The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Do I dare
Disturb the universe'
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
' The Lovesong Of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot

Keats and Eliot, Shakespeare and Byron, Wordsworth and Shelley, books, pen, paper and' computers. Whatever the style, source of inspiration or means of writing, the result is a river of words from the youth, about the angst of growing up, the injustices of the world and a plethora of personal emotions.

When Young Metro started off a poet's corner last August, the contributions just poured in. In the first 12 weeks this year, over 200 poems have landed in the Young Metro inbox, by email and snail mail.

Personal pain and trauma, global tragedies and troubles are all fodder for the campus poets, as they strive to make sense of the world around them. The tsunami on December 26 prompted a flood of verse, as Calcutta's school and college students tried to express their sorrow and their solidarity.

And you thought the written word was dead amongst a generation weaned on the television remote'

In the lives of these precocious poets-in-the-making, the idiot box takes a backseat as the word ' both printed and written ' still matters the most. Stories short and long, fiction and fact, theatre and music, art and poetry are what constitute their creative world.

Tanmoy Das Lala, Class X student of St Xavier's Collegiate School, has been learning the piano since age four. His inspirations are Beethoven and Mozart. It is their symphonies that inspire him to pick up the pen.

'When I listen to Beethoven, I can almost feel his hurt, his sorrow. The message in his music lingers in my mind after it's over. And then I start to write.'

There's no doubt, though, that these youngsters identify with pain best, and try to express their own. 'Mozart wrote such beautiful music, but he was unappreciated when he was alive. He died a pauper, buried without ceremony. He wrote his own requiem. That's the kind of music that inspires me,' adds Tanmoy.

Pain on paper

If darkness is dominant and pain the primer, the reasons for turning to rhyme for reason range from the intensely personal to the far removed. And these are no empty outpourings either, as most of these young poets are serious about furthering the art form.

Like Adwaita Das. The Jadavpur University (JU) English student writes poetry because 'I really, really love to, and I cannot imagine not writing'. She writes simply to express herself, but would nonetheless like to make a living out of being a poet. She admits that 'adolescents do tend to get a little neurotic about their angst, thinking too much of their own pain in a narcissistic way', and adds that 'writing poetry is a very cathartic experience for me. It's the quickest and simplest way to express one's self'.

The nature of poetry ' its verse form, the rhythm, the fact that it can be as short as four lines or as long as four pages, the unique ways in which words can be arranged ' is what draws the youngsters to this form, feel teachers and psychologists.

'It's short, so not too much time has to be spent on either reading or writing them,' feels Mitra Sinha Roy, principal of GD Birla Centre for Education, from where several regular student contributors pen poems for Young Metro.

'Poems are easy, much more so than stories. Also, kids are taught rhymes from a very young age, so it appeals to them more. It is a good thing that so many students are interested in poetry, but the rules, like rhythm and meter, should also be followed,' says Sinha Roy.

But Trina Dasgupta, 21, refuses to write it by the book. She doesn't read poetry, nor is she influenced by anyone. As a victim of child sexual abuse, she has learnt to use words as her weapon. She writes only when she's down and depressed. Finding it difficult to sleep most nights, Trina sits at her computer and writes. She's sold some of her poems to a publisher in Mumbai, but is not really interested in what happens to them. For her, poetry is the most vital means of expression.

Writing poetry is just as physically and mentally healing, as emotionally and intellectually elevating, says psychiatrist Bhargavi Chatterjea Bhattacharyya. 'Adolescents have to deal with a lot of difficult emotions. It's the age when abstract thinking reaches its peak. Writing is a very healthy way of expressing emotions like anger and hate. When it's kept bottled up, the youngsters often lash out by slashing themselves. Also, using verse is easier, there's a rhythm to poetry, which appeals to the temporal lobe, the same side of the brain where emotions are generated.'

Rhyme and reason

With poetry invariably beginning at home, parental support is a huge push. Ask Sohini Bhattacharya about it. The Class VIII student of South Point put her first verse on paper at age three. Style and content have changed since then, but poetry remains her way of speaking out. 'When other children were going to amusement parks and watching TV, my parents took me to art galleries and theatres. So I was encouraged,' she says. Ruskin Bond and Somerset Maugham, Jhumpa Lahiri, P.B. Shelley and John Keats are her inspirations.

For Inam Hussain Mullick, parental support is not something to be taken for granted. 'Initially, my parents wanted me to pursue something like engineering. But they know how much I love poetry, and they support me now,' says the JU English student who wants to make a living out of poetry, to 'promote English poetry by Indian writers'.

Inam is a poetry fanatic, reading extensively, from T.S. Eliot to Pablo Neruda, Allen Ginsberg to Jibanananda Das. The 'suspension of disbelief, power of suggestion and symbolic imagery' are what fascinate him. For him, being impersonal is the key, 'because the reader should make up his own mind, through his own perceptions'.

Inam has roped several friends into the poetry fold, like Tina Ganguly. The St Xavier's College student was a short story writer, but is now hooked to the magic of verse.

And now there are a few forums for these budding poets to spread their words to a larger audience. Like the Youth Poetry Festival at Srijan, the rooftop rendezvous point in south Calcutta. A group of these youngsters organises the event, providing a platform to other amateurs. The next festival is on April 29, and the young coordinators are already doing the rounds of schools and colleges.

'Poetry has always been more popular than other forms of literature. It's just that fiction receives more publicity, so is in focus. Poetry is also not commercially viable. But to win critical acclaim, it's not the mass media's support one needs. I think it's more important to be appreciated through mediums like specific journals, magazines and even Internet portals,' feels Prof Ananda Lal, of JU's English department.

I have seen that mind '
Which wanders and wanders
Through unknown roads and strange meadows.

' A Mind, by Tulip Bose, from Carmel High School

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