A beautiful fall evening and a gathering of poets. Anu Mahadev writes about the poetry salon by Connect+Create that TWI partnered with.
Oct 13, 2019. A crisp autumn evening in the southern New Jersey suburb of West Windsor was the setting for a one-of-a-kind poetry salon organized by Connect+Create a creative workshop and networking venture spearheaded by Shanam Kapoor in collaboration with The Woman Inc. magazine, represented by Pooja Garg and myself. The venue was the beautiful and artistic home of Anu Bhat, art collector and curator for exclusive South East Asian paintings, through her venture, The Rural Painter.
The theme of the evening was the Journey of Life. Once the plan had been set in motion, I lost no time recruiting our team of poets – Ashini J. Desai, Nidhi Thakur, Priya N. Iyer, Prajakta Paranjpe, Supreet Bains Sharma and myself. We had these six poets read from the tristate area, and our very own Pooja Garg from Atlanta participate remotely.
The process of selecting, curating and editing the poems had taken close to two months, and under the able guidance of Pooja, Priya and me, we were ready with a stellar lineup of poems, that evoked emotions ranging from pathos to joy and everything in between.
Tastefully decorated by EmbellaBox with flowers, soft lights and lavender colors everywhere, the room was set up as the perfect place for a poet to read. There was enough opportunity to network and mingle upstairs, over prosecco and finger food, provided by Chef Hemant Mathur. Beer flowed freely, thanks to bira91. And there were swag bags for the guests, courtesy of Bhavna’s Exclusive. Everything spelled elegance, including our ultra-patient, polite audience.
Anu Bhat began the evening with an art tour of the pieces displayed, around her fabulous home. Most of them were from South East Asian countries, which have a deep Buddhist influence in their heritage and culture. They were all painted by hitherto unknown and upcoming artists, who got this opportunity to showcase their work via the Rural Painter.
The poetry café began with introductions, and the first to take the stage was Ashini. Her poems, “But Radha wants more”, “The Henna Artist”, and “Scented Memory” took the audience to India, with Radha questioning her place in the universe while being Krishna’s most beloved friend; with a henna artist who attempts to answer the unasked questions of a young girl, with what she knows best; and then the memories of the poet herself on a vacation to her native city in India. Anu B then came on to present Supreet’s poem, “Jaggery”. Supreet, who could not be there due to her mom passing away in India, had written Jaggery as a dedication to her mother’s life. It was indeed a moving tribute.
Prajakta’s poems – “Poetry”, “I don’t live in this language anymore”, and “V-word” – were a reflection of the poet’s own musings about herself and her medium of expression. V-word in particular, touched a chord with many women as it talked about a woman’s identity with respect to her body. In contrast, Nidhi’s poems were lighter – “To my BBFF” and “Ode to my Preening”. They talked about her relationship with a particular friend in the first poem, and with her assorted pairs of earrings in the other! Priya then came on with “Boxes” – about how the world loves to put things and unfortunately, people too, in boxes, and “Threads and Needles”, a very heartfelt poem about relationships between mothers and daughters.
My poems were from my book, Neem Leaves, and I read “Blanket”, “Elegy” and the title poem, all centered around loss, and a written tribute to my deceased mother-in-law with whom I shared a close relationship. I ended with Pooja’s poems, “Snow postcards”, “Approaching Winter”, “River” and “Poet for an afternoon”, all from her book, “Every day and some other days”.
The Hindi poets then took the stage, and how! Prajakta, Nidhi and Priya, who also read Pooja’s nazm were hypnotic – to say the least and they had the audience completely in their spell with their poems and shayari. It was heartening to see others approach too when we opened up the stage for open-mic. The salon then ended with a very heartwarming thanks to all involved and a big round of applause.
Post the reading, it was good to see so many members of the audience approach the poets, to tell them how the poems made them relate to their own life experiences, and look at things with a different perspective. We had succeeded in our mission – which was to make them realize that art is not something just for the elite – it must be brought to the people and when they go and say “aha”, that’s when we know that we have connected with them and touched their hearts.
To read all the poems read by the poets, click here.
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