International poetry Festival

The Festival was organised in collaboration with the CIIL, Mysore, which is a Central Government body for the promotion of languages.

The fifth Kritya 2010 Festival concentrated on the poetry of exile, trauma and survival.

Trauma poetry therefore included experience of loss, rape, war, natural or circumstantial and other tragic and vulnerable situations that make use of poetry for catharsis. This would include poems dealing with insistent memory and using poetry for curative or therapeutic purposes to overcome trauma. In the final analysis the “minimal affirmation” endorsed by surviving under duress would bring back hope through poetry
The festival was inaugurated by renounced literatraute & playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar, who spoke on the how exile has become a part of the ever shrinking global village of today’s and how the experience of exile and the trauma was different for each individual or society. He emphasized that It is only a poet who becomes aware of it And he rebels against it.

The known poets of exile all around the world who had assembled for the festival expressed exile in different individual terms.
We had renounced poets from other countries; Zingonia Zingone (Italy),Osvaldo Sauma, Peter Waugh (Austria ), Dieter Berdel (Austria ), Enrique Moya , Maria Elena Blanco (Cuba), Victoria Slavuski (Argentina), Bernhard Widder (Austria), Hanane Aad (Lebanon), Alicia Partnoy, Diti Ronen (Tel-Aviv, Israel), Helen Dwyer ( Ireland), Nguyen chi Strung (Vietnam) , Odveig Klyve ( Norway), Behzad Zarrinpoor (Iran), Maryam ala Amjadi (Iran), who participated in the festival. Their poetry was well received by the other poets & artists.

Indian poets who took part in this festival were Vivek Narayan, Prayag Shukla, Arundhathi Subramaniam, Agnishekhar, Tenzin Tsundue, Shyamala nair, Jayasree Ramakrishnan nair , Rati Saxena, Umesh Chand Chowhan,, Alka tyagi, Shailey, Bijay Kumar Shaw ( Nishant), Dushyant, Aruna Sharma , Amit Kalla, Prantik Banerjee.
Kritya’s engagement with arts and the aesthetic experience through poetry and allied art forms has always manifest itself in the blending of the visual and the poetic.

On the occasion an Art Workshop had been envisaged. This was a forum for art lovers, the world over to witness a visual extravaganza through the works of upcoming Indian artists. The art workshop opened simultaneously along with the poetry festival. The poetry & the environment inspired the artists and their works.
Gwalior based Pranjal arts represented by Sarvjeet singh And neiru singh known for their patronage and promotion of Indian Contemporary Art sponsored the artists for the event
The Participating artists were Amit Kalla (Jaipur),Daniel Connell (Australia), H.K. Vishwanath (Mysore), Mustak Khan choudhuri (Gwaliar), Neeru Singh (Gwaliar), Swapan Bhandari (Shanti Niketan), Sharad (Bengaluru), Vijendra S Vij (Delhi), Vidya Sagar Singh (Allahabad), Vishal Bhuwaniya (Indore) and Wagay Billal(Kashmir)
Kritya2008 had witnessed a very successful film section on the Poetry presented by Odveig Klyve (Norway) writer and film director.
In Kritya2010 we aspired to out run the success by formally slotting an entire session to short film on poetry.

Poetry is porous and facile in its seamless extension over many genres. Short films use the language and images of metaphor and metonymy much the same as poetry does.
The short films presented at the workshop were;
“The Poet and the World”
On poets from Romania, Belgium, Austria, England, India and Norway and also from other countries.
Directed by Odveig Klyve & Kari Klyve-Gulbrandsen
Producer: Bjorn Gulbrandsen

“Labyrinth: self, nature and dreams” A film by Akash Gaur

“At The Midnight Hour” by Samit Das

“Breathing Without Air” by Kapilas Bhuyan

Poetry Films by Sadho
Sadho is a voluntary organization that aims taking great poetry to people from all walks of life through the innovative use of arts, media and social action. Sadho is coming with a number of good poetry films for full one session. Kritya and Sadho are working in same direction with different objectives. So this collaboration will really good for poetry lovers

We are sincerely grateful to all our sponsors for the success that we achieved at our festival.

Contribution of each of them was equally significant.
Filippo Bettini, Festival Mediterranea
Peter Waugh, LABYRINTH, Association of English-Language Poets in Vienna
Prof. Sunil Gangopadhyay, eminent Bengali poet and fiction writer.
Prof Uday Narayan, reputed poet, playwright and essayist in Maithili and Bengali.
Prof. K. Satchidanandan, former Secretary of the Sahitya Akademi (the National Academy of Letters, India), is an internationally recognised poet, critic, translator and editor.,
Dr. Satinder Singh Noor, Vice President Sahitya Akademi and an Eminent Punjabi litterateur , Poet and critic.
Dr. Shyamala Nair, Principal, Lady Amritbai Daga College for Women, (L.A.D.) Nagpur.
Hanane Aad- Poet, Journalist, litterateur from Lebanon.

The Poetry of Exile, Trauma and Survival

….and somehow, each of us will help the other live,
and somewhere, each of us must help the other die….Adrienne Rich

The fifth Kritya 2010 Festival will concentrate on the poetry of exile, trauma and survival. The known poets of exile all around the world have expressed exile in different individual terms. The poetry of exile, here, as a concept has been stretched to include voluntary and involuntary exile not only from one’s land and life but emotional, spiritual, political, social, cultural, economic and similar contexts of the term. This would, therefore necessarily include diasporic poetry. Though politically exiled poets experience acute trauma in terms of being politically uprooted from a motherland, voluntary exile and diasporic poems also entail similar pain of displacement and loss of nativity.

Trauma poetry therefore would include experience of loss, rape, war, natural or circumstantial and other tragic and vulnerable situations that make use of poetry for catharsis. This would include poems dealing with insistent memory and using poetry for curative or therapeutic purposes to overcome trauma. In the final analysis the “minimal affirmation” endorsed by surviving under duress would bring back hope through poetry.

( Presented By Dr. Shyamala Nair )

A different type of exile-

As we announced earlier, Kritya 2010 will concentrate on the poetry of exile, trauma and survival. I am trying to understand the meaning of exile and invite readers to discuss this subject. Dante has explained this issue in very clear words:

“. . . Tu lascerai ogne cosa diletta
pi’amente; e questo e quello strale
che l’arco de lo essilio pria saetta.
Tu proverai si come sa di sale
lo pane altrui, e come e duro calle
lo scendere e ‘l salir per l’altrui scale . . .”

“. . . You will leave everything you love most:
this is the arrow that the bow of exile
shoots first. You will know how salty
another’s bread tastes and how hard it
is to ascend and descend
another’s stairs . . .”

Paradiso XVII: 55?60

Let me consider this feeling, leave everything you love most. I travel down memory lane. I remember the day when I asked my mother to give me permission to take part in a “Scouting Camp” in the neighbouring city, Udaipur. I was hardly 11 years old, and those were the days when girls had to live within lots of limitations. My mother happily gave me permission, and while I was leaving home, she gave me a few coins along with salt and chilly powder and said-
“You will get very good guava in Udaipur, buy them and eat them along with salt and chilly powder, they will be very tasty.”

I saw her eyes shining then. Though I could not understand her intention at that time, after so many years, when I reread this incident, I can feel the pain she experienced of losing the city, food, fruits and so many things of her own childhood. It can be strange for most of the people, but in the Indian tradition, girls have been the victims of exile, a social exile. There was a time when a girl married to a family located far away, was never allowed to return to her own family. In the course of time, society changed its ways, but at least 40% women in India still face the pain of social exile.

My mother’s love for guava was connected with the memories of her childhood and the things she loved most. Giving salt and pepper to me, her daughter, was an attempt at recalling the taste which she had lost. Though it was the daughter who was going to taste the guava, enjoying the vivid memories of a most loved object must have been very satisfying to the mother.

My mother had to leave her parents? home in Madhya Pradesh and come and live in Rajasthan with my father’s family. The distance was considerable, and she could not regularly visit her own home. But she was always closer to her own home, her own childhood, and her own relations.

She was in social exile, but ironically she was closer to everything she had to leave.

I could understand mother’s pain, when I had to come to Kerala after marriage, leaving Rajasthan for ever. The vast sea reminds me of the desert and dunes every time. I remember those things more often, which I had never bothered about while living with them.

This means that the situation of physical exile is just opposite to emotional exile. The more we go away from our roots, the closer we come to them.

Indian philosopher-poets like Kabir have discussed the feeling of separation as an emotional bond to the Supreme Power. Does it mean separation or exile has another face, and that is faith and bond? Or what we can call LOVE?

Separation makes us understand our own inner bonding to the emotions, relations and surroundings. Exile may be another way to go back to original love. I think that emotional separation is the most ancient and important feeling of exile.

Rati Saxena


The Exiled Mind-A Tale of Untold Trauma

“We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes, and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to fight them in ourselves and in others.”

Albert Camus

The term ‘exile’ translates into separation, anguish, dislocation, loneliness, anxiety, depression, fear and what not…. Taking this into account, exile need not necessarily be a physical break-off from everything one is familiar with, or comfortable with. The psychological impact exile from one’s own country and people can create has been much talked about and accepted. Exile is more traumatic at the purely mental level. You can be very much among the things you love and yet be an exile. You can be in your own country and yet be an exile. You can lie next to your beloved and still remain an exile.

The mind is a very intriguing part of the human system. It can destroy your sense of complacency in a second, and bring back that complacency with equal speed. This veritable bundle of fleeting thoughts very often takes absolute control of you, dissociating you from everything around you, pushing you into the depths of despair, anxiety, fear and everything negative. However, the irony rests in the fact that very often this is a kind of willing surrender or yielding to situations fabricated by oneself. But most individuals fail to realize or refuse to see that they have landed in this quicksand that is their own creation. I am referring to the thousands and thousands of human beings who have forced themselves to live the lives of exiles. You come across them in society, among people close to you, and those you hear about.

There are a number of stressors that individuals exiled from their native land commonly experience, social isolation being one of the most prominent among them. Suddenly you find yourself cut off from the social network you are familiar with and are at a loss, unable to communicate to those you meet in the new environment. Coupled with this is the loss of one’s social identity and the valued role one used to play. Then comes separation from loved ones; health problems, loneliness, psychological problems, bad memories and so on. Interestingly, all these are experienced by the individuals I have been talking about too. The difference however, is that while the geographically dislocated exiles might learn to adjust with the changed circumstances, the mentally exiled sink more and more into the depths of the ocean of despair.

I wish to highlight this kind of mental exile as represented by some of the immortal characters in the Shakespearean canon. The themes of exile and banishment are important in many plays of Shakespeare. It can be convincingly said that the psychological and physical experience of the refugee is beautifully represented in his plays. The bard has also thrown much light on the effect exile has on these characters-some become revengeful and full of hate towards those responsible for their exile, some develop a resigned attitude, some decide on fighting for their land and some others opt for self-exile, consequent mostly on a feeling of guilt and assuming responsibility for the situation.

Coming back to the issue of the exiled mind, one only needs to look at King Lear to realize with a shock how simple it is to impose self exile by one’s own impulsive action. The haughty and powerful old king who is a victim of his own foolish action and a representative of many such doting individuals in this world is an exile in his own kingdom. His mental exile and madness follows his action of banishing his favorite daughter, Cordelia for the simple reason that she couldn’t bring herself to be insincere to him. Thus he is responsible for initiating a sequence of tragic events, at the end of which he senses that his wits have begun to turn.

An exile wandering the heath on a stormy night, it is pathetic to listen to Lear ask, “Where is this straw, my fellow?
The art of our necessities is strange,
That can make vile things precious.”

Whether we call it haughtiness, or senile dementia, or foolishness, or tragic flaw, Lear is solely responsible for his physical and mental exile. Cut off from his dignified position as the almighty king, Lear starts inhabiting a world of his own; a world where the most common things assume the value of the most precious. His action brings retribution from which he has no escape-his Karma comes in search of him. When he hopes that he can once again reunite with his dearest daughter, ask for forgiveness, pray, sing and tell old tales and laugh at gilded butterflies, Fate takes her away from him. His mental trauma is such that it is as if he is being stretched out upon the rack of this tough world. As the character Kent in the play rightly remarks, it was a wonder that Lear “endured so long; He but usurped his life.”

Yet another character in the Shakespearean repository that endures a traumatic isolation from her known world is Lady Macbeth. The outwardly authoritative figure comes across to us as a weak character at the mental level. Like Lear, she too forced herself into exile. Whether it was her wish to see her husband as king, or whether she cherished the title of queen, her heinous action brought forth the terrible outcomes. She appears to the audience as the very personification of cruelty who calls upon supernatural powers to unsex her so that she can commit the crime of killing King Duncan who had come as her guest, and was under her care. What more cruelty can one expect than what is portrayed in the words, “I have given suck, and know how tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this. ”
Critical studies on Lady Macbeth introduces her as one already weak at heart, her mind is as frail as an egg. She is one who can be pleasant as a flower outwardly while nurturing the poison of the serpent deep within. However, after Macbeth murders the king, we see her control slipping away with each passing second, until at last she cannot bear the guilt anymore and falls headlong into the pit of mental illness, of course a consequence of her own action. Although she did not herself kill the king, her hands appear bloodstained to her and she develops the condition of obsessive compulsive neurosis, washing her hands again and again to remove the imaginary spot of blood, pathetically crying out that “all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” Her condition is so terrible that as her doctor points out, it is “A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once the benefit of sleep and do the effects of watching!” Lady Macbeth is in a constant state of “slumbery agitation,” from which there seems to be no escape.

The great moor Othello is another true to life character who falls from his rightful majestic position on account of the negative emotions of jealousy and suspicion. Othello too is a representative type, so many of his kind we see around us on a daily basis. While the issue of race and Othello as an outsider or the “other’ in the Venetian society is an important one in the plot, my concern is with the mental makeup of the moor. Othello is undoubtedly mentally isolated from others due to his color difference and cultural difference. That is also the reason why he falls easy prey to the manipulations of Iago, considering himself inferior to the Venetians and believing that his wife would deceive him. Othello’s tragedy is that he could not find anyone to whom he could open his mind.
From a state of mind when he declares, and doubts “Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul/But I do love thee! And when I love thee not, /Chaos is come again” he comes to a point when he says, “Why did I marry?” His mental decline and sense of isolation is conveyed when he utters confusedly,

I think my wife be honest and think she is not;
I think that thou art just and think thou art not.
I’ll have some proof. Her name, that was as fresh
As Dian’s visage, is now begrimed and black
As mine own face. If there be cords or knives,
Poison or fire or suffocating streams,
I’ll not endure it. Would I were satisfied!”

Exile at both the physical and mental level is characterized by the feeling of inhabiting a strange world. The sights, sounds, experiences are all unnatural in the sense that they are different from what one is at home with. The Shakespearean figures pointed out here persuade one to think of the real reason for their tragedy. It all boils down to the mind-the mind can make or break an individual. As Camus stated, if each of us could successfully fight our negativities, not unleashing them into the world, this would have been a “brave new world.” It is the large scale influx of negative emotions and feelings that poisons and weakens the human mind, making it vulnerable. Weak minds cross the fine line that divides sanity and insanity and pass into a land of no return. They inhabit the twilight zone, an unreal world where they are totally dislocated with no scope of relocation. When the writer in literary exile can at least try to give expression to her innermost thoughts and feelings in a world that is totally foreign to her, what can such real life characters do? Unequipped with the skills of language and expression, they go round and round in a vortex of their own creation. Do they deserve our sympathy?

By Jayasree Nair


A story Behind curtain by Rati Saxena

This is the evening of the 5th of February 2010, the curtain of the Poetry Festival Kritya 2010 has just been dropped and we are all together, but in a mixed mood.

We have been blessed by the golden glows of the most powerful poetry expressed. We are all bound by a feeling of fulfillment and bliss. We are all ready to journey back to our nests. Though we come from different parts of India and even the world, speak different languages, are torchbearers of diverse cultures, we are bonded as though we are one.

Israel’s Diti Ronen and Shyamla Nair from India are conversing as if they are long lost friends. I patiently tell them there are other people too from other places, to which Norway’s Bjorn smilingly replies, “They will talk until world’s Peace is resolved”.

The young Tibetan, Tenzin Tsundue, had claimed at the beginning of the festival that he was Tibetan not Indian, but he changed his thinking pretty soon. He said, “I belong here, I cannot leave this country.” His pain hurt us also:

“When I was born
My mother said
you are a refugee.
your tent on the roadside
smoked in the snow.

On your forehead
between your eyebrows
there is an R embossed
my teacher said.

I scrubbed and scrubbed,
on my forehead I found
a brash of red pain.

I am born refugee.
I have three tongues,
The one that sings
is my mother tongue.”

Tenzin Tsundue

Alicia Partnoy’s experience was not different from Tenzin’s, she had her own land, but it was snatched away from her. She said-

“They booted my home land
Out from under me
-what they call exile-
That is- all of a sudden
The ground was gone
And distance laid every where before me”

But she herself got energy from this pain

“And yet
I still remember the day the military
Put my home land behind bars
On that day, I had too much courage
And the fear was gone

That’s where it all began”

In poetry, exile is not only from land, but even from life. Kabir Das has already said-

“Rahane nahi des paraya he”, I don’t want to lie here, this place does not belong to me.”

Zingonia of Italy created for us a distinct aura of exile

Mother faith
That trusts the world
A generous womb.

The small cry
That from light,
Slowly comes death;

Every age arrives
Celebrating the remembrance
That stillness approaches.”

The most senior poet of Costa Rica, Osvaldo Sauma says-

“do not fear
as soon as you cross the passage of light
the houris will restore your child heart
you’ll play again in the sun of the departed
and I will give my Father
the embrace I could not give in his death
to my Father who lies now
alone in Port Father”

Blessed with poetry we are like honeybees, a little tired but very fulfilled. In this journey we had poetry films from Sadho from Delhi, and from Odveig Klyve. These films gave a different angle to the whole idea of the festival.

In another part of CIIL, talented young artists were giving colorful expressions on canvas to the poems that had captivated them, in an art camp organized by Pranjal Arts.

Friends, this is a common issue for February and March as we are providing a lot of poetry to be read.

You can read the very inspiring speech of our chief guest Mahesh Elkunchwar in the section ‘In the Name of Poetry’ and lose yourself in the timeless, beautiful poems of the Dalai Lama in “Our Masters.’ Besides, we offer a feast of poetry in our segment ‘Poetry in Our Time’–this time highlighting the poems of the poets who partook in the poetry festival.

Rati Saxena