Interview: Asha Viswas

PPP Ezine: Who are your favorite poets, if possible, also tell us what makes them your favorite?


AV: My first love was Shelley. 19th century poetry, both Romantic and Victorian, appealed to me. Amongst individual writers Blake, Eliot, Neruda, Lorca, Borges were my other loves. I have avidly read Australian poets like David Malouf , Crabbe ,Kinsella ,Thomas Shapcott and Les Murray. Amongst the Indian writers I admire Daruwalla, Adil Jussawalla and Mahapatra. Now to the second part of this question as to what makes them my favourites , it is really difficult to answer . I think in our teens and early twenties we all love Romantic poetry.  Romanticism starts as a revolt against the conscious mind- “Le Romantisme c’est la revolucion“. From this conscious thinking level they move to the dreaming consciousness and finally tap at the doors of eternity. This quest for the evading beauty one finds in all the Romantics and perhaps, this is what appeals to me even now .


PPP Ezine:  This one is a direct descendant of Matthew Arnold’s Touchstone Method: ‘They say that there are lines in a poem that make its heart. You may call them the poetry of poetry. Do you remember some such lines of yours or from some of your favorite poets that will help us understand your vision of poetry? If yes, please do give us some of those lines.


AV: I think one can always quote Keats’ lines: “Beauty is Truth, Truth beauty” – this is his advice to the poets, not to ordinary human beings. Poets should not ignore realism at the cost of imagination – a sort of bringing the two together. Beauty for him was the way to vision. With reference to a work of art, beauty is the emotional recognition of truth. Then we have Wordsworth’s oft quoted lines “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings “.  Almost every great poet in every age writes about his own views about poetry- what it is and how it comes into being.


PPP Ezine: There has been a debate raging among the lovers of free verse and formal verse. Where do you stand in this debate? Why?


AV: Poets write either in traditional formal verse or free verse. Sri Aurobindo , amongst Indian writers , was the master of traditional formal verse. Ezekiel wrote some of his poems in traditional verse. Most of the modern writers in India write in free verse.  I think we should leave it to the poets whether they write in free verse which gives them much freedom or in formal verse. As most of the Indian poets writing in English are not the native speakers of English, it is not easy for them to have a thorough command over English versification. Hence they write in free verse. Of course, there are exceptions. I write in free verse.


PPP Ezine: You have been writing for a long time. If you could tell us something about what inspired you to write poems in the first place, and then, what kept you going, it’d be inspiring for the new poets.


AV: Usually, it is said that our parents make us what we are. But I think it is our siblings that make us what we are. I was the youngest of the four daughters and there was a lot of difference in our ages. As a child i was never included in their games or teen age talks. I always felt a sense of loneliness, alienation and isolation. I sought comfort in a dream world all my own and built a shell where i wove those poetic dreams. I wrote some short stories in class ix which appeared in the school magazine. At college level a few poems were written and destroyed. Being a very secretive person I never showed my poems to anyone. It was only when I was working at the University of Calabar, Nigeria that a colleague of mine, Robert Meredith from Harvard University, U.S.A. read some of these poems and encouraged me to publish them. I feel that poets feel this need for writing a poem- a sort of bug that bites you .


PPP Ezine: Give our new poets a few tips (3 or more) for composing well.


AV: The only advice I can give is to read poetry, does not matter what poets you read, but read and then start writing, if possible a few lines every day.



PPP Ezine:  Rejection is a life-long friend or enemy of a poet. Please tell us how you responded/respond to your rejections in the past, and now?


AV: My very first collection Melting Memories got me MICHAEL MADHUSUDAN   Academy award, so there was no sense of feeling rejected. I have won many awards, was also short listed in a poetry competition organized by the poetry society India and the British council. But it is also true that a poet living in small place finds it hard to get his or her poems published. I think in the present scenario it is really difficult to get your poetry published in metros like Delhi and Mumbai. no one reads poetry and the publishers charge a lot of money for publishing your poems.



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