Poetry in the time of pandemic

Inspired by the Japanese Buddhist philosopher Dr. Daisaku Ikeda’s teachings, SGI-Gulf is holding the annual Poetic Heart event on February 11 and 12 in Dubai, whose theme centres on resilience



by

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Thu 10 Feb 2022, 11:29 PM

Last updated: Fri 11 Feb 2022, 8:21 PM

“The poet’s words can generate harmony and guide humanity towards a peaceful world in which the dignity of life is respected,” says Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, 94, the third President of the Soka Gakkai and the founding president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI). Dr Ikeda, who was born in Tokyo in 1928, is a Buddhist philosopher, peacebuilder, educator, author and poet. In 1947, Ikeda met Josei Toda (1900-58), who was the educator and leader of Soka Gakkai. Ikeda found in Toda a beautiful mind, who could explain profound Buddhist concepts in logical, accessible terms. Toda inspired a young Ikeda to embrace Nichiren Buddhism.

Doctor Daisaku Ikeda
Doctor Daisaku Ikeda

In May 1960, two years after Toda’s death, Dr Ikeda, then 32, succeeded him as the third president of the Soka Gakkai. Under his leadership, the organisation began an era of innovation and expansion, engaging in cultural and educational endeavours worldwide. Dr Ikeda has dedicated himself to fulfilling Toda’s dreams by developing initiatives in realms of peace, culture and education based on Buddhist ideals. In 1975, SGI was established as an association of independent Soka Gakkai organisations around the world, and Dr Ikeda became its president.

Shaikha Al Mutairi
Shaikha Al Mutairi

Over the years, Dr Ikeda’s influence has led to the establishment of the SGI-Gulf, which has been organising the Poetic Heart event in February since 2012. In the inaugural year, the SGI-Gulf, in association with Dubai Knowledge Village and Dubai International Academic City, hosted a gathering of poets across the region for a poetry symposium, titled The Poetic Heart: Connecting Humanity.

SGI Gulf's inhouse chorus group Naseem's performance
SGI Gulf's inhouse chorus group Naseem's performance

The first edition of this event, that aimed at uniting the hearts and minds of all participants through poetry, was held on February 16, 2012. This year marks 11th edition of the event and will be held in Dubai on February 11 and 12.

Anishka Mehra, spokesperson of the SGI-Gulf, says, “It is a gathering of like-minded individuals who champion the spirit of a harmonious and peaceful community through the medium of poetry and music. Each year, a theme is selected with the aim of spreading hope and happiness. Previous events have centred on peace, environment, hope and tolerance. Last year was the first time this event was being held during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the theme was invincible spirit. As the world has ushered in a new year amid a new Covid-19 strain, the upcoming event will focus on the spirit of ‘resilience’ that has kept us moving ahead. The themes are key differentiators year on year while the fundamental structure is the same, where pupils and poets take part.”

Emirati Poet Dr Shihab Ghanem
Emirati Poet Dr Shihab Ghanem

Besides, digital transformation — akin to all walks of life — is in the works as far as the annual event is concerned. “We’re making great strides in developing our digital presence through pre-recorded and professionally directed and edited programmes, enhancing social media participation, expanding school enrolments and trying out to reach out to a global audience. The viewer experience is likely to be a distinguishing factor this year,” she says. Mehra adds that Covid-19 has pushed the boundaries and imagination of the organisers. “We’ve moved from a live, in-person audience event to a hybrid model, where a segment of pupil poets and musicians is pre-recorded in a studio-like setting that will be telecast online. The other segment with veteran poets will be held live on Zoom. We’re determined to encourage the creative community. Our efforts have been ably supported by several school that are keen that the show must go on,” she explains.

Dr. Aysha Al-Busmait
Dr. Aysha Al-Busmait

Suresh Premkumar, the chairperson of the organisation, quotes Dr Ikeda’s saying to illustrate the guiding spirit behind the event: “Poems and songs penned as an unstoppable outpouring of the heart take on a life of their own. They transcend the limits of nationality and time as they pass from person to person, from one heart to another.” The Poetic Heart exemplifies this spirit. “Earlier, we had poetry recitations in Arabic, Italian, Hindi, Japanese, Malayalam, Persian, Bengali and English, transcending nationalities and languages,” he says. “Our most precious segment featuring students of determination has never failed to leave the audience inspired and the encouragement they receive from viewers is heartwarming.”

Dr Akash Keiji Ouchi
Dr Akash Keiji Ouchi

Altogether, 40 student poets from schools across UAE, three differently abled student poets and 11 senior poets reciting in various languages, including Arabic, English, Spanish, Italian, and Hindi, will take part in the two-day event.

joydeep@khaleejtimes.com


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