Tag Archives: poetry

Quick bites with Ashwani kumar

Ashwani Kumar is an Indian English poet, author and Professor of Development Studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai). His books include Banaras and the Other (Poetrywala; Mumbai), first of a trilogy on religious cities in India; My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter (Yeti Books; Calicut) and Community Warriors (Anthem Press; London) among others. His poems, reviews and columns are widely published. He is also one of the chief editors of London School of Economics’ prestigious publication ‘Global Civil Society’. He has been visiting fellow to leading universities around the world. Presently, he is a Senior Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research.

  1. Can you say something about what made you write your first poem?

“I was wounded early,/and early I learned/ that wounds made me” (Adonis). Don’t remember exactly what made me write the first poem; probably when I loosened the promontory childhood memories and experienced the furious lashing of adult fantasies of vernacular language in the palai(desert) in my backyard.

  1. What does poetry mean to you? What do you feel when writing poetry?

Poetry is like ‘skies with burning funnels’, and poets swim in the thick maelstroms ‘under the terrible eyes of prison ships’ as the French poet Arthur Rimbaud said. I am neither a formal student of literature nor a workshop trained poet.  So personally speaking, I feel like burning in the fire of my own ashes when I am writing poetry.

  1. Do you think poetry speaks to all kinds of people in all walks of life? How do you think we can take poetry out its confined literary circle?

Poetry is not an opaque mystical thing that only so-called Godmen, spiritual healers or over educated  literati  can experience.  It speaks to all. Remember what saint-poet Basavanna said “The rich/will make temples for Siva. /What shall I, /a poor man, /do? /My legs are pillars,/the body the shrine,/the head a cupola/of gold.  In other words, only poetry can heal the wounds caused by Varna divide and quotidian injustices. Thus, poetry needs to be liberated from a culturally impoverished elite minority and neo-middle classes. And we need to create more inclusive mythic and mimetic poetic spaces with million tongues gossiping and quarrelling about the poetry. I am happy that poetry with Prakriti is one such instance.

  1. When do you write poetry? Is there a specific time in a day? What makes you write a poem?

When I am listening my imaginary Granny Maria’s favourite song ‘Picotante, paralysante…picotante, paralysante’ or when I am between my trips to the farmer’s market and making litti-chokha for my neighbours in Bavaria.  But let me tell you the truth, I often fantasize about not writing anything.

  1. What do you think of this new wave of insta poetry of today? Would you treat it as poetry too?

New poetic traditions evolve, and old traditions acquire new indexical and symbolic forms. So wont be surprised if Insta poetry becomes   triumphant messenger in the hubbub of La La land of baby-faced millennials.  In short, Insta poetry is a liquid poetic body without permanent organs.  Guard it from the narcissistic, guilt-ridden trolls and bots!

  1. Where do you want to take your work in d future in terms of poetry?

Presently planning to complete the Banaras trilogy. Hope, my poetry in future remains unvanquished satyagraha against the growing power of ‘lies and more lies’!

Thanks Prakriti foundation for organizing such wonderful event.

Thank you Haris, Gopi, Smita Anand for the pictures.

 

Of style and sensuousness: A Ten Minutes Interview with Navkirat Sodhi

A picture of punk rock elegance, she takes her seat amongst the poets with an unassuming nature and a simple smile on her face. But once she picks up her poetry and breathes life into them, both Navkirat Sodhi and her words thrill you with their secretive allure and surprising depth. Having published two collections of poetry, Ms. Sodhi brings her sarcastic wit and seductive allusions all the way from Delhi.

Having studied English literature and journalism, she was well on her way to becoming a broadcast journalist and even worked with BBC; but a gnawing feeling prompted her to quit her job and take up writing. A sabbatical of a few months created a deep hollow in herself which could only be filled with words that she had refrained from writing all those years. It was not a conscious choice to become a writer or write poetry she says but rather a natural result of the ebb of words within her. Before her move to Delhi, she scribbled the words in her head, and poetry was born.

“Every moment up till then built up to it. Every moment lived, everything experienced”. She was very conscious of not mass producing poetry, grand in quantity but insipid in quality and chose instead to streamline those stark lines that sting and sear as she recites them. Her work is not free from influence but it is free from imitation. She steps away from the people that inspire her and writes in a way that’s unique to her relationship with the language. Dostoevsky and Murakami impact her work but it is only in a subtle and psychological way.

Most of her poetry takes a very short form with most poems only a few lines long. Much like herself, her work does not speak profusely but it does so effectively. “Love was my full time job” she says and she is proud of how much she knows about the subject. Be it a romantic emotion or love towards a particular thing, it is easy to see how through the verses that she often slices short, the emotion lingers on, much like love itself. In her short poem, “Act III”, she talks about the lukewarm decline of a relationship and does so powerfully in less than 30 words. Invoking love, memory and the unlearning of emotion, the poem serves as a modern ode to descending love.

Apart from poetry, Ms. Sodhi also dabbles in art. A self-taught painter, she has been painting for a year and a half and hopes to present her paintings next year. Most of her artwork ties into her poetry and represents the abstract through figures instead of words. Fashion is also a huge part of her personality. She talks of how unlike most poets that walk around with the air of “the artist on the fringe” with their khadi clothes and “jhola pai”, she is very conscious of what she wears and how she presents herself. Thanks to her best friend Gaurav, a leading designer in the country, fashion and design have become an important part of her life. Navkirat Sodhi is not merely the words she bleeds on to the page but also the impression she creates as she walks into the room and it is quite clear, that both will linger on.

Thanks Prakriti Foundation for organizing such wonderful poetry festival in Chennai  .

Thanks Sandhya Kannan and Haris Manian for an amazing article.  All pictures are taken by our team member Hasan Mohammed

All images are copy right protected to Prakriti foundation and Madras Photo bloggers