TSC Interviews | Debarshi Mitra

Chandramohan Sathyanathan: Congratulations on winning the Srinivas Rayaparol Poetry Prize 2017. How does it feel?

Debarshi Mitra: I'm delighted of course to have won the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize 2017. Perhaps the greatest reward was to be adjudged as being worthy of the prize by eminent poet Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. I've long been an admirer of his work.

CS: Could you briefly spell out your literary evolution until now?

DM: I began writing quite a few years back. I was writing back then what I thought were poems. Those poems embarrass me now. I was introduced to literature early in my life. I was an avid reader by fourth grade or so. I read extensively and widely but my perception of poetry changed after reading the Indian  English poets. Poets like Nissim Ezekiel, Adil Jussawala, and Arun Kolatkar instilled in me the belief that even the everyday is not unworthy of poetic attention. My first collection of poems was published by Writers Workshop. When I read it now, it seems to me that the book required stringent editing. There are poems there that I'm not proud of. But there are also poems there that I still like.

Looking back, stylistically my poems have changed so much. I will never be able to write like that again.

CS: Do you write in the vernacular too? Do you perceive Indian English poetry as having a sensibility that panders to the politically pasteurized urban, 'upper'-class and caste?

DM: I don't write in the vernacular. Recently, however, I have developed a keen interest in reading contemporary Bengali poetry. I've been reading poets like  Bhaskar  Chakraborty, Utpal Kumar Basu, Falguni Ray, Mandakranta Sen. It has opened up a hitherto undiscovered world for me. It has been immensely rewarding.

About Indian English poetry catering only to the upper classes, I think poetry has traditionally been the preserve of only a select few. This is because few people have had the privilege of introspection. However there are Indian English poets such as yourself, Meena Kandaswamy and others who have challenged the status quo, have tried to forge a new language from the debris of years of caste and class oppression. So I wouldn't say that it only panders to the privileged. Having said that I believe poetic sensibilities vary.  While there are poets who address historical wrongdoings and rebel through their works, there are also wonderful poets whose works do not quite reflect their social concerns. The presence of these diverse voices are instrumental to the growth of Indian English Poetry in general.

CS: Recently there has been an upsurge in the number of English poets from India and online literary platforms.  In your opinion has this abundance of literary platforms helped the cause of English Poetry from India?

DM: With the upsurge of online literary journals, Indian English poetry I believe is a much more democratised space now than it was a few years back. Newer avenues have presented opportunities to poets belonging to different communities.

CS: Do you think Prizes such as this significantly alter our perception of what is good?

DM: I do not think prizes alter our perception of what good poetry is.  Prizes are important for recognition and motivation. Writing poetry, I'm sure you'll agree, often is a very lonely pursuit with little or no encouragement.

No comments:

Post a Comment