Monday, October 31, 2016

Dorin Popa writes

between me and the one who could love you
sometimes God shows Himself
together with strange things
that darken the world’ s face

between me and the one who towards you is running
there are so many things that stay still,
foreboding …

(fog climbs and descends
– I do not want to touch
what I can hardly see!)

between us, the dead and the living
together are rejoicing
the world is waiting, again,
to start

between me and the one who could have loved you
you can hardly step further,
you can hardly breathe
and you have such a beautiful face
of the past

God Appears to Moses in Burning Bush -- Eugene Pluchart

A. V. Koshy responds

AVK: I need to tell you that I hate everything about the process of becoming a poet like submissions, deadlines, guidelines and all the rest of it. Ergo: I guess I am not a poet. What I am is someone who lives and then writes. Like going for a walk and seeing flowers, then realizing that you think of them partly in Malayalam and partly in English and wondering how to put it across in English when it is essentially something that others have probably written better about in Malayalam and wrestling with the event, the description, the bilingualism - and finally coming up with or coming out with something I feel good enough about to put it out in public for others to read and feeling happy if it clicks. Guess that's my bio. Who needs to be a "poet" when you can make love to a woman and then write a poem on it that makes women swoon or write of an actual death in the family and a reader says that made me cry, or of something funny and another says it made me laugh - there you have already wrestled with form and architectonics, don't you think? My kind-of-a-primer on poetry called Art of Poetry was written on facebook as notes using the same slapdash method of living writing and it became quite a hit. It's all "writing" at the end of the day and always circles around poetry. Everything turns in my hands to poetry. To close - my themes are life, death, love and and others like family, autism - my son having it - and anything else but though it encompasses everything, and is restlessly inventive, I never cease exploring, discovering, and making as that is all it is about for me - poetry is creating and a constant search that I hope never ends and in the process if I make something that lasts forever I will be grateful to the Mystery of Life for that extra bonus. Here's one to start  you off with - on the famed nightingale - in which you can note this curious discrepancy between two languages.

Nightingale, let me paint you 
the song
its notes a deeper black against the jungle dark
that makes my heart catch
Then there will be you, night singer
carved in stone, too
Do not forget
when you become words
and fly away
there must be graphic novels written on you
and animation
but my longing is to turn you into a human being
whom I can talk to
Your sister the skylark is heard, not seen
like you
but of the day
Nightingale, it is your name in my mother tongue
- and hers -
that drips like honey from my fingers
turns the key in the lock
opens the door of my heart
Night-singer and sky-singer
and three or four more singers
who became famous, singing of you
Nightingale, when the thorn
enters your breasts and drips blood
remember I will be thinking of you
weeping red tears
as if the worms have entered my blood
and are leaving their tracks there, true!
as the night is caught in a gale
if you came to me in human form as a woman would I not call you Gail?
Enough, dissolve now
as these words
porous and always flowing from my hand's tips
swirl in one more memory of searching
for something which I try to capture
beyond capture
a mood, a thought, a feeling, an emotion!
Beyond me and you!
do not bless me or blame me, yet to die
as I need company here
before the fires are banked in my veins thinking of you
and, arrives -
the Age of Ice.
DV: Very nice, Koshy. What a wonderful way to begin this interview! How did you ever decide to become a poet? 
AVK: It probably has to do with me writing two poems and getting a prize for one when I was very small and having parents who loved poetry and a brother who writes it, along with a sister who does too. There were books in my home while growing up which, having nothing else to do, I read that were beyond me actually but I still understood something or the other, and some of them were anthologies of verse belonging to my mother who had beautiful handwriting. She laid a kind of foundation in taste for me. Told me of poets who "mattered" in England and America and also those writing in English in India who had made a name for themselves. The poets? William Wordsworth first and foremost ("ethereal minstrel, pilgrim of the sky/bird thou never wert?"), and Rabindranath Tagore ("Where the mind is held high" etc). And William Shakespeare (Hamlet's monologue, "to be or not to be," what else?) and Isaiah ("And His Name shall be called" etc). I thrilled to recitals or renditions of Tagore. I returned to verse briefly after facing a death in the family at age ten, when my younger sister died. After that I took literature in my pre-degree classes and met a teacher who was also my eldest brother's mentor and guru, an unconventional Tamil Brahmin scholar, critic and poet called Nakulan who was widely read and who introduced me to Hinduism, modernism and post-modernism. In one of his classes, we learned the "Ode to A Nightingale" by John Keats while he asked us questions in a very Socratic manner on the poem, and something suddenly exploded within me and I knew that the two things I wanted to do in my life were to be a poet and to know as much as I could about poetry, as much as it was possible for one man. That was the decision-making time, I guess. However, I did not immediately start writing poems, but I read poetry like insane. Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson impressed me a lot, but at the same time I was also devouring the Master's degree literature syllabus my second brother was doing. In terms of reading, I also read a lot of Europeans at this time like Rainer Maria Rilke, Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud, as my eldest brother was reading them. Andre Gide was another writer who impressed me with his simplicity and lyricism, like Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. I took to writing poetry only when in love. The first real orgasmic rush of writing came only when I was doing my post-graduation in English Literature and was madly in love, but what I wrote was not love poems - it was an attempt at great literature to impress my lady love. This continued till she went off, sensibly, and I burned some seven years of writing at one shot, to start all over again with nothing. I don't know if I then burned my best or worst work, yet. Nothing is left of it, except some ten poems in a collection, experimental, brief, minimalist poems I made into a book called FIGS, of which only one makes sense to me as a good one now, though maybe three or four others pass muster. By that time I was doing research and was on the Samuel Beckett bandwagon, my own choice.

DV: That's quite an eclectic list! You mention Wordsworth. One of my close poet-mates, Jeremy Toombs, is also an admirer, but I've never understood what all the excitement is about. What have I missed about Wordsworth? Why was he "first and foremost" for you?

AVK: Well, initially just that chronologically he was the first. I remember my mother making me read his take on the skylark, as I already said. It was an electric jolt, the use of a word like ethereal with pilgrim and minstrel and the use of rhyme - wert, heart, art! But nowadays it is different, I really freak out on him. His poem "I wandered lonely as a cloud," "Solitary Reaper," his sonnet  on London, lines written above Tintern Abbey, sections of the Prelude. I think it is because I grew up in a very scenic countryside and he gave me a way to understand that one could actually write poetry about such simple things and their beauty and make it work. Yes, a rather humdrum view of mine I know, but he also has this way of using form whereby although he says it is written for the common man it hides actually much learning in being able to bridle things like metre and stanza and figures of speech and imagery and music to get the kind of or try to get the kind of simplicity he wanted. He makes the homespun in its littleness luminous. "I wandered lonely as a cloud" has so many nuances, of high contrasted to low, of religious thought, of sex, of psychology, of armies that do not clash, of carnival, of singular and plural - it is amazing. That poem remains a hot favourite!

DV: Maybe I should try old Billy once again! What about more contemporary poets? Do any of them ring your bell?

AVK: I have been reading a lot of contemporary poets recently who mainly come from India and write in English. They sure know how to write and I am amused at the so-called establishment for not knowing of them or picking up on them. Reena Prasad, you already know. There are many more like that. But if you mean contemporary famous poets I have to mention Geoffrey Hill. This is a far cry, I know, from my liking for Wordsworth and Frost. But he is a challenging read. The problem with my love for poetry is it is very vast. Today from my memories on facebook, for instance, I dug out posts of poems by Pablo Neruda, Jorge Guillen, Sextus Propertius, St John of the Cross, Roy Campbell...Boris Pasternak! Joseph Brodsky! It's crazy! Since you name 'Billy', I like Billy Collins. How it all feeds off into my writing is by giving it range. I guess. Reading so much has helped me to be very wide in topics I cover etc.

DV: If someone were to label you in terms of "topic" (i.e., as a "love poet" or a "pastoral poet," for example), what do you think would be the most representative "box" for you to be put into?

AVK: Having written so many kinds of poems I do not classify myself but people tell me my love poems are my best ones, so yes, a love poet it would be. This is because it inspires me the most and sears me literally into poetry. I like that inspired feeling and its results. It never palls, especially when laced with sex, romance, erotica and the eternal complexity of the psychological intimacies and intricacies of man-woman relationships.

DV: What about "style"? Are you a postmodernist, a minimalist, a Romantic?

AVK: I'm all that but probably also a Modernist with High Modernist pretensions. Meaning I was very heavily into poets like Ezra Pound so I use a lot of references, allusions, intertextuality, quotes, fragments etc. Post-Poundian with a vengeance. There's another thing, which is I often write like the Beats. I like to attempt huge poems that ramble on and are very wordy, explanatory and descriptive and are not considered by those who do not like them as poetry... Romantic, yes, minimalist, yes, in attempting short poetry and from Beckett, post-modernist, more rarely but inevitably yes - finally, love poet!

DV: Certainly in English, and I suspect in all other languages as well, poets deal with love more than with any other subject. Second place, whatever it is, is not even close! Why do you think that is so? After all, our other emotions can also be as overpowering and all-consuming. Is it because being in love is a common neurosis and we don't have to try to hide it? Is it because, unlike our other powerful feelings, it actually takes us out of ourselves and gives us a new identity for a time?
AVK: Yes, love is not only an aphrodisiac but a drug. Drugs do what mystical or spiritual experiences do, lift one out of oneself, melt the ego - whatever terms we use, give us temporary enlightenment. It is like a designer drug or a cocktail drug - with its combination of sex and romance, sensuality and sensoriality (is that an acceptable word?) , and potent mix of emotions like grief, happiness, hurt, pain, suffering, ecstasy all mixed in with it. It gives one an adrenaline rush and releases endorphins. It gives rise in the case of poets like me to the best of poetry. It is really the key to poetry of a very high quality.  I have read Federico Garcia Lorca and Octavio Paz and both are superb poets but people talk most of Neruda. Why? Because of the love factor. Paz is more intellectual and Lorca more about passion. To give just one example. The world changes but love remains a constant. A poem of Mahmoud Darwish's the name of which I forget now that speaks of a Palestinian man loving an Israelite girl says it all. Children and their innocence, art like music, family bonds and love remain among the last few refuges of mankind we still consider sacrosanct enough that will help us to bond together in the face of increasing divides and poetry that celebrates these themes finds universal appreciation as do poems on women getting empowered. I am sure you know what I mean. However, the poetry of empowerment often seems escapist, a kind of way of circumventing activism through words as if words alone are enough. But that of love is not as it often springs from not just emotion but experience. What I mean is to talk of the evils of war will not necessarily bring peace but to talk of love always strikes a chord.
DV: I think I know what you mean. Recently, Maya Angelou was an incredibly strong, confident omnipresence in the American social, political, and cultural worlds. She even read at Bill Clinton's first inauguration. In "Phenomenal Woman," she both romanticized her femininity ("It's in the arch of my back, / The sun of my smile, / The ride of my breasts, / The grace of my style. / I'm a woman") and humanized it ("It's in the click of my heels, / The bend of my hair, / The palm of my hand, / The need of my care"). I see the same kind of duality in the poem you opened this interview with, a kind of simultaneous existence of incompatibilities, on a multitude of fronts. I wonder if you can sort of lead us through the process of its creation. Was this primarily a mystical experience, in which the whole poem appeared all at once, or more of a series of planned engagements? St. John of the Cross or Napoleon?

AVK: That poem was written in one flow and harks back to Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Wordsworth but also to Malayalam where the words for the two birds it eulogizes are night-singer and sky-singer and to wordplay on gale and Gail etc. It came in one shot and apart from correcting typos it has not been tampered with, so inspired. Yes, it deals with dualities of night and day, happiness and pain, as that is the reality of life. I eat beef and someone else does not and wants me also not to. I like two people and they don't like each other but both like me. Life is full of these complexities that are dual but also a door to something multiple and to sort them out is difficult. I talk to women but when my woman talks to other men, I feel jealous. Simple but deep things. I get some of it reflected in the poem somehow, these battles in one's mind in such poems that are a spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions but not exactly therefore freely structured. They are the result of always dwelling on poetry and living in it and very happy occurrences. So you are right, it is very much "a kind of simultaneous existence of incompatibilities, on a multitude of fronts" and oxymoronic. Romantic and morantic. This makes poetry addictive for writer and reader, this shifting morass of meanings and layers. So yes, finally St John of the Cross and not Napolean. A Dark Night of the Soul rather than an "able was I ere I saw Elba" type of poem. The poem you quoted from Maya Angelou is very familiar to me and I want to point out that it matters as it is activism that brought about some change and not escapism in the sense of a poem that touts women's empowerment but does not manage to bring it about. In connection with this I want to add that I try to think a bit like a new T. S. Eliot in the present poetry writing in India in English scenario, especially the poetry one, meaning to bring about change. Something of that is seen in your blog's activities too which pleases me immensely, in daring to move it a notch higher or elsewhere beyond what people expect.

DV: The blog started because I was bored in retirement and I wanted to preserve some of my own work before it all got misplaced or destroyed (or before I did). But I also wanted to preside over a kind of ethereal open mic, so I groveled before a number of poet friends and pleaded with them to contribute something. Some still haven't, but others responded positively. After a few months, and a lot of blind recruitment, I started to get submissions from strangers, and they keep coming in. So far I've been amazed how much really fine, really interesting work I keep getting, and I hope that it continues. And, in the process, I've also made some new friends. But, really, almost all of the credit goes to people, like yourself, who are willing to trust their "children" to someone like me. Getting back to our discussion, do you have any authorial rituals? Do you keep notebooks? A regular, business-like schedule?

AVK: Talking of rituals reminds me of this book by C.P. Snow whose novels used to  bore the hell out of me. And something I read by Walter Benjamin yesterday, about which more later. But Snow wrote two really great books, one on the Realists, and another on scientists. He detailed two things which stuck in my mind. One was about Feodor Doestoevsky who used to dictate to his wife Anna to write down his great novels but she had to be in the buff while doing it. It insprired him. Dora Maar says the same about Pablo Picasso. The second one was about Benito Perez Galdos - he used to visit a colony of 'whores' every evening and continued this habit even while he was old and blind. It was a ritual that inspired him. A lot of authors have used sex as an authorial ritual! I'm no exception, but for the past seven years my authorial ritual has been the scariest one, which is to type directly into fb posts and not save anything practically that I write! This self-destructiveness keeps me going like never before - being both an intense octane fuelled writer and a workaholic who writes anything from one to innumerable poems a day but directly into my fb posts so I have to keep on churning them out without losing quality so that something may somehow survive. To put it in a nutshell - write every day and every minute if possible so something remains despite your self-destructive streak! Now to come to Benjamin: ‘The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses’:
1. Anyone intending to embark on a major work should be lenient with himself and, having completed a stint, deny himself nothing that will not prejudice the next.
2. Talk about what you have written, by all means, but do not read from it while the work is in progress. Every gratification procured in this way will slacken your tempo. If this regime is followed, the growing desire to communicate will become in the end a motor for completion.
3. In your working conditions avoid everyday mediocrity. Semi-relaxation, to a background of insipid sounds, is degrading. On the other hand, accompaniment by an etude or a cacophony of voices can become as significant for work as the perceptible silence of the night. If the latter sharpens the inner ear, the former acts as a touchstone for a diction ample enough to bury even the most wayward sounds.
4. Avoid haphazard writing materials. A pedantic adherence to certain papers, pens, inks is beneficial. No luxury, but an abundance of these utensils is indispensable.
5. Let no thought pass incognito, and keep your notebook as strictly as the authorities keep their register of aliens.
6. Keep your pen aloof from inspiration, which it will then attract with magnetic power. The more circumspectly you delay writing down an idea, the more maturely developed it will be on surrendering itself. Speech conquers thought, but writing commands it.
7. Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Literary honour requires that one break off only at an appointed moment (a mealtime, a meeting) or at the end of the work.
8. Fill the lacunae of inspiration by tidily copying out what is already written. Intuition will awaken in the process.
9. Nulla dies sine linea [‘No day without a line’] — but there may well be weeks.
10. Consider no work perfect over which you have not once sat from evening to broad daylight.
11. Do not write the conclusion of a work in your familiar study. You would not find the necessary courage there.
12. Stages of composition: idea — style — writing. The value of the fair copy is that in producing it you confine attention to calligraphy. The idea kills inspiration, style fetters the idea, writing pays off style.
13. The work is the death mask of its conception.
As you can see times have changed so I have done away with the idea of writing materials altogether - am a purely online writer, but keeping myself tied to an abundance of net connection, electricity, tab, laptop, pc, mobile phone handy does help, and keeping my fb wall as a place to jot down every thought helps me. I agree with Benjamin but not to "Keep your pen aloof." I have a bad handwriting and do not make hard copies, the story behind the bad handwriting being I was forced to shift from left to right. Beckett had a pretty unreadable hand, according to me, and he needed his lover Suzanne Dumesnil to help him decipher it, so maybe it is alright  Maybe it explains his increasing minimalism. I never had a line-less day. The penultimate two points in Benjamin's thirteen theses applies to him, not me. I love his last line. I have not done the tenth one so have suffered. All in all it is quite sound, his ideas, don't you think?

DV: Obviously, whatever works works well. For you, and Walter also. But I've never developed any regular routines, though I've tried many. Notebooks, time schedules, certain materials or locations. None of it ever made much difference, so I abandoned them all. I write when I am compelled to write from the inside, and then it doesn't matter what the conditions are. I just go until it is "finished" or dead. On the other hand, practical writing, in my professional duties or whatever, has always been easy for me, making more "elevated" writing more difficult. Because I'm more conscious of its shortcomings, I suppose. But your approach baffles me. Why don't you save your work before you post it on Facebook? I suppose your answer would echo Christo's: "Do you know that I don't have any artworks that exist? They all go away when they're finished. Only the preparatory drawings, and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character. I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain." Are you courageous, then? Is poetry's only purpose the creation of new ways of viewing familiar, mundane situations? Should the poet be concerned only with the process of creation itself, as a selfish/self-fulfilling exercise of joining beauty and intellect, or does the poet also have some responsibility to "the public" or to "posterity"?

AVK: I'm very courageous, yes, and one has to be to try this kind of method and influenced also by Beckett in his Three Dialogues to face the predicament of the post-modernist which is the inability to feel that anything I write is necessarily a final draft though obviously there has to be a 'first' draft, so like Christo I agree with the words preparatory and drafts, and also with the idea that it is more difficult  - and imperative now - to create works that are gone from your mind the next minute and then start again than to try to create enduring works. However, it is not just a vengeful middle finger against society that acknowledges (not) my rebellion, or a mere fascination with the process of creation itself or selfishness or a self fulfilling exercise of joining beauty and intellect as I also do get published and write criticism and edit and anthologize and contribute, having finally even brought out my own collection of poems called Allusions  to Simplicity, so I do enter both sides of the fence, so to speak. The problem is that literature now is an industry and often canned and manufactured by aggression and there I am dysfunctional as people push themselves forwards or their candidates, so to speak, based on religion or race or region or culture or language or sexuality or cause or politics and it gets bewildering, irritating and jarring for someone like me who is rather out of sync with how to make it in that milieu. The age of poetry being recognized for its excellence alone seems past, and having collected both rejection and acceptance, bouquets and brickbats, I have come to the conclusion that being prolific seems a temporary solution, so I have brought out any number of books, thirteen in a manner of speaking, in fact. The issue here is when one does that the quality varies in consistency and the editing is not up to the mark sometimes and the speed makes for this unevenness but still some of it is of such high quality that I feel it has to leave an impact on readers sooner or later bringing change and though it is slow, the progress, I feel it is happening, Over the years I am gathering a small but steady following of readers, despite belonging to no school and only fostering movements. What is really difficult is holding on in the absence of a social group I can say I belong to, to back me, rather than holding on in the absence of  huge recognition in the poetry world. To return to the idea of being prolific, it was borne out recently in a study where two groups were asked to make, one copiously and another a masterpiece each, of clay sculptures and one was to be graded on weight and the other on mastery but the group that churned out more pieces produced the better ones finally! They learned on the job, so to speak.  This requires a lot of courage as people are always watching and saying not good enough yet but over time they become overwhelmed as you keep going and are silenced not so much by the quantity but the quality. This interview itself is beginning to take on a kind of classicist curve that rivals Paris Review interviews, and it is because of its length and approach.

DV: Most people don't realize that the vast majority of Renaissance paintings were done on the factory model. The celebrity brand artist had a bunch of apprentices who did most of the work, while he perhaps only advised (or did nothing) or maybe sketched out the overall vision and left them to fill in the "details" or maybe edited out their mistakes at the end and then signed his name. That's why they were so damn prolific! And this kind of collaboration is endemic in the theater, which encompasses so many different artistic modes (acting, directing, writing, cinematography, scenery, costumery, makeup, music, choreography....). But writing, and especially writing poetry, still seems like a mostly private affair, and people do it even if they don't have (or seek) a wider audience. There are a lot more Emily Dickinsons than Oscar Wildes in that respect. (Emily, please visit my site! You, too, Oscar, though you probably have bigger fish to fry!) In addition to your reviewing and editing, what else do you do in an extra-authorial mode? Do you ever read your work in public?

AVK: It's interesting you should say that, as editing does take on that collaborative aspect where I work with younger editors and only oversee like a grandmaster and my name appears too, so a lot of being prolific also has to do with coming into that position of eminence as the main editor in an editorial team, but poetry as a group venture hardly works unless one can cut off from what the other person writes totally in a poem that has, say, many authors - however, poetry too is a group venture, in the sense that you do give it to someone trusted to read and take suggestions and what readers and publishers and editors say matters, as do printers and designers if one goes into the whole putting it up in public process and studies it analytically.  However, I guess they don't matter as much as in theatre or music or sculpture or painting or any other plastic fine art, this aspect of collaboration. I do read my poems out, rarely, but prefer others do it as I feel reading a poem is also an art that probably others more trained in it can do better with my guidance. The way Beckett used to guide Billlie Whitelaw. I play the guitar and sing so that is extra authorial, and I run a non profit organization and teach English language and literature in a univeristy in Jazan, Saudi Arabia. Teaching feeds a lot into my creativity and writing work, as does reading. Everything else. Travel. Am sure Dickinson and Wilde read your blog from heaven; it is getting earthly denizens to read it that is difficult, probably. 

DV: Wilde would probably be baffled (and maybe outraged) if he somehow found himself in Heaven! As for collaborative poetry, the Japanese mastered the art of linked haiku among two or more poets. Basically, the last line becomes the first line of the next poet's haiku, and so on. But it's difficult to pull off, as you suggest. (Jeremy Toombs and Keith Francese and I tried it once, with very mixed results. Maybe we shouldn't have invited Jim Beam to join us.) But you raise an interesting point, about teaching feeding into creativity. Nowadays, at least in the US, most writers (certainly of fiction and poetry) make their living as professors. In what way do your classes affect your writing?

AVK:  I used to teach creative writing earlier, but nowadays it is all mainstream, meaning poetry, criticism, fiction, drama etc. When I used to teach creative writing it was exciting as I used to lead by example in the sense any exercise I gave to my students I also used to do and I would ask them to read that too and criticize. Have made them write manifestos, constitutions and what not. I used to bring the kind of raw energy that John Keating does in Dead Poets' Society (or try to) in my classes. This was before I saw the film, interestingly enough. My students found my creative writing classes an unforgettable experience as they had not come across that kind of bridled and unbridled explosive outlet to writing they found in them. It fed into my writing a lot in that all that creativity helped me to improve my own writing more than theirs. A teacher learns most in a class. Now that I teach literature proper, so to speak, it still feeds in as that past helps me keep writing creatively and this present helps me edit, write criticism analytically etc. Both seem to be like the two wings of a bird and keep one flying, teaching creativity and teaching analysis, if one is also a creative writer. The problem with this is taking on novels and drama is difficult to do, as a result, at least for me, due to time crunch factors. Right now I have scripts for checking and rechecking sitting in my room and assignments and question papers to make but I also have to be creative. So short pieces become the norm. That suits today's fast pace of life anyway. Your experiment at form and collaboration is interesting but I work totally alone now. About Wilde being in Heaven, well, they say "truth is stranger than fiction." I'm amazed at your receptivity in asking the questions showing a kind of sensitivity that I who have been interviewed several times before really find appreciable because you have really drawn me out to talk seriously and in depth about writing after a long time whereas I usually clam up as people talk more and listen less and feel they know more and so do not let the other person have an equal say. So let me ramble on for a little while more, just to add that while poetry is my ejaculation, analysis is my equivalent of making a woman have an orgasm - reading a really well written analysis or criticism or critical theory such as is found in Jaques Lacan's analysis of Edgar Allan Poe's Purloined Letter or what Soren Kierkegaard does in Attack Upon Christendom and trying to do the same, makes my life really light up. That is a heaven I feel and when I'm there would like to think whoever I am studying is there with me in it and is helping me like a familiar friendly compound ghost, to misquote Eliot. When I worked on Beckett and wrote the last chapter of my book on him I felt he, though dead. was there with me looking on benevolently, and that feeling, though completely irrational, helped me to complete the best part of my thesis which later became the book Samuel Beckett's English Poems: Transcending the Roots of Resistance in the English Language. Recently I came across a story by Mahasweta Devi that fascinated me in translation which would be worth studying but I stopped short or fell short as I have to keep my bread and butter job, teaching, going. To end, one cannot be a full-time writer, no one buys poetry or criticism much - at least my kind of writer - but one can be a fully immersed in the world of writing despite having to work to keep family and self in place and together. And Wilde would approve of this, I understand! Writers speak of madness, dying, suicide, and depression often - to survive these states and not to inject it into others, but they survive too and that is probably the real message - that we are not defeated, though we can be destroyed, to misquote Hemingway, either by fate or destiny or history or others or ourselves in all our glorious, human unpredictability.

DV: There's a whole lotta misquotin' goin' on! But at least it's Eliot and Hemingway, who are usually hard to better. In almost every response you have something interesting to say about Beckett. I realize that you devoted a big chunk of your academic life to him, but in what way does he still influence your creative output? Are you a Neo-Beckettian, still waiting for Go-Dot?

AVK: Yes, a very big chunk, six years to be precise. And he has left an indelible mark on me as a man, writer and, well poet, critic, what not....When I began my burst of non stop-poetry writing around seven years back, something like Bob Dylan who is on a never-ending tour, at first I used to write like him dropping punctuations, and to change it a bit I dropped capitals and became more like Cummings but his real influence is deeper, it comes from his examples in productivity, and hitting a golden period, his minimalism and his existentialism. I think these have remained with me more than anything else, that slender sliver of ontology whereby he uses the word "on" for instance to suggest that there is hope, maybe. Maria Jolas said of him that like James Joyce he was Christ haunted and this is true in that he actually, unlike what people think, never lets the dark overtake him fully. This lesson about content and his painstaking eye for perfection in matters regarding form have remained with me as has his uncompromising search to find his own voice and style and it drives me on ruthlessly to try to do the same things in my own art, have my own voice and style, be as perfectionist in form and find that golden streak in terms of content. It makes me sweat over my art relentlessly whether I get anywhere near to being as great a writer or not and also helps me as it did him to ward of as I said earlier thoughts of madness, despair, suicide, dying etc., in those odd moments when you try to wonder what the hell you are doing with your life and how it all makes sense.  His mastery of language is a delight and his sense of humour is too and I could read him again at any time and still not get bored, ever. He also wrote some beautiful poems. His poems come back to me, to mind, in mine, when least expected. Here is an example. In a poem called Cascando he wrote:

"love love love thud of the old plunger
pestling the unalterable
whey of words"

and in a recent poem I wrote called Shaman it suddenly came back to me thus:

The living mortar pestles

The Milky Way
Entering, head first, entirely, its entirety
Through the dense underhung
Tangled black
Worming, being pushed in, squirming...

The engorged passage
Makes curds and whey

Some of my poems are purely Beckettian and hopefully as powerful, I owe him that and more. He haunts me with his writing and I cannot but be post-Beckettian - a major influence along with Bob Dylan and oh, so many others already named in this interview and yet to be named, probably - including filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Paradjanov, not to mention Ingmar Bergman. The common denominator being the passion for excellence. In their making.

DV: Hmmm. I see your favorite authorial ritual at work here in "Shaman." How do you explain that title?

AVK: I saw a video, a documentary of a witch doctor in Africa, in the Amazon, who to make a woman fertile puts a snake into her vagina, after using it to make it make kind of ritualistic love to her, a huge baby python, to be precise, and it gave me this metaphor for writing as a kind of making fertile process as well as love, sex, life etc. To defamiliarize it slightly I called it Shaman. It reads a bit like danse macabre or grand guignol but the metaphors make it work, or so I feel. I put it on my blog and elsewhere and it got more than a hundred reads. Yes, very much based on the authorial ritual, I agree. I have been influenced by Jim Morrison and he makes much of the shamanic tradition and his lyrics for The End make use of this kind of grotesquerie too.

DV: Just from the two examples you've shared with us here, it's obvious (to me) why you should abandon your quixotic quest to produce ephemeral FB-only poetry. These are strong works that deserve to be available to everyone. But, of course, artist should be the final arbiters of what happens to their creations. The rest of us have the right of input but not of decision. But I think it's a shame that a lot of your work is probably unavailable. We've covered a lot of ground, and you've given us all a lot to mull over. So, I want to thank you for your time and intellect. You've been a real stimulant!

AVK: Thanks for honouring me by putting my poems in your award winning blog and also by interviewing me!

[Koshy has co-edited The Significant Anthology with Reena Prasad and Michele Baron besides co-writing a book with Dr Bina Biswas called Wake Up, India: Essays for Our Times, along with the published books he mentions in the interview like Art of Poetry, Samuel Beckett's English Poetry: Transcending the Roots of Resistance in Language and  his collection of poems Allusions to Simplicity. He has also co-edited Umbilical Chords with Dr. Santosh Bakaya and two others and a book on Mahesh Dattani's Plays.]

Robert Lee Haycock shoots

Above Los Vaqueros

Christopher Hopkins writes

Friday Night Cedar Street

black glass tarmac

neon halos in pooling rain 
the flick of traffic lights 
those hanging stars 

to the lonely hearts of the town

the street corner clowns 
with money for a loving.
The easy downs 
lip stick kisses blown.

Filling their bodies.

The smell of animals on the back seat.

Animals in the park. 
Parking bay lovers.
Some nights are quick 
Some nights are hit 
with the smack in the vein 
wet wipes in the purse.

There no romance to a tarmac bed. 
or a dollar bill laid avenue 

 Bronzeville at Night -- Archibald J Jr Motley

Arlene Corwin writes

A Day Of Thinking or

This Is The Way My Brain May Work On Any Given Day

           Breakfast In Bed

No one in this world

Makes thinner toast,

Better toast, winner toast.

You do not boast.

How have you learned to slice

This near-transparent, indisputably crunchy piece of bliss!

What skill! And modest too!

No one can make such toast as you.

                Going In To Thank

Going into different segments of the brain

I thank for life in any of the synapses.

Is there a gratitude partition

Or a separate, section - special one?

An all-inclusive?

I don’t always feel it – just today.

It probably will go away.

I hope it leaves a record.

          Late Afternoon

Deep, deep inside

I’m feeling tired of society.

It’s like what I imagine to be

What they call depression.

It’s connected to reality; civilization.

There’s the problem -

It’s not me, it’s them!

I ought to put away the TV (I’ve no phone)

Things electronic, dailies, monthlies,

All things histrionic;

The destructive, scandalous and shocking;

All things not-to-be: illusory.

Noel Coward wrote “World Weary” –

A light song for something serious.

Perhaps that’s it!

There still exist fall hues phantasmagorical:

Food tastes, sweet music, friends amusing, loyal,

Beauty, animals…and still I feel

Despite the goodness,

Deep, deep sadness at the mess.

Image result for synapse paintings
Synapse -- McKella Sawyer

Nick Burnett writes

I speak with intuity
To solid grounded
A conduit of such electric impulse
Logically speaking
Where is your thought derived from
That chip on your shoulder
Are you basing it on fear that you may lose something of your own personal gain
That you might mighty mouse that you may drown
To be grounded before the pursuit of the great flight

I have found in my experience in times where all of you  are doubt it is best to spread your wings and soar as an eagle

At their elevation two like elements sucking air you may die but often what is lost is found and yet to be discovered in the determined

second efforts expound on derivative

Expose your self

Explore your most inner self often yet to be explored

Unlock your universe

God gave you the key

Speak or forever hold your peace

With simplicity your first words
Break your unconscious free your mind find God

Friday, October 28, 2016

Alex Krivtsov shoots

David Allen writes


Waiting for another trial
to begin, for someone’s
fate to be sealed,
for Lady Justice
to blindly balance
her scales.

In Japan they readily tip
for the prosecution,
trials here are settled
with indictments on the charges
and all that hangs in the balance
is how sorry the defendant
is. How much remorse
does he hold in his heart?

If I were to be tried here
for my sins, I’d get off
with a light sentence,
because I am the sorriest
son of a bitch on Okinawa.

How sorry are you?

Image result for bishamon painting 
Bishamon [detail from Jūniten Byōbu] -- Shōga Takuma