Monday, February 24, 2014

Life of a Poet - Madhumakhi

Kids, one of our long-time members at Poets United is the young poet, Madhumakhi, who writes at It Can Get Verse. I finally got her to agree to an interview, and am so stoked to be meeting with her. Fasten your seatbelts, as we are zooming off to India once again - to its southern shores. Pour yourself a cup of chai, and settle in. You will be amazed by this young woman.

Sherry: Madhumakhi, I am so happy to be interviewing you. You have been with us for a long time, and I cant believe it has taken me this long to finally meet with you. My bad.  Give us a little snap shot of your life, so we can know you better, will you, please?

Madhumakhi: I am Madhumati. I’m also known by my pen-name Madhumakhi. I live with my father, mother, and sister in a bustling metropolis in southern India.

My father is an officer with the Government of India. As he is in a transferable job, we keep moving house every 3 to 4 years. I’ve grown up in many places across the country.

The Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, a landmark in southern India

My mother is a school teacher. I can say with full conviction that she’s been one of my best teachers. I’ve hardly struggled with academics, because she’s given me thorough grounding on all my basics.

Right now my sister is nine years old. We’re eight years apart, so we inhabit completely different worlds. But it’s impossible to get  bored with a kid in the house. And it’s fun watching her grow up. We do have our little filial fights every now and then. It’s a natural part of being siblings. Yet we love each other very deeply.

I’m still in school, or almost out of it. I’m in the twelfth grade. I’ll be joining college next year.

The Lalbagh Glass House at night
Sherry: You write with great talent and maturity for someone in the twelfth grade. What are you studying, and what are your goals and dreams, once school is finished?

Madhumakhi: I barely have two months of school left. I’m a science student, and my subjects are maths, physics, chemistry, and biology.

I’ll be writing one of the most important examinations of my life in March. We Indians call it the ‘boards’. I hope to get a good cumulative percentage so that I can secure a seat in the best of colleges.

This cartoon sums up my life as a city dwelling Indian
The cartoonist of this hilarious comic is Neelabh Banerjee
published by  the Times of India February 3, 2014

Sherry: We wish you the very best with your exams. Do you have a memory or story from your childhood that you would like to share?

Madhumakhi: I can tell you the story of how I got my pen-name.

It was my first day in Kindergarden.  I was a piddling of a four year old. I was a weepy, homesick, fretful little pest when my father half dragged me to the classroom. The timid teacher gave me a lollipop to shut me up. She exerted herself by introducing me to the meanest looking bunch of kids I’d ever seen. 

As soon as she said, “Say hello to Madhumati”, a scrawny boy pointed his finger at me and screamed, “Madhumakhi!”. All the other kids joined in the chorus. My lollipop popped out of my mouth. Tears threatened to spill from my eyes again. How could my parents forget that ‘Madhumati` sounded very similar to ‘Madhumakhi’ before they saddled me with my name? Madhumakhi means honeybee in Hindi. I’ve always been teased by that name ever since. But I like it. It captures the spectrum of human nature perfectly. A bee that stings can produce honey too.

Sherry: You are so right! Of the places you have lived, is there one that feels most like home to you?

Madhumakhi: Gandhinagar feels like home to me. It has wide roads and several parks. You can go anywhere you want to on cycle or by walk. It's a very green township. The air is clean and unpolluted. One of my favourite places in India is Dalhousie. It has lush untouched conifer forests. 


Sherry: It looks very beautiful. At what age did you begin writing? Have your teachers encouraged you?

Madhumakhi: I started writing poetry at the age of nine. I’m happy to say that all my teachers have encouraged my efforts. I remember being told by my teacher that I wrote well. This happened when I was in the third grade. Her compliments set the course for my experiments with poetry. I am indeed blessed to have had many loving teachers. They’ve always had my best interests at heart.

Sherry: What made you choose poetry and what do you love about it? 

Madhumakhi: I chose poetry because I’m too lazy to conjure up the kind of detail that’s required for prose. I’ve never written a story. I’ve never had them in my head. I’ve always focused on ideas, emotions and sketches.  What I love about poetry is the intensity of emotion it can provoke.  You need very few words to explain the deepest emotions. But you need to choose your words well.

I don’t have the first poem I ever wrote. It must have rotted in some landfill somewhere on Earth. Even if I had it, I wouldn’t have wanted to share it. It was a rebellious doggerel about a tyrannical art teacher. I cringe when I think of it.

Sherry: I really love your poem “Let My Words”, posted in late December. I’d like to include it here. It really expresses our hopes for our writing: that someone, somewhere, will take away something meaningful from the words we write.

Madhumakhi: Thank you. I like your interpretation of it.

Let my words and my words alone
be all you need to know of me.

Let only the distilled essence
of my purest thoughts spread fragrance
till where it can in this vast world.

The rest of my existence is
an insubstantial wisp of smoke.

Only that which matters will make
its way into your minds and hearts.

Sherry: That is just so beautiful, kiddo! Who is your favourite all-time poet?

Madhumakhi: I honestly haven’t read much poetry. I’ll be reading more when i get the time for it. I’m very fond of Kahlil Gibran, though. The Prophet is very close to my heart. It is my Bible, Gita, Koran and Torah all rolled in one. His hearfelt wisdom will remain relevant to humanity for several millennia. His chapter on Love is my favourite part of The Prophet. Here is some of what he has to say about love-

 When love beckons to you follow him, 
      Though his ways are hard and steep. 
      And when his wings enfold you yield to him, 
      Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, 
      Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. 
      For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. 
      Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, 
      So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.’

Sherry: Gibran is amazing. Is there a poem of yours you are especially happy with, or that you feel best expresses the person that you are?

Madhumakhi: There are two, actually, that define me as a poet and as a person. The first one is ‘My Thoughts are Not my Own’. The second one is ‘My Soul’s Whisper’.  They’re a bit stylistically imperfect, so I’m not all that happy with them. But they define who I am.

My Thoughts Are Not My Own

My thoughts are not my own.
They come from the millions
of collected thoughts that were
flowing through the ether,
entering receptive brains
and exiting unexplored.

Thoughts need to be explored!
Maybe that's why they wait
patiently, take chances with
the whims of the living
and roam in relentless search 
of a resourceful mind.

They find me in the hope
that i'll give them a voice,
but as i write i kill off a
few unsuitable ones,
without regret, knowing that
they'll find their way.

Sherry: Oh, I love this so much!

My Soul's Whisper

My soul need not whisper,
for it Knows that i Know.

I know it is
the only constant
in ever changing reality.
the only reality
in every changing illusion.

It is a fragment of the whole
and the whole itself.

It is ancient as time
yet eternally reborn.

It is the loudest silence.

It is all there is, was and will be.

Sherry: Fantastic, and very wise for such a young woman. I suspect you are an Old Soul. What other activities do you enjoy?

Dalhousie Castle

Madhumakhi:  I like playing badminton and swimming. I used to read a lot before i entered 11th grade. I hope I get the time to enrich my knowledge of literature once I enter college. I enjoy cooking and helping my mother in the kitchen. I’m interested in biology too. The Living World is fascinating. There is a Hand of God in the way so many species have evolved and adapted to their environments. It’s almost as if the Goddess is perfecting her glorious creation all the time.

Sherry: Is there something about you we would be surprised to know?

Madhumakhi: I’d be surprised if there is something surprising about me to know!

Sherry: (Smiles.) Has there been one person in your life that you feel had a significant influence on who you are today and/or on your writing?

Madhumakhi: Yes, there has been a very significant person who’s been guiding my growth as a poet. He’s one of my uncles. He’s the one who suggested that I should make a blog to share my work. He has a very deep knowledge of poetry and literature.  He helps me by giving me very honest, well considered criticism for my poetry. He prevents me from stagnating and becoming complacent. We might have rubbed each other the wrong way, but it’s all been for good.

Gandhinagar Skyline - by

Sherry: Since we women come from a long line of women, and are a product of that herstory, is there something you would like to tell us about your mother and grandmother and what they have meant in your life?

Madhumakhi: I love my mama and my naani aaji (maternal grandmother) very much. My mother is the first person to see my freshly written poems. She’s the one calms me down when I’m in one of my tempestuous tempers. 

I’ve not been around my aaji much as she lives far away. But when she comes visiting we always have a good time with each other. My grandparents are very cheerful, energetic people despite their old age. It’s their fiftieth anniversary this February, and i’m very, very happy for them. It makes me smile to think that they’ve been together for so long despite so many ups and downs. 

My grandma gave me my first introduction to the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. They were my nighttime stories. I have a home with my grandmother whenever I am with her.

Sherry: That touches my heart. My grandma was my "home", too.  What goals do you have for 2014?

Madhumakhi: My goals for 2014 are-
·      To get the hang of metre
·      To try out many new forms
·      To write at least two poems a week
·      To hone my craft to the hilt
·      To learn one new word every day
·      To get a good percentage
·      To secure a seat in a good college.

Sherry: Wonderful and worthy goals. We will look forward to the poems! Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Madhumakhi: Of course, I have many things to say to Poets United. I can’t articulate in words how deeply blessed I feel to have found you. All of you are family now. Poets United has helped several poets across the world to hone their craft. My father says that the challenging prompts keep me away from my studies. 

I thank Susan Chast for her engaging Mid-Week Motifs. ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ is a wonderful section. I thank Rosemary Nissen Wade for choosing the best poems for enhancing our knowledge of poetry. Thank you Sherry, for interviewing me. I’m so happy today!  The fact that Poets United has clockwork maintenance is very admirable. It can be attributed to Mary’s and your great efforts that the site is so well run.

Sherry: Well, thank you very much for your lovely words, Madhumakhi. On behalf of the staff, we so appreciate it. We couldn't do what we do without each and every one of our members. Thank you, for sticking with us, and for coming back week after week to keep this whole show going.

And thank you for a very lovely visit, long over-due!

Isn't she lovely, kids? I so enjoyed our visit with this young poet-on-the-rise. Do come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Great insight in the life a young poet :) I am myself around her age as well (18 and also studying science-like subjects in school) so i can really relate to her everyday life!

  2. I have adored Madhumakhi's work from the first time I read it. As much as I appreciate her creativity and obvious intelligence, I admire her diligence and willingness to hone her work. When I read her material I know she has taken care, thought it through.

    An old soul, indeed, Sherry, she hits on subjects with wisdom and emotion far beyond what one would expect. I eagerly anticipate reading about her collegiate experiences.

    1. Kim, I'm really touched by your warm praise of me and my poetry. I'm all smiles. Thank you so much!

  3. What a talented young woman! I am in awe of your journey so far! Good luck on your boards-I know you will do well~ My daughter is that same age as you and I can say you both have the wisdom of old souls...Kim beat me to it! Beautifully expressed emotions are the sweetness of your words! All the best to you~

    1. That's such a sweet compliment you've given me. :) Does your daugther write poetry too?

  4. Thank you so much for interviewing me, Sherry! My parents got a very pleasant surprise this morning. You've made me really happy :)

    1. It was completely my pleasure, kiddo. Happy to have made you and your parents smile!

  5. I enjoy Madhumakhi's poetry and particularly 'Let My Words'. She has amazing talent and I hope she continues writing when she is in college.
    Thank you Sherry for yet another great interview!

    1. Thanks, Gabriella. I enjoy reading your poetry too. I just hope my muse will remain with me throughout.

    2. Your muse will stay with you, kiddo....I went years, as a busy young mom, without writing. But I always missed my writing and knew I should be doing it. When I returned, my muse was right there waiting for me! Were I to do it over, I would write my way through everything! A record of the journey made. That's my best advice to you.

  6. I really like your insights, Madhumakhi! You always seem much wiser than your years! And I see you as a very serious poet. I like your goals for 2014, and I have no doubt you will accomplish them. Your participation as a poet is ALWAYS much appreciated and much enjoyed. Good luck on your boards! (Thanks, Sherry, for another thoughtful interview.)

    1. Yes, Madhumakhi, I must echo how much we appreciate your loyalty to and participation at Poets United. You have been with us for a long time. I look forward to reading much more of your work!

  7. Such a precious girl! Lovely interview.
    Thank you for sharing!

    Write away, Madhu. Kisses.

  8. Thank you Sherry for this interesting conversations.....and Madhumakhi your honest
    expression in your lines definitely express who you are..wish you my very best for your ensuing board exams.....

  9. Such a privilege to know about Madhumakhi. Got to say, quite impressed with her poetry. Thank you Sherry!

    And Madhumakhi,

    Well I do hope that you do well in your board exams. And I also hope that you secure a seat in a good college. I'm an Indian student too, doing my 3rd year in Mechanical Engineering, and frankly these colleges may sound great but they often try to strip you out of your co-curricular skills. I advice you to better find a college which is reputed both in academics and arts. Because certainly you are needed both as a student and as an artist.

    Take care, and keep studying. Smiles

    1. Thank you for your warm comments, Anand.
      That's one bad thing about our system. We don't leave much room for co-curricular activities and all-around development. I just hope my future college will promote participation in co-curricular activities.

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  11. So nice to meet you Madhumakhi. Your writing has wisdom beyond your years! Good luck in your future studies!

  12. oh wow, madhumakhi, you seem so much wiser than your years. i mean, what your have written so far are quite thoughtful and deep. your writing will surely improve in the future. it has been a privilege to know you and your words through this community.

    and all the best on your board exams! :)

  13. I love thoughts personified in "My thoughts are not my own." The form in the three poems above seems carefully chosen to carry the images and magnitude of your truths. I looked back through your blog and realized I read more of your poems than I commented on--the ghazal and the sestina among others. I will try to do better. I particularly love the motif of desire that runs through them, so it was no surprise to learn you are going into the sciences. In this interview you speak of biology so poetically, though, that I look forward to you illuminating the sciences through poetry. Thank you and thanks to Sherry for this fine interview.

    1. Thank you so much for your generous praise, Susan. Your comment made me smile. I have tried to write a few poems based on the living world. In my blog they can be found under the label 'Myriad Ways of Living'. You've given me a good idea. Poetry can be a very good medium of bringing science to the masses. Often when we learn science in school it's so dry and boring. That necessary spark of insight is often missing from our lessons. Poetry can make lessons more alive.

  14. Kudos Madhumakhi – perhaps a “Newcomer” in name and appearance for me here – but obviously you are no “newcomer” to seeing the world poetically – thank you for sharing your deep, beautiful poems...I look forward to reading more from you.:) Congratulations, and good luck with your Board Examination!
    Super interview, Sherry.It was very inspiring and energizing to read this little girl's interview.Thanks for bringing her to us here. :)

  15. Oh, what a lovely interview! Alas, My schedule is not like clockwork when it comes to reading others' posts particularly as I have been having trouble with my new spectacles this week and have had to get them readjusted (using my old ones for now). So, with one thing and another, I am only just coming to read this - and I'm so glad I did. Had not realised you were so young, Madhumakhi; your poetry sounds more mature. I started young too, and as you see I am still going! Poetry is such a blessing in our lives. Nice to meet you here courtesy of Sherry, and thank you for your kind words. :)


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