If you are given to frequently lamenting the death of poetry, you may want to pop over to this year’s ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF). For, apart from its usual cosmopolitan range, bringing writers from across the world, the programme promises to get 30-odd poets from India and beyond to perform at the Hotel Diggi Palace from 25-29 January.

While several names from India, such as Ashok Vajpeyi, Jeet Thayil, Tishani Doshi, Sampurna Chattarji and Arundhathi Subramaniam, may be already familiar to the regular attendees of the festival, poets from as far as Brazil and Iceland also feature in this eclectic list.

Among poets from India not widely known to Anglophone audiences, several Rajasthani writers such Ikraam Rajasthani, who also writes in Hindi and Urdu, Vimlesh Sharma, and Era Tak, deserve mention. There are young bilingual poets like Akhil Katyal, who write in English and Hindi, to look out for.

Eurig Salisbury Photo: Jaipur Literature Festival 2018
Eurig Salisbury Photo: Jaipur Literature Festival 2018

The show-stealer, irrespective of your opinion of her work, is bound to be 25-year-old Rupi Kaur. Born in Punjab, now a citizen of Canada, she has broken new ground, not only with her pithy style, but also for her smart use of social media. How many poets can you name who have over two million followers on Instagram, can boast of selling over 2.5 million copies of their book, and enjoy an unshakeable presence in The New York Times best-sellers’ list for months on end?

Jovan Mays gives close competition to Kaur. This National Poetry Slam Champion is the Emeritus Poet Laureate of Aurora, Colorado, a TED speaker and the director of a writing programme that engages with over 200,000 students every year. From race to American politics, his work covers a gamut of topics, but most keenly observes the nuances of the local, recording the life of the people in his hometown with empathy and attention.

Speaking of the local, ever heard of the word “cynhaenedd"? It refers to the complex Welsh poetic concept of harmony, achieved by arrangement of sounds within a line. Poet Eurig Salisbury, who was born in Cardiff, taught himself this art when he was just 13. At JLF this year, he’s going to give a demonstration of this form through his work. If you’re interested in the mechanics of verse, this is one session you should not miss.

Rupi Kaur. Photo: Jaipur Literature Festival 2018
Rupi Kaur. Photo: Jaipur Literature Festival 2018

Gerður Kristný, from Iceland, is best known for her poetry, but also dons other hats. She writes novels, plays, short stories and for children. Her poetic work is remarkable for its use of stark imagery and vivid emotions. Sample this from a verse titled Patriotic Poem: My country/a spread deathbed/my initials stitched/on the icy linen.

Based in Sydney, Galina Lazareva is a Russian poet, translator and performer, who is also an expert on a unique genre called bard songs. Apart from rendering poems into English, she is known as a singer who brings the verses to life through her riveting performances.

The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2018 will be held from 25-29 January at Hotel Diggi Palace in Jaipur. For more details, visit Jaipurliteraturefestival.org.

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