A Brief Report: Setu International Bilingual Literature Festival

- Sangeeta Sharma

Setu Bilingual International Lit Fest 2019 was conducted on 25th May, 2019, at the swanky Toronto Public Library, 35 Fairview Mall Dr, Toronto, ON M2J 454.

This was the second such event conducted by Setu. The first Setu Literary Festival was held in Lucknow in 2017 with eminent guests including celebrity Hindi author Maitreyi Pushpa.

Dr. Sunil Sharma, editor, Setu (English), welcomed the distinguished guests for the proceedings of the day: Scott Thomas Outlar from Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Heath Brougher from York, Pennsylvania, USA ; Tom Hamilton, founder, curator and host of the Urban Folk Art Salon in partnership with Toronto Public Library and Sharon Berg, founder of Big Pound Rumours, Canada. Anurag Sharma, editor-in-chief and publisher of Setu and  Dharm Jain for the release of his 20th book entitled ‘Intersections’.

It was followed by the release of another book ‘Kuber’ by Hansa Deep, lecturer, department of Hindi, University of Toronto, at the hands of Anurag Sharma who introduced the poet, explained the core idea of the book in English to the audience and lauded her poetic efforts.

Yet another book ‘Patjhar, Sawan,Vasant Bahar’ edited by Anurag Sharma was released at the hands of Dharm Jain, who gave his introductory remarks on the book and its author.

Dr. Sonia Taneja, lecturer, Stanford Language Centre, Stanford University, California, expressed her views on ‘Teaching in Hindi as a Foreign Language’.

The second session was on ‘English Poetry Reading and Performance’ in which Scott Thomas Outlar, Heath Brougher, Sharon Berg, Narinder Bhangu, Sangeeta Sharma and Sunil Sharma read out their compositions. Tom Hamilton recited his poem out of memory and performed on it in an appealing manner. Dr. Sangeeta Sharma introduced all the guests.

The next session was of Hindi Poetry Recital in which Akhil Bhandari, Dharm Jain, Sameer Lal, Suman Ghai, Ratnakar Narale and Saran Ghai read out ghazals and satires penned by them.

It was followed by a group discussion on ‘Poetry in Post-Industrial Society: Its Relevance and Directions’, chaired by Dr. Sunil Sharma who elicited response from the writers and poets who were present.

Some of the significant points of this session:

Sharon Berg opined that in today’s scenario, poetry-writing has become very challenging. The poet is sitting at the edge of society like a stone at the bridge and discerning its transition. She was of the view that barriers of languages ought to be transcended. One should not create poetry unless you can’t build it.

Tom Hamilton said that the world has moved into the post-industrial state. We need to inject energy into the system which has gone bankrupt. We need to have a common discourse, communication with each other. We have freedom of speech hence one should practice this art so that it is worth listening. Historicity of our system needs to be looked from a different perspective. It is on us how we design our environment.

Outlar, who had written the foreword for Sunil Sharma’s book, ‘Intersections’, read it out to express his views about poetry.

Suman Ghai, editor, Sahitya Kunj, Hindi Web Magazine, summed up his ideas saying that there are two types of poetry: courtly and anti-establishment. However, anti-establishment poetry should be avoided. Ideally, poetry should be voice of the voiceless.

Dharm Jain said that contemporary poetry or various art forms do not accept limitations of any type. For that reason, poetry may even be termed as anti-poetry, sometimes. In such a scenario, the traditional poetry becomes defunct.

Anurag Sharma expressed that poetry is a tool that ought to evoke feelings of pain/happiness in the readers. Good poetry is that which inspires hope.

Heath said that as we progress technologically, poetry should come from the self.

The discussion was wound up by the concluding remarks of Dharm Jain and Sunil Sharma. Dharm Jain, as the chair, added comments to the ongoing interaction among the poets and made some good observations on the nature of literature and society. He summed up the program well.

Vote of thanks was proposed by Dr. Sangeeta Sharma, organizing secretary of the event.

Overall, it was a very enriching experience for all the participants. They enjoyed all the sessions and the hospitality. The ambience of the venue was pretty good. It was an apt platform for the meeting of the writers of Hindi and English. The program ended with a promise that such event can be planned again in a bigger way with local and outside participation.

Post-event saw mixing up of poets over coffee at the Fairview mall.

Setu team, once again, thanks everybody involved in the proceedings, the logistics, the discerning audience and the staff of the library for making it a big success.

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