Poetry of Shaheen Bagh sings change; future is hope: Sudeep Sen
Poetry truly heals. Change is mandatory and it can happen through poetry. It’s happening today and gives us hope about a positive future, says poet and translator Sudeep Sen.
On the sidelines of Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters 2020 (MBIFL20), Sudeep Sen talks about the changing trends in poetry and new generation writers. He also shares the happiness of releasing the Malayalam translation of his poetry collection translated by Malayalam poets Syam Sudhakar and Chandramathi. Excerpts from the interview:
Do people read more fiction than poetry?
I don’t think it’s true. I think people read a lot of poetry, surprisingly. Fiction gets more media attention. And everybody’s ‘launching’ these days. Like they launch ships, cars and all, which is fine. I love fiction myself. Among my writer friends, most write fiction rather than poems. So I’ve nothing against it. Poetry is actually, if people listen to it once and read it carefully, they really are changed. If that is the case, why is poetry not supported?
People will, of course say that it doesn’t sell. I don’t think that’s true either. After a good reading you sell a lot of books. It’s just a populist mindset that needs to be changed. Good literature is good literature in any genre. What about plays? Playwrights are struggling. Unless it’s produced from Bombay then they become famous. Unless it’s bedroom comedy and it’s in a posh theatre in a city. So it’s always going to be that way. A certain kind of serious writing will have a serious readership. That’s all. People usually want easy spoon-fed stuff and a certain kind of fiction and poetry provides that.
Your anthology ‘Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians’ included young writers from all sectors, also a poem by a writer hailing from Kerala got in?
There’s nothing like a Bangla writer or Malayalam writer, We’re all in India and we’re Indians. That’s how we build the spirit, right. In Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians, I have chosen the poems which I felt the best. There was a sea of poems in front of me and it was a herculean task to have it all listed and done.
I never looked for the name, color, gender, state or any other identity of whoever has written the poems. I asked my secretary to black-out the names or any other details attached. I chose the best literary pieces from the lot I recieved. It actually worked well because representations came from young Indian poets residing outside of India. They are the most isolated lot when talking about the young Indian literary community. But here noone faced any discrimination and I’m actually happy to have done my part for it.
Can poetry really bring changes to the country, even in the case of CAA protests?
Look what’s happening in Shaheen Bagh and the campuses. Lot of poetry is being read out, a lot of poetry is being written and a lot of poetry is being made into songs. Lot of older poems are being re-read and recited. It’s amazing. It's a great amount of poetry that’s going on. It’s relevant. It’s here. It’s out there. It’s wonderful. And I’m sure this is a great change happening.
What are your thoughts about the tiny tots in Indian writing, the emerging young poets?
In anything, the very young people are just starting, as I have already said. So one has to take their poetry in that context. They have just started, maybe they’re a year or two into it. They’re excited. They’re very forceful and energetic. But it’s only over time, I can give an assessment of their poetry because when someone’s written just one book or two, I don’t have much to say. But if they’ve written 3 or 4 books, I can talk about their work with some seriousness. Because if I say I like that poem or I don’t like that poem it’s meaningless. It’s just like an emoji, a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, it’s completely meaningless.
What are your thoughts about the social media reading culture?
The bombardment of social media activities have really changed the reading behaviour of people. It’s seriously dangerous. The conversation has been reduced to emojis and smileys. It’s a hard truth, a serious one too. I see young couples out on date, sitting face-to-face on a table and eyes glued to their screens. What’s more horrible than that? But I don’t think reading faces a decline rather it has been shifted from print to digital, as simple as that.
Also, social media writing is the new style?, especially on Facebook. Such novelists are many to number.
It’s completely a new thing for me. What can I say? It’s really nice to know that. Can you imagine reading a novel on Facebook? I've never done it, so I don’t know what I’m going to make of it. I’m still very traditional. I like to read the novel in print because I’m not an expert like everybody else, they read so fast and scroll down. That doesn’t mean I don’t read online, I read online a lot but if everything becomes so social media oriented, I think there will be a little bit of a problem. I’m not against it. Since I haven’t read one I don’t know what to say.