Here is with me this fantastic lady, Shikha Malaviya, author of Geography of Tongues, (Great Indian Poetry Collective, 2013) with an exclusive interview for you readers.
Hi Shikha, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

 

I consider myself a citizen of the world, having been born in England and raised in the U.S. and India. I grew up in a very nurturing house full of music, books, animated discussions and delicious food. Family meant everything and it was a multiplication of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins. My parents made sure that I embraced my cultural heritage, while respecting the other cultures I came across. I am a product of both the East and West, and this gives my work a broad yet deep perspective. It also gives me the ability to appreciate the sheer variety of languages, geographies and cultures that coexist in our world.
What does poetry mean to you and what made you decide to become a poet?
Poetry is a literary genre that I feel is a distillation of all other genres. It has flecks of the fantastical and autobiographical, of image, emotion and rhythm, but most of all, it packs a punch within the framework of stanzas. Epiphanies, resolutions or musings are communicated in a brief yet powerful manner. I feel poets are literary photographers, taking snapshots with their words. For me, it feels natural and instinctive and I am drawn to this mode of expression that is a meditation of sorts. I believe poetry chose me instead of I choosing it. I also think it might be genetic. My grandfather was a poet too, except that he wrote in Hindi.
How do you decide which subjects, events, etc. are worth writing about and which aren’t?
It is a very organic process and often, the decision isn’t up to me. The subjects/events/emotions often show up like a friend, at my doorstep, that I have to let in, not knowing or able to ask how long they’ll stay. My poems are mostly autobiographical and inspired by family, history and mythology. All of these are intertwined in one’s day-to-day living.
How long does it take before a poem is ready?
Typically, each poem goes through a few drafts-mostly tweaking in the form of changing a word, fixing a line break or clarifying an image. I ruminate over most poems/themes in my mind for a few weeks, before I commit them to paper. Revision is every writer’s not-so-secret weapon that turns a piece of coal into a diamond. I have a few poems that I have held on to for ten years, because one word doesn’t sound right or the rhythm is off. It’s a very intuitive process. If and when a poem flows out without needing any changes, it feels like a gift from the divine.
Tell us about your book, Geography of Tongues? When will it be available?
Geography of Tongues is an exploration of family, cultures and what the idea of home/identity means. My hope is that the poems in them have touched on the universal, through a narration of the personal. I like to experiment with style and have prose poems as well as lyric ones. I am very excited to see how it will be received. Geography tongues will be available by end of November. Visit www.greatindianpoetrycollective.org for updates and ordering information.
What do you like to read? Are there any poets or artists that speak to you?
I love reading all sorts of poets/poetry-modern, post-modern, translations, prose poetry, traditional verse– you name it! One can learn so much from reading and studying every form. I love the imagery and passion of Pablo Neruda, the emotion and spirituality of T.S, Eliot, the wit and philosophy of Arun Kolatkar, the quiet fire in the verse of Gwendolyn Brooks and the clear, vivid images in William Carlos Williams’ work. Michael Ondaatje is one poet who is also a superb novelist. There are too many writers to name and honor here. I love art too and each time I discover a new artist or poet, it’s like falling in love. The art of S.H. Raza and his focus on the bindu (circle) has me mesmerized. I’ve started wearing bigger bindis after seeing Raza’s work J
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
No fear! I would advise any upcoming poet/writer to read as much as possible, to write and experiment with as many different forms and to not be afraid to take risks. Anthologies are a great way to explore many voices in one place. I also believe it is very important to understand ones literary/poetic history and legacy. Who were our literary forbearers? Why did they write the way they did? What can we learn from them? I also believe that revision is the most powerful tool a writer can have. Revise your manuscript once, twice, fifty times! Poetry, particularly, is like sculpture, which you have to chip away at until you see its true form come through. Most great poems/stories have been written many times over. But all the audience sees is the final product. I think it is very important for all to understand that writing is hard work and that it isn’t simply about stringing together a bunch of words. Also, I would like to add to the infamous writer’s advice phrase, ’write what you know.’ Write what you know, write what you don’t know and would like to know, or write what you think no one knows. It’s all about creating worlds, real and imagined, that touch us somehow.
About Shikha:
Shikha Malaviya is a poet, writer and teacher. She is founder of  The (Great) Indian Poetry Project, an online archive of Modern Indian Poetry currently under development. She is also co-founder of Poetry in Public India, a poster project showcasing Indian women’s verse with fine art, in various public venues across India. Shikha has degrees in creative writing and mass communications from the University of Minnesota. Her poems have been featured in various journals & anthologies, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Shikha also founded Monsoon Magazine, one of the first South Asian literary magazines on the web. Shikha believes in the transformative power of poetry, as a vehicle for raising social awareness and spurring change. She gave a TEDx talk on poetry in Bangalore, India, in March 2013 and has organized the ‘100 Thousand Poets for Change, Bangaloreevent for the past two years. Shikha was also a panelist in the Bangalore Literature Festival, 2013. Her book of poems, Geography of Tongues, is slated for release in November 2013, published by The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective.

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Prakhyath Rai
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Prakhyath Rai

Admin at MerryBrains
Friends call me Prakz. I am a blogger, avid reader and bathroom singer. I take all my life decisions at showers like everyone else.
Prakhyath Rai
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