Poetry: an honest expression!


“Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language, such as phonoaesthetics (the possible connection between sound sequences and meaning), sound symbolism, and metre to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.” This is how we can technically describe poetry. But there’s a lot more to it. WORDS are nothing but expressions; EXPRESSIONS are nothing but emotions; EMOTIONS are nothing but feelings; FEELINGS are nothing but poetry; POETRY is nothing but soulful words and; in poetry every word has a SOUL. With these soulful thoughts of Irshad Kamil, Smita Dwivedi tries to bring little essence of poetic world in conversation with Mandira Ghosh and Sukrita Paul Kumar. When there is so much to express about anything that one fall short of words, then we always read and refer poetry. For better understating and more information about poetry, we spoke to Mandira Ghosh and Sukrita Paul Kumar.

Mandira’s published works include Aroma, New Sun, Song in a City, Folk Music of the Himalayas, The Cosmic Dance of Shiva, Shiva and Shakti, Cosmic Tour, Tantra, Mantra and Yantra and Impact of Famine on Bengali Literature. She has been awarded with a Senior Fellowship of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India for her project on ‘Impact of Famine on Bengali literature’. She is the Present Treasurer of the Poetry Society (India) and has received Editor’s Choice Award twice by the International Society of Poets, Maryland USA.

While, Sukrita Paul Kumar was born and brought up in Kenya and at present she lives in Delhi. She held the Aruna Asaf Ali Chair at the University of Delhi, till recently. An Honorary Fellow of International Writing Programme, University of Iowa (USA) and a former Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, she was also an invited poet in residence at Hong Kong Baptist University. She has published several collections of poems in English including, Folds of Silence, Without Margins, Rowing Together and Apurna. Her poems have been selected and translated by the eminent lyricist Gulzar has been published by HarperCollins as a bilingual book, Poems Come Home. A recipient of many prestigious fellowships and residencies, Sukrita has lectured at many universities in India and abroad.

AABP: How’s poetry writing different from general writing?

Mandira GhoshMandira: Writing poetry is much more difficult compared to general writing and more than anything else understanding poetry is difficult. Poetry even if it is penned in blank verse can be distinguished by the poet’s craftmanship. It is a craft and should be distinct from the ordinary prose or general writing by the theme, handling of language, use of poetic devices, imagery and lyrical quality. Above all the poets are the most sensitive and humane of all.

Sukrita: Indeed there is a vital difference. In the writing of poetry, one takes off into a totally different domain of consciousness. Even the mundane and the ordinary get transported into a world that is charged with a different life-throb. Ironically, at the same time, there is an acute realization of the ground reality in capturing the very source of experience that may cause the “take off.” If one chooses to remain on the ground and not take the plunge to transcend, there are other faculties that come into play, that of analysis, logic, description more than imagination and emotion. That’s when the intellect may produce a very impressive and effective prose but not poetry. For a poem, imagination, emotion and a fearless honesty have to come together for an inspirational expression.

AABP: How did you start as a poet? What you enjoy more, being a poet or an author?

Mandira: I enjoy being a poet. I was a student of science stream and even a distinction holder in Chemistry. Later on, I studied Mathematics and Economics in graduation. I am a graduate from Indraprastha College, Delhi University. Indraprastha College had a vast collection of books especially of English and Bengali literature. Before that in school, when my Physics teacher used to teach the chapters in Sound, I used to think where am I? In a class room? I should have been in the lap of nature, near a stream enjoying the sound of birds chirp and murmur of the stream. While studying Real Analysis in Maths class, I picked the terms Absolute, Infinite and could bring also Metaphysics and Mathematics in poetry. I was a very serious student, and studied different subjects at different times as a part of and outside syllabus and enjoyed combining all knowledge in both poetry and prose.

Sukrita: Start as a poet? No, there can’t be a pretension there. What is imperative is a compulsion, a compelling need to grapple for the right words. An imposition of any kind is a deterrent from the purity of intention and execution. As an author of critical works, when intellect plays a greater role, I am more preoccupied with analytical skills that may take me to greater understanding and, also perhaps create new ways of approaching a literary text. Passion is an ingredient in both kinds of writing. The joy in each case is different. When in the process of creative writing words fail, a strange wrenching in the heart makes one ask: why the hell do I have to suffer this. But one can’t give up either! The bliss comes at the end of a new beginning….

AABP: How easy or difficult is it to publish poetry?

Mandira: Though it is difficult to get published, it was quite easy for me. I sent my manuscript of my first volume of verses, Aroma, which happen to be my first book too to Prof P Lal of Writers Workshop, Kolkata, on advice of Dr HK Kaul, president, The Poetry Society (India) and he readily agreed. I have great regard for both of them as for them my journey to writing and getting published became easy. Prof P Lal also published my book Cosmic Tour which is my favourite. In India, English poetry survived because of people like them. Sanjay Arya of Shubhi Publications is publishing my tenth book – A volume of verses on Benares which I am penning for the past five years.

Sukrita Paul KumarSukrita: Getting an audience for poetry doesn’t at all seem challenging but getting publishers for poetry is a totally different story. I don’t know why. Ask the publishers or the readers who want to listen to poetry but perhaps not buy it….

AABP: Would you like to share your experience with publishers?

Mandira: They should be less materialistic and honest. Again an honest businessman is an oxymoron.

Sukrita: I have had a reasonably smooth sailing perhaps because I decided that though publishing my poetry was important to me; my writing would not be hinged on whether or not a book is published when I am ready with some poems. There have been periods of endless waiting but then there have been moments when the book may happen suddenly. My books Poems Come Home, Dream Catcher, Rowing Together, Without Margins and some others happened that way!

AABP: How do you see market for poetry books in India?

Mandira: Marketing does not interest me at all. But so far as I understand, distribution should be more properly done. There are people who could be interested in reading a particular poet but it may not reach him. With English language poets like us, it is comparatively easy because of internet revolution but a poet does not gain anything financially out of it. Many of the poets have to purchase their own creation from the publishers. It does not bother me, as I am a real bard, happy singing my verses.

Sukrita: Bhasha literatures, I believe, at least in Hindi and Urdu, have a large number of poetry books selling. They may or may not be “packaged” as well as the ones in English. But then I think there is also this problem of more and more of vanity publishing of poetry in English which only shows the impatience of poets to publish books without any critical discrimination. Our critics should perhaps wake up and give effective critical responses and reactions.

AABP: Poetry and poems played a very important role in India’s freedom struggle and even during 70s, we have great Indian poets, but now there is nothing like that. In your opinion, what are the reasons for it?

Mandira: People have become materialistic. Ambition and to acquire money have become the norms. Now money is the Mantra. Poetry-money are oxymorons. When commerce and economics only rule, poetry takes a back seat.

Sukrita: Greatness gets determined with time. I am sure we have very good poets writing today as well, in many Indian languages. Let critical sifting happen, names will emerge eventually. With poets such as Kunwar Narain, Jayanta Mahapatra, Surjit Patar and many others as our contemporaries, I am not at all pessimistic. There are more and more poetry festivals that are being organized all over the country…therefore more and more audiences!

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