August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment
Interview with Siddhartha Bose by Akaash Darji.
1. What was the first moment in your life when you discovered you wanted to be a poet/write poetry?
I think I wrote my first poem when I was 12. It was a bad imitation of Keats’ ‘In drear-nighted December’. And when I was 13, I got involved with theatre in India, and was lucky to work with some experienced people. And I wrote some poems and short plays the best I could. So I think poetry found me at a young age, and that was the easy part.
2. Would you say there are specific themes and subjects you like to tackle through all your works or do you go by whatever feels right at the time you are writing it?
I guess certain themes repeat themselves. Excess, movement, transformation. I may be currently more interested in these themes than others. But I also like to keep myself open and be surprised by the worlds around me.
3. I have seen a video of you reciting your poem ‘Animal City’. Your performance contained a very blunt and rhythmic style, almost like a rapper. Did your style come from something that you developed on your own or are there other artists which you look up to that inspire and helped mould you’re a style as it is today?
Rhythm is at the heart of poetry. Sound makes sense. And that’s very much a part of ancient lyric poetry and hip hop. But I don’t see myself as a ‘performance poet’ and a poem like ‘Animal City’ self-consciously plays with the legacy of movement like surrealism, for example. And I hope the experience of reading it is similar to, and different from, watching it. And I’m inspired by a variety of art forms: theatre, music, film, photography. Among contemporary poets, Anthony Joseph and Jeet Thayil have been influences.
4. Being an actor/writer/performer myself, I believe art is a very important thing in this world. Do you believe that people should get paid for writing poetry?
Poetry is a profession in the UK and that has its ups and downs. In other parts of the world, parts of the Middle East for example, it remains an almost holy calling. Which is important. But I remember a musician and a friend once told me: ‘Talent is for amateurs, professionals go to work every day’. And there’s a lesson in that. Significant poetry though has the ability to transform the world and our ways of perceiving it.
5. The poem ‘Animal City’ contains mixed words of both English and Hindi delivering a story in an unusual way. What made you want to deliver it in this way?
I grew up speaking a mix of languages. And I love the sounds of languages that I don’t understand. And ‘Animal City’ deals with Bombay, which has its own language (‘Bambaiyya’) that mixes many languages. So mixed words seemed necessary for the subject matter of the poem.
6. What inspired you to write ‘Kalagora’ the book/play?
The book was written over a period of 8 yrs when I was moving around a fair deal and that’s reflected in it. And there are many homages to the literature and art I love. And to all the wild and wonderful people who helped me see things and learn along the way. The play, despite sharing the title, is a different beast. I started writing it in the summer of 2010, but the starting point was filming in New York in May that year. And then the play developed organically by working with the other artists who helped make it. The play brings together my passions (theatre, poetry, music, and film) while exploring stories of myself and the people I’ve known.
7. When you are writing a poem do you plan things in a certain way or let your ideas splash out on to the page?
I don’t follow any strict guidelines. Generally I like to let a poem brew for a while and develop over a period of time. Sometimes a poem starts with a specific image or a line. And some poems develop and are re-written many times over a few years. And sometimes the first draft is the best. Rarely though.
8. Do you care how your words affect people or is poetry for you more about self fulfilment?
One writes because one has to. Once the work is done and you take it out in the world, you just hope that some people get excited by it.
9. I believe all artists become artists because they have something to say. As an artist, what message would you like to give to the world?
I don’t know if I have anything to say. But I do have questions and mysteries to explore. And to pay closer attention to what’s inside me. Sometimes though while exploring one solidifies things into statements. Certainly that happens in my work. But those tend to be the weakest bits. Ideally, I like to leave things open.