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Harvard University Sings - Poetry India

Chandu Shah and Bijoy Misra
05/31/2007

The ELEVENTH ANNUAL INDIA POETRY READING was hosted by Harvard University Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies Outreach Committee on May 12 2007, 3:00 PM at Lecture Hall A, Science Center, Cambridge.  This annual event at Harvard University was initiated in 1997 as a celebration of languages, where poets and readers could present and recite original compositions or extracts from classics of their choice.  The event is normally woven around a topic to focus selection and allow arrangement of material to a thought or a concept.  Poets and readers are asked to provide short translations of the compositions in English for the benefit of the audience to create participation and help easier comprehension. The event has nurtured the assembly of local poets to celebrate creativity and scholarship.

The Theme for this year was -“My Language” in tune with the series of ongoing lectures at Harvard University on “The Languages and Literature of India”. This annual Second Saturday of May 3 PM event has really caught on to lovers of Poetry reading and poets in ethnic Indian Languages.  The recitations are a rare treat in Boston, the program has excited many to pick up their pens and put their thoughts on paper. Year after year young, established and some very popular poets have recited poems in their native language providing an English translation or synopsis to make it a celebration of languages. This year’s poets recited in Gujarati, Bengali, Malayalam, Punjabi, Nepali, Oriya and English. The event was recorded hoping that the material could be compiled for publication later.  The group behind this effort is led by Dr. Bijoy Misra who summarized aptly: “The goal is to bridge across the languages and to experiment that human expression is not conditioned by language or speech. We need this for India.  We need for the world.  We should bridge.”

The event started out with welcoming remarks by Dr. Misra and the recitation was led by Harvard Poet-in-Residence Dr. Kevin McGrath. Dr. McGrath was born in southern China in 1951 and was educated in England and Scotland. He worked briefly in Paris before moving to live in Greece. Presently he is an Associate of the Sanskrit Department and Poet-in-Residence at Lowell House, Harvard University. His recent publications include Fame (1995), Lioness (1998), Maleas (2002), The Sanskrit Hero (2004), Flyer (2005), and Strî (forthcoming, 2007). He is a specialist in on the epic Mahabharata and is presently working on a field study of Kutch area.

It was very interesting to listen to a Harvard Poet start off with a poem about ‘Dhangdhra’ a tiny town in Gujarat; of which not even any established Gujarati poet has ever written about. He was followed by a very well recognized Gujarati poet Dr. Pramod Thaker; who has many books published in Gujarati and an English adaptation of the popular Gujarati poet, AKHO. P. M. John (Malayalam); Edith Parekh (English); Sajed Kamal (English) and the popular young Gujarati poet playwright Chandrakant Shah followed.  Shah recited from his latest collection of poems “Blue Jeans”. The flow of poets included Manjusree Sen (English), Ajit Chaddha (Punjabi), Shiva Gautam and Achyut Adhikary (Nepali), and Harsh Mehta.  Mr. Mehta made his debut at the event and did a great job with ‘nervousness of writing and reciting first poem’ as a subject ! Maya De and Alok De(Bengali) were splendid as usual. Raju Chaddha (English), Nasim Badiuzzaman (Bengali) followed. Arjun Ray, the youngest poet, recited very well and Rekha Upadhyaya (Gujarati) and Bijoy Misra (Oriya) followed. Misra’s singing his poem in his native Oriya language was heart-warming giving the language its colloquial charm.  Every year the event ends with a thematic story by Cambridge poet and performer Brother Blue.  He marveled the audience this year with a young student accompanist and made a poem out of the story of language. A vote of thanks was proposed and all were treated to light refreshments.

So pick up your pen and mark your calendar with second Saturday of May next year for another edition of India Poetry Reading.  Let language be no barrier in human understanding.  The event would be listed at http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~sanskrit/outreach.html and please be in touch with Dr Misra at bmisra@fas.harvard.edu for participation.



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