Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Leela Soma

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.

Tartan

Leela Soma

was born in Madras, India and now lives in Glasgow. Her poems and short stories have been published in a number of anthologies and publications, including the National newspaper The Scotsman, The Grind, Visual Verses, New Voices, Gutter, Bangalore Review in India and Steel Bellows in the USA. ‘From Madras to Milngavie’ was her first poetry pamphlet. She has served on the committee for the Milngavie Books and Arts Festivals and on the Scottish Writer’s Centre Committee. Her work reflects her dual heritage of India and Scotland.

Author of ‘Twice Born’, ‘Bombay Baby‘ and ‘Boxed In’

Available on Amazon and Kindle.

Her website is http://www.leelasoma.wordpress.com

The Interview

1

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

One cannot force poems ‘it happens’ is the best way to describe it. I can’t pinpoint a day, time or a particular poet who inspired me to write poems. To me poetry appears in a phrase or lines in the subconscious and writes itself. I also write prose, but that is a completely different skill. Poetry is ‘given’ to you.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Growing up in India listening to music, songs, mantras, shlokas (In Sanskrit) definitely lends one to poetic exposure from lullabies to verses in later life. The strong oral tradition enhances one’s awareness of rhyme and rhythm in the languages I was attuned to as a youngster. Schooling in a convent brought the English poets to the fore, as we learnt by rote, Wordsworth, Thomas Gray, Keats, Shelley and many others. That dual heritage has enriched me tremendously.

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

I admire the strict format many of the older poets used and Stephen Fry’s Book, the ‘Ode Less Travelled’ gives wonderful exercises to try out the various forms that were used. I never felt a ‘dominating presence ‘of older poets but it is a base to build your own ‘voice’ even if it is extremely different from the classical poets. Kalidasa one of India’s classical poets wrote such beautiful lines “For yesterday is but a dream
and tomorrow is only a vision…” Avvaiyar, a female poet of the 3rd C BCE wrote poems that are still recited by school kids in South India. Her poems have lived through centuries. These are influences that become part of one’s DNA. Since I have lived twice as long I Scotland now than my birth country of India I can see some of my work is influenced by contemporary poets like Jackie Kay our National Laureate, Liz Lochhead.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a strict routine especially for poetry. Sometimes I wake up at night and scribble a line or two in a notebook that I keep on my bedside table, or an image that has floated in, may inspire me to write it up properly in the morning.

5. What motivates you to write?

Once it was waiting at a traffic lights and I noticed a sparse tree that made me write a poem on it. It could be a leaf, a snatched conversation overheard in a café, or something I’ve read that motivates me to write.

6.What is your work ethic?

Sometimes you feel an urge to pen those lines so strongly, that you need to type them up. I also tried the NAPOWRIMO, in April, not registered on the site but wrote a few poems that month and two years running I have got a few good poems from that discipline of attempting to write a poem a day for a whole month.
6. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

They must be in one’s subconscious but I don’t think I want to copy their style. Listening to Roger Mc Gough’s ‘Poetry Please,’ on BBC Radio 4 sometimes revives memories of old poems and a line lingers in your mind.

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

There are so many that it is hard to list them all. Maya Angelou, the two Scottish laureates I mentioned above, Kay and Lochhead, Tagore, Lemn Sissy, Zephaniah. Their lyricism, their words strung so perfectly that I want to read the poems again and again. Experiences like Kay’s life growing up as a black child adopted by white parents in Scotland and trying to find her birth origins is fascinating and heart rending.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

As I said before there is an urge to put some words on paper that all writers would understand. Even if it is not your best you need to write, it is sometimes an overwhelming feeling.

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

Read, read, read, write, write and write. There is no better thing to do than keep the writing muscle going. There are no clear career options to become a writer. There are courses in Creative Writing in most universities where you can learn the craft of writing but one must have that ‘need’ to write even if one cannot make a living out of it. And be prepared to face rejections and accept that not all those hours of writing will be lauded by all.

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

I recently published my second collection of poems’ Tartan and Turmeric’ and it is available on Amazon. I am writing short stories and more poems. The third novel has the first draft completed but editing needs to be done. I serve on the Committee for my local ‘Milngavie Week, and I am on the East Dunbartonshire Arts, & Culture Committee. With a friend I run a writers group, Bearsden Writers, a monthly meeting of local writers. So these are a few projects that are keeping me busy.

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