Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Gopal Lahiri

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

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.

Gopal Lahiri

was born and grew up in Kolkata. He has done his post-graduates in Geology from Presidency College, Kolkata and travelled across India and abroad in view of his job assignments. He currently lives in Kolkata.

He is a bilingual poet, writer, editor, critic and translator and widely published in Bengali and English language. He has had seven collections of poems in Bengali and nine collections of poems in English. His English collections are as follows and most of them can be viewed in Amazon/Lulu publications also,

Silent Steps (Cyberwit, Allahabad), Living Inside (Authorspress, New Delhi), Tidal Interlude (Shambhabi, Kolkata), Cities: Two Perspectives (Authorspress, New Delhi), Return To Solitude, Hawakal Kolkata) and Four Books (Flicker of Hope, Sandstone Corridor, Give You Back and Light and Shadow, Lulu Publications, USA)

Anthology appearances (among others) include National Treasures, Indus Valley, The Silence within, Indo-Australian Anthology, Homebound, The Dance of the Peacock, Illuminations. His works have featured in printed journals like Indian Literature, Taj Mahal Review, Tranquil, Triveni, Beyond the Rainbow, Ethos, CLRI, and Haiku Journal and in electronic publications Arts and Letters, Underground Window, Muse India, Setu, Dead Snake, Tuck Magazine, Debug, Eastlit, InkSweatTears, Kolkata Review, Madras Courier and Coldnoon Diaries.

He is also an experienced book reviewer both in English and Bengali and his Bengali poem and review has been published amongst others in the prestigious Desh weekly and The Telegraph Kolkata in the eighties and nineties. He is currently in the panel of reviewers of Indian Literature of Sahitya Akademi, (Print journal), Muse India and Setu online journals.

His translation works in Bengali Not Just Milk and Honey, (published by NBT, India), a collection of short stories of Israel is widely acclaimed.

He has jointly edited the anthology of poems: Scaling Heights and is the recipient of the Poet of the year award in Destiny Poets, UK, 2016 and also received featured poet award in Poetry In A Cup, USA, 2004 and a winner of Haiku in Poetry.com, USA, 2004.


The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I got the influence of nature early on and I still love that. It means so much in my poems. I am happier writing about my childhood. But yes, I don’t think I could live without it, the childhood memory. The people and the surrounds are there who create the sound and silence. I observe, listen and inhale the atoms and molecules of life. This portal into the past is unlocked by poetry alone.

We know that poetry is the place where language performs. It’s hard to resist from finding patterns, from making something that connects and progresses from randomness. It’s what satisfies us when we really be able to make coherence and order, however tenuous, out of the disparate lines or images and evolve a poem. I create my own space inside in a closet where my personal and emotional experience are in search of breakthrough. Poetry is not always an end to itself but an echo of life and I follow that. I think there is space for both loose inspiration and informed engagement.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I fell in love with poetry during my school days and could understand that no other form is as nuanced as poetry. The aroma of poems flies me even now directly to the poetry classes where my teachers used to explain the meaning of poetry. The seed of interest was sown then. Social media was not there. Later I joined some poetry groups and started breathing poetry. The scents of poems evoked primal experience and aromas were the links that hold together all of us

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

Tagore is a towering figure in Indian literature especially in Bengali writings if I may say so. Poems, novels, essays, song, paintings and what not where Tagore isn’t there and one is stunned to get a feel. When I began to write poems, I looked to Tagore. But yes, I read Tagore and that is that and it is presumptuous to talk about the influence of Tagore. There were a few other poets who inspired me. I was wild about Byron in my early days. It doesn’t come in a moment. Later I took to Eliot, Pond, Dylan Thomas, Browning, Emily Dickenson, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Philip Larkins, Dom Moraes, Nissim Ezekiel and a few others.

When I look back, I realise that poetry is a place in where many poets come and inspire me all at once. That’s always drawn me to my existence. It still does.

I love to watch and listen to the people in realms of beautiful earth, how the world is and how the world ought to be. Surely it’s not an extension of dreams but multitude of thoughts and given the opportunity, words and letters can create texture and rhythm and I feel that’s poetry.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

It’s certainly not ten to five job. I prefer night time to write and yes on my desk almost on a regular basis if I stay at home. I do travel a lot and the airport lounges, lobby, hotel rooms, even on a park bench are the places where I scribble on a piece of paper or type it in my cell notes. It gives a feeling of lightness, a sense of living to which I belong.

5. What motivates you to write?

In my thoughts, Poetry is a picturesque journey and I borrow the moments of pure soaring beauty from my surroundings to hit against the most ordinary in life. Then expand the bounds of connections that give us life. All these processes invite me to enjoy and It is good to recollect that we need one another, my soul and poetry.
I want to take my readers on a wonderful walk where a little rain is a downpour, where silence is a part of our essence, where a solitary mind is a chorus.

6. What is your work ethic?

It’s only hard work. Yes, I do set some values and try to follow that in search of truth in my poetry. Poetry is a journey and it’s a trip that leads me to wonder about how, ultimately we can get the most of our existences as conscious beings in the world. A part of me usually is there in my poems but not in all poems.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Perhaps their influences are filtered through the lens of time for a sense of timelessness to be placed right beside on the contemporary plane.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Vikram Seth. He is an Indian poet and novelist. Golden Gate and A Suitable Boy are the two landmark modern classics. But I love his vibrant and lyrical poems more due to their musicality and the topics that they touched upon.

9. Why do you write?

Poetry is life. It is like a habit, it comes out seamlessly. I know I have to write. I believe it’s destiny. In my opinion, poetry can’t be hurried and the dominant sound is its quietness, its gentle collapse, its own unhurried music, its unsung harmonies. All my poems do not overtly address any crisis, nor any inventive desperation but the underlying suffering is palpable.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

It’s difficult to answer in one go but may be a combination of many activities. It’s that mix of defiance, inclination and passion for poetry that makes me what I am today. Poetry is a part of my heart- a source of love, desire, pain and rage. We all know poetry can heal wounds too. There is no denying that it packs in a lot of emotions and needs to be celebrated at the end.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

My collection of Haiku and short poems has been published recently. I’m working further on new and a selected bunch of published poems, but it will take a while before the book will be ready for publication. Perhaps editing an anthology of poems will also be on my next agenda but nothing has been firmed up.
@gopallahiri hi

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