World Poetry Day: Poems Are A Reminder Against Erasure

'Resurrection in today’s post-truth world is how and what we remember. The poem is a reminder. It immortalizes the act of witnessing it as we did in various ways'.


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Poems live many lives. One is on paper, in its physical form. In verse and metre and rhyme and iamb. The second is in the mind, in its abstract form. In emotion and creation and memory and feeling. The third is in history, in the form of record. As songs, as grief, as protest, as remembrance.

World Poetry Day is being celebrated on 21 March since 1999 after UNESCO declared it a day of importance with the purported aim to support “linguistic diversity through poetic expression and increasing the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard”.

India has a rich oeuvre of poetic and literary tradition but much of it remains lost in translation. At Outlook, we try to provide a platform to poets and their works since poetry survives all forms of erasure.


In the aftermath of good news or tragedy, a poem is written. In fact, several were written. These poems are personal and political and “will survive all attempts at erasure”. As Outlook Editor Chinki Sinha writes, “Resurrection in today’s post-truth world is how and what we remember. The poem is a reminder. It immortalizes the act of witnessing it as we did in various ways”.

With a translated Indian book, ‘Tomb of Sand’ (Reth Samadhi) by Geetanjali Shree winning the prestigious Booker Prize for literature last year, Indian indigenous literature seems to be in the spotlight. In the ‘Reflections’ issue on literary translations, Outlook looked at the bitter-sweet experience in the world of literary translations in which S Anand wrote about how in the global Anglophone market, only the novel and big non-fiction travel and even the best Indian poetry languishes. Anand made a pitch to “return to poetry”.


A year after Hathras gang rape and murder, Outlook revisited feminist poet Meena Kandasami’s poem ‘It will happen again’ which remains a prescient reminder of the violent world of inequalities and injustice that women, especially women from minority communities, live with every day.

We looked at the importance of language and poetry in resistance and protest by analysing the identity politics of “Miya poetry” by persecuted Bengali Muslims in Assam. We also tried to revisit the multiculturalism of Indian literature through Urdu poems extolling Shiva and other Hindu deities. At a time when Urdu is sidelined as a "Muslim" language, the piece looked at the universal nature of Urdu poetic traditions.

We also looked at violence and its aftermath through the lens of poetry. Padmashri-winning Nagaland poet, the late Temsula Ao’s moving poems shed light on the cyclical repression and violence that shapes Naga political and personal identity.

Ukrainian poet Iya Kiva’s words paint the terrible picture of war and destruction that her country has endured since the Russian invasion a year ago.

On World Poetry Day, Outlook is revisiting some of the best pieces of poetry that we published in the past in yet another attempt to preserve poetry not only from erasure but also from obsolescence.