Few observations on SBILF

If writing primarily is about discovering a relevant and supportive community, then this aim got actualized on Saturday, May 25, in Toronto, Canada.
The inaugural edition of the Setu Bilingual International Lit Fest (SBILF) was effectively staged in a cordial venue---the public library. What a better space for a journal always in the service of serious reading public and writing! The Toronto Public Library provided the comfortable hall, ambience and infra. In the midst of books and readers, the mega- event celebrating diversity, plurality and richness of art got launched by the mini collective of top artists from Canada, USA and India, invited there for that purpose.
It was overwhelming!
The mood. Love. Support. Hospitality. Warmth. Camaraderie. The bilingual readings and poetic exchanges. The informality of the formality; the formality of the informality among the gathering of practising crafts persons. The keenness of the foreign writers to understand poetry and prose, composed in Hindi, through the body language, inflections of the speech and spontaneous translations in English, provided by the performing poets for the benefit of their Canadian and American peers. For the latter group, a strange language never acted as a speed-barrier to the appreciation of fine thoughts and cadence of the performed pieces. They sat and listened to each Hindi author in rapt attention. The willingness to embrace another culture and its language and then participate in the reading or discussion amply demonstrated that true artists are borderless denizens and are not swayed by the political rhetoric of the right, being adopted currently, as the official ideology of the nations, worldwide.
Art demolished divisions artificially created by the elite power structures for political gains and defeated the divisive political agenda. The entire world was and is one extended family of happy spirits. The genuine writers respect words and works and try to understand the worlds contained within those carefully-chosen words. It was proved again on that memorable day---all world is a stage and we, as actors in the play, belong to the home company.
Each participant was open, flexible and cosmopolitan in outlook.
This ability to rise above socio-political constructs and narrowness and see the Other as their own, as kin, was remarkable. It made us all part of the global community of wandering but kindred souls, worshipping words and nature.
Many sensibilities and cultures merged that day on that enabling platform.
And humanity, liberalism and democracy won---and thrived via literatures as living organic realities.
Authenticity prevailed.
Art was sacrosanct.
The Fest actually built democratic bridges of understanding between reading and writing communities; varied geo-linguistic spaces and creative expressions; varied genres and expectations. Fine minds came together and willingly created synergies of high artistic order. Instant bonds were forged across the two languages and appropriate responses, generated. Both the English and Hindi poetry sessions were historic and well attended. A carnivalesque atmosphere prevailed with families joining and the ensuing bonhomie was fully familial. Art as accessible, not something obscure or high modernist stuff!
The virtual became real. A community was born and realized in real time. Writers---mostly featured in the journal---met in person and that made a huge difference in the interactions.
A big family moment!
The ever expanding Setu family!
The real star was poetry. Passionate poets who travelled distances to be there for further engagements, linguistic and otherwise.
They read or performed as spoken artists, dazzling the niche audience with their honed skills.  They talked and mingled freely. A tech session on Poetry in Post-Industrial Society: Its Relevance and Directions,  generated lots of insights that could rival the best of the academics and university critics on the epistemology of poetry. The poets, legislating here, on the nature of creative process, as insiders.
 A brief report on the fest follows elsewhere in this issue.
Anurag Sharma, editor-in-chief and publisher, worked very hard for months in order to make the SBLF happen in another city, not our own. From Pittsburgh, he relentlessly coordinated with friends from Toronto and planned the minute details. It was a challenge but we could deliver. Anurag was involved at every stage of the planning and final execution. His gentle demeanour and cool quotient won fresh admires for him---and SetuDharm Jain and Hansa Deep---prominent authors---as the local hosts made the necessary arrangements and lent support in every way. Their smiles never waned. Friends came from across the different geographies. For English poetry session, Sharon BergScott Thomas OutlarHeath BrougherTom HamiltonNarinder Bhangu and Sangeeta Sharma added to the value. In a similar vein, prominent Hindi poets, editors and professors enhanced its overall appeal and prestige through their uplifting presence and works.
A dream became a reality on that rainy Saturday in beautiful Toronto.
It was sublime!
The perseverance and the efforts of the team proved productive.
A dialogue got initiated.
The Setu Bilingual Lit Fest proved to be worthwhile.
I would again like to thank the people involved in this event directly or indirectly--- the local organizers, all the poets, volunteers, staff of the library and the audience.
Indebted to Anurag, and Dharm for making it a hugely successful programme. The key moments are caught in an album for you.
Another milestone in our service to the community.

Rest of the issue has its regular features except one or two.
Focus is on fine writing, as usual.
Next month marks the third year of Setu. Please do send your best.
Enjoy, dear patron!

Sunil Sharma

Editor, Setu (English)
Toronto, ON, Canada

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