Aug 2022 | By Rahul Kumar
Besides the launch of recent poetry volumes published by Hawakal and Red River, the event also saw both established and young poets from all over India attend and read their works. Among the names that graced the occasion were Rakhshanda Jalil, Sukrita Paul Kumar, Nabina Das, Paresh Tiwari, Inder Salim, Abhimanyu Kumar, Amit Ranjan, Rati Agnihotri, Manish Sinha, Uttaran Das Gupta, Maaz Bin Bilal, Amlanjyoti Goswami, Ankush Banerjee, Shamayita Sen, Nabanita Sengupta, Rajorshi Patranabis, Kiran Bhat, Kinshuk Gupta, among others.
The festival also featured promising new voices such as Gourob Chakraborty (winner of the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar in Bengali in 2021), Sudipta Maji, Sabari Roy, Rimi Dey, Munshi Md Younus, Prasenjit Dasgupta, Aparna Singh, Sudeshna Chakravorty, and others.
Raghavendra, himself a popular poet, whose poem, ‘Artist’, written during the pandemic became a global session, said the idea behind the festival was not just to bring poetry to the forefront of cultural conversation (something he has been doing for the last 10 years through his organisation Poetry Couture), but also to highlight the work being done by the independent publishers.
“Usually, in a literary festival, the focus is usually on fiction and non-fiction, and that too on books published by established publishers. Poetry, especially poetry by younger poets, is usually sidelined. With this festival, we not only wanted to highlight the brilliant works being done by the Indian poets, but also wanted to highlight the works done by the independent presses in publishing poetry, which is usually considered a loss-making venture.”
This is why, he said, the festival decided to collaborate with the two independent publishers.
“The idea was to give a platform to the independent publishers to showcase their works, which often fail to find a place in mainstream conversation,” Raghavendra said.
Over the last couple of years, both Hawakal and Red River have given a platform to a range of diverse voices to share their poetry with the world.
Beside publishing some of the rising poets in the Indian poetry scene in the last five years, Hawakal also publishes the annual Yearbook of Indian Poetry, edited by Sukrita Paul Kumar and Vinita Agarwal, which compiles the best poems published in India in the given year. Recently, Hawakal also came out with the anthology, The Well-Earned, a poetic response to the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence. Both the titles were highlighted during the festival.
Meanwhile, Red River, whose titles are known for their unique subjects and unusual approach to design, has published some of the best young poets writing in India today, whose works have gone on to win awards and accolades. Recently, Red River published the massive anthology, Witness: The Red River Book of Dissent, edited by Nabina Das, which features 250 poets writing about their ideas of dissent.
The poet and translator Nabina Das, who has recently translated 50 Bangladesh Women Poets in English (Arise out of the Lock), attended the event to introduce the book. This was followed by a reading for the anthology.
The event also saw launches of several new Red River titles — Now a Poem, Now a Forest by Paresh Tiwari; The Knot of Juggernaut by Amit Ranjan; I’d Like a Bit of the Moon by Rati Agnihotri; Speaking in Tongues by Kiran Bhat and The Grand Museum of the Earth by Manish Sinha.
Raghavendra said from the next year onwards (the event promises to be an annual fixture in the city’s cultural calendar), he would like to collaborate with more independent publishers, especially those working in niche segments, such as women’s writing, Dalit writing, indigenous writing and so on.
For Raghavendra, who was recently invited to the International Writing Programme at the University of Iowa, poetry translation is another topic he wants to focus on. Towards this goal, there was a dedicated session with prominent translator Rakhshanda Jalil. In a riveting conversation with Raghavendra, Jalil shared her experiences of translating poets such as Shahryar and Gulzar, and the intricacies and nuances of translation.
Bitan Chakraborty, founder, Hawakal Publishers, who attended the event and moderated several sessions, said, “It’s inspiring to have a multilingual poetry festival in Gurgaon. Hawakal is proud to be a partner of this magnificent enterprise. Encouraging fresh voices gets a new dimension with the DLF Gurugram Poetry Festival.”