Monday, December 3, 2018

LIFE OF A POET ~ ANMOL ARORA (HA)


Today, friends, we are zooming across the world to India, to visit the young poet, Anmol Arora, familiarly known to us by his alias, HA, who plies his pen at HA's Place. The plane is touching down, the city lights winking below us. We make our way through heavy traffic to HA's place in the real world. Clouds of chai waft our way as the door opens......and here we are! Get ready to meet a talented young poet, and to see some of the beautiful sights of India! 





Sherry: Anmol, we are so pleased to be visiting you today. Would you tell us a bit about yourself and your life?

Anmol: Greetings from India, Sherry! My geography has both been a blessing and a curse — though rooted in what can be deemed as the soil and blood of this country, I have grown to identify and see myself beyond the national boundaries that define us and furthermore divide us. I have been staying in the capital, New Delhi, for over 5 years now.



View of Old Delhi and Red Fort
from the Minaret of Jama Masjid


I grew up in a small city in the desert state of Rajasthan and moved to Delhi at a rather turbulent stage in life. Well, it’s been a long time since then and I understand now that turbulence is the order of the day. Ha!




Jama Masjid


I stay with my parents at the moment; it is owing to their support that I could take my own time in wading through certain difficult periods in my short-lived existence and go about my own pursuits and experiences. I am not a traditional person with a systematic timeline for going about things in life especially those stemming from socio-capitalist concerns. Of course, I have often been called eccentric and peculiar for straying from the obvious path.



At a Poetry Reading Event


Sherry: I suspect that is the path of every poet, my friend! Smiles.

Anmol: I have just completed my under-graduation in journalism and mass communication. I am taking some time off right now to figure out things for myself after rejecting a couple of offers for Master’s, while also looking for short-term internships. I spent my last semester of college working on a poetry collection, which I may publish next year if things go well.

This is a lucrative time period wherein I am again focusing on my writing and developing a social media presence to promote my work. I have certain plans to utilize this time for my overall growth as a poet in the age and time of social media. So, that’s something that I have been pursuing lately. 

My instagram account is at www.instagram.com/anmol.ha




Sherry: You are making effective use of social media, Anmol. That is admirable. When did you write your first poem? Do you remember what it was about? Is there someone – a mentor, a teacher, a parent – who saw your gifts and encouraged you? Are you well-supported in your writing life?



With Friends



Anmol: I wrote my first poem in 2009; if I remember correctly, it was about this mustard field adjacent to our school grounds in the outskirts of the city. The winter sunshine and those fragrant fields would easily be my subject matter even today. It paved the way for experimenting with different forms and techniques; I used to jot down verses on the back of my assignment books. Later on, I started sharing them on my already existing blog and soon things took a turn and poetry became my preoccupation, both in virtual and non-virtual life back then, kind of how it is right now, too.




At a cafe in the Tibetan Refugee Colony


There was no one per se in the beginning, because I was really secretive about my writing in school and at home. My earliest poems were like diary entries in how I explored certain raw emotions in the most cynical manner, and it wouldn’t be something that a teacher in a small city would have understood without raising alarm bells.
In college though, I joined the literary society and found some kindred souls who encouraged and inspired me in trying harder and exploring new facets of thoughts and ideas in my verse. Finally, a couple of my lecturers prodded me to work on the poetry collection more vigilantly, and provided some really important critique about my structure and form. Mostly, I owe a lot of gratitude to the poetry communities like Poets United, With Real Toads, dVerse, etc., and poets sharing through these communities, for having inspired me over the years like no one else could.

Sherry: I owe the blogging world a debt of gratitude as well, especially Poets United, who opened the world of online poetry to me in 2010. How has blogging impacted your writing?

Anmol: Oh, blogging has been the most wonderful experience for me — I started very early when I was 14 or so. It was for me a way to share my thoughts and experiences with the “wide wide world out there”. It was quite an ideal adventure to begin with. As I have mentioned in my blog bio as well, the blog became a primary space for my expression in my late teenage, when I was undergoing certain hardships in my personal life.


During a trip to the Hill Station of Manali


It was owing to blogging that I started taking poetry more seriously. I used to write prior to that, but there was no methodical approach to it, or any regular schedule either. From simply narrating the nature of my existence, I took to poetry willingly to use metaphors and images to define my own obsession with my situation and circumstance. Soon, I found some wonderful poets and writers who would provide their feedback and suggest ways of improving my craft. I took to writing regularly (sometimes as many as 5-6 poems in a day) to blog and share them, and derive a certain satisfaction from being heard in this world, because that was the only way possible for me to acknowledge my little space in this world at the time.

But that is in the past. Even today, blogging my poems and receiving the much needed feedback and comments from the wonderful poets who publish and share through these communities, I have come to derive some versatility in my craft and a regular writing and publishing schedule.

In my year’s sabbatical from blogging, I still wrote but I didn’t share it with anyone, and thus found it rather difficult to improvise and stay confident of my creative skills. So, I had a hard time in keeping up with my own ideas and thoughts, that demanded that they be written in a poem.

It has always been so that sharing a poem is like sharing a side of me which I would have otherwise kept hidden. Perhaps it’s because I am really habitual at creating facades to safeguard myself out there. Things are changing gradually though. Blogging has made it possible for me to be more expressive about the sum total of my identities in the world, virtually and otherwise. I am no longer writing in a manner which leads to obfuscation, which is kind of an accomplishment for me. And it keeps on helping me in being proud of the way that I am today. So, it has had quite an impact on my individual development as well, apart from the creative possibilities and avenues that it has provided me.



Anmol's selfie, using the app Prism


Sherry: The blogosphere is such a gift to us as poets; we all need some support and feedback to encourage our writing. What do you love about poetry? What makes it sing for you?

Anmol: Poetry has become a way of life for me — like any other facet of social identification and psychological development that has made me the person that I am today; poetry, in all its forms and expressions, has provided me a shelter where I can escape from or even acquiesce with my physical and emotional condition.

It is its immediate impact — how words and lines and rhymes and rhythm bring the senses to the fruition of their cause, how images and metaphors create a world within worlds of its own reckoning, how sweet it sounds as lips take shape of the written word when read out loud — it is this that makes my heart soar with emotions and helps me understand a little more of life and more of my own place in the unravelling spool of existence. It is all of this and more that makes me love poetry — its passion, its ability to create a space for empathy and humanism, its imagination, its creation of an entirely novel experience (it doesn’t matter if there are billions of poems written about love, every poem is its own experience), its ability to bring to light the most intimate and innate details of the poet’s own heart and desire, its sweet embrace with time and universe, et al.

What is not to love about it? This is perhaps the kind of love that is equal parts despairing and uplifting.




Hunmayan's Tomb


Sherry: I think that is a very profound description! What are your dreams and goals for your writing?

Anmol: I find it quite impossible to dream in a sense that would be an ideal picture of a revelation or a fortunate outcome — though I have started taking steps rather cautiously not to fall to the abyss of my own insecurity or despairing habits, and make plans with a hope for success in the future.

In that regards, I have a singular goal of expanding the reach of my expression right now. I have made a rough schedule in my mind; I have crafted a Spreadsheet of all the places where I would like to submit my work for publication. It’s rather intriguing that I could be productive in setting up this proposition for myself. It is my goal to undermine my own lack of confidence and reach out for the purpose of being read extensively through different avenues.

Like I mentioned earlier, if things go well, I will publish a short poetry collection at least in digital format next year. I dare not plan anything or dream beyond that — it’s been one day at a time thus far, and I would like to keep it that way.



The Taj, from a recent visit



Sherry: The path will unfold under your feet - and your pen, each poem a stepping stone! You have a long adventurous journey ahead of you, my friend. Do you have a favourite poet?

Anmol: Ah, I have many. Plath’s and Sexton’s confessional verses have guided me always in how I tackle my own emotions in my verse; Baudelaire is a personal favourite for reasons inexplicable — I just find a certain resonance whenever I read him. Some English poets that I love are T.S. Eliot, Philip Larkin (I have written one too many tributes to him), Allen Ginsberg, Kamala Das, Agha Shahid Ali, William Carlos Williams, Emily Dickinson, etc.

I am also obsessed with the Punjabi poet, Amrita Pritam. My Punjabi vocabulary is rather limited but I still strive to understand the nuances of her language and metaphor. Also, I really admire certain Urdu and Hindustani poets like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Gulzar and Kaifi Azmi.

I derive my inspiration from a multilingual tradition of poetry but to my anguish, I only write in English.

Sherry: And you write so well! You need feel no anguish. Smiles. Are there three poems you would like to share with us? And tell us a little about each?

Anmol: Sure, Sherry. I am sharing three poems which are rather dissimilar from each other in their form as well as their overall tone and effect.


affaire de coeur

hidden − alone − like a heart
come asunder − palash
drinks the heat of this sultry
day, painting the white into
reds, and a soft orange flame,
like a petal drying, on
a non-existent shore,
i pluck a new memory to be unveiled −
kaagaz ke phool −
lying awake, and hiding my trace
beneath the bed, of the previous dusk’s
reckoning − i smell of you,
and i smell of the night −
chameli drying on my chest
leaving aside all pretense,
hidden − i inhale, as
you come awake − your fingers riddled
in my hyacinth hair, my lips
blooming like a torn tulip bulb,
at least for this day.
~
English Translations: Palash (Butea monosperma), Kaagaz Ke Phool (Bougainvillea), Chameli (Jasmine)
~
I really enjoyed writing this poem — it took me a long time to research and create an indigenous idea of desire and its loss — it’s something more familiar with the ethos prevalent here where the expression of desire is rather subdued or hidden behind closed doors. It is also in a way a tribute to Indian literature and films that extensively used flower imagery to showcase lovemaking. I used colloquialism for an additional and rather extravagant display of its local colours and themes. Apart from that, I used the fleeting nature of my own experiences to give it a more of an emotional tangent with certain innuendos to make it worthwhile.

~
setting

the centerpiece —
pvc ceiling, lilac. honey-
mustard edging across daft
corners, hibiscus’ death of
colors, trimmings of desire
into drunk deals ~
~ wait it out. it turns blade-grey
and coughdrop-red, sequent-
ially, hear that song of bro-
ken lines & fickle curves
of the gluteal
 — enfold,
when it turns bloody
and swift – breaks,
blues, gallows, dies –
~

This is a rather short verse — its brevity is similar to the condition it portrays and emulates. I love playing with colours and theatrics in my imagery and thus, I utilized the compactness to create a limited view with these alluded to colours as if through a hazy mind. It’s a kind of an addled understanding of one’s surroundings through the limitation of one’s own biases as well as physical and emotional condition. Incidentally I was recovering from a bitter cold at the moment and thus, we have a “coughdrop-red” as the blood rush of anger or perchance danger. It’s a song unto itself that I would sing to myself when I am gazing at the “pvc ceiling” with an irremediable quality of being absolutely stagnant.
~

a silent vigil

the ice has taken hold between the two passages,
carrying the crystal white burden of dreams
and the languages of intrinsic qualifications —
to choose the fog over mist, slush over dirt,
and to keep frozen into stone all deals upturned,
all wishes parted by a moment’s touch.
lost is the sudden acquaintance with sensation,
I am near the end, I am at the edge, always dazed,
glorified by the fear of tumbling down,
just the bliss of never seeing the light,
for it’s hard to dream with open eyes,
for it’s hard to see through your lips
where you reside —
who said that this mosaic of understanding
is fulfilling?
that blithe sun has devoured all else.
you are the halo, the shadow, the skin to my desire,
the symbol to this paradigm of pain,
and i keep up
my silent vigil,
i wait.
~

Ah, I have good memories of this particular poem — I think it was an acknowledgment that the feelings of love and lust can take so many forms but still can be so debilitating and unfulfilling of what one may expect of them. I wrote this one in the hills during a long weekend getaway — the icy chill certainly had an impact on my bearing and I created this “mosaic of understanding” that I will take a stand for my feelings and wait it out through whatever is stalling the kind of consumption I desired from them. Now, I can think fondly of it in how my narrative has evolved over time but that basic understanding stays the same. I wonder if it is the same with poetry; we may find diverse forms and techniques but perhaps the voice always finds itself in the primary source of being.

Sherry: Anmol, your talent is very evident in your work. I am very impressed with your poems, and I especially love "it's hard to dream through open eyes...hard to see through your lips where you reside...." Wonderful!

I gather you have a keen eye for the political scene. As a young person, does the state of the world discourage you, or inspire you to write and speak for change?

Anmol: This is a pretty valid question that I ask of myself too. It is so disheartening to see and experience the condition of this world. There is so much hurt and violence, repression and oppression, war and destruction, that it is sometimes hard to go on thinking of the tragedy of being human. I think perhaps the human condition is innately flawed, in how we destroy and harm everything before us. It is only cognitive dissonance which helps us in safeguarding ourselves from our own unforgiving judgment.

This state of the world doesn’t surprise me, especially the world that we see today with the resurgence of these far right parties and politicians all over the world. It does discourage me in how I think of my place in this probable future, but also inspires and empowers me to do my bit in whatever way possible to bring attention to it through different means. Yes, writing and speaking about it are great avenues to create a discourse which is both inclusive and meaningful.

Owing to certain recent developments in the history (it is not all gloom all the time), I have come to embrace certain identities rooted in the colour of my skin, my speech, my written word, and the exhibition of my desire. Both personally and politically, this form of acceptance of the individual in its myriad hues and volitions has helped me in determining the course of my own ideology and beliefs.





I am a political person with a socialist inclination, intermingled with practical cynicism, I am a feminist, I am unorthodox, I am an atheist. These tags and labels instead of constricting me help me in guiding my worldview. I aspire to see a world with lesser suffering and pain and more inclusion of all the different identities, especially those which have been traditionally and historically repressed and oppressed. And I try to be vocal about it everywhere possible.

In my poetry, it is not so easy for me to inculcate my beliefs, because of a very personal individualized voice in my writing — I write about my own life, my own emotions, my own actions or lack of them. I am figuring certain ways out in which I can be more impersonal and talk about socially and politically relevant issues in a creative manner. So, I have recently tried to talk about it more vehemently in my written word, especially in poems like the wall, the thing about beautiful worlds and national pride.

Sherry: It must be a discouraging world in which to be young. But we must hold onto hope. My faith is now on your generation of clear-sighted young adults, to get us out of this mess. It is an unfair burden to have to shoulder. But your words have the power to touch hearts.

What other activities do you enjoy when you aren’t writing or drawing, Anmol?

Anmol: I think reading is something which gives me the most pleasure apart from writing but that is perhaps something innate to anyone who writes. It is through reading that I consider new ideas and ways of thinking and try to evolve my own thought process. Resulting from my background in having studied media and journalism, I like to keep in touch with the contemporary happenings and thus, I begin every day with a newspaper. I love reading socio-political essays and research studies, especially those rooted in cultural identities and reflecting the diversity of the planet that we call home.

Apart from that, I am an ardent admirer of music, from classic rock and jazz and blues to ghazals and retro Bollywood, I love everything about what music does to the heart and soul. I have always admired Chopin and Bach among the classical composers; I am now moving towards some Hindustani classical, and developing a certain interest in the same.

I love quizzing, being a stereotypical nerd. I have some interest in art house cinema and indie movies. Also, I partake in some graphic designing and art. All my interests are perhaps rooted in my own need for self-reflection and introspection, something that would keep my mind running and distracted most of the time.

Sherry: It sounds like a fulfilling and interesting life, Anmol. Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Anmol: I am thankful to Poets United for providing this avenue to the poets and writers from all over the world to share and grow together. Personally, I love the kind of community PU has built over the years, and how it is so conducive to the growth and sustenance of a poet’s confidence. The kind of motivation this community provides is cherished and I always look forward to reading so many diverse voices and gleaning from the kind of creative craftsmanship I encounter and admire week after week.

Sherry: Thank you, Anmol, for these kind words, for this wonderful insight into your life and work. Thank you also for your participation at Poets United. We are happy you are among us!

Wasn't this a lovely visit, my friends? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


33 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this interview, Anmol and Sherry. I enjoy Anmol's poetry and loved learning about him, his life and his writing. I was interested to read about his influences, T.S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath, for example.

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    1. Thanks, Kim! That is very kind of you to say.
      Oh, yes, Eliot and Plath were the earliest influences in a way and made it possible for me to explore more and read more. :-)

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  2. Thank you so much, Sherry for featuring Anmol this week!💞 It's always a pleasure to learn more about the person behind their words.

    Anmol, when I first stopped by and visited your blog I was absolutely delighted by your work! You are a writer of remarkable versatility.

    I agree with you when you say "every poem is its own experience" and I believe it reflects the emotion and opinion of the writer. I love your poem "a silent vigil" and the way the poem flows .. it's beyond beautiful!

    I was also amazed at your language skills when I came across your instagram story! Gosh it is not easy to write 'Rekhta poetry' and I so admire the way you did it!

    Like you I too am a fan of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and his work 😊 arz kia hai "Hum parvarish-e-lauh O qalam karte rahenge/Jo dil pe guzarti hai raqam karte rahenge." There is such deep and intense emotion in his poetry!


    Hope to read more of your work in the years to come and wish you loads of happiness in life and success in your endeavors!💞

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    1. Hey, Sanaa! I am so happy with this response. First, I'd have to say "Waah Waah" to that Faiz couplet. It made me smile through and through. Faiz's emotions and romanticism have such a resonant quality.

      Thank you for sharing such kind words — I am delighted that you loved "a silent vigil". I am trying to enjoy poetry in all the languages that I can understand — learning Nastaliq script recently has certainly provided the avenue for a better understanding of Urdu poetry. The kind of connections and interlinks that can be encountered in Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi are just astounding. It is a beautiful reminder of the shared histories.

      I look forward to reading more of your work too. It's always a pleasure interacting with you. Thanks again for such a lovely comment!

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  3. When a poet writes with this level os skill in his young years, one can only imagine how far your poetry journey will take you, Anmol. Write your way through everything. I did, and it is awesome to look back at a lifetime's worth of poems.

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    1. Thank you, Sherry! You are an inspiration, and I can only wonder if I would ever attain the kind of wisdom and experience that I find in your work. :-)

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  4. Many thanks to you both for this fascinating interview. Anmol, I've always greatly admired your poetry since first encountering it; love what you do with words, lines, ideas, imagery. This, plus your insightful comments on my own poems, means that you feel like a friend.

    I applaud your spreadsheet and plans to submit to a variety of journals. Even in these days of blogging, Instagram etc., I think it is a good way to get your work known more widely – which in turn will help to sell that book when you publish it. I look forward to its publication!

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    1. Thank you, Rosemary! I always enjoy your kind comments and thoughts. And I am such an admirer of your writing. I am glad that there is a friendly element to our exchange. :-)

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  5. Goodness! I am surprised that you are so young given the mature vision of your poems, your enviable vocabulary and your versatility in using form. Indulging in music may explain that--and hard living. How wonderful to have a year off at "home' where family allows you to focus on this work! I hope you follow your spreadsheet and send out your work, publish, and find monetary rewards that online poetry rarely provides. Of course, that may change--so keep on being part of our lives. I love all here--and I am very familiar with the three "current event engagement poems you cite. I always look forward to your work. Here is my favorite line among the three here: "who said that this mosaic of understanding / is fulfilling?" I say poetry is fulfilling and necessary--that it can unmask as well as it can mask. Thank you for your words. Sherry, thank you for this interview!

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    1. Thank you, Susan! It means a lot coming from you. Your written word always inspires me in how I can be better and make those small additions and subtractions that can do so much for the overall quality of a poem. It's been a pleasure reading and learning from you. :-)

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  6. Sherry and Anmol I really enjoyed this interview....I concur with others Anmol that your level of skill is amazing and I am looking forward to reading you for years to come.

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    1. Thanks, Donna! I look forward to keep on reading and enjoying your wonderful poems.

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  7. A wonderful share … awesome poetry and, as always, I find the back story behind the 'birth of a poem', fascinating. I was particularly affected by 'a silent vigil' … such a beautifully rendered piece. Thanks for this, Sherry and Anmol!

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    1. It's so very kind of you. Thank you, Wendy! :-)

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  8. I think Sherry has summed you up perfectly--"your generation of clear-sighted young adults". I was thinking of this as I was reading your words. It's good that you have taken the path "less traveled by, & "which will surely make "all the difference". And did you take that amazing photo of the Taj? Such gorgeous monochrome! Wonder of wonders! My very best wishes to you Anmol. Sherry, a great job, this. Wow!

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    1. That's so kind of you to say, Sumana! I hope it does make a difference, even if in a small manner.
      Yes, I took that photo from Mehtab Bagh. It was such a beautiful time of the evening. I am glad that you like it — perhaps I do have a skill or two, given that I studied Photography as part of my coursework. Ha! :-)

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  9. I believe Anmol is a most important voice among the emerging online poets! Thanks for this insightful interview, and my best wishes for your continued success in writing.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words and the wishes, Kerry! It means a lot to me. :-)

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  10. I must confess I too thought you used photos of yourself when younger. I find your poetry captivating Anmol. Thank you both so much for putting this feature up for our information and jealousy!

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    1. That's kind of you to say so. Thanks!
      I love reading your deeply emotive verses. :-)

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  11. Anyone who loves Bach and Phillip Larkin is someone I can relate to.Enjoyed this interview. Thank you Anmol and Sherry.

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    1. Glad that you can relate. Thanks, Cressida! :-)

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  12. Always good to read your work Anmol... thanks Sherry for featuring this clear and expressive poet... I'd love to read more about the mustard fields Anmol..what a fabulous canvas they present.

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    1. They do make for a fabulous canvas. The glorious yellow of those flowers in the warm winter sun is something that reminds me of home and hearth.
      Thanks, Rajani! :-)

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  13. Wonderful interview, Sherry and Anmol!. Anmol, I enjoyed learning more about you and your poetic journey. You are a deep and intense poet whose work is always thoughtful, and now I know a bit more about why. I wish you well with your upcoming book & your decisions about what you will do in your life. Sherry, again a brilliantly compiled feature. Kudos to both of you.

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    1. Thank you, Mary! You have always been so kind with your words and thoughts. :-)

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  14. You are most welcome, my friends. It was my pleasure! Thank you, Anmol, for letting us get to know you better.

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  15. Thank you so much for this feature and for being so wonderful with me, Sherry! I really enjoyed answering your incisive questions; it's been a pleasure connecting with you. :-)
    And thanks everyone for such a beautiful response — you have all made my day with your kind words. This feeling of community and bonhomie is something I cherish a lot.

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  16. Yay! We are happy you're pleased, Anmol. I feel the same way about this community. It is so much better sharing work with other poets in a supportive environment. It helps us keep going.

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  17. Dear Sherry, thank you so much for introducing him!
    'Anmol' is invaluable; indeed you are, Anmol. My best wishes!

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  18. I once commented that Anmol’s poetry is like a piece of visual art, a painting, such is the vivid imagery and colours and bold strokes he uses in his poems. And he is still such a young poet.
    I loved what he said here about poetry : “we may find diverse forms and techniques but perhaps the voice always finds itself in the primary source of being.”

    Anmol, i am glad that you have a plan for your literary journey, and i wish you all the best ahead.

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  19. A wonderful interview Sherry. And HA, I am so thrilled to learn more about you. You write with a depth and wisdom well beyond your years. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  20. Wonderful interview, Sherry! I am so impressed with Anmol's work, thoughts, and usage of language. This was in informative look at a creative, interesting poet.

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