Inspired: A Conversation with Award-Winning Indian Poet Vinita Agrawal

I recently had the distinct honor of getting to know the work of internationally acclaimed Indian poet Vinita Agrawal. She graciously agreed to an international-style interview, in English here and translated into French by Paris-based arts & culture blogger Pravesh Bhurtha, founder of Bollywood Sources, whose mission it is to promote Indian cinema, arts & culture in France.

See the French-language version HERE: http://bollywoodfilm.over-blog.com/2016/09/interview-vinita-agrawal-poete.html

Thank you to Ms. Agrawal and Mr. Bhurtha for this opportunity to share inspiring literary art around the world.


For internationally renowned award-winning poet Vinita Agrawal, the creativvinitae spirit came to her at a very young age.

She wrote her first poem at the age of five.

“It was about my doll,” she said via email from her home in Mumbai. “Looking back, I feel that I expressed my love for the things I possessed or the people in my life through poetry.”

Agrawal’s poetry is rich with emotion and vivid detail, the words and the stories they carry carefully woven like a beautiful tapestry, every thread working in tandem with the next. And when her work is read out loud, it has a singing rhythm and lovely tonal quality like the sound of rain falling onto copper bells.

In her most recent and third poetry collection, The Silk of Hunger, (AuthorsPress, Delhi, India, 2016) Agrawal explores “the spirituality lying dormant within us.”

Reviewer Russell Micnhimer praises the collection in North of Oxford.

“And beneath all the visceral awareness of the physical detail we sense the relentless cycle of time going on,” he writes. “This is something even a lot of mature poets are incapable of doing and it points to the acuity with which this one meets her world and shares her perceptions of it with the reader.”

Image result for vinita silk of hunger

The Silk of Hunger  is available for purchase here: http://www.authorspressbooks.com/author_detail.php?a_id=747

Additional work is available at Amazon.com HERE.

Agrawal graciously took the time recently to answer a few questions about herself and her work.

  1. You began writing poetry very young. Did you grow up listening to poetry? As a young person, what inspired you and how has your source of inspiration changed over time?

That’s right…I wrote my first poem at the age of five. It was about my doll. Looking back, I feel that I expressed my love for the things I possessed or the people in my life through poetry. I wasn’t exposed to poetry of any kind as such in my primary years except for what was taught in schools. I remember distinctly that poetry lessons were my favorite class. I used to feel a surge of emotions just reading poems. I bought Palgrave’s collection of classical poetry as a teen and read it cover to cover. That was my earliest inspiration. Later my own emotions became my inspiration for writing. Even now, some feeling has to stir inside me for me to express it in words. I cannot write mechanically.

  1. As a resident of many different cities, do you find that your work is influenced by place? Is Mumbai a place that fuels your creativity?

Although it’s true that I’ve lived in many cities, my work has never ever been influenced by the external place of stay. The inner space that all of us carry within us has stayed the same. And all my words arise from there. Mumbai is a ‘happening place’ – meaning that it is culturally alive. There are myriad opportunities to share one’s work and seek exposure for one’s creative side. But personally, I just stay connected to myself within. That’s the person who does all the talking in my work. The outer city doesn’t really matter.

  1. The emotion in your work is so rich. Yet you said at one point, you were a closet poet. What helped you to release your work into the world?

I was a closet poet – meaning that I wrote a lot of poetry but did not come out with it in public. I just hoarded my work in personal diaries and folders. However things changed after 1997 after my first publication in a magazine called Femina. It was a leading women’s monthly in India at the time and their poetry page was edited by Kamala Das. She was one of my favorite poets so it meant a great deal to me to be published there. After that there was no looking back – after that I wanted to be published everywhere!

There’s a famous Urdu poet Nida Fazli who said, that all your experiences are poetry…and that which is not experienced by you is prose. Similarly, the truth of the emotions that I depict in my poems is what makes it rich…else it would be sawdust.

  1. If you could spend a month writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

At Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet. If I could survive that long there, that is! It’s the most mystical place on this planet. It’s at an altitude of above fifteen thousand feet and oxygen is scarce. But I believe that just visiting the place is a transformational experience. It would be blissful to write there!

  1. Creativity — the creative spirit — is like a gift to the artist. How does poetry sustain you?

Poetry allows me to be myself. Otherwise we mostly play roles in life. A good wife, an excellent mother, a helpful friend and caring daughter are roles that one must fulfill so that life remains in balance. But it is poetry that sustains my inner balance. It keeps my core intact.

lean on me (1 of 1)

The Solid Lines Of Disappearing Things
by Vinita Agrawal
Published in Mithila Review, May 2016

The air, the tree house
that once knew love is now weak in the knees
and in the time it took those moments to become page weary
to turn from solid lines of tree trunks to smoke

A world fell.

Somewhere in the twilight age
the shaved heads of jasmines ride the desire
to bloom on wet branches of August
but they have lost touch with themselves

We cannot become ourselves again.

You and Varanasi
where human heads sink when alive and float when dead,
where seemingly harsh, bladder-bright yellow crystals gleam,
are disappearing thoughts

A male world is full of dirty jokes.

Hospitals do not care
children continue to laugh off mestizos
and we do not know EVER if we want to laugh or cry
but Swifts come every day

Watching the middle-aged man finely tune his deck of life.

********

Listen to Vinita Agrawal read her poetry via the following links:

http://mithilareview.com/agrawal_05_16/

and

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gfQMo6WiQoc

More about Vinita Agrawal:

Author of three books of poetry, Vinita is a Mumbai based, award-winning poet and writer. Recipient of the Gayatri GaMarsh Memorial Award for Literary Excellence her poems have appeared in Asiancha, Constellations, The Fox Chase Review, Pea River Journal, Open Road Review, Stockholm Literary Review, Poetry Pacific, Mithila Review and over a 100 other national and international journals. She was nominated for the Best of the Net Awards in 2011. She was awarded first prize in the Wordweavers Contest 2014, commendation prize in the All India Poetry Competition 2014 and won the 2014 Hour of Writes Contest thrice. Her poems have found a place in significant national anthologies like Suvarnarekha and Dance with the Peacocks in several international anthologies compiled in Australia and Israel. She was co-judge for the Asian Cha Poetry Contest, 2015. She has read at SAARC events, at the U.S. Consulate, at Delhi Poetree and at Cappucino Readings, Mumbai.

 

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