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INTERVIEW | Try not to be lazy: Poet Sukrita Paul Kumar gives writing advice

She is an artist and has published several collections of poetry, translations and critical works.

Published: 04th October 2020 09:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th October 2020 09:28 AM   |  A+A-

Sukrita Paul Kumar

Sukrita Paul Kumar (born in Kenya), an invited poet and Fellow at the prestigious International Writing Programme, Iowa, USA, is a former Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, and honorary faculty at Durrell Centre at Corfu, Greece. She is an artist and has published several collections of poetry, translations and critical works.

What is your writing schedule?
For me, there has never been any ‘schedule’ for writing poetry or any deadlines to be met for poetry. Writing a poem can happen any time – in the middle of the night, or in the wee hours of the day. It depends on a calling from within...like getting possessed. Words come from some mysterious source, but then the conscious self takes over, editing and sometimes rewriting some part, but mostly cutting down on any hint of verbosity, cancelling extraneous words and trying to have a minimal number of words that suggest silence more than meaning.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?
Writing multiplies energy if it seems to be getting somewhere, when time is not linear but a continuum. The clock stops ticking and the heart comes to the mouth when words do not form. When labour and design begin to dominate and the inspirational zest sinks, it is tiresome. But not when the writing flows like a river as if starting from the Himalayas and going down the slopes into the unknown ocean of life and experience.

Writing advice you’d like to give your younger self ?
Though I am always curious, and like to learn through example and experientially, taking or giving advice actually is off-putting. Any instruction from the outside can be oppressive for the poem to realise its own path. However, here’s my advice. Try not to be lazy about what gets triggered in one’s self as a takeoff point for a poem...could be a phrase, a scene or whatever. Catch hold of it at once, scribble what has come to you on any scrap of paper, tissue or what have you. Letting go or ignoring that moment will only mean aborting a potentially beautiful poem. I learnt this fact after suffering many losses.

What are your favourite books?
Many. Ai Ladki by Krishna Sobti is a book I have lived and relived many a time in the last 2-3 decades. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett keeps popping up in different contexts in my mind; a book I learnt from as I taught it. Some of Manto’s stories haunt me forever. Their stark truth compels me to confront the pain that lies concealed in the pretentious formulations of ‘beauty’ in life and art. At present, I am reading The Truth About me: A Hijra Life Story by A Revathi. Rumi, Bulle Shah, Kabir are poets I keep going back to, along with Cavafy, Wislawa Szymborska and others.

Literary success vs number of copies sold?
For me, literary success lies in the joy I get while in the very process of writing and then the glee in actually being able to finish a poem. The rest of it is rather superficial and temporary. the publication, the appreciation, etc. Number of copies sold has to be the publisher’s problem.

Favourite spot/s in Delhi you used to write at?
Many places such as the Jahanpanah forest or the park inside Mandakini Enclave. Sometimes, sitting in a library (Sahitya Akademi, India International Centre, etc) when trying to do serious academic work. In my bed at night or in my study.Whenever and wherever the knocking happens inside.



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