Poetry and visual arts came together in a rare meeting, drawing on synergy from each other to compound their magic at the Jehangir Nicholson Gallery.
Using the backdrop of artiste Mohan Samant’s work which is currently on display at the gallery, six well-known poets — Adil Jussawalla, Jerry Pinto, Arundhati Subramaniam, Ranjit Hoskote Mustansir Dalvi and Gieve Patel read out works inspired by visual arts.
Adil Jussawalla set the tone for the venting with his choice of works by Derek Walcott (Nobel Prize for Literature recipient 1992), Bibhu Padi and Eunice de Souza.
One of the most influential voices in Indian writing in English, Jussawalla told dna, “Poetry is after all creating visuals with words.” He mentioned how Samant the painter also loved playing the sarangi. “He felt that the sarangi improved his discipline, cleared his mind and sharpened the focus on his painting.”
Poet, playwright, painter and doctor Gieve Patel, who had his first show in 1966 and has been putting up shows across India and the world since then, read out the poem ‘A letter home’ by Ruth Padel. He endearingly detailed his painting — of a labourer from Andhra Pradesh sitting by the street dictating a letter to a scribe to send back home — inspired by the poem.
Arundhati Subramaniam brought the lilting grace of her training in classical dance to the works she presented to an audience which seemed to be eating off her hands. She began her reading with ‘The Starry Night’ by Anne Sexton which is inspired by the equally, if not more brilliant, Vincent van Gogh’s namesake painting. This was followed by Polish poet Wisława Szymborska’s poem ‘Vermeer’ inspired by Dutch painter Johan Vermeer, ‘Three for Mona Lisa’ by John Stone and her own work ‘Recycled’.
While Ranjit Hoskote who read his own works admitted to feeling provoked by the visual arts to write, Mustansir Dalvi seemed to echo his feelings.
The last person to read was poet, writer and teacher Jerry Pinto, whom compere Kamini Saldanha called “the L’enfant terrible of Mumbai’s literary world”. He read Matthew Brown, William Carlos William, Shelly and an anonymous Sumarian poet. “No one can read William Carlos William like him because he was a Jesuit,” Pinto told the audience, tongue firmly in cheek, leaving them in splits with his signature humour.