Dr Alka Tyagi is an academic, translator and a bilingual poet. Her published works includes three collections of her poetry – Whispers at the Ganga Ghat and Other Poems (English), Sun Ri Sakhi and Amaltas (Hindi) – and recent academic work, Reconstructing Devotion through Narada Bhakti Sutra (2019), by DK Printworld. Tyagi is an Associate Professor, Dept. of English, Dyal Singh (eve) College, University of Delhi and a Fellow at Indian Institute of Advance Study, Shimla. Her academic interests include Agamic texts of Kashmir Shaivism. She has been conducting poetry reading sessions at Delhi monuments with acclaimed poets, for over 10 years now. Excerpts:
What is your writing schedule?
I follow a schedule only for academic writing. There can’t be a schedule for poetry, I believe. I have to write whenever the emotion has become intense and can’t be held inside anymore. I have realised that I can’t write a poem unless it has become fully ripe inside. Once it is there, one has to write it. I have written poems right in the dead of the night, after waking up, in the evenings... one has to be ready at any time to receive a poem.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing doesn’t exhaust me at all, it is rather the opposite. I feel light and relieved after writing.
What writing advice you’d like to give your younger self?
I have experienced that our unconscious and subconscious mind is a storehouse of impressions from the entire cosmos and sometimes great ideas surface and begin to shine in our conscious mind. That is an opportunity and we should keep our diary and pen ready to capture the ideas. I have lost many fine images and ideas to my laziness, so I would like to tell my younger self to not be lazy.
What are your favourite books?
I have many. I love poetry in all languages. In Sanskrit – I love Shankaracharya’s Saundarya Lahiri; in Hindi, I love Kabir; and I read Persian poet Rumi in translation. I keep The Big Red Book of Rumi and Lebanese poet, Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet at my bedside.
Literary success vs number of copies sold?
For me literary success is a slow process and is more important than the number of copies sold.
Your favourite spot/s in Delhi you used to write at?
I am fortunate to live just a step away from Humanyun’s Tomb. I have often walked through Arab ki Sarai to Isa Khan’s Tomb, and sat down there to just allow my gaze to turn within and observe what comes out.