I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
Bina Sarkar Ellias wears multiple hats, as a poet, fiction writer, curator, graphic designer, editor and publisher. She recently curated the Migration Project for the Pune Biennale 2017, integrating works of artists, poets, filmmakers and photographers. She is founder, editor and publisher of International Gallerie, an award-winning arts and ideas publication since 21 years. Gallerie encourages critical understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity through the arts. Her book of poems “FUSE” has been taught at Towson University, Maryland, USA and selected poems have been translated into Urdu, Chinese, Arabic and French. Her forthcoming book “WHEN SEEING IS BELIEVING” has just been launched. She has given talks at various global venues and has received a Fellowship from the Asia Leadership Fellow Program 2007, Japan, towards the project Unity in Diversity, the Times Group Yami Women Achievers’ Award, 2008, India, and the FICCI/FLO Award, 2013, India, for excellence in her work.
She has edited, Fifty Years of Contemporary Indian Art, 1997, for the Mohile Parikh Centre for Visual Arts, Mumbai, 1997. She has designed artist Jehangir Sabavala’s catalogue for the 2002 show in Mumbai, Delhi and New York, artist Rekha Rodwittiya’s catalogue, 2003, and recently her book in 2007, for shows in New York, Crossing Generations: diverge, the fortieth anniversary catalogue for Gallery Chemould, Mumbai, 2004, and a book on artist Tyeb Mehta, Svaraj by Ramchandra Gandhi. She has designed, edited and published an art book, Chinthala Jagdish: Unmasked, 2004, and The Curious World of Chinthala Jagdish, 2008; a book of poems, Rain, for Indian poet Sudeep Sen, 2005, Ayesha Taleyarkhan’s book of photographs, Bombay Mumbai, 2005, American photographer, edited and designed Leena Kejriwal’s book of photography, Calcutta: Repossessing the City, Waswo X. Waswo’s book, India Poems: The Photographs, and his recent catalogue, A Studio in Rajasthan, 2008, and artist Surendran Nair’s book, Itinerant Mythologies, 2008.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
Imagination; the magic of words in poetry and story books, lured me into scribbling my thoughts on random scraps of paper when I was perhaps nine or ten. And from teenage on, the novels of Gorky and Dostoevsky, the genius of Shakespeare, the philosophies of thinkers like Marx and Russell, and later Orwell, Thoreau, James Joyce , Sartre and Kafka, Camus, and Edward Said. But the limerick and sonnet, the haiku and tangka, the ghazal, the acrostic and elegy, all have their inimitable characteristics that continue to delight.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
As a child at school, books of poetry with simple rhymes enchanted me and later, poets like Tagore, Kipling, Wordsworth, Keats, Byron, Shelley, Tennyson and Whitman. It soon evolved to the irreplaceable Ginsberg, Kerouac, Sylvia Plath, Wisława Szymborska, Ramanujan, Walcott, and others.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I’ve been in admiration and appreciation of them since a long time. The deftness of thought, language and cadence lingered in all the quiet moments one had in-between preoccupations. The older poets have a distinct vocabulary but contemporary poets are marching forward with their own charged style, in hundreds. Perhaps today, one is more aware of the numbers because of the net and social media.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
One becomes a slave of routine as there are multiple practices I am immersed in. That of editor-designer-publisher of the bi-annual arts and ideas journal International Gallerie; a fiction writer and art curator interspersed with travels that entice me to varied regions, people and cultures. However, my poetry writings emerge mostly in the punctuations of these activities; in transit at airports, during a tea break, between destinations, often in the middle of the night…
5. What motivates you to write?
Life. People I encounter, places I visit, socio-political issues, nature; everything that speaks to me.
6. What is your work ethic?
Work is Worship… beneath its didactic surface, this proverb really connotes energy for me. Work is my life, work is love and passion, work for me, means a constant delight in learning, sharing the learning, disseminating unity in diversity, condemning wars, violence and injustice, speaking peace through the voice of words. Work is an instrument of healing.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Many of the writers still resonate; like Shakespeare’s universally enduring characters, Orwell’s 1984 which is an all-time classic, increasingly relevant today.
8. Why do you write?
Writing is a compulsion. It happens without announcing itself.
9. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I would say you do not “become” a writer. A writer has words flowing in his or her veins. The words get honed and chiselled through experience, and love for words.
10. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I have just launched “When Seeing Is Believing”, a book of poems that respond to the beauty and power of art and images. My poems are an ongoing process. As new poems emerge they will find themselves in books. A book of short stories is also unfolding. As is a novel and my ongoing preoccupation with “International Gallerie”, the global arts and ideas print journal that I’ve been editing and publishing since 21 years. Every project is unlimited joy! Do visit: http://www.gallerie.net