Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL), the SAARC APEX BODY, is the only organisation in eight SAARC countries authorized to organise literature-related and culture-related programmes under the SAARC banner and SAARC logo.

It is therefore FOSWAL’s duty to make the young aspiring poets heard, and their talent chiselled, by providing them platform to express themselves, and exchange their vision and concerns with their contemporaries from their neighbouring SAARC countries.

Unfortunately, space for poetry is shrinking with the onslaught of globalisation, and there are hardly any poetry gatherings where poets can read their poems to their contemporaries.

FOSWAL therefore organized a SAARC POETRY FESTIVAL OF YOUNG POETS in four cities : Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack, Puri & Konarak, on February 22, 23, 24, 25, 2008.

The first-ever such event was organized in the state of Orissa, with moral support from the Chairperson of BISWA and the Ravenshaw University in Cuttack. Sixty seven young poets from all over the SAARC countries took part in the event and presented their poems. There were 20 poets from neighbouring SAARC countries : Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan and Maldives; 21 poets from different states of India, representing different languages, and 23 poets from Orissa.

The Ford Foundation partially supported this endeavour to emphasize the cultural importance of the Festival and of the region, and as always, the eminent painter Arpana Caur contributed generously to this Festival.

Since Orissa has traditionally been the gateway for Cultural exchange between the North and the South of India, and between India and South Asia, FOSWAL felt that this was the most appropriate place for hosting this important event of SAARC.

Orissa has had a long and lasting tradition of Poetry and Culture. We got immense support of the media and the senior litterateurs of the state.

The most unexpected and pleasant help came from the Governor of Orissa, His Excellency Mr. M.C. Bhandare, an old and personal friend of Ajeet Cour, and an ardent admirer of FOSWAL’s cultural activities, and of the unique, multi-dimensional Cultural Centre, Academy of Fine Arts and Literature.

The poets from across the eight countries of the SAARC region voiced their concerns about the current social, political, ethnic conditions in their countries. Their collective voice will help create a sensitive and compassionate atmosphere of understanding each other’s problems, and creating a congenial atmosphere of friendship, peace and tranquility.

SAARC POETRY FESTIVAL OF YOUNG POETS was not only a significant milestone for India, considering the pivotal role it had at that point of time, as Chair of SAARC but also helped to strengthen the process of cultural connectivity in these times of terror when there is an imperative for recognition of cultural identities : ethnic, religious, linguistic and racial. Cultural connectivity through sharing of creative ideas becomes an urgent necessity and a vibrant reality, involving the creative fraternity of the SAARC Region.

This Festival also helped to underscore the importance of regional languages in all the SAARC countries, because regional languages carry forward the best of our cultural ethos.

In this era of globalization, when communities and countries are feeling that their local cultures are being swept away, it is profoundly essential that cultural connectivity is strengthened and reinforced by initiatives of civil society on regional level, presented, projected and promoted in the regional languages of the SAARC countries.

It is therefore in consonance with the contemporary stature of SAARC, that theSAARC POETRY FESTIVAL OF YOUNG POETS was organized on a mega scaleby FOSWAL in Orissa. In four different cities of Orissa.

This POETRY FESTIVAL, the first of its kind in South Asia, was a unique forum for providing a platform to share, exchange and present the multi-faceted dimensions of sensitivity of young poets; and know what the new generation of poets is thinking and feeling, what their sensitivies are, how much they understand the problems of their neighbours with compassion, opening up their minds and hearts to their neighbours with compassionate and sensitive understanding.

Ajeet Cour welcoming the Governor of Orissa Excellency Mr. M.C. Bhandare, with a ceremonial shawl, before he Inaugurated the Young Poets’ Festival in Bhubaneshwar

Dance Performance on the Inaugural Day

Mr. Shakrullah Fassehi and Mr. Ahmad Ali Shafaq, Afghanistan

Mr. Alfred Khokon Bangladesh

Mr. Imojit Ningombam Manipur, India

Mr. Saleem Pasha Pakistan

Issath Rehana Mohamed Azeem ‘Anar’ Sri Lanka

Mr. Manjunatha V.M. India

H.E. Mr. M.C. Bhandare, the Governor of Orissa, lighting the Inaugural lamp. Ajeet Cour is standing with him.

A view of the eminent pa