Monday, July 27, 2015

LIFE OF A POET ~ VINAY LEO R.

My friends, this week we are once again visiting Bangalore, home of several of our poet members, to visit with Vinay Leo R., who writes at I Rhyme Without Reason. I think there could be a Poets United Writers Group in Bangalore, wouldn't that be great? Leo kindly agreed to give us a little peek at the poet at home, so we can get to know him better. Chai tea is hot and spicy and steaming, and sitar music is playing softly in the background as we arrive. Come sit by me, and listen in, while we chat with one of our more recent members.







Sherry: It is wonderful to be meeting with you, Leo! Would you tell us a bit about yourself? What are the special joys of where you live?

Leo: Metaphorically speaking, I live in words. That’s been my blog’s tagline since I remember, almost since the time I took Leo as my nom-de-plume many years ago. It has stuck on, even when I added Vinay to it. So, city and family aside, that’s been where and why I have lived. It’s a wonderful thing, to let words be your abode. Out of them, it’s not as happy a world to live in. 


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But I stay in Bangalore with my parents. I’ve only really lived here, the city of gardens holding my muse since the last quarter of a century and more. It’s here I’ve grown up, fallen in love, fallen out of love, all that. Nature is usually appealing to a poet. I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by that in this city. It calms my muse, I guess. Special joys: for me it’s the little things that matter, so family, friends, the weather (esp. the rain) and the surrounding greenery makes me happy to call it my home.


Arekere Reserve Forest
bangalore.citizenmatters.in


Sherry: It sounds lovely, kiddo. Let’s go all the way back, to your childhood.  Looking back, is there one person you feel had a significant impact on your becoming a writer? 

Leo: Not many love poetry, I think. Not as kids at least. Most just read it as it is, or memorize it to say for declamations or oral examinations. But the rhyme appealed to me as a kid. The English teachers I’d had from grade one to grade five kind of honed my skill in that language, and I embraced it sooner than others. 


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A butterfly flitting into the classroom during a free period brought out my first poem. And the co-ordinator there, she saw me write it, and without asking me, enrolled me in the next inter-school poetry meet. Till I left the school after tenth grade, she kept encouraging me as well. I guess, if any one person had impacted my love for poetry and literature, it would be her.

Sherry: Teachers are quick to spot the talented kids. What do you love about poetry? What makes it sing for you?

Leo: I Rhyme Without Reason. My love for poetry, and writing in general, is unconditional, you know. It’s not, “I’ll write if I’m in a bad mood, or I’ll write because there is a prompt, or I’ll write because no one will read me if I don’t write every day”. I love poetry because it’s where I’m the most free. There aren’t any restrictions. 

I can write it the way I want. Even if it is in response to a prompt, the poem has a lot of ME in it. Perhaps, looking at it with a magnifying glass, I could say pain or sadness brings out the best in the poetry, though not always. 

Sherry: I love "poetry is where I'm the most free."

Leo: One of my favourite pieces, “Footnote” was born out of a mixture of prompt words and a gloomy state of mind. One of my friends loved it enough to ask me for the piece to put in her journal, Sonic Boom. I was happy to let it be published there last year.

Footnote – ©Vinay Leo R.

juggling my life…
so many aspects,
so many facets;
I have to embrace
my many quirks –
each like a strand
of a large quilt
knit out of time.

all the plans I made
that never sustained,
leaving my slate
in a blank state that’s
run out of rhyme.

I write my story,
ink what I want;
but do I become
with every word
that I lose here,

just a footnote?


Sherry: Oh, that hits home....wondering if we are writing the footnotes of our lives. At least we will leave our words behind!  Do you follow a writing routine?  Do you try to write regularly, or do you write only when inspiration strikes?

Leo: I find it easier writing with a mix of routine and randomness actually, Sherry. For most of the nine years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve written as and when I’ve been inspired. Of late, however, I’ve taken to writing poetry on the weekends, and flash fiction midweek. I try to write regularly, but with the 2 posts or 3 posts a week routine, I’m also trying to read regularly. It’s nice, reading, and it’s nice to be read by others as well. The routine also helps inspiration, I think. The muse is well rested, and fed with other beautiful posts I’ve read over the week. So it’s happy to write as well.

Sherry: That is certainly true for me. The exchange of poetry online keeps me writing much more than I ever would without it. Which do you prefer, form or free verse?

Leo: Over the years, I’ve attempted both form and free verse. It’s difficult to stick to the rules of a form and do the thought behind the poem justice, and I’m an admirer of those who do. I like both equally, but I attempt free verse more. As it says, it’s “free”. Nothing to chain it, it can flow as it wishes to. When it comes to forms, I like haiku the most. Nothing is as challenging as expressing a lot in little. I hope to excel in that form one day. Another form that I’ve quite taken to is the nonet, and in particular the mirrored nonet, or what I call  an hourglass poem. One of my favourite poems I’ve written in this form is titled Sweet and Sour.

Sweet and Sour – ©Vinay Leo R.

inspiration once lost has been found
that struggle for words once silent
now feels concluded at last
a poem I wished is born
still I do not cheer
for my life runs
little sweet
then turns
sour
like
old milk
much bitter
but why not wine
better with the time
perhaps I should have fun
turn the hourglass, start over
forget what is gone or turned sour
begin, searching for sweet once again

Sherry: I love it! Yes, do search for the sweet once again! It's out there!


Leo: A form that’s very similar to the haiku is the Korean form called Sijo. Here too, we are limited by syllables, but Sijo, while having more syllables to work with, also challenges in a different way. I’ve only attempted it a few times, but I’ve been happy with what has materialized when I have.




Insomniac’s Meadow – ©Vinay Leo R.

how beautiful is this meadow, asleep in the arms of a breeze,
the moonlight singing a berceuse only my ears strain to hear;
ah, this insomniac wonders — could I sleep and miss these joys?

The first line sets the theme, the second develops the setting, the first half of the third line brings about a twist, and the second half completes it in contemplation. I personally find it tricky to bring that out properly. But it’s quite fun to try it out.

Sherry: You executed it very well in this example. It is lovely. Which poems come most easily – those written to prompt, or those written from inspiration, dictated by the Muse?

Leo: The way I see it, it is always inspiration first. The poetry is always dictated by inspiration. Yes, there is a word or few words that are from prompts, but it’s the prompt which goes into the poem, not the poem into the prompt. That way, it is more of my inspiration, more of me in the poem than the prompt. And that makes it therapeutic. The poetry shines more.

Bangalore as Tech Hub
thenextweb.com

Sherry: Well said. What caused you to choose poetry as your means of creative expression?

Leo: I haven’t really thought about why I chose to write poetry that day, when the butterfly flitted into the classroom. It just came like that. I suppose, at that age, one doesn’t think about what expression of art you need to choose. After that, I went with the flow. After I graduated, there was a lean phase, when I avoided writing altogether. But when I needed an outlet for some thoughts years later, it was poetry that came to the rescue. I’d say it has been poetry that chose me, rather than me choosing poetry.

Sherry: That seems to be the case with many of us. You write fiction as well. Tell us a bit about that. Which came first, poetry or prose?

Leo: In life, it was perhaps fiction first. No one taught poetry writing in school, but story writing based on outlines was always part of the curriculum, at least till fifth grade. But on my blog, it was poetry first. The passion for fiction grew only after being watered by the enthusiasm of a few friends, and my writing has become more rounded as the years have passed.


Mysore Palace
lonelyplanet.com

Sherry: When did you come to the world of blogging and how has it impacted your writing?  On your About page, you say blogging wasn’t your first choice. What was?

Leo: Life has its ups and downs. One such down phase almost made me contemplate ending it all. The Chinese philosopher Mencius once said, “Friends are the siblings God never gave us.” One such sibling decided enough was enough, and it was time I wrote my way out of that phase. I hadn’t written a poem for three years before that day. He created the blog for me, one on Blogger titled The Other Side of Me. From that day, my blog has grown, changing platforms but never meanings. I say blogging wasn’t my first choice, because I’d never have chosen to do anything had it not been for my friend. Honestly, I might not have been around.

Sherry: Oh this touches my heart, Leo.  Thank heavens for your caring friend. We poets are fortunate that our means of expressing our inner selves is as near as our hands and the pen or keyboard.

Leo: Poetry blogging, I didn’t know it was a thing actually. Poets who write on a blog are still poets first; the blogging doesn’t take priority, I feel. But it’s nice to be read, I know that. Poetry blogging, like Claire said during an earlier interview, helps the poet to write without worrying about deadlines and rejections and such. It becomes an outlet for the muse, for the emotions that lie beneath every poem.


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Sherry: I think poems on our blogs get read much more often than they would be were they in books on a bookstore shelf. We poets find each other. You have written a novella, A Walk Through Memories. Do you have plans for other books? Perhaps a poetry book?

Leo: The novella came about as a seven part series on my blog. Friends insisted that I make a PDF out of it, and I did. One of my best friends designed the cover page. Another best friend helped during the series when I needed some information to progress further. “A Walk Through Memories” is mostly fiction, but it has a little bit of memories in it as well.

I’ve been working on a poetry manuscript, so yes, I hope to one day see it in print. It’ll be mostly freestyle poetry, no forms involved. I’m hoping I have the patience to write a novel too. I started one once, but I couldn’t take it forward as I wanted to.

Sherry: I am happy to hear you have a poetry book in the works. Are you happy with where your writing journey has taken you?

Leo: No complaints. It’s my writing journey that has got me to this day. I’m quite delighted to be interviewed here at Poets United, or reaching nearly two thousand posts on my blog. It’s the journey that has built the passion and built a dream of getting published. So far, so good!

Sherry: Yay! Keep traveling! You recently wrote a poem that sums the writing journey up very well, and I would love to include it here.


With Every Thought...

With every thought
Be it sour or sweet...
Eagerly born, a poem;
It breaks the quiet
Of my grave nights,
Slips out onto paper,
Shining in starlight;
Insomnia surrenders,
And I sleep in peace.
After all, in this life,
I was born to write.

You have said it all, with this poem, kiddo. What other activities do you enjoy when you aren’t writing?

Leo: My English teacher had a good influence on my writing. But I remember her telling me, “Vinay, to be a good writer, we must also be good readers.” She inculcated a habit of reading in me. When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading novels. I love getting lost in the world that a novel opens up in my imagination. I’ve walked the halls of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series, heard Hassan say, “For you, a thousand times over” in The Kite Runner… you get my drift! Other than reading, I’m quite fond of playing Sudoku, watching soccer on television, playing carom and badminton etc.

I also like to help bloggers to write. I previously hosted a haiku meme, which has since then stopped. I thought I’d try something on similar lines this year, so I started a daily prompts meme called A Prompt Each Day , so if you need inspiration to break the writer’s block anytime, you can check if the prompt there interests your muse. 




Sherry: That's wonderful, Leo. Thanks for letting us know. Do you have a Bucket List of places you would love to visit? What place is number one?

Leo: I’m not much of a traveler, Sherry. Not every place suits me, health-wise. But yes, I do have a bucket list of places I’d love to visit, and the city holding the top spot is Manchester, England. I’ve been a fan of Manchester United almost as long as I’ve been a poet. It is one of my dreams to go to Old Trafford, at least once.

Sherry: I do hope you make it there, Leo! Is there anything you would like to say to Poets United?

It is, I feel, a bliss to write
Showcase the pen’s might
To inspire words is tough
Breaking blocks is rough
Bringing together to share
Few who read and care
Thanks for all that to you
For the effort that is true


I’ve been sharing my poems with the Poetry Pantry mostly, so whenever it comes to mind, I somehow always think of Poets United as The Poetry Pantry. I just have to say it’s a pleasure to read the poets who are a part of Poets United. The effort that goes into the site, to keep it going week in week out is amazing. Wishing you reach much greater heights. Thank you for featuring me in Life of a Poet. It has been a delight talking with you, Sherry!

PS: No one has called me kiddo in ages. So thanks. :D 


Sherry: Thank you, my friend; the pleasure was all mine. We are so happy you found Poets United, and look forward to reading much more of your work in the months ahead. 

Wasn't this a lovely visit, kids? Another interesting poet on his poetry pilgrimage. Do come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!



37 comments:

  1. Thank you for the opportunity, Sherry. :) I am happy to be featured here, though I'm not that new a member of Poets United. I've been more active these days, that's all. I first shared a poem with the Poetry Pantry in November 2012 (Pantry #124) as Leo. :D Only the name and URL has changed. I'm still me. ;)

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    1. Ah, I see, said the blind man. LOL. So sorry - name changes confuse the elderly. Smiles. It is lovely to get to know more about you. Thank you so much for saying yes. I am not sure why the font is so large - as I told you, the fonts have a mind of their own and are resistant to change. NO idea why! I finally gave up and let it be.

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    2. It's okay :) The fonts aren't bad at all, Sherry. Looks lovely.

      :D And no problem with the name either (y)

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  2. It was wonderful to know you, Vinay. This was a lovely interview. I loved reading the poems and especially knowing how that butterfly brought out your first poem. Keep writing! Keep shining! :)

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    1. Thank you, Purba. :) Nice to know you and your poetry through PU as well.

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  3. Nice to get to know you Vinay. I am so glad you have such good friends. I would hate to be deprived of your writing. How wonderful that they had the wisdom to start a blog for you. What a life saver!
    Sherry, as always, you've interviewed a very interesting person and brought out the best in him, so we could see. Thank you.

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    1. I'm glad for friends too, Myrna. :) They were, and are, wonderful. Nice to meet you as well.

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  4. You've been around for so long, glad to know more of you here, Leo! Yes, Hank came a few times before for your haiku prompts. But now with your APED it is a gem! Great for having the new format. There is the added variety of prompts and better yet coming on daily.It is a great challenge to keep up with you everyday But it has been such a joy this far.This is a wonderful interview Vinay and Sherry too! Thanks to you both!

    Hank

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    1. Yeah. Blogsville seems quite big nowadays, eh? :) I remember you and your haiku at the heights, and am glad you're there having fun at APED as well. Thank you for the kindness, Hank.

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  5. This is just awesome! Thank you Sherry for featuring Vinay and allowing us to take a peek into his life. Its a pleasure to meet you Vinay :D

    There is so much which I can relate to in your life.. for instance.. I too started composing poems while I was in college. Back then it was short poems which I would give to the teachers to publish them in the college magazine. And for me.. friends continue to encourage me to keep writing poems (even though they don't understand poetry much.) I so agree, that poetry is first and foremost dictated by our muse.. when something inspires us, the words just start to flow naturally :D

    I have so enjoyed visiting your blog and reading your work. It amazes me how you manage to excel in both poetry and writing fiction :D Wishing you loads of happiness and success in the years to come ahead.

    Lots of love,
    Sanaa

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    1. A pleasure to meet you too, Sanaa. :)

      I am glad you transcended from short poems to mindblowing big ones :D I'm glad to have your visits and comments at IRWR.

      Thanks for the wishes and wishing you the same.

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  6. Vinay, I am awed by your interview really. I am just beginning to appreciate you as a poet, so I was happy to read more about you. Sincerely, I appreciate your openness and honesty. I think many of us poets live in words. You expressed this concept so well. You are so right - it is the little things that matter. Your poems reflect that. I love your poem "Footnote." That one is publishable! Smiles. I like the seriousness with which you approach poetry. Maybe because that is the way I approach it too. I am glad you never ended it all; and I am glad that you began to blog. And...most of all, I am glad to see you weekly at Poets United Poetry Pantry.

    Thanks, Sherry, for Leo's / Vinay's interview!

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    1. You are most welcome, Mary. As always, it is my pleasure and a privilege to showcase the amazing talent we have in this community. I am still a bit confused as to whether to address him as Leo or Vinay - but I think he answers to both, LOL. He is flexible, like that.

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    2. I appreciate the appreciation, Mary. :) I enjoy your poetry too. Yes, I suppose many do live in words, but mine was almost a literal interpretation. :)

      Footnote was published last Decemeber in a magazine :)

      I'm glad I never ended it all too, and glad to be at PU and the Pantry. I hope I write midweek too, but that's for another day I guess. :D

      I answer to both Vinay and Leo :) both are me after all. :D

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  7. Another fascinating interview with another very interesting poet. But I never imagined that one of the things we'd have in common is both being fans of Manchester United!!!

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    1. I think that's cool too, Rosemary!

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    2. Oh wow. Hello, dear co-Red Devil :) How wonderful to meet you.

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  8. My friends, I am so pleased you enjoyed getting to know Vinay / Leo better. Vinay, you have proven my lack of short term memory is still a problem - I cant remember 2012 at all, LOL. I'm so glad you're still you!

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    1. To be absolutely honest, I didn't know it was 2012 either :D just knew it wasn't in the recent past. :) So checked my archives and found the first Pantry post. Not a big deal at all, Sherry. I'm glad I'm still me too O:-)

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  9. Great interview once again Sherry and it is so good to meet you Vinay. However I am still curious why Leo was chosen as your pen-name which is a rather Englishy, Liony sort of name!

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    1. Oh! That's simple. Leo is my Zodiac sign, oldegg. :) Hence the choice.

      Nice to meet you. :D

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  10. Hello Leo, I participated a lot in your Haiku Heights site and was very sad when it went silent...however I occasionally write in your APED, a wonderful site with interesting prompts...through this interview we get to know you better and I agree with you that "It is,...... a bliss to write"...another wonderful interview Sherry :)

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    1. Dear Sumana,

      I too had missed Haiku Heights, but circumstances got in the way. I wanted to return it this June, but thought a fresh start would be better. :D You can still write haiku for the prompts there at APED though. :) Welcome for that.

      Nice to meet you here as well. :D

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  11. Hi Leo. I did not realise you were Leo of Haiku Heights. That was a good poetry site. Now I know you have a new one I will pop in from time to time. Nice to see you bright eyed and bushy tailed again:)

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    1. Most welcome to pop in. Nice to meet you here at PU, Rallentanda. :)

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  12. Nice to know more about you Vinay. Keep writing.

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  13. Good to see you here Vinay - poetry is great freedom...as symbolised by that butterfly so many years ago

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    1. Yeah. It is freedom, and ageless, Jae. :) Nice to see you here too.

      PS: I LOVE that butterfly story as well. :D

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  14. Hi Leo, nice to know a bit more about you.
    i used to participate at Haiku Heights, and that's where i came across you. :)

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    1. I remember. :) Nice to meet you here too, dsnake.

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  15. You are truly a poet who inspires....'I love poetry because it’s where I’m the most free. There aren’t any restrictions.' These words resonated strongly for me and I couldn't have said it better....I love the hourglass form and the Sijo is new to me...something I would love to try...as usual a wonderful interview Sherry!

    And I love when Sherry calls me kiddo too Leo!!

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  16. Lovely interview. So nice to get to know fellow poets better. I was taken by the butterfly story, also. When the poetry is in you it must come out. I've bookmarked your prompt link and hope to visit. Thanks for sharing your wonderful words and poems.

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  17. Great interview as always Sherry. Vinay good to read more about you and your writing. Must check out your daily prompt sometime!

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