Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oral odyssey

Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty strikes up a conversation with H. Masud Taj, an oral poet, a rare breed in a scenario where anything literary means the printed word

Ottawa-based H. Masud Taj is certainly an experience if you can catch him reciting his poems, one couplet tailing the other, like dominoes falling to high winds. The words spoken have the power to drape you in implicit joy and you are easily immersed in his mood, wide-eyed. You hate to impede him, knit in a query only to ensure that he continues. As he recites the lines, his soft, silken voice rides a knoll at times, reacting to the string of words mouthed. And the effect is simply marvellous.

At a New Delhi hotel, striking up a conversation with this oral poet, you throw the obvious question at him at the first opportunity — so who is an oral poet? What makes him different from a regular poet? “An oral poet is one who recites his verses and may not publish them. They believe that a poem primarily belongs to the sound and sense,” he replies. Living in an age when anything literary means the printed word, you have long forgotten that the first works of literature were oral. “Beowulf”, “Odyssey”…all were first recited before alphabets took over.

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