By Waseem Majazi
Sonnet Mondal is an English poet and has authored five books of poetry — Ink and Line being the latest. Sonnet travelled and has read at literary festivals in Macedonia; Cork, Ireland; Istanbul, Turkey; Granada, Nicaragua; Galle, Sri Lanka; Berlin, Germany; Budapest, Hungary and Slovakia. He is an upcoming writer in residence at the Sierra Neveda College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and his works have appeared in several publications across North America, Europe, Asia, Middle East and Australia. One of the current directors of Odisha Art & Literature Festival, Mondal edits the subcontinental section of Lyrikline (Haus für Poesie, Berlin) and serves as the Series editor of the Enchanting Verses Literary Review.
Q:1 Tell us about your initiation and how the love for poetry jailed you forever?
I hark back to the day, when I scribbled a piece in 2005, that somehow passed as something close to a poem in the court of my perceptions. Though I wouldn’t call it a poem now, but it was that moment when I penned this piece — which drew me into writing verses. And nowadays, I see myself as a person who writes — writes to satisfy an unending spirit of enquiry, writes out of love and for whom poetry is the best medium of articulation — when it comes to expressing those muse which cannot be put forward through direct statements.
Q:2 Sonnet Mondal, you are a young poet. You have read and participated , in literary festivals in Macedonia; Cork, Ireland; Istanbul, Turkey; Granada, Nicaragua; Sri Lanka; and Slovakia. Your works have been translated into Hindi, Italian, Slovenian, Slovakian, Spanish, Turkish, Macedonian, Bengali and Arabic. You have seen the blue planet through the prism of poetry but, to what extend you agree with a famous American playwright Gwydion Suilebhan when he says, “Poetry is dead. What pretends to be poetry now is either New Age blather or vague nonsense or gibberish. It’s zombie poetry.” There is no longer, really, any formal innovation possible. The constraints of meter have long been abandoned. What is left? It is a parroting of something that used to be radical. It is about as useful as the clavichord. There is no “Howl” possible or “Song of Myself.” There is no “The Waste Land.” What is your say is it dead or dying or still alive?
Poetry is not dead. It has always had a limited yet pronounced space in our society, and has played an important role in shaping the cultural history of our civilization. Innovations, recreations and new approach of presenting poetry can be seen all around in the current world. It is true that rhythmical innovations through metrical changes do not interest contemporary poets, but on a closer critical reading — one can sense sublime innovations peeping through many poems written of late. They may not glare at us but demand an insightful understanding. The growing number of poetry festivals, poetry reading events and magazines, that have come up in the last decade also bear testimony to my firm conviction that poetry was never dead and it is not dying either. The only cause of concern is the ‘scanty time’ and ‘hazy focus’ readers afford while reading poetry these days because good poetry may not reveal itself in the very first encounter with it.
Q3: Is it right to come up with the argument that Universities can save this sinking boat by including new poets in the curriculum?
Universities already have poetry in their courses. What they don’t have is poetry as a subject, which should be started soon. Also, they can increase the space of poetry in their academic curriculum, and accommodate more books of poetry in their libraries. Adding to this — contemporary poets are grossly neglected in academic books. This has to change — if the academic world has to keep pace with the changing contours of contemporary poetry.
Q4: Do you agree, in India there are enough listeners for poetry but few buyers?
I do. In any of the literary festivals of India, or poetry gatherings — lot of serious listeners can be seen — sitting, interacting and reflecting on what is being presented on stage. But, when it comes to buying poetry books, the number radically goes down.
Q5: Which poets do you admire? Why?
There are many, but to name a few I would include Tagore, Derozio, Shakti Chattopadhyay, Jibananda Das, Dilip Chitre, K Satchidanandan, and Manohar Shetty among others. To me poetry is something that doesn’t shimmer on the surface, but profoundly resides — deep inside words and turns of phrase in a poem. I find that depth, that distance of philosophy and that profundity —- in their writings.
Q6: Poets possess a tender heart and they can’t turn a blind eye to the bitter facts of life. There is a touching poem, “To Syrian Children” written by you. What provoked you to write such a master piece?
The apathetic and sinful world to which the children of Syria have been subjected to, provoked me to write this piece. I would quote few lines from another poem I wrote on Syria titled — Nobody Speaks of You Syria , which explicates why I chose to pen on the children of Syria.
‘Somewhere in your ruins,
hope peeps like a thief
through a broken tooth
of a child, smiling at a broken tank.
Through her eyes —
You look so lean Syria,
but your history is getting fat.’
Q7: What is your take on Kashmir where too children are dying to bullets and pellets? Any plans to pour your heart out on Kashmir?
My only take on guns, bullets and war is — NO to them. I have quite a few anti-war and anti-conflict poems — few among them penned on the pitiful situation prevailing in Kashmir — in my upcoming book.
Q8: Your new project that you are working on?
The manuscript of my upcoming books of poems is complete, which would hopefully come out later this year. I am also writing a travelogue — including incidents from different poetry festivals around the world — which I have visited in the past few years.
Q9: what advice would you give to an aspiring poet?
There are only 4 secrets of writing well — write, read, read more and write more.
—The interview took place in Delhi and the author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org