One of life’s greatest treats is to have someone read you a poem, or sing you a song. It is such a different experience from the everyday conversations that we can’t help but pause to engage and listen with our full attention. It expresses what cannot be put in words alone, because with a poem or a song, one can go beyond the words to hear the mood it creates.
Some poems bring on a cold feeling with goosebumps, while others land with the warmth of a verbal hug. I have literally felt my body temperature change from them.
We humans, no matter what part of the planet we are from, what and culture we belong to, turn to the rhyming words in times of distress, or when we are overjoyed.
Many religious epics are written in verse, or have books of hymns that go with the sacred texts. We express overwhelming emotions without words, in silent tears, laughter, hugs, jumping for joy, and even a happy dance.
My love for poetry started with Kabir’s dohas, two-line couplets, taught in Hindi class in middle school. These memorable small poems remain a favorite to this day. They are easy to memorize and convey something relevant to make everyday life better. We had to memorize them, and it was fun, but we also felt compelled to make them funnier by inventing parody versions of them.
If Kabir gave us memorable advice to not procrastinate with this one:
Kal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab,
Pal main parlay hoyegi, phir karoge kab?
(Do today what you have to do tomorrow. Do now if it is to be done today. In a moment, the world might end, so why worry about when?)
We felt compelled to rebel good naturedly and changed it to:
Aaj kare so kal kar, kal kare to parson,
Aisi bhi kya jaldi hai? Abhi to pade hain barson!
(Do tomorrow what you had to do today, and what had to be done tomorrow, do the day-after. Why are you in such a hurry? There are many years ahead left to do it still!)
Such playful work allowed us to share the joy of poems with our friends, as we tried to out-do each other in offering our own unique take on the couplets to have many parody versions.
Before the days of things going viral on social media, the success of our parodies depended on friends adopting it to retell it to others, spreading it as “the” version to know.
Sharing poetry with friends makes it more fun. Several of us have a regular monthly gathering to do just that, reading poems to each other. We do this in many languages, with impromptu translations. The readers share poems they like, not always original, not to perform—but just to share with each other.
For two years during the pandemic, instead of monthly, we met weekly. It was such a joy that last year in August we decided that the joys of our small co-created world had to be shared with the larger world that was suffering. So we put together our maiden performance—on Zoom—and a dozen poetry lovers from our circle read their poems for whoever wanted to hear one.
The program was called Irshaad, an Urdu word used by listeners to tell a poet that they are ready to have the gift of a poem offered to their waiting ears. The process of creating the program was fun for everyone involved and brought forth new bursts of creativity. We even had a volunteer who created a Zoom background for us so for the first time in our Zoom poetry meetings, we could signal who was a reader and who were listeners.
We are happy to announce that our group of poetry lovers is still engaged in monthly poetry readings on the first Saturday of the month, and a few of us have volunteered the labor of love to create another public offering for the community again.
This August, a dozen poetry lovers will read you poems in English, Hindi, Sanskrit and Urdu. The program is called Mukarrar, which is what listeners say in Urdu when they want poets to re-read.
Event: Mukarrar (poetry reading event open to the public)
Date: August 13, 2022
Time: 8:30 pm PST
Sign up: Click here
There will be an after-party to meet and hear other poetry lovers and be a part of our community. You are invited to read us your poem. Invite your friends to join you and surprise them with some poetic moments amongst dedicated poetry lovers in the community. We look forward to welcoming you.
If you want to join the first Saturday Poetry circle, you can find us on Facebook and Instagram as Poetry of Diaspora in Silicon Valley.