Saradha Soobrayen

August 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Interview with Saradha Soobrayen by Shanice Brown

Author Page – Poetcasting

1. When did you know you wanted to be a poet? When did you start calling yourself a poet?

I didn’t have a clear sense of knowing or wanting to be a poet… I was very drawn to music in particular the hymns we sang in school assembly. Quite early on I found I had a particular affinity to imaginative writing and reveled in expanding my vocabulary. I wrote both short stories and poems and I continued working in a variety of forms within a Creative Arts Degree.

I went on to attend poetry courses after wanting to write better prose and soon became captivated by the possibilities of poetry. I fell deeply in love with the process of writing poems. I am still exploring language and form. I feel a bit ambivalent about calling myself a poet. In readings I am introduced as a poet. I build rooms with words and I inhabit the primeval sense of the ‘Poet’ as a ‘Maker’.

2. What do you enjoy most about being a poet?

I think I do enjoy the quietness of writing and that gradual sense of getting closer and closer to the poem. I like being with a poem, tending to it. I find writing is hard work but I like the struggle. I love getting lost in language and being continuously surprised by the strength endurance of poetry. I like how the lines can sometimes speak back to you. I enjoy revisiting poems and finding new things; hidden doors and passages that might lead to surprising thoughts and imagery.

3. How did you get your first piece published, did you confront any difficulties?

I was fortunate in that I was invited to submit early poems to anthologies and magazines because the work fitted a particular theme or the poems were simply wanted.

Any difficulties have been to do with how to resist being categorized by race or sexuality or gender; how to continue to write unhindered after publication; how to regain a sense of private purpose and maintain the quietness; how to resist demand and wait until the poems are fully dressed and themselves, able to exist and breathe unaided.

Poetry is a slow art form with immeasurable rewards. I’ve made insightful connections with writers and readers who in turn have cared about the poems as much as I have and that has made publication worthwhile and more containable.

4. Is there a particular process you use when writing poetry?

I have been recently re-reading Stephen Spender’s essay on ‘The Making of a Poem’. I share his view that concentration is quite central to writing poetry, alongside memory, faith, and song. My own process is varied and enigmatic and ongoing and resists disclosure. I have a sense of my methods, which is mostly preverbal. The proof as they say is in the pudding…in the poems themselves, which act as a form of witness, a testament to process. The act of engaging whole-heartedly and mindfully in the creative process is one of the most satisfying and sacred parts of writing poetry.

5. How do you avoid clichés?

I avoid dismissing clichés too soon and question why certain words, phrases, metaphors are deemed so. Clichés were once valuable parts of our language that held an intrinsic place in literature serving as a valuable currency for someone in a particular time and space.

I like to get to the source of a cliché to see what else is lurking nearby that I might use. I tend to trust my own emotional barometer to guide me towards adopting a freshness of language and an immediacy of words. I need to be moved and taken somewhere new in my own work and in other people’s work, with or without clichés.

6. Before you finish a poem, do you read out loud? Give it to somebody else to read?

I draft the poem in my head and by hand and I read aloud. I share drafts during different stages of rewriting and reimagining the poem.

7. Does it irritate you when someone misinterprets your work?

We each bring our selves to the poem, our interests and biases. We are each entitled to our own discovery of the poem. There is a degree of ambiguity to my writing which is counter balanced by a degree of emotional integrity. I hope the poems resonate far beyond any grasping for a definitive meaning.

8. I love the poem ‘Like cold air passing through lips’ how did you bring this poem together? What were your inspirations for this poem?

I was influenced by the letters of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West; the quality of the imagery and intimacy of their words. I began to write around their lines, shaping new phrases over a 2-year period, which finally became the poem ‘On the Water Meadows’ which Peter Forbes once described as ‘a narrative of sound’. I remember being struck by the music of an unused left over line of mine ‘journey, draining, geranium’ and I felt compelled to build a world around that phrase.

9.  Do you remember your thought process when editing this poem? How did you decide it was finished?

‘Like Cold Air Passing Through Lips’ was written line-by-line, listening and waiting for an unexplainable kind of accuracy. I felt the poem pulling towards a kind of completion. A sense of letting go within the poem itself, it was like the poem was letting go of me:

‘my ear as dumb as corn and too far gone

to catch your heart closing like a gate behind me.’

10. What do you feel you can express in poetry that you can’t in other art / literary forms?

I am yet to explore fully the potential of other literary /art forms but within poetry I can express deeply embedded states: wholeness, brokenness, and complexities.

11. What do you hope your legacy to British poetry will be?   

I hope the work is remembered and forgotten and rediscovered when it is most needed.


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