Culture & Society

Finding Poems And Verses That Could Serve As Evidence: Our Testimonies

Through 100 pages of 'Poetry as Evidence', Outlook presents a selection of poems and verses that have moved us, and we feel these serve as evidence of our bleak times and lives. Below are testimonies from our team.

Finding Poems And Verses That Could Serve As Evidence: Our Testimonies
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Left right left,
Up down up,
And change.
No I am not marching on a ground,
But making the magazine

It takes too many no-es
Too many yes-es
Too many ‘not working moments’
To design pages

This time it’s different
No stories, no essays, no reviews
But poems
I have been reading poems past couple of days
And see I ended up writing a poem

Just waiting to see the results
And I hope you will enjoy reading it too.

—Leela Sinha, Chief Designer

Looking for poetry that can be presented as evidence, as news, and as passage of time was a process that shattered the idea that poems are the opposite of journalism. In a time when television channels produce more noise and less news, these poems screamed louder than those TV anchors. They had fewer words, but conveyed more than any newspaper ever could. The poems were made of small, mundane details that might go unnoticed. But what might seem mundane is indeed a piece of evidence of everyday discrimination that has become so commonplace today.

—Anisha Reddy, Sub-Editor

As I worked in Jharkhand for years and spent time with different Adivasi communities, I found that their history is not the ‘history of the archives’. Nor is it documented in books and journals. For them, history lies in the words written on the stones—in the scribbles that never got published, in the memories that travelled through generations. Poems give them the space to reclaim their identities and histories—either through metaphors and metonyms, or through the unfazed depiction of their realities.  When I heard Adivasi poet Sunil Gaikwad reciting the vibrant verses that talk about reclaiming Jal, Jungle, Jameen, I understood the strength of poems as evidence. Reading Rōzumarī Samsāra showed me the gaps in our understanding of history—the history of hate. Adivasi publisher Pyara Karketta Foundation helped me realise the significance of diverse voice(s). Poems are not only cultural expressions; they are an exploration of an undocumented history—the abandoned memories.

—Abhik Bhattacharya, Assistant Editor

Poetry is scary; its distilled words,
Its thoughts sharp, piercing, crystal clear
Opening old wounds, those old cuts of swords,
Memories buried deep, of times far and near.
It can make days seem like a ‘tedious argument’
And night wallow in anguished torment.
Besides, this iambic of AbAbccddEffEgg
Shadowing like a gumshoe after a bad egg
From Russia to the Golden Gate.
There is comfort in prose
Yes, yes, clunky, dull, verbose,
But novels make a familiar mate
To cosy up with a Marquez, an Austen, a Hemingway
Is the best remedy to keep the winter blues away.

Satish Padmanabhan, Managing Editor

Facts can be altered to fit the version of the truth best suited to those in power. So maybe, we rely on poets. We rely on artists. Perhaps even more so, on the ones who were silenced.  In this issue of Outlook, which looks at poetry as evidence, I naturally gravitated toward poems that the State or certain sections of people do not want readers to engage with. Poems that were written as protest, a cry against oppression, or as a call for help. Poems that were written to preserve the reality of existence which official data may often forego. Just like epic poems written by unknown authors millennia ago can be the basis for millions of people’s belief in God, poetry in our time is a chronicle of feelings and underpinnings that differentiate fact from truth.

—Rakhi Bose, Assistant Editor

This issue is a refreshing take on storytelling and the people living those stories. Not just an expression of witnesses, but a clash between experiences and one’s emotions, turning readers themselves into witnesses of its product—the poems.

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—Chaitanya Rukumpur, Illustrator

According to avant-garde Russian writer Daniil Kharms, ‘‘Poetry should be written so that if you throw a poem at the window, the glass will shatter.’’ If the glass shatters, leaving shards behind, the poem lives and breathes, the poem draws blood, the poem bears witness, the poem is evidence. Poetry is power, not information. Poetry dares to say the words the world would rather silence. The poems in this issue speak of labour and love, lostness and belonging, hope and horror, justice and its absence. They revealed a million new constellations to me, making me rethink the world, rethink my place in it.

—Vineetha Mokkil, Assistant Editor

Asking poets for their poetry for publication appeared straightforward. But I realised that in the context of Kashmir, poets might show reluctance. I consulted an academic well-versed in poets, and Kashmir and its ever-shifting landscapes, both political and poetical. He suggested several names, but many ignored my requests gracefully. “Times have changed,” a poet said, calling himself “the erstwhile poet of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.” Indeed, Kashmir has changed, so the only poem making waves lately is a sarcastic take on the power crisis in the region.

—Naseer Ganai, Senior Special Correspondent

Poetry impacts me more than any other form of writing. Poems take me to imaginary places, make me ponder about my connection to land, language and culture, to my ancestors and the lives they must have lived. Poems make me reflect on the present, and hold a mirror to my biases. They tell me about the struggles of fellow humans fighting for their identity, land and way of life. More importantly, their truth.  Outlook’s poetry issue, which takes forward from the magazine’s Palestine issue, is a great example of how important it is to tell stories in people’s own voices. Working on this issue made me think harder about the question: when we write news articles, are we really telling the truth of the people we write about or just our own reflection of them?

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—Romana Manpreet, Creative Head

In times when words have been shorn off of their meanings, poems float in the air in defiance. They refuse to bow down to diktats and verdicts, or to be cowed down by potential mobs. Bringing out a magazine in poetry is an exercise in reversing the growing meaninglessness of words. To return them to their utterers, as ways of expression and existence. It felt good to reach out and try and bring together this cobweb of meanings, which attempts to trap time, even as we watch it slipping by.

—Iqbal Abhimanyu, News Coordinator

I loved the concept of “poetry as evidence”. I enjoyed reading and understanding the poems, selecting images, and designing the layouts. For ages, poems have been used as a medium to express some of life’s most painful moments. They provide a new perspective to lived experiences. The poems in this issue from across India express hope, agony, anger and memories, and also touch upon the evils of the caste system, the rigours of poverty, etc. This issue has touched my heart and made me more sensitive and responsible towards society.

—Champak Bhattacharjee, Deputy Art Director

As I was working on this special issue of Outlook on poetry, I discovered innumerable aspects about poems. But I will focus on poems as a timekeeper. In the best of times, time moves in its mystical ways. Time records everything for posterity, it cautions us about present actions, and provides proof for others to respond. Likewise, poems provide a clue, a hint, and a gut feeling to take the next action. Our actions are dictated by past times or by the clock of the present or by the foresight of the future. Time is the wisest counsellor of all, as Pericles said.

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—S S Jeevan, Senior Associate Editor

Poetry is the art of saying everything in a few sentences. It holds the power to express one’s emotions. Poetry builds the imagination when we are children and as adults, it shows us the power of resistance and the deep meaning of words. Outlook’s take in this issue is to make people see different emotions through the world of poems and understand the magic in it.

—Amrutha Achu, Coordinator

Poems are uniquely positioned to express emotions that may be confusing, overwhelming, shameful, or contemplative, or to express exhilaration, contentment, or affection. Precise, condensed and layered, poetry is open to interpretation. Poems also allow you to slip back and forth in time. Is it possible to understand the passage of time through poetry? Yes. A hypothetical poem on the Shiuli plant in my courtyard is an example. The flowers bloom at night and shed by the dawn. The fragrance is intoxicating. And then the long wait until next October. The plant may survive or perish. It prompts a range of emotions. The poems published in this issue had a similar effect on me.

—Swati Subhedar, Assistant Editor

Poems capture the narrative of their time, but often transcend boundaries and relate to contemporary times. Working on this issue of the magazine made me realise that poetry can serve as evidence in journalism, giving voice to underrepresented communities and shedding light on their struggles. Exploring different types of poems highlighted the importance of human emotions and the profound value of literature.

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—Md Asghar Khan, Senior Correspondent

In a world fraught with conflict, poetry can serve as a beautiful refuge from stark realities. But some poems that are profoundly political drag us again and again into the heart of the fire. ‘Gandhi and Poetry’ by K Satchidanandan, featured in this issue, is one such poem. It eloquently states that poetry cannot save us from the relentless storms of contemporary politics.

—Shahina K K, Senior Editor

I have always loved poetry but choosing a poem that resonated with an emotion within me was different. After reading many poems, lines from Amol Redij’s ‘Mill Man’s Magic’ kept playing in my head. Having seen the now defunct mills and the urban development there, the poem transported me to the days of their glory. I deep-dived into the era when mill workers weaved magic and were an important part of Bombay’s daily life. Reading and re-reading the poem gave me a new understanding.

—Haima Deshpande, Consulting Editor

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