Published: 24th January 2018
Poet Rochelle Potkar began an artist residency last year and here's why it was a good idea
Rochelle Potkar, who is a product of a prestigious Iowa programme, wants to nurture artists through a residency of her own
What does an Arts residency programme do for an artist? It stimulates the mind and channelises a tide of creative juices that help the artist reach the land where thoughts turn into sentences and sentences turn into that coveted book. Ask Rochelle Potkar; she has the first-hand experience. Not only has she been a part of Iowa’s prestigious International Writing Program, but she started one of her own in December last year. “I was encouraged so much at Iowa that I thought I could do anything and that is the energy that should be at the epicentre of every residency — that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything,” says Potkar, who will be at the Hyderabad Literary Festival from January 26 to 28.
Potkar holds workshops for Haibu, Haiku and other forms of Japanese poetry writing. She is currently is working on her second book of poems and a book of short stories on Mumbai
The Arcs-of-a-Circle Artists’ Residency Mumbai, Potkar’s very own residency programme, was a ten-day event held for 12 artists and not just for the ones who want to master the written word, but for dancers and painters too. And her reason to delve into this? To elevate art forms from the current level of petty jealousies and unhealthy competition, something that Potkar knows all too well.
The glass ceiling, when it comes to women in poetry, needs to be broken silently, wordlessly and with inaction. Just keep doing your work
Rochelle Potkar, poet
Born to Goan parents and armed with an MBA from La Trobe University, Australia, though she received a lot of appreciation, she also set a few tongues wagging when she bagged the Iowa programme. “‘Who is this MBA who wants to write?’ they would ask,” confesses Potkar, whose first book The Arithmetic of Breasts and Other Stories was shortlisted for The Digital Book of the Year Award 2014 and her poetry is part of the syllabus at St Xaviers, Mumbai. But Potkar wanted to gauge whether the same negativity that she faced, existed, and she, unfortunately, confirmed that it did. “I wanted to break this vicious cycle of negativity. When you remove the gridlock of competition, there is no option but to collaborate and it is from this collaboration that some of the best things come out,” she explains, adding that, “when a poem is interpreted by a dancer, it changes form and lends another perspective — even changing into a different poem.”
It was Potkar’s strong proposal that convinced the US Consulate to fund the residency. Potkar opines that art critics and curators are essential to the culture of art and its growth
And this is the kind of energy that synergised the artists on December 17, the end of the residency programme, with the theme of women empowerment and the support of the US Consulate General, Mumbai. And though Potkar might have to be on the lookout for sponsors for her second edition this year, she’s not very worried. “As a culture builder, I have understood that those art entrepreneurs, who have a soft corner for poetry, are the ones who can build more residencies like these,” she says. And what about those artists who are doubtful of themselves and/or their community? Potkar replies, “I think the age of self-doubt is over. It’s all about self-belief now, after all, we are in a world where we have a Chetan Bhagat and a Rupi Kaur.”