Scott Thomas Outlar: Thank you for taking the time to appear here at 17Numa, Kushal. Firstly, please talk a bit about your most recent collection, Eternity Restoration Project: New and Selected Poems.
Kushal Poddar: It is a pleasure to appear at 17Numa.
The collection selects glimpses of my mind browsing through my life. Had poetry ever been a career it is the curriculum vitae at the midlife of it. I perceived the book when I had enough with my own existence and was tired with so called friends and foes, not to mention with my nonexistent love life. My wife Pradnya came and I wanted to make it special by a book, not of love poems but of the poems I used to write and that I shall be writing. The poems deal with the dark shadows I traversed and the ray I found in love, lost it and regain it. They are not love poems or some poems of protest. The poems are the observations on the observer observing himself.
STO: What is your general writing process from day to day, and does that differ once you begin putting a book together? When do you know a manuscript has reached its final form?
KP: I began writing as a mode of escape. I began reading for the same. Listening. Watching. Not that I lived or live in an ugly place. It is me. I am an escape artist. Weaving illusion around me is a mean to achieve the same.
My method of writing begins before I wake up. The dreams often kick start writings. Then I have to discuss those with my wife. I must tell her while watching a movie together, generally on my phone as we have no TV set, that now I must write a poem on this particular situation being depicted on the screen. Often she would nudge me and tell me to write.
In the beginning I wrote seventy words a day. I talked about this with Franz Wright over the Messenger. One must write every day was Merwin or Pound kind of logic. I still endorse although I don’t write every day nowadays. I have my panic attacks. I have my moments of daily love and darkness with my wife and my parents. Surprisingly my parents began to value my writing when suddenly at the age of forty I became arrested by panic attack and other sad demons.
I write and discuss with my wife. She often points out if I have repeated myself. She would say if this poem belongs to my future book or not- the one I keep mentioning here as it is a mean not to escape but to face.
Often when stuck in my life I love to clean objects, rooms, toilets. Often I pace around the house, around the neighborhood. When words possess me things and faces blur out. Was this the property I love about writing or reading? If it is so then I must face the things and write anew.
Compiling a book is different. Sometimes it has a theme- a way to flip the pages I have written and to pick similar themed works. I must add two more psychological things- I cannot edit my own poems after a certain period of time, and I cannot dare to go deep into that poem fearing it will yield something powerful to change the me I was at the time of writing it.
Literature is about contradiction. I contradict myself often. I am a chameleon that at its core is the same but goes through different shades. A writer doesn’t even believe in himself often. How can he keep believing in the same faith, ideology or other forms of principles? One thing is guaranteed, I cannot endorse oppression or right wing practicing the same.
The next book I have on my mind is entirely different. You should wait for it- the book breaks my comfort zone. When I shall be tired of the central theme of a book I stop writing about it. Probably that is its completion. Probably a writer writes only one book throughout his life and publications are the chapters of the same. Remember Kill Bill?
STO: You recently attended a literary festival in Hyderabad. How was the experience, and what were some of the highlights of the event?
KP: The experience is same as in any of the events. Faces we face are variables holding the same stream of continuity- poetry. My wife almost pushed me to join the event. I travel badly. I talk more than I should or remain silent at an event. However one of the highlights of the event was discussing with Nabina Das, acclaimed author, how I conceived some of my poems. I remembered that I forgot many. Also the event gave me some idea about some ancient poetry practiced by certain sects.
I am not a festival or event kind of person at the present form of myself. I do don a character of hyperactive and confident man in front of the people at an event but inside I do want to run away.
STO: How would you describe your style of poetry? What types of changes has your work gone through during your evolution as a writer through different phases since you first began publishing?
KP: My poems are simple observations with a magic realistic twist that I don’t see or think as magic realism because even one’s personal experience is always exotic and magical for the others. Some say- my poems are mystical. Not really. My most mystical poems may be inspired by some thriller or some newspaper article about capitalism. I always use slant or hidden rhymes and rhythms and even form so broken that one would not recognize it easily. But, wait for it, this form and experience will go through a major change in my upcoming book.
STO: Are there any key points along your path, not only as a writer/artist, but as a human being, that you can point back to when you felt what might be referred to as “Aha” moments, or epiphanies?
KP: Several times, but often as a human being and as someone who realized his past matters and matters not. Epiphanies have a funny way of being forgotten once I go through it. Being married is one epiphany.
STO: What do you hope readers come away with after digesting your work?
KP: A moment of long pause and associating my poem with some life experience and interpretation of his own.
STO: What projects are you currently developing, and what has you most excited about the rest of 2019 and beyond?
KP: I have been developing two solo books, being written with two exactly opposite aims/ends and a book with another poet from another land that shall question our philosophy and ask if the eternal fight between philosophy and poetry has a solution or not.
STO: Thank you again, Kushal. If there is anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to address, I’ll leave the floor to you for any final thoughts.
KP: I shall say, Seek the poet through his poems and accept that he changes in order to bring the change. Also like I promised, I shall share a recent poem meant for one of three books I am working on. The poem was written when a fellow poet I revere, Chris Madoc, asked me to write about a photograph of bloody raspberries he snapped. He is British.
Here biscuits mean something else.
Brexit means something else.
Your white, the darkness I confessed
over a cup of Earl Grey, all porcelain,
prim and unused by the generation next,
mean time is different, and we’ll dine
on raspberry gateaux shaped out of shape,
“Dear landlady, mmm, this!”
the eyes of berries popped out
from the bruised flesh where my fork-marks
remain stilled, yellow-taped.
Her skin is marbled with the blue of age.
“Dear landlady, all this, hmm, means
The streets tongue the groin of horizon outside.
Spring kills the buds and revives them to kill again.
The berry eyes stare the very heart of the matter
of two medium eggs, sugar and buttermilk, all red
as if bleeding precedes the wound, and lesions
proceed to pave a good conversation where
we say something and mean something else.