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Interview with Swapna Sanchita

Swapna Sanchita

She is an educator, storyteller, poet, and businesswoman. Her first book of poetry, Des Vu, was published this year. She also writes stories for children. Swapna lives in Ranchi with her husband and two sons.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I write poetry but do not enjoy reading poetry. I secretly love reading corny young adult romances on kindle (I guess that’s no longer a secret now).

Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?
Next year. Two children’s books have been accepted by a UK-based publishing house. My poetry is getting published in various digital magazines and anthologies, but a second poetry book is something I haven’t really started working on as of now.

Q.3 When did you decide to write Des Vu? What sparked your initial love of poetry?
I have been writing poetry since forever. But during the lockdowns last year, I found I had a little time on my hands, and I was at that stage in life where I wanted to do that, which sparked joy. Also, my friends and family constantly told me that I should publish my work, so one fine day I decided to just go ahead and do it.

Q.4 How do you develop your poems? Please guide us through the stages of it.
Poetry has always come naturally to me. I have always had a diary where I scribble down random thoughts. Some of them take the form of poems. I have written on paper napkins, scraps of paper, all sorts of things. However, once I have written the first draft, I revisit it to change a word here or there to improve the rhythm, but there is no fixed process as such.

Q.5 According to you, what is the state of contemporary poetry in India?
I believe we have a very rich tradition of spoken poetry, and that is what is trickling into modern contemporary poetry. Poetry today has become more relatable, easier to understand. Still, for the most part, it is an exercise in exposing one’s demons to the world, and sometimes our emphasis on showing feeling takes away from the literature. But poetry in all its forms, contemporary or classic, is always beautiful.

Q.6 What do you see as the role of the poet in modern-day society?
I am not a student of literature, so it is difficult for me to answer these kinds of questions. But the role of a poet is always to give words to the rest of the world. To enable people to voice what they may be going through but are unable to express.

Q.7 How does one even begin to judge poetry? Are there some yardsticks that help you define a “good” poem from a not-so-great one?
We don’t judge poetry. We feel it. Having said that, the yardsticks would probably be coherence, creativity, cadence, use of poetic devices, form, and structure.

Q.8 Do you have any particular audience in mind when you write, an ideal reader?
No. I write for myself. I try to pen down the chaos in my mind and make sense of it. I write what I see, what I feel, and put it out there, hoping that there will be people who saw what I saw, felt what I felt.

Q.9 What is your stand on translating poetry? Can a translated work truly do justice to the original poem?
Wouldn’t it be awful if we were deprived of the chance to read great literature because we did not know the language? Rumi, for example. Everyone should be exposed to the works of Rumi. I don’t know if the translator can capture the essence of the original, but it is always worth a try.

Q.10 In what important ways does poetry differ from fiction?
The two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Poetry is a way of writing/speaking where the words have a kind of music in the way they are put together. Some of literature’s greatest works of fiction are written in the form of poetry.

Q.11 What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
Write what you want to. Don’t worry about who will read it.

Q.12 What role should a title play for a poem? For beginning writers, what’s important to consider when titling a poem?
I have never been good at titles. Personally, I write the poem and then try and figure out what I should title it. A title pulls the reader in. It tells you what the poem will be about, so it is important. Unless you have the skills of Shakespeare or Pablo Neruda.

Q.13 Has your idea of what poetry has been changed since you began writing poems?
When I was younger, a clear rhyming scheme was vital. I used to write about the sky, the stars, the moon objects, people. Now I have a wider range.

Q.14 Can you work anywhere, or is there a certain space and quietude required to write?
For poetry, I need nothing except something to write with and something to write on.

Q.15 How do your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
They tease me mercilessly but are crazily proud of me, so I am lucky to have wonderful friends and a very supportive family.

Q.16 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good and bad ones?
I am fairly new to this and haven’t received anything mean or hurtful. People have been kind. I hope it remains like that, but if someone does not like something I write, I would be interested to know why.

Q.17 Can you give any advice to someone wanting to write and publish poetry?
Do not be in a rush. Poetry is an art. Perfect it. Work on it, and when you feel you are ready, jump right in.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
I presume you mean from the literary world, so Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, the list is endless. Why? The answer is obvious - I love their words!

Q.19 What books/poets have most influenced your life?
I rarely read poetry, but I am a voracious reader otherwise. Ayn Rand was someone whose ideas I was fascinated by at one point in time.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
It’s been fun. I am finally doing what I love, so that’s a plus, but like I said, my first poetry collection was released this year along with two children’s books, three books in three isn’t bad. I am happy.

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