Sunil Bhandari’s poetry podcast Uncut Poetry, started on February 23rd, 2020, hosted by Podbeam, is available in platforms like Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Gaana, JioSaavan, Sticher, PocketCasts, and many more. The podcast has collaborations with Sayan Mukherji (a musician) and Onkita Banerjee (singer) and Saumyapriya Hajra and Tanuja Bhandari (spoken word artistes). A lot of music of Kevin MacLeod has been used.
1. Why did you choose to start publishing your poetry as podcasts instead of text format?
SB: I have had two books published and they have generally done well. But I have discovered that if you are not an extremely well-known poet, the outreach of poetry books is limited to a maximum of two or three circles of influence. As poets, all of us know that the thing we would like primarily is for our poetry to be discovered, without giving to much credence to the financial aspect of things.
Hence, I turned to podcasts, which I found exciting and interesting. As it is, I have been listening to podcasts of various kinds for quite a few years, much before it became popular in India, and I knew its power. A podcast is a bit like a book where the ability to get your imagination activated far exceeds the one-way messaging which a movie or TV does – there are pictures which are conjured in the mind and the involvement of the listener makes the experience akin to a poet holding the listener’s hands.
I must say, my personal experiment has paid incredible dividends because I am now being heard in almost 50 countries across the world, including Iceland, Bangladesh & Estonia, which you can well imagine, would not have been possible with my books!
I Surrender to the Feeling Again
2. We know that poetry as an essentially auditory aspect, and how it sounds is as important as what it means. In that regard, do you think podcasts project poetry in its basic originary form?
SB: It is my firm view that there are two kinds of poetry. One which needs to be read silently and savoured. The second kind is one which gives joy in being heard, both because of its cadences as also because it gives the ear and mind an experience which is very different from that of merely reading the poem.
To that extent, I am careful about the poems I choose for my podcasts and avoid choosing those which are deep in their symbolism or complex in their metaphors, because their meaning would elude the listener completely, because listening again and again is a less common thing than reading again and again.
On Breaking Up (Without Breaking)
3. What do you think is the future of podcasts in general and poetry podcast in particular in a fast-developing world?
SB: We must all realize that podcasts are one of the fastest means of communication at present. There are already upwards of 8,00,000 podcasts in existence, with almost 30 million episodes. There is a huge amount of listenership which is already developing for podcast, simply because of the range of topics which are available, as also because it is something which can be consumed whilst on the move. In India, the number of listeners is growing at the rate of 50-60%, and that’s incredibly exciting. No creative person, I feel, should ignore this medium, particularly because the entry level is so relatively uncomplicated and inexpensive.
Coming to poetry podcasts, there are some wonderful podcasts already available which I completely adore. One of my favourite podcasts is ‘Poetry Unbound’, which is brought out by the On Being Team and held together by Pádraig Ó Tuama, an Irish poet. The other is ‘Poetry Darbar’, curated by Namita Gokhale, where Indian poets read their poems and then talk about them. But then there are so many podcasts of poetry available.
But there is a big niche which is there – that of original poetry being read by the poet himself/herself. Amongst the good ones I can think of is Megha Rao’s ‘Poems to calm down to’, and of course my own ‘Uncut Poetry’!
I think this is a golden period for podcasts and I keep urging everyone I meet to start their own podcast, because it is an experience which is both enriching for the poet and rewarding for the listener.