Forty students from various schools in Kolkata learnt the basics of writing poetry, performing them, interpreting them and wrote their own poems at a workshop conducted by the US consulate general, Kolkata, as part of National Poetry Month.
The participants included students from Modern High International School, Modern High School for Girls, The Heritage School
The session held at American Center, Kolkata, on April 27 was facilitated by Baisali Chatterjee Dutt, drama teacher and creative consultant. The original poems were judged by Melinda Pavek, US consul- general in Kolkata, and Juan Clar, deputy director, American Center. National Youth Poet Laureate Alyssa Gaine joined remotely for an interactive session with the students.
Alyssa Gaine from Indianapolis joined the session remotely for an interaction with the students
“Poetry is a very important way of communication and a very important art form. It allows me to learn about different people from different walks of life in an artistic way. I do enjoy reading poems. I have several poets that I really like. One of them was a Mexican poet named Octavio Paz. He was one of Mexico’s first ambassadors to India so he has written about India in Spanish. From the US, I really like Edgar Allan Poe. After Thursday’s session Alyssa Gaine has made it to the top of my list,” Clar said.
The original poems were judged by Melinda Pavek, US consul- general in Kolkata, and Juan Clar, deputy director, American Center
Talking about the judging criteria he mentioned, “We have a very standard metric that was applied equally to all students. It consisted of originality, theme of the performance, the use of artistry and also time management.”
The participants included students from Modern High International School, Modern High School for Girls, The Heritage School, Loreto House, Sri Sri Academy, St. James School, La Martiniere for Girls and St. John’s Diocesan.
The students were quite curious about the balance between the two languages, cultures, expressions and asked quite a number of questions
“I think it's [poetry] very significant because it highlights social issues and raises awareness and I think that’s what people are using poetry for as well. Today, we talked a little bit about contemporary American Poetry with special emphasis on the theme of DEIA which is Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Accessibility. We encouraged students to try and write their own poems in 45 minutes. I also touched upon the ideas of how the personal is political and how society informs art but art transforms society. I went around giving them ideas about how they could perform it. My favourite poets would be Rabindranath Tagore, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Ocean Vuong, Arundhati Subramanium, Sumona Roy and others," Chatterjee Dutt
The students were divided into eight groups as per their school
Alyssa Gaines from Indianapolis joined the session remotely for an interaction with the students. Named as National Youth Poet Laureate on May 20, 2022, Gaines deals with bi-lingual expressionism in poetry through Spanish and English languages. The students were quite curious about the balance between the two languages, cultures, expressions and asked quite a number of questions.
“My first encounter with using Spanish in my poetry is when I went to translate something that the translation in English did not ‘translate’ all that I wanted to say. So, I decided to leave it in Spanish.” Commenting on the performances she said, “I liked the combination of poetry, art and theatre. It’s very powerful.”
After the eight performances, judges Clar and Pavek declared the winners
The students were divided into eight groups as per their school and they came up with original poems which were written during the workshop. They read out, performed and even enacted the poems merging it with the holistic power of art as a tool of social change.
Aryan Ghosh, a student of Class XII from St. James’ School, said, “Our poem was about exploring the divisive nature of religion in today’s India despite how people say it’s meant to unify us. The poem is called I am Human. I think one important thing I learnt today was writing about the pain you express in a poem.”
Melinda Pavek with Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
After the eight performances, judges Clar and Pavek declared Modern High School for Girls as the second runner-up while St. James’ School was the first runner-up. The winning team for the day was La Martiniere for Girls.
Sampurna Dasgupta, a student of Class XI from La Martiniere for Girls’ School, said, “I have been writing poetry since I was 10. I really learnt about diversity and getting to know other people’s voices. Our poetry is unnamed. It’s about a girl who was assaulted and how the justice system can be unfair sometimes, as in how the assaulter was free at first but then was charged for the crimes.”