Monday, November 7, 2016

BLOG OF THE WEEK ~ AN UPDATE WITH PREETI SHARMA

Today, my friends, we are zooming back to India, to visit one of our poets, the bright and bubbly Preeti Sharma, (formerly known to us as Enigma), who blogs at Poet-ish: Versification in Progress. We last spoke with Preeti in 2014, and it will be fun to see what  she has been up to since then. Pull up a chair, pour a cup of tea, and let's begin.





Sherry: Preeti, it is so nice to be chatting with you again. Bring us up to date with what has happened for you since we spoke in 2014, won’t you? Have there been any big changes? Any strains of romance in the air? (she asks nosily, as old women sometimes do.)

Preeti: Between that time and now, quite a bit has happened. Last we talked, I was more of a student - neck deep in literature, studying and writing and reading. Right about when 2015 began, I landed a job and have been working ever since. So it has been a new city, and a whole new bunch of people. 

But the most significant change would be the size of my personal library. I had a few literature textbooks to begin with, when I was a student. Add impulsive buying behavior, heavy discounts, and local book fairs to the mix, and now there are over 300 books that I can barely find place to keep. But it feels great to know that I have a good book at hand all the time (considering more than half of them are still unread and a few in their plastic covers).



I wish I had a love story to share, but the story is yet to appear on the pages of my life. If and when it does, you’d probably find a bit of it spilling into my poetry. 

Sherry: Smiles. We will have our ears perked up for that! Lovely to have a book collection, isn't it? I have always been a voracious book-collector. Are your parents still well?  They must miss you, now you have moved from Jaipur.


Jaipur - the Pink City


Preeti: My parents are doing great, minus the ever-present anxiety about their daughter’s career. 

I did move to a new city. New Delhi is my home now, smack in the heart of the country. It’s a big, crowded mess of a place generally, but if you look about, you can find little pockets that house a kind of an artistic and intellectual undercurrent. 

We are talking about progressive and alternate theater, photography exhibitions, handicrafts stores – I never explored any of that before. But being in Delhi has brought me a lot closer not only to such events, but also to others who have similar interests.




Not to forget the amazing food that the city offers. It is a whole new version of finger lickin’ good, especially when somebody gets creative with cooking and blends two cuisines together.

Sherry: It all sounds exciting and perfect for a young woman beginning her life. In 2014, you had graduated with an honours degree in literature and your goal was to be a Professor, to bring the joy of books to your students. Are you getting closer to that goal? Or have you changed direction?
Preeti: I am closer to that yes, but I have put that on the back-burner for a while. Right now, I am working with a publishing house and am rebuilding myself as an editor. This is something I always wanted to do and am still exploring all it has to offer.

Sherry: How wonderful to find work in the field of writing and books! Such exciting new horizons! Good for you!

Preeti: It’s easier to set goals than to stick to them, because you cannot really predict how your skills and preferences and your surroundings will turn out in future. So, before I settle down to something as permanent as a place in the academic world, there are things I want to do and explore.

So I’m learning new things, revisiting old hobbies (like programming; I’m learning Python on the side) for now.
  
Sherry: It sounds marvelous, Preeti! What do you love about poetry? What makes it sing for you?        
                                                                 
Preeti: Poetry is the bare fertile ground, the void where you don’t need any of the pretensions, or reasoning, that you save for the outer world. It is where I find the room to be, in as simple an honest way as possible. And the words help comb through the tangled mass of thoughts that have gained a permanent residency in my head.

I like the kind of poetry which is simple, straightforward, blunt, and honed, with images that speak a tale of their own. The words transport me into the mind of the poet and I look and experience the world from a whole new perspective, with the voice of the poet singing its story to me as my eyes and my mind wander.


The Old City - New Delhi


Sherry: That is as good a description of poetry as I have heard. Are you happy with how your work has developed over the last couple of years? Any dreams or goals for the future?

Preeti: Some of it, yes.  Ever since I realized that most of my poetry was about lost love, or any very deep and contemplative subjects, I have been trying out other subjects to write about. But it is difficult to reset the poetic line of thought. The same tropes keep popping up in my head and I fear that I might have run out of good lines.

The most immediate goal is to start writing again, compulsively and regularly. If that streak is maintained for a year or more, I can probably build upon it to something bigger.

Sherry: That is the formula. When you write more, the Muse gets into gear, and you're off! Would you like to share three of your poems with us,  and tell us a bit about each one?

Preeti: I usually try to figure myself out through my poems. For instance, the poem ‘Run’ is about escapism, the need to run away from the present – either into the past or ahead in the future. But the problem with the kind of escapism I practice, is that my mind and eyes are focussed on what I am running from, not where I am running to. It is like running blindly through a very complex maze, which has no beginning, nor an end in sight. But knowing this, I can try and refocus and reorient myself.


The only problem in running away
Is you never know
Where you are headed

The world opens its gaping mouth
To swallow you whole
And you don't feel a thing

Does it matter
As long as you put distance
In between
What was and what would have been

The only questions that sting
Ask how much farther does one
Need to run

You wonder about the famed escape
Or if it's only the journey
The process of escaping
That matters

Will I taste freedom in all my limbs
And, intoxicated
Make love to one and all and him

Or will I feel its first sting
When the little scrawls on the page
Reveal one that once answered to "I"

Maybe find a footing
In this tragic circus of life.

The trick, perhaps, is to not let your soul take roots
Just in case you need
To run again.



Sherry: I remember the "running from" of youth........and now know the "running to" of age. Smiles. It is all a wonderful journey.

Preeti: ‘Knowing’ is another poem that is a personal favourite and explores an aspect of being an introvert. When you begin to know someone, and when someone begins to know you – it is a two-way road so everything happens simultaneously – there are barriers and checkpoints that need to be crossed. 

There is a part of you that is accessible by everyone. This is like a living room where you welcome all your guests. It is very tame, very ordinary, with a few unique knick-knacks here and there to fuel dead conversations. 

But there are layers to a personality, and as you try to understand them better and on a more intimate level, where they possibly hide all their eccentricities, the deeper your understanding goes into their being, into the wild, confusing, dangerous, and beautiful territory that does not conform to most of the impressions that you formed while you were strolling around in their living room.

Then again, it is probable that one can go deeper still, that there are more layers to a person and you cannot really know anyone completely. The poem speaks as one who knows that she is not all that she seems, that there is more to her than you can ever know. Reminds me of the movie ‘Inception’.




The door opens with an easy laugh
That is how I welcome you in
Notice the fresh paint
The walls smile, don't they?
Step closer and you will see
A thousand different stories
Hanging in the air
Take your pick of these gems
And you can begin to understand
My own beginnings and ends.

This is what I choose to show you
But this is not all of what I am.

If you linger in this freshness
From moments to months
Chances are, I will make you stay
Find ways and means
To build bridges and barricades

And when, on reckless nights
Down, way down we go
Into the wilderness
Into the promising depths
Where walls and words both crumble
And the rage of forgotten thoughts
Pulls at those buried within you
You might not recognise me
Though I hope that you might know me.

But know, that this
Is what I choose to show you
And yet, this is not all of what I am.


Sherry: Oh, yes, there are many layers. I love the concept of our "living room", where people first get to know us. Then, later, inviting them deeper, "into the promising depths". You are so wise.


Birla Mandir, New Delhi, at night
 - source



Preeti: The poem ‘Loose Words’ is about healing. It was written during the time when I was trying to be less brooding and more hopeful in my writing. What I like best about this poem in particular, is the act of healing, the stitching of the ‘crimson abyss’ (which is just a very fancy way to convey the idea of a broken heart) is done by the speaker herself. She is the one controlling the needle. She feels the prick and the pain, but knows that it is unavoidable and temporary. The very idea gives me hope that one can heal his/her self and continue to nurture the faint hope that better things are to come.



And when the words on the page start fitting in together
You let your stray fingers
Comb through the tangled threads
Of meanings and memories
And voices
Condensed in space and time
Within the curves and confines
Of simple, over-used words
And you breathe in the life that was
When you said that word out loud
The last, the very last time.

You shrink back into your old self
And look at your old life
With new eyes
And with hands, that still tremble
At every pull of needle
Its silver length cutting through the crimson abyss
And stitching cliffs back into shape
You let loose words to fill the air once again.


Sherry: I can really feel the emotion in this poem, Preeti, the gathering of strength, the beginning again, "stitching cliffs back into shape". So well written! 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Preeti: I’m trying to go back to writing fiction. Being on a reading spree since the beginning of the year, there are many stories that I have been crafting in my head, but haven’t yet took out time to pen them down. Till that point comes, I am exploring as many genres and writing styles as possible. The latest in the series of inspiration is Umberto Eco’s ‘The Name of the Rose’. The book is presented as a medieval murder mystery, but as you read it, you realize that it is so much more. The story is pretty much like the cover of a book, while the pages contain a much deeper and difficult to comprehend discussion on philosophy.


Sherry: That will be an interesting plunge, into fiction, I am sure. Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Preeti: A big thanks for reaching out to me again. It is great to see the community thriving with many new regulars. More often than not, it is here that I find my dosage of poetry – with the links listed in prompts and poetry pantry.

Keep up the great work!

Sherry: Thank you, Preeti. It has been a delight chatting with you. We look forward to reading many more of your poems in the months to come.

Isn't she sweet, kids? Such a lovely visit. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


12 comments:

  1. I always like it when you visit an Indian poet, Sherry. Thanks for this wonderful interview with Preeti. Preeti, I always enjoy it when you share a poem with Poetry Pantry. Smiles. We love to encourage young poets wherever they reside. I enjoyed learning the size of your personal library. So much fun to collect books, isn't it? Sounds like you will have reading matter for a few months or more. Smiles. Really cool that you have a job in New Delhi. That strikes me as a busy, but very vibrant city. I really liked your poem "Knowing." So very true. We don't always find out everything about a person immediately. There are always more layers that can be revealed. Good luck with your plunge into fiction. But hope you will continue to share your poetry with us! Your talent, for such a young person, is amazing!

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  2. Another lovely interview with a vibrant and interesting poet! Good luck, Preeti, with the poetry, the fiction and the editing job.

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  3. I'm happy you like it, Mary. Preeti, I love your positive, bouncy, vibrant energy, and your poems are a delight to read. I have been gathering books for decades and finally got wall to wall bookshelves I had always wanted, to house my collection. Books are lifelong friends. Thanks for allowing us to catch up with you. I most enjoyed your poem "Knowing"...........there are so many layers to who we are, and I loved you inviting us in to your poem.

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  4. a very interesting chat Preeti and Sherry...specially enjoyed how you defined poetry Preeti...love the poems included here, 'Knowing' is my favorite too..my best wishes....

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  5. All the best stories have yet to be written - a beautiful poet, poems and interview

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  6. 'The only problem in running away
    Is you never know
    Where you are headed.'

    Very well said, Preeti! So good to know you. I wish you all the very best!

    Thanks, Sherry for sharing this interview! :)

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  7. A wonderful update...thanks Sherry and Preeti!

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  8. You are most welcome, my friends. My pleasure! Thanks for reading.

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  9. Whata great interview and such great poems too. I especially liked "Loose Words" which was so good to read, Preeti. Thank you too once again Sherry for these beautiful interviews.

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  10. great interview! thanks for sharing :)

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  11. A crazy week and so, I am catching up with Poets United a bit late - but WONDERFUL interview. Thanks so much, Sherry. And thanks for sharing your poetry and your thoughts, Preeti.

    I thought the following remark was awesome and it really resonated with me:

    "Poetry is the bare fertile ground, the void where you don’t need any of the pretensions, or reasoning, that you save for the outer world. It is where I find the room to be, in as simple an honest way as possible. And the words help comb through the tangled mass of thoughts that have gained a permanent residency in my head."

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