In this interview, Delhi Poetry Festival organizers, Dolly Singh (Founder & Festival Director) and Sanjay Arora (Executive Producer), talk about the highlights this year, while reflecting upon the festival’s journey.
The 6th edition of the Delhi Poetry Festival is being held at the India Habitat Centre on 10th and 11th December 2022. This year the Delhi Poetry Festival will be celebrating poetry distinctively in four languages – Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, and English. Starting this year, the Delhi Poetry Festival is introducing Punjabi poetry and what makes it even more special is the fact that the legendary Punjabi Sufi poet Waris Shah’s 300th year is currently being commemorated.
In this interview, the festival organizers, Dolly Singh (Founder & Festival Director) and Sanjay Arora (Executive Producer), talk about the highlights this year while reflecting upon the festival journey. They also talk about gender sensitivity, the importance of promoting local talent, and relevance of regional languages and dialects.
Q. What can we expect from the Delhi Poetry Festival this year? What will be the highlights according to you?
Dolly: This year DPF celebrates the 300th year of Waris Shah with special focus on Punjabi. Some guests this year include Manoj Muntashir, Rabbi Shergill, Surjit Patar, Sufi singer Harpreet, Sumail Singh Sidhu, Radhika Sood Nayak & Brahmanand Singh amongst others.
We will invoke Waris Shah’s memory with an interesting segment by Sumail Singh Sidhu and a conversation between legendary Punjabi poet, Surjit Patar, and Dr. Vanita.
Poems of war-torn Ukraine translated in Hindi will be recited by Nidheesh Tyagi. We will address concerns over the recent cultural decline in a dialogue with Rabbi Shergill. There will be conversations around poetry of partition, and revolutionary poetry. Poets of the past and the current poets shall be celebrated on the same platform. Punjabi wedding songs are poetry by themselves. Every little activity gets celebrated with a song. We will bring these poems alive with a narration by Amy Singh and rendered mellifluously by Radhika Sood Nayak.
Harpreet will charm us on Saturday evening in his inimitable style. Resistance poetry will find expression in Danish Iqbal and Mannu Kohli – Kab Yaad Mein Tera Saath Nahin – The Artistic Echo of the Poet of Resistance. We will get an insight into the man, the poet, the lyricist, and the legend – Anand Bakshi. His son, Rakesh will be in conversation with National Awardee filmmaker, Brahmanand Singh. Podcasts are the new medium for poetry. We will have an engaging workshop as well as a discussion around the same with the experts.
This year, we have instituted Delhi Poetry Festival REX Karmaveer Poetry Awards & Fellowship, 2022, which will be conferred during the festival.
Q. How challenging has it been to bring the festival back after the pandemic?
A. Sanjay: As the Pandemic gripped the entire world, everything including art & literary events were affected. Ironically, literature, especially poetry emerged as an outlet for depressed minds. Delhi Poetry Festival resisted the trend of online events and waited for the world to open up and begin on-ground events amidst the buzz and applause.
To build the momentum once again after the forced hiatus of over 2 years hasn’t been easy but it is heartening to see the world responding to such public celebrations.
Q. How do you look back at the festival’s journey so far? Also, what are the major achievements of the last five editions?
A. Dolly: The journey so far has been enlightening. We evolved every season with new learnings and exposures. This is what poetry does to you- makes a better version of you. In this case, we created better versions of each new edition. In the past 5 editions we continued working on our content to bring out more relevant and break through sessions around poetry.
So far, a galaxy of eminent poets, thinkers and academicians have graced the platform of Delhi Poetry Festival to add gravitas to the festival.
We look back at the past seasons with pride and satisfaction. We have managed to pull through some very ambitious things – the entire troupe of the famed Bollywood music director, Kuldip Singh travelled from Mumbai, stayed at the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara for a performance on Nazir Akbarabadi. They were accompanied by well-known theatre artist, Atul Tiwari. We also had a tribal group of poets, Hirawal travel all the way from rural Bihar and enthral our poetry-lovers with the poetry of Muktibodh, Gorakh Pandey and others.
Q. How do you expect a festival like Delhi Poetry Festival to help promote the local talent?
A. Dolly: Our schedules are liberally full of local talent. We brought Harpreet, a local talent in Delhi back in 2016 to the fore at the insistence of our mentor, Madan Gopal Singh. Rupesh Pathak, Delhi based ghazal singer has performed at Delhi Poetry Festival. Another local music group Trippy Sama got stage at Delhi Poetry Festival. Delhi NCR is full of very talented and emerging poets and Delhi Poetry Festival keeps finding reasons to bring them to the fore.
Q. Tell us about SheScapes. How can issues of gender sensitivity be better addressed in the world of arts?
A. Dolly: SheScapes is a Delhi Poetry Festival initiative, which is women-centric and relevant to urban women. The platform addresses gender issues like body shaming, patriarchy, discrimination etc. One platform for women across all art and creative fields trying to alter the way society defines women. This year we use this platform to understand the relevance of Heer in the 21st century in line with our celebrations of the 300th year of Waris Shah.
Q. What can contemporary poets learn from the classics? How can this link be strengthened?
A. Sanjay: Classics are the bedrock of good poetry. Classical poetry stands out for its clarity of expression. Another, much lamented difference is the handling of truth. These are largely two aspects contemporary poets can imbibe from the classics.
The best way to assimilate this is to read and read well. Back in 2015, speaking at Delhi Poetry Festival, Waseem Barelvi Sa’ab had lamented the declining interest in the younger generation to read up but always look for opportunities to recite. He had insisted on the correlation of a well-read poet to a well-spoken one. Delhi Poetry Festival hopes to use its platform to bridge this in a small way.
Q. How do you look at the relevance of regional languages and dialects?
A. Sanjay: India is a melting pot of cultures, languages, and traditions. Delhi is the cauldron of diverse languages and dialects. Delhi, the heart of India, envelopes all regional languages and cultures. That only means that the Delhi Poetry Festival has to be inclusive too.
Already a platform for 4 languages spoken in Delhi, this year onward, Delhi Poetry Festival invites poets from all regional languages to recite their poems.