Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Sanjeev Sethi

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.

Sanjeev Sevi This Summer
Sanjeev Sethi

is published in over 25 countries. He has more than 1200 poems printed or posted in venues around the world. Wrappings in Bespoke, is Winner of Full Fat Collection Competition-Deux organized by the Hedgehog Poetry Press UK. It’s his fourth book. It will be issued in 2020. He lives in Mumbai, India.

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I was a lonely child and extremely sensitive. I recall the joy of reading poetry … whenever in my little mind I could make sense of poetic lines it would delight me no end.
I had this daybook where I used to indite. I have memories of my school magazine publishing my poems. As with a lot of poets I fell in love, or what I thought was love when I was thirteen or so. The bliss and baggage that comes with early love crept into my poems. I guess, there was enough inspiration in it.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

No one in particular. It were circumstances that pushed me to seek comfort in poetry. And it did balm me and still does.

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

I was a cantonment kid and in that milieu there are no markers. Each of us searched and stumbled upon for what gave us the jollies. Very early in life I realized poetry was my thing.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

About six years ago I began an intense creative phase which continues unabated. In this phase I’ve no life outside of writing. All of me is engaged in writing and its auxiliary activity. I’m at my desk for almost 15 hours. If this seems drudge-like, it is not. I am in it out of choice. I luxuriate in it.

5. What motivates you to write?

I see poetry as an extension of myself. I seek it in most settings. Poems are my response to stimuli. They help me make sense of my situation. I wrestle for nuance by wrenching words and woes. Some poems dip into my emotional deposits, others document the demotic. The attempt is to arrest a moment of truth in a tasteful manner. In short, poetry is my engagement with existence.

6. What is your work ethic?

For me inditing is a meditative stance, so I give it all I have.

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

Not in a direct way, not that I’m conscious of. The brain is a wok. We continue to pad it with all we peruse. I’m sure the churn must be creating something meaningful.

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

I have no favourites. I just read and read. A line here, an idea there, a beginning somewhere, a turn of phrase, a full poem sometimes, many poems by another. I keep flitting and flirting. I am not a loyalist. I am a slave of the poetic form, not of individuals who create it.

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

I think a poem of mine will answer this somewhat:


When legit poets and their legally wedded
wives ask, “What do you actually do?” I
sense their agita. I understand when others
segue this with pleasantries and puff. At my
age, I catch on, some I choose not to. This
helps with the horizons.

Sanjeev Sethi

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

If someone has the need or nerve to ask such a question, I wouldn’t take the question or the questioner seriously just give an inane, meaningless answer with a smile.

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

I have just won the Full Fat Collection Competition–Deux organised by The Hedgehog Poetry Press UK so my next book, Wrappings in Bespoke will be out in 2020. Other than that I have a full plate. I have been submitting poems through the slush pile but with close to 600 acceptances worldwide, I think I need to slow down and concentrate on publishing a book a year. This is the broad plan but who knows how it will pan out?

12. In anticipation of your new book let’s look at the previous one, This Summer and That Summer. What inspired it?

I guess I was ready for it. (Smiles). As you are aware a slim volume is a compilation of poems, I had a dekko at my file and chose 51 poems that spoke to me. A poetry book has a certain rhythm, a curve. I worked to get the correct meter. The aim was to include poems that were a departure from those in the earlier collections.

12.1. In what way were they a departure?

Stylistically speaking, in terms of language. One thing good about this form is that if one continues to evolve and hopefully I was, there is a richer texture to one’s response even on a familiar stretch. Life isn’t static. Each day has something new to offer. This Summer and That Summer captured that.

13. In Shangri-La you speak of “When words complete all incompletion”.  What did you mean by this?

Shangri-La, celebrates the art of poetry:  one advantage is that the fissures we create are filled up by poetry and its attendant virtues.

13.1. What “fissures” do we create?

To put it tersely, the aches of existence: they’re different for different people.

14.  Thank you for expanding my vocabulary. I had to look up words such as pourboire, accismus, cantonments, and maquillage. All contribute to the musicality of your poems. How important is it to you to use words not used in common parlance?

I am not on a mission mode, words fall into a poem. If to my mind and ears they flow, I let them pass. The test for me is workability. The poem must work. That’s all there is to it.

15. Final question, Sanjeev. Congratulations on winning the Hedgehog Full Fat Competition, due out next year. What inspired this new fourth collection?

Before I answer, I’ve to thank you for giving me this opportunity. I noticed your keen questioning and the interest with which you inquired about my work.

The answer is broadly the same as to what inspired, This Summer and That Summer or Nine Summers Later or Suddenly For Someone, my books before Wrappings in Bespoke.

Paul, once again, thank you for this platform.

7 thoughts on “Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Sanjeev Sethi

  1. Gopal Lahiri, thank you. Your appreciation means a lot.
    For someone who writes powerful lines as the one quoted below.

    Edited version:
    Poetry is not an end to itself but an echo. There is space for both loose inspiration and informed engagement.

    Gopal Lahiri to Paul Brookes in Wombwell Rainbow Interviews.

  2. Gopal Lahiri, thank you. Your appreciation means a lot.
    For someone who writes powerful lines as the one quoted below.

    Edited version:
    Poetry is not an end to itself but an echo. There is space for both loose inspiration and informed engagement.

    Gopal Lahiri to Paul Brookes in Wombwell Rainbow Interviews.

  3. Love reading all your interviews, as they often speak to me on a much deeper level. This one is no different.
    Look forward to reading Wrappings in Bespoke. 🌸

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