Verse in the Valley: The Unifying Power of Multilingual Poetry Reading Session in Cupertino
- We felt a treasured sense of belonging in the community through an art form that can be quite invisible for its effect on us.
It was a glorious Sunday morning on April 30 with some of us poets gathering for in-person poetry reading at the Cupertino Public Library for the multilingual poetry event organized by the Cupertino Poet Laureate Keiko O’Leary. She described it as an invitation for the unifying power of poetry in different languages. The event featured readers presenting in Hindi, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, and Ukrainian followed by an open mic for attendees to share with the audience their favorite poems.
The audience felt the beauty and tears of Ukrainian poetry even before the translation was read. There is something about listening to poetry in unknown languages that makes an impact on us. The sound of words, the rhythm it is read in, the unbiased access to the emotion as delivered by the reader with their unique personality. I appreciate when translations are offered, to get out of the stranded feeling of not knowing what really happened in something that surely was stirred.
The multilingual theme resonated with us — Poetry of Diaspora in Silicon Valley members because that is what we celebrate during our Saturday night virtual meetings.
Founder Dr. Jyoti Bachani calls it an affirmative art practice space for poetry lovers. I gave voice to my poetry for the first time in this group. It was transformative for my initial awkwardness to be received with great kindness and encouragement. One uniqueness of this group is the impromptu English translations offered with utmost care to the original emotion of a non-English poem and humble apologies for compromising any meaning. It is quite bold and subtle at the same time, what happens here.
The readings that Poetry of Diaspora poets offered at the multilingual event felt very true to the Saturday night poetry circle essence. Dr. Jyoti Bachani, who was a featured poet, read in Hindi from her favorite poet Vinod Kumar Shukla, followed by her own skillful translations that we have come to appreciate greatly over the years. Her love for this poet’s profound poetry is infectious to us listeners.
Sundeep Kohli delivered his masterful Urdu poetry during the open mic and his wife Sujata Tibrewala presented an instantaneous translation of it. She also read a poem in English about her experiences of going through life as a woman, that she wrote especially for the event.
Vishal Vatnani made us smile with his wonderful poem in Hindi about some keen & moving observations of life and people traveling on BART. Lalit Kumar read his favorite Hindi poet — Kunwar Narayan and his own poem ‘Belongings’ from his published book Years Spent: Exploring Poetry in Adventure, Life and Love.
The poetic synergy in the room inspired me to read one of my poems that conveyed how I was feeling within — That Feeling when the mind wanders and rests at the same time. I was happy in the moment that my reading still somehow fit the theme because it was from the Poetry of Diaspora multilingual anthology published in October 2022.
It was a beautiful moment to see the Poet Laureate hold up a copy of Starry Nights — our multilingual anthology for everyone to see. It was precious to realize 6 poets from the book were present right there in person including the editors — Dr. Jyoti Bachani and myself.
I pinch myself for the joy of being part of this experience right here in Cupertino. Poetry connects us beyond our understanding and lends a treasured sense of belonging to the community through an art form that can be quite invisible in its effect on us. The California redwoods that formed the backdrop for the poets at the venue were a soothing and vibrant invitation for us to take a stand with our poetry hearts.
Pragalbha Doshi lives with her family in San Jose, CA. As a yoga teacher certified in therapeutic applications (E – RYT500), she facilitates change for people who struggle with chronic symptoms of stress, physical & emotional, and who want a productive & fulfilling life www.yogasaar.com. She works with the American Heart Association as the visiting stress management expert, teaching classes and webinars on stress relief and well-being. She writes poetry and personal growth articles on her blog Infinite Living.