An Interview with Abhay K By Alok Mishra, Editor-in-Chief at Ashvamegh Journal
It was the month of July, 2015. Alok Mishra had a fortunate chance and honour to discuss on poetry and writing with Abhay K. Abhay K has answered all the questions and curiosity by Alok in a lucid way. You will find this interview interesting and worth to spend your time with. The Ashvamegh Team hopes that it’d give the readers an insight into Abhay K’s writings and poetry.
Abhay K, An Introduction to the Poet
Abhay Kumar (born 1980) (literary name Abhay K) is an Indian poet-diplomat and artist. He has written several books including The Seduction of Delhi and River Valley to Silicon Valley. His writings cover digital diplomacy, philosophical poetry, art and global democracy. The Earth Anthem, written, produced and directed by him in eight languages, was appreciated. He wrote the South Asian Anthem spurring search for an official SAARC Anthem. He received the SAARC Literary Award for his contribution to contemporary South Asian Poetry and nominated for the Pushcart Prize 2013. In 2011, he also received the Gov 2.0 award on behalf of the Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs. He has been featured as a celebrity Indian author in Forbes India 100 Celebrity writers list and has been honoured with Asia-Pacific Excellence Award in 2014. (from Abhay K Wikipedia)
Read the Interview of Abhay K, the poet diplomat
The Interview with Abhay K by Alok Mishra
Alok Mishra: Nalanda, the name says so much, how do you relate yourself to your native place?
Abhay K: Nalanda is always in my mind. Whenever someone asks me where am I from- I say-from Nalanda. That’s enough. Most people know Nalanda and its glory. Nalanda paints a picture in my mind of red bricks, ruins, the all-knowing gatekeeper who interviewed everyone who wanted to get admission in the famed university. I often visit the ruins of Nalanda University whenever I come back to Bihar. I find spiritual solace among them. In a way, Nalanda defines me.
Alok Mishra: When did you start writing poetry? Do you remember the first time you wrote something? What was the source of your inspiration earlier? Did it change with the time?
Abhay K: As a child, I was awestruck by the power of poems of Ramdhari Singh Dinkar and Kabir. As an adolescent, I remember composing poems in my mind without writing them, what could be called as ´poems to the wind.´ I only started writing poems after I joined the Indian Foreign Service in 2003. My first poem came to me when I was writing my memoir. I call it the Soul Song-
I was always here
As blowing wind or falling leaves
As shining sun or flowing streams
As chirping birds or blooming buds
As the blue sky or empty space
I was never born, I din’t die.
My sources of inspiration are many. I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of the universe, places I visit, people I meet and things I come across. It could be a person, a monument, a tree, a song, it could be literally anything under the sun.
Alok Mishra: What does poetry mean to you? Why do you write?
Abhay K: Poetry for me is what the soul is for the body. I read and write poetry to satisfy my spiritual hunger.
Alok Mishra: Which poets have inspired you? Do you feel yourself ever influenced by the writing style of a poet?
Abhay K: I have a long list of favourite poets. Some of them are Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Kabir, Tulsidas, Rahim, Ghalib, Rumi, Rabindranath Tagore, Iqbal, Faiz, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Khalil Gibran, Dylan Thomas, Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda, C.P. Cavafy, Joseph Brodsky, Derek Walcott, ShuntaroTanikawa, Seamus Heaney, WislawaSymborska, Charles Simic, Jayanta Mahapatra among others.
I particularly like the writing style of Kabir who says so much in few words. I like the energy in the lines of Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. I love the easy flow of Walt Whitman’s prose-verse. I am influenced, consciously or unconsciously by all of them.
Alok Mishra: I have come across a student of Hindi literature who had to say that poetry is the wrath of a person sitting in loneliness. Do you agree with him?
Abhay K: No, I don’t agree. Poetry is a social phenomena, it is an engagement with the world around us. Poetry is always with us, from birth to death- in form or chants, mantra, jingles, prayers, songs, hymns, anthems etc.
Alok Mishra: There was a question in JNU Entrance Exam arguing that Indian literature in English is literature in translation. I do not agree with it. What do you say about it? Before you answer, I add my argument that if it is so, the literature of any kind is literature in translation. In a way or another, writers/poet translate their emotions into words. Please enlighten.
Abhay K: I agree with you. There is a strong body of work in Indian English literature- in both poetry and prose. English is one of major languages of India and Indian English literature only adds to richness and diversity of Indian literature.
Alok Mishra: You are an active diplomat. How often do you write? People say poetry writing needs time; best words come out in leisure. How do you manage your time to write and work?
Abhay K: I write everyday, more or less. I can’t do without writing. Poetry and diplomacy have a few common elements which complement each other. For example, in both poetry and diplomacy you deal with words to communicate with your readers or interlocutors. In both poetry and diplomacy ambiguity and brevity in expression play very vital roles.
I remember writing poems travelling in Moscow Metro or visiting a monument in old Delhi. Poetry can hit you anytime. You have to be ready to receive them. I cut down on watching TV or other such things and focus on my reading and writing whenever I get an opportunity. I have cultivated the art of writing poetry in the middle of a meeting, intervals, in the crowd.
Alok Mishra: Many golden lines about the ‘role of a poet in the society’ have been in print. To you what is the role of a poet in today’s society?
Abhay K: A poet should act as a mirror to the society as well as its spokesperson especially of those who can’t speak for themselves.
Alok Mishra: Please let the readers know about your projects for future? Are your working on any book? And please share any stanza you have written and you repeat it most of the times.
Abhay K: I am editing an anthology on the capital cities of the world with contributions from Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, Pulitzer Prize Winner Vijay Seshadri, T.S. Eliot Prize Winner George Szirtes among other eminent poets of over 160 countries. It is in final stages of completion. Upon its publication I hope the anthology will help the world to see itself in a different way, in a poetic way. This anthology is my humble attempt to make a Poetry Atlas, to create a poetic portrait of the planet.
My new collection of poems on Nepal titled The Eight-Eyed Lord of Kathmandu will also be published soon. I have tried to connect the quark, the smallest of the small entity that makes atoms, and the universe on lines of the popular saying in our part of the world- “Jahan najayeravi, wahanjayekavi”.
“Quark of a poet
blossoming in the sub-atomic space
writing the uni-verse.”
I repeat it often as well as my first poem- The Soul Song.
Alok Mishra: What is your message to the young poets who are willing to explore the new dimensions of creative writing?
Abhay K: I would like to urge younger poets to publish their works in reputed poetry magazines first and then only publish a collection of poems. Please do not rush to publish a book. There is not much scope of making money out of poetry writing, most of the time poets have to struggle to get a book published. Therefore, I would urge younger poets to find a daily job to meet their physical needs and write poetry to meet their spiritual needs.
I would like to advise them to keep a notebook, record your observations, learn poetic devices such as use of metaphors, rhymes, poetic forms etc. There is no perfect poem. Every poem is an attempt towards perfection. Every poem can be improved. Try writing a poem but always make an attempt to rewrite it, revise it, before you send it for publication.