• Rochelle Dsilva

My Poetic Journey

The first time I wrote a poem, I was five years old. It was a silly scribble of four lines about hills, that neither rhymed nor made much sense, to be honest. Yet, that is where my tryst with poetry began. The journey since then has been eventful, to say the least. Through school, I wrote constantly, filling up notebook margins and back pages with odd verses during class.

Eventually, I began to use poems as an outlet for my pent-up emotions – I wrote every time I was angry, confused, or hurt. Tackling feelings through the written word felt like the most natural way to deal with them. Somewhere midway through college, I stumbled upon Sarah Kay. Until then, I hadn’t even considered the spoken form. I was hooked! Soon, I began to attend open mics in Chennai. Meeting performers and discussing poetry with them inspired me to learn more about it. From writing it for catharsis, I slowly began to appreciate poetry as an art form. I sought out written and spoken word poems online, often spending hours on Poetry Foundation and YouTube.

The more I consumed poetry, the more my writing style evolved. I began incorporating imagery and metaphor, borrowing ideas from my favourite poets. I wanted to transcend from emoting to creating. In the time since, I have like to believe I have developed my own distinct voice, that a piece of me always exists in my poems.

The Poetry Retreat

While attending a poetry performance in Mumbai, I met Rochelle Dsilva. I had almost decided against going that night, but in the last moment, I went anyway. I am so grateful for that decision, because if not for that encounter, I would never have heard of a writers’ retreat especially for poets.

You see, one thing I regret in life is not studying literature (poetry) in college. I have often fantasized about going some place where I can discuss writing with other people who revere it as much as I do. The Poetry Retreat simulated that experience for me, albeit for a short while.

Spending five days in the company of poets was a pivotal event that altered my relationship with poetry. Until then, I could only write when I felt like it. At the retreat, sessions and prompts forced me to push beyond my comfort zone to create when the moment demanded it of me. I drew inspiration from the beautiful space at Saraya, from the poems our mentors read out to us, from conversations at the retreat with other fellow poets and from their work itself.

In between sessions, we discussed our favourite poets and spoke to each other in verse. We critiqued and complimented each other’s writings, and even read poems at mealtimes. In short, the retreat was nothing short of a dream to me.

One of the most important skills I picked up was learning to edit my own pieces. Before then, my first draft was often my last. I was too attached to my original creation to alter it. Through the course of the sessions, I learnt to disengage from my poem emotionally and instead, appreciate it for its independent existence. That helped me put out my best work.

With the help of my mentors, I wrote and edited three poems that eventually made it to the shortlist of the 11th Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize. For that, I will be eternally grateful. It made me believe that my poetry could be more than a hobby.

(Aashika Suresh is a sunlight seeker, coffee lover, poetry aficionado, and a perpetual paradox. When she's not looking for the meaning of life, you can find her trying to write a story with her unicorn pen or sheepishly stuffing her face with chips.)

#thepoetryretreat #poetryresidency #poetry #writingresidency #goa

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  • Rochelle Dsilva

The reason behind creating this one-of-a-kind poetry residency.

A group photo of the poets who attended The Poetry Retreat along with a few of the mentors.
Poets from the first Poetry Retreat in Jul//Aug 2019

I started performing poetry way back in 2011. At that time, I was so hungry for perfection, the art form was new and I wanted to learn everything so I could write the best poems. I attended every workshop, every open mic and did everything I could to be immersed in the art form. It wasn't until a few years later that I started to discover my voice and my own unique way of telling stories. I have amassed a number of mentors and learn so much from each and every one.

Looking for opportunities to grow as an artist:

I had always dreamed of being a published poet, spoken word happened to me quite by accident, but after six years as a spoken word artist I had the opportunity to publish my solo collection of poems. Now I was truly coming to understand the difference between writing for the page and writing for performance. This is a distinction that still takes a lot of fine-tuning and unlearning. Through the years I have looked for opportunities to publish and perform my work but also for workshops where I can learn more and test new thought patterns. I have been a part of a few wonderful writing residencies and opportunities to engage with other poets and writers both in Australia and India. But what I found missing in India was a residency solely for poets that would equip you for anything poetry-related.

From seed to fruition:

It was a germ of an idea born about three years ago. I wanted to create something holistic for poets. A workshop or curriculum or residency that would guide, mentor, train and allow poets to look at poetry as a skill and not just a hobby or a side gig. And finally in 2019 I felt brave enough to put this residency out into the world and see if it would work, and boy did it surprise me! I could not have asked for a better group of poets and mentors to have started this journey with. The first edition of The Poetry Retreat was both a question and an answer and a reason to continue.

*The residency takes place twice a year in Goa. There are only 8 applicants accepted from all over India. It is a 5-day residential, immersive, poetry boot camp of sorts.

#thepoetryretreat #poetryresidency #writingresidency #goa #resourcesforpoets

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