Sarabjeet Garcha is a poet, translator, editor and publisher. He is the author of four books of poems, including A Clock in the Far Past and a collection in Hindi. He was selected to serve on the panel of critical readers for the third edition of Garner’s Modern American Usage (Oxford University Press, 2009) and received a fellowship in Hindi literature (2013-14) from the Ministry of Culture of India, under which he completed a comparative study of post-1990 Marathi and Hindi poetry.
His latest book, a selection of Mangalesh Dabral’s poems in English translation, is scheduled for publication in winter 2020. He is also the founder and Editorial Director of Copper Coin, a multilingual publishing company.
What is your writing schedule?
I don't follow a rigid schedule. It all depends on the seasons of the heart. When it's summer there, I stay up late. In winter, I work afternoons. When it's raining within, I work without looking at the clock. In springtime, I stop writing completely so as not to miss what the flowers have to say to me.
Does writing energise or exhaust you?
It enriches and nourishes me, but there's always a price to pay. However, whatever the price, it's always the writer who profits. Everybody has their own karma to account for. Mine's writing. But the very act liberates me. For me, writing is a form of nirvana.
Writing advice would you give to your younger self ?
Listen. Listening leads to everything you need to make writing work. It also leads to silence, an essential ingredient of writing that lasts. By listening, you give space to the one who is talking, and also to yourself. In the mind's carnival, this space is like a closed marquee under whose canvas roof all the magic happens, the child spectator is drawn towards as if mesmerised. Even after you leave this place, the magic stays. The best thing about it is that the more you expend it, the more it expands.
What are your favourite books?
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, Harvest by Jim Crace, Ingenious Pain and Pure by Andrew Miller, and To the Wedding by John Berger are some of the novels to which I return again and again. In poetry, The Floating Man by Katharine Towers, The Cinnamon Peeler and Handwriting by Michael Ondaatje, The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer by John Haines, Garden Time as well as Selected Translations by WS Merwin, and Jonahwhale by Ranjit Hoskote are constant companions. In Marathi poetry, a new favourite is the recently published Mayaviye Tahreer by Mangesh Narayanrao Kale.
Literary success vs number of copies sold?
Success in your own eyes is more important than anything else. Good writers know when they succeed, and also when they fail. Someday, this knowledge may translate into the sale of copies. Even if it doesn't, there is no reason to despair as long as you know that you have succeeded in writing what you wanted to. If you haven't, the sales would not make you a better writer.
Favourite spot/s in Delhi you write at?
Until a couple of years ago, it was the American Center Library at KG Marg, but more so for 'mental' writing. I have never really done actual writing outside home. Much of the mental writing happens while I am driving, but that has changed after COVID-19.