Thursday April 18, 2024

National Poem Project Pakistan winners to be invited to Kennedy Centre to recite their poems

By Bilal Ahmed
February 17, 2024

Submissions have begun for the National Poem Project Pakistan that will culminate in November with the announcement of the Pakistan’s first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate titles for both Urdu and English poets. The winners will then be invited by the United States government to the John F.

Kennedy Memorial Center can be seen in this image. — AFP/File
Kennedy Memorial Center can be seen in this image. — AFP/File

Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, where they will publicly recite their poems.

American poet Michael Cirelli, who founded the youth poet laureate programme in the US to give provide a platform to young poets to showcase their talents, informed The News on Friday morning about the project to extend the youth poet laureate programme to Pakistan.

Cirelli and his wife Dr Sara Zaidi, who was born in Taxila and shares her husband’s passion for poetry, have arrived in Pakistan to spread the word about their project aimed at giving an opportunity to young poets of the country to show their talents and reach out to a wider audience.

The American poet will also be participating in the Karachi Literature Festival that is under way in two sessions scheduled for today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday). In today’s session that will start at 6pm, Cirelli will talk about the National Poem Project Pakistan and invite young poets to recite their poetry. Tomorrow, he will be reciting poetry in a session moderated by Maniza Naqvi.

Young poets aspiring to get the title of Pakistani Youth Poet Laureate can find the link on the website to submit their one to two best poems. The last date of submission is March 31.

After the submissions, a team of Pakistani experts will shortlist 20 poets of each Urdu and English languages. In the following months, the shortlisted candidates will be mentored by the experts through training sessions and workshops so that they could further polish their craft. After the final submissions, the jury would decide the best among them for both Urdu and English languages and the two winners would be invited to the US.

Speaking of the success of the poet laureate programme in the US, Cirelli said many a young poet had become celebrities as a result of the programme that he initiated under the platform of Urban Word, which is an organisation dedicated to literary arts.

He said the first National Youth Poet Laureate of the US, Amanda Gorman, was invited to the oath-taking ceremony of US President Joe Biden where she publicly recited her poem.

Cirelli said poetry had gained a surge in the US and was a popular art form compared to the recent past when it had shrunk to the domain of academia. He said events called poetry slams were regularly held across the US which were the equivalent of Mushaira. In the poetry slam events, however, he explained, a random jury would announce a winner by marking all the poems recited there.

After Karachi, the couple have planned to visit Lahore and Islamabad to create more buzz about the youth laureate project.

Cirelli explained that young poets could submit their poems in any genre. For example, those writing in Urdu could submit a Ghazal or a Nazm, he explained.

Pakistan is the first country outside the US where the Urban Word has announced the launch of the youth poet laureate programme. In an earlier talk in August last year, Cirelli had said one of the reasons for them to choose Pakistan for the extension of their project was the fact that his wife hailed from the country and they could easily make connections here and find relevant experts who could help them.

After Pakistan, the Urban Word has planned to launch the youth poet laureate programme in India from the city of Kolkata. They have also identified Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago as other prospect countries where they may extend the programme.

At the end of the talk, Cirelli said he had attempted to write a Ghazal in English. He was kind enough to provide a copy of it to The News. Here are the first few couplets of it in which the poet has praised the poetic tradition of Pakistan:

Here the poems have filled the air for thousands of years/ O Pakistan, there is so much muscle in your ghazal

Where I’m from, the history of verse is relatively terse/ Surely I have trouble with the ghazal The letters I work with, hard on the surface, they don’t do this effort service/ It’s so difficult for me to be subtle with this ghazal