Do you think poetry today is different from the time of Tagore and Kazi Nazrul?
I do feel the role and weight of poetry has shifted significantly since then. The two poets mentioned were part of very different but immensely rich, poetic epochs where the craft was constantly challenged and explored, and that allowed the two to resonate en masse in their respective periods. However, I feel poetry does not possess the same force in Bangladesh now, due to the way it was, and is, currently taught in classrooms. Memorising and regurgitating words verbatim seems to have built a general apathy towards the genre over the years, but the form is too intrinsic to our cultural inheritance to lay dormant much longer.
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Shehzar Doja COURTESY
What would you say to young poets in Bangladesh today who write in either Bangla or English (or both!)?
There is no better advice I can give that maybe more useful than simply: Read and write constantly. Poetry is not contained through only the rhymes, metres and other forms we are brought up to believe is on some pedestal. It is such a rich and varied genre that is constantly evolving. I would also humbly encourage you to explore contemporary poets, in whatever language you write.
What can poetry communicate that other forms of writing or performance cannot?
Sayeeda T Ahmad:
Poetry is a complete thought, message, story, or idea packed into the fewest words possible. It can be anything – punchy, playful or serious – and incorporates wordplay, sound play, rhythm, rhyme and images to convey all five senses to readers. Poetry is also unlimited in using space, size, and shape on the page. Performance poetry is a slightly different animal in that the writer uses as many words as needed to get the message across, alongside using his or her voice.
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Sayeeda T Ahmad COURTESY
As a poet, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about climate change?
Sayeeda T Ahmad:
I would use the power of performance poetry to get the message across that climate change is very real. At the moment, ordinary people don’t understand the threats posed to the environment because they can’t relate to the science that is thrown around. This is where poetry comes in because simple words can be used to translate these momentous shifts into images, ideas and emotions that a person can see, touch, hear, feel, and taste.