1. Share about the day when you wrote for the first time.
When I was about seven years old, to keep us occupied my mother gave us a topic, “Chess”, to write a poem upon in Bengali . My big brother and I competed with each other in our mother tongue Bengali, at mommy’s insistence, and wrote a fairly adequate crude ten or twelve liner, where I recall lying shamelessly to make it rhyme. I still recall the first two lines:
Khelte aamar baba / Bhalobashen daba
(To play, my father / Loves a game of chess)
When he never actually played. I was only seven and the whole family had a good laugh and made much of me.
2. Who was your first mentor in writing?
It was without a doubt my mother, who from earliest age read out poems, taught us to recite and sang songs and Sanskrit chants to us. She was the person we showed all our creative work to. In my sixth grade an English teacher who was a neighbour, read a poem, I had submitted to the local Ladies club magazine, and came over to tell my father I had potential. She was a mentor too, because she instilled belief in myself.
3. Do you see a trend away from print publishing and toward online distribution of poetry and literary fiction? What would be the pros and cons of such a shift, for writers and publishers?
Yes. Definitely. Hard cover editions are prestigious no doubt, and there’s still an old school of thought that insists unless you are published on paper, you are not a bonafide author. But this perception is rapidly fading as both authors, editors and publishers realize the power and ubiquitous presence of the internet, its ability to reach the masses and trickle down to the lowest common denominator.
Pros of course include instant recognition and fame. Easy accessibility to a wide and varied readership, and an ease of printing process through self-publication, using various softwares or through Kindle Direct Publishing. Anyone with talent and motivation can self-publish.
Cons would be the ‘three minutes of fame’ phenomenon in my opinion. Just as anyone can become a sudden celebrity, have poetry that goes viral, the attention span of readers spoiled for choice is miniscule and building up a loyal readership is tough. Even with gimmicks like using promotional materials. Recently, I forget her name, an authoress rose to become a top seller by starting her own publishing house to promote her own work, I do believe she was the sole published author. Because if the criterion for submission is the stature of a published author, it is relatively easy today for computer proficient literati to open a publishing house solely as platform to launch oneself. So one is forced to be inventive, and tech savvy, or else a writer may never receive even well-deserved recognition.
4. What’s your favorite genre?
There are too many genres and criss cross of genres for me to narrow it down to one.
I absolutely love lyrics and ballads, elegant quatrains but also epic poems. They appeal to my romantic and heroic instincts. They are my go-to poetry for soul soothing or for indulging my sense of heroic adventure. As a child I was stirred deeply by poems like Lord Ullin’s daughter, Charge of the Light Brigade, Rime of the Ancient Mariner ,O captain My Captain, La Belle Dame Sans Merci just as much as pieces like Daffodils, The Solitary Reaper or Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening.
But if you ask me for a slice of life, a vignette or an observation piece I will probably go for cunning free verse, loaded with word play, enjambments, double entendres and literary references. Its what engages the mind that appeals to me then, both the heart and the intellect simultaneously. It what makes T S Eliot fascinating to me. Or Yeats or Auden.
I descend into a hopeless romantic trance with e e cummings too.
In my college days I fell in love with the beat poetry of Alan Ginsberg, William Carlos William, also Dylan Thomas and the tremendously powerful, uplifting and inspirational feminist poetry of Maya Angelou too. So maybe I am a poetic omnivore.
5. What does your family think of your writing?
I am encouraged one hundred percent. My gratitude to mommy and daddy for stopping all work, to pay me full attention whenever I came to them with a poem. My brother writes well too , but won’t admit to it, saving all his admiration for me. I feel blessed.
6. Is there any author whose style you were intentional to avoid or not recreate?
No, None really. If a poem does not appeal to me it slips out of my mind, and one can’t copy or recreate a style one does not remember I suppose. I like ornate flowery language only if it helps set the atmosphere. I don’t like the insipid use of it. I don’t like reading about nature and natural beauty always, because it is perceived to be a suitable poetic subject. I kind of blank out unintentionally.
7. If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
I haven’t been a writer since my college days ended around 1998 and I got caught up with my married life, my husband and then my two sons. In between I have also been busy working motor and health insurance claims handling processes in BPOS. I recall my first job was in the hospitality industry as a receptionist in a five star hotel and the last one was setting simulation CAT questions in deductive Logic and Reasoning in English. It wasn’t till 2013 when my husband gifted me my first smart phone and opened a fakebook account for me that I went back to writing again.
But If I had my way, I would have liked to be a professor.
8. Who, in your opinion is the most under-read author?
Hmm… I don’t know. Adrienne Rich? I do love her poems but I never hear about her in the mouths of other poetry lovers.
9. Any suggestions for our readers who wants to follow the passion?
Enjoy the process. Don’t read only the best poets. Pick up the magazine in the doctor’s waiting room, or your friend’s coffee table, read the unknown ones as well. I believe what we are meant to be, or meant to read appears to us as part of our destiny. We were not groomed to be poets. We fell in love with words out of sheer loneliness, boredom and happen chance, so like it or not if it is meant to be it will happen to you. Even if your first poem springs out of reading an Amar Chitra Katha or Commando War comic, write it. And write about roses if that appeals to you. Simply sink into a stupor of enjoyment and write out of a deep need and it will reflect your truth. And if others relate to it, you will become a poet to them. But you were always a poet to your own self. Because I don’t think of poetry as sales figures, fame or recognition. It’s what happens to your soul, when you interact with it, and you know it is good. I beg your pardon if I am being impractical here, but poetry is as deeply personal as it is universal to me. We get to define it too, at least for ourselves.