“To read a poem is to hear it with out eyes; to hear it is to see it with our ears,” said Mexican poet-writer, Octavio Paz.

Features Tuesday, April 07, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | April 7, 2015 | 7:02 p.m. IST “To read a poem is to hear it with out eyes; to hear it is to see it with our ears,” said Mexican poet-writer, Octavio Paz.  This line exactly espouses one’s feelings when listening to Sharanya Manivannan’s reading of her poem “Gathering” at the Commonwealth Day Observance, UK ’s largest multi-faith service. Attended annually by 2000 people , this Day Observance is held annually at the Westminster Abbey on the second Monday in March. An event traditionally attended by the British royal family it also included speakers like Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi.  A video of the poet reading out her story was posted by the Royal Commonwealth Society on April 2. However, this is only the third time a poet has been specially commissioned to write and perform at the event. Manivannan who was introduced to the royal family along with other performers and readers at the event, said Queen Elizabeth had complimented her on her reading saying that it was beautiful.  Prince Charles told her “you’re brilliant” on knowing that she had written the poem just for the event.  “Although I had never taken much of an interest in the British royal family, it was quite surreal to be interacting up close with them,” she told The News Minute. Watch the reading here: Video of QsuSRRYh30E Ahead of the event, Manivannan was given a broad scope on which she was allowed to base her poem and performance considering that it was being held for a young audience which indicated a need for “general non-offensiveness”. What was her poem based on?  “What does it mean to be a brown woman in the 21st century and be given this honour; how could I address both history’s weight and the future’s possibilities in balance? In my poem, ‘Gathering’, I thus tried to address all of those things: pain, grace, miracles, healing and beauty.” How did it feel performing at a place so full of history? “As a lover of history and beauty, being able to stand on the Sacrarium Steps – the same place at which a thousand years of coronations have taken place – and deliver my words in the grandeur of Westminster Abbey was an unparalleled experience.”  Born in Chennai where she currently resides, Manivannan, who was born in Chennai, grew up in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. For her, poetry writing was something she started as a child at the age of 7. Her first reading was at the age of 16.  Manivannan is also the recipient of the Lavanya Sankaran Fellowship for 2008-09 and the Elle Ficiton Award in 2012. It’s just not poetry that this poet-performer has worked on.  “I’m currently finishing a book of short stories about the tension between love and freedom, and how this affects women who live askance to their societies. I’m also completing a collection of poems about impossible love and loss, through the fulcrum of the mythological figures Sita, Lucifer and Inanna,” she said.
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