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Poet-TV persona Pritish Nandy experiments with 140-character poetry

Poet-TV persona Pritish Nandy experiments with 140-character poetry

18 July 2012

New Delhi. Insolent, angry, wicked that's me/Or so you say before you angrily look away/Faith is so yesterday/Tomorrow is where I want to be.

Poet, painter, journalist, filmmaker and television personality Pritish Nandy has used the 140-character format to transport poetry to the age of Twitter in a new anthology, "Stuck on 1/Forty". But he says his 140-character poetry does not mark a new phase in the evolution of the popular literary genre, it is just another form of creative expression.

The anthology will be released July 21 in Mumbai by actor Ranbir Kapoor.

"I don't think poetry mutates over the years. It only keeps opening up to more new ideas, new vistas and new experiments, particularly in recent times. People still read Shakespeare and love it. They still read Keats, Byron, Shelley. But, yes, they also now read Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Corso. They now read Lorca, Neruda, Cavafy, Enzensberger. Or Agyeya, Jibanannd Das, Faiz Ahmed Faiz," Nandy told IANS in an interview.

Nandy said the "world of poetry was opening up more and more with more poets across languages being read, more experiments with new forms, more discoveries and more relevancies being sought".

"Stuck on 1/40 is one such experiment. If people read it, like it, share it, if it grows the conversation on the social network, it would have achieved its objective. Poetry need no longer be imprisoned on the printed page. It must enter our lives and our consciousness. It must capture our dreams, our hopes. It is now part of the growing discourse across all platforms," Nandy said.

The volume, printed in rainbow colours and designer typeset, explores a variety of personalised emotions like love, loss, loneliness, uncertainty, resignation and new beginnings.

Recalling the way he conceived the poems, Nandy said he "thought the poems through in 140 characters".

"It's quite easy actually. You can write the same poem as a 1,000-page epic or a simple tweet. The idea remains the same. It's just the format that delivers it differently to you and me. We choose which version we want to read. The poet offers you options. I never write my thoughts at random. I sit down and write a book or a column or an essay or even a work of fiction, almost at one go. That's the only way I can write," he said.

The 71-year-old poet, who was a Rajya Sabha member from Maharashtra, has been writing and translating regional poetry for most part of his life. In 1967, he published his first volume of poetry, "Of Gods and Olives", and followed it up with nearly 40 books. Nandy was nominated the poet laureate by the World Academy of Arts and Culture in 1981. He was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1977.

Nandy, who was the publishing director of The Times of India from 1982 to 1991, edited The Illustrated Weekly of India from 1983 to 1991.

Nandy said during his years as a poet, he started a poetry magazine that launched many contemporary poets.

"I opened a small publishing house that published poetry in English and in translation from the different Indian languages. Many of the poets you hear of today were first published by me in tiny slim booklets. These booklets are today collectors editions. We made poetry hugely popular in the Seventies. Thousands attended readings. Thousands more bought books of poems, poetry albums. It was the golden age of poetry," Nandy said.

The poet said he was not inspired by Twitter, though the "twitter format provoked my 140-word experiment with poetry".

"Twitter is just a means of communication. Means do not inspire people. Content does. But the poems will work only when people read them and like them as poems. That is the most important thing. Poetry is format agnostic. It is even idiom agnostic. Language is changing today," Nandy said.

But that is not because of Facebook or Twitter. It is changing because of our impatience, Nandy said.

"The limits of our tolerance are on a steady downslide. Even language has become a victim of this," the poet pointed out.

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