Poet Interview #59: Sheikha A.

Scott Thomas Outlar: First off, Sheikha, I’d like to thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me here at W.I.S.H. I suppose a good place to start would be in the beginning. At what point were the artistic embers of creativity initially sparked in your life? Have you always been drawn to poetry and literature?

 

Sheikha A.: I wasn’t always drawn to poetry and literature. We studied literature extensively in High School but my real interest in it sparked in University. My understanding for many classic and contemporary literary works was simple and matter of fact, it was in university that I began to see through prismic lens how characters and settings were deliberately moulded by a keen sense of behavioural sciences by every writer that, I began to, literally, believe had some psychic message to pass on through to future generations. Surprisingly, many were far more modern than us at this age and era! And honest! We worry about social media in these times of ours because we want to stand politically and verbally correct and sophisticated, arousing as little as possible any negations or cross examining/debate. I tend to envy the classical times. Perhaps, they were the toughest, but what went in print, first and foremost, went through much gruelling and then when the words were printed, they are considered sublime by readers of now. I worry about the subliminal aspects of literature now. I worry if my work will ever be perceived as sublime. These aspects take over my interests in and about literature. The future of this current age of writing as a classic and contemporary for our generations.

 

Outlar: Is there much appreciation for poetry where you live in Pakistan? How do you think the local environment and culture affected your development as a writer?

 

Sheikha A: Literature in Pakistan is rich. Urdu literature is a mix of majestic, humble, opulent and modest. I am ashamed to say I never studied Urdu literature because I grew up in United Arab Emirates where, even though the country’s first language was Arabic, due to a multi ethnic and national populace, we spoke English as our first language. I learnt to speak the language in Pakistan, when I arrived here and started working at a school. I can read and write in it now, but not prolifically or professionally. Urdu was taught, to me, as a second language in High School. We learnt the alphabets and how to read and write, as well, but a lack of communication in that language with the people around me didn’t give me the inclination to explore books and novels in Urdu. There is a special section published by Dawn Newspaper in Pakistan that caters to arts and literature, that publish reviews, articles, interviews of classics and contemporaries that have gained acclaim worldwide, marking a niche for Pakistan globally.

 

I wasn’t influenced by the literary works here. It was circumstantial leverage that induced my writing for want to express my many experiences (initially frustrations) for being unable to cope with the environment. It would be hard for people to relate to my saying ‘culture shock’ for being of the same culture, but I led a completely different lifestyle in UAE with friends of many nationalities that I began to find certain mindsets here biased and even oppressive to some degrees. Despite a decade spent here, I still find myself lost in crowds. I have managed to make a few friends, though, that have no writing background but are skilled and specialized in either artistic and/or non-artistic fields.

 

Outlar: You’ve successfully published your work internationally in both print and online markets. What are your thoughts on how the internet has helped to connect so many poets globally through the innumerable venues that are now available? Also, what have you found to be the pros and cons of social media?

 

Sheikha A.: Internet was my only respite and oxygen when I arrived to Pakistan. It was the only way I could stay connected to my original life and not lose myself in the kind of influences surrounding me. I was, automatically, opened to a plethora of literary venues through the online friends/contacts I made. My first proper publishing experience was with eFiction India. It was from there I started looking out of the window, and then walking out the door to travel in different modes of transports that led me to publishing destinations. My goals haven’t been met, as yet, though, but I’m glad to have started, even if quite late (than most ahead of me), but I hope to stay steady at least, if not sprint at fast pace. Soon, Hammer and Anvil followed after Poetry Sans Frontiers. These were the venues I started out with. Facebook introduced me to poetry groups that directed me to links of a variety of magazines and journals whereto I started submitting, only to be met with a tirade of rejections. It was a good thing I didn’t stop and continued striving, otherwise I wouldn’t have succeeded to exist on a global portal as I do today (even if on a small scale). The fact that many magazines and journals now link/share their posts and published works to social media allows every writer to have their work travel countries all from a click away! For people like me who are pathetic at (self) marketing, social media is somewhat helpful in getting me some hits on my shared links. Becoming an admin on Poets, Artists Unplugged, a poetry group on Facebook gave me the opportunity to edit three of their anthologies that has added on not just to my experience, but expertise as well.

 

Outlar: Being the poetry editor for eFiction India, can you talk a bit about what you are generally looking for in submissions?

 

Sheikha A.: eFiction India is a venue that harbours the vision to read and publish all kinds of works without bias to themes or style or form or even content! We invite submissions of literally every and any kind, from poetry to prose to short films to scripts to reviews, etc.! We aren’t looking for anything specific that should discourage submitters from shying away from our venue for vacillating in doubt about the theme or quality of their work, because our acceptances and rejections carry personalized feedback with suggestions.

 

Outlar: What writers and artists have inspired you through the years? What are some of your favorite books? Are there any particular magazines or journals that you return to regularly and would recommend to readers?

 

Sheikha A.: I read many online magazines. It’s hard to pin point names of venues and artists because I read and get inspired by so many! I have always enjoyed reading comics. I love the graphics and witty lingo. Archie comics is something I grew up on, apart from Snoopy, Cathy, Garfield and a host of other comic strips that I can’t recall from the top of my head right now. I still prefer comics to full length prose. Though I love reading short stories, and Oscar Wilde has always been a source of inspiration for descriptive, lore-like, insinuatingly parable-like, intellectually pensive material. I have read some classical books over the years; I was never a voracious reader because I was always moved and intrigued by visual sensations that comics, short tales, fantastical movies provided. I enjoy thrillers as well. If I were to advise readers on magazines to read, I would tell them to try and read every link they came across and if they liked the material on it, despite the fact they were rejected from that venue, to always let preference of material overrule the pang of rejection. And to continually look for newer venues to read in order to discover new writers and their styles, irrespective of how huge or small its popularity is.

 

Outlar: 2017 isn’t too long in the tooth just yet. What are your expectations and goals for this year? Are there any exciting new projects you’re involved with at the moment?

 

Sheikha A.: I’ve started out fairly by getting published in a few magazines already. I have a few upcoming publications as well. But, to talk about goals, I haven’t set any for myself. I went through a self-ambiguity phase in the latter half of 2016 that led me to contemplating spirituality and diverging my course from love and spiritual themes to dark arts and spiritual themes. I think I’m still discovering what I really want to be known for through my writing. This is also a reason why I’ve never been able to put a full-length book together because I write like a two-headed squirrel – getting pulled into different directions. I am not disciplined when it comes to writing. I don’t set myself a target of the day let alone target of a book! Hopefully, soon, I’ll have a collaborative digital chapbook coming out by Praxis Magazine Online, during this year. It’s a chapbook I look forward to because mine and Suvojit’s, the other collaborator, writing complements one another commendably. I am certain it will be noticed and enjoyed by many readers.

 

Outlar: Here’s one that’s wide open. What is poetry’s purpose in this modern day and age? On a more personal level, what does poetry mean to you?

 

Sheikha A.: An outlet to express has been important in every era past and present. Poetry is one of the finest forms of expression, as the Dean of our university always emphasized, and rightfully so! It is a medium that can work without rules, and restriction of language too. Poetry can be containment, I guess, when there is too big a truth to speak and the voice isn’t aiding, one can resort to unconventional-ism in the form of written and spoken art in order to release and relieve. Many poets are discovered from slums, working under harsh and inhumane conditions, that are illiterate, prisoners, minor offenders, and many such places where a person’s creativity convenes with conditions and a shocking truth is born. Poetry is personal business that is traded to the emotional socio-economy of people. I have been able to tell a great number of secrets through this form without ever having had anyone revert with a judgment. Poetry allows freedom to not be judged. It is the beauty of telling that makes any truth easy to accept.

 

Outlar: Thank you again for your time, Sheikha. For all those who are interested in reading more of your work, where can they go to do so?

 

Sheikha A: I try to maintain a blog, which is more of a publication log book, at sheikha82.wordpress.com. Anyone interested in reading my published content can find them on this link.

100% Authentic

Three poems
by Vatsala Radhakeesoon
 
Letting Go
 
Lost Love
Shattered dreams
Careless thoughts
Reckless actions
Tactless speeches
of yesterday, the past –
Daily, gradually
I’m learning
to cling to them
no more
 
Now, I take
a deep breath,
I release them
from my mind,
I spread wide
the wings of wisdom,
 
I fly to
the light
within my soul,
There I discover
the golden keys –
All-authentic
All-original
All-selfless
All-egoless,
 
These are how
the Creator wants
human beings
to really be,
These are what
will open the doors to
Real Freedom,
True Life,
Eternal bliss.
 
Hymn to Brahma
 
In dawn’s solitude smiles
the serene,
newly-born,
carefree,
pure
atmosphere
 
My body,
soul,
mind
are deaf
to all hectic sounds,
All-mundane
 
All that I can hear
is this hymn-
A hymn to Brahma –
God,
The Creator,
The Divine
 
My subconscious says
this divine song
has been there
for eternity
 
“O Brahma!
O Light,
O Space
Infinite!
 
O Omniscient,
Omnipotent,
Omnipresent
Maker!
 
You are
All -Knowledge,
The Absolute,
Flawless
 
As I connect to you,
I know myself –
the immortal soul,
the perishable body,
I recognize you –
the Supreme Soul,
My creator,
The artist,
The architect,
The birth-giver
of the universe
 
O Brahma!
I know that
only from you,
I’ll find
true peace,
real knowledge,
unfailing love
 
You are wholesome,
You’ll make me
wholesome for aeons.”
 
Battle of Emotions
 
In an elliptic
bubble-like transparent
but waterproof, shockproof
rotating laboratory,
amidst the volcanic regions
of Planet Numb
echoed the laughter
of Green Fangs –
the Ruler, the King
 
Half dragon-like,
Half centaur-like,
Such a creature
was unknown to Earth
 
Grinned Green Fangs
at the frowning test-tubes
on the golden racks
 
“Planet Earth, I’m landing,
Emotions Exterminate!”
he roared
 
In a fluffy
soft cotton wool-like
candy floss pink
serene castle
amidst the sunny lands
of Golden Beach island
vibrated the aura
of Rainbow Light –
the saviour, the guardian
 
A genteel unicorn
with an illuminated
ruby ornament on its forehead,
A true friend,
A genuine master,
The apple of the eye
of Earth’s inhabitants
 
Through the meditative third eye
Rainbow Light captured
rays of the venomous mission,
As dark fumes,
it spat it,
it rejected it
 
“Planet Earth, I’ll protect you,
Emotions remain still!”
it exclaimed
 
Green Fangs kept on injecting
on Planet Earth
his new inventions –
the powerful vaccines:
Anti-compassion,
Anti-care,
Anti-love,
Anti bravery,
Anti-fear,
Anti-joy,
Anti- sorrows,
Anti – all emotions
 
Rainbow Light on each
terrestrial corner
spread its defense mechanisms –
the reliable potions:
100% Empathy,
100% care,
100% love,
100% bravery,
100% happiness,
100% grief,
100% all-emotions balanced
 
The overly tensed battle
went on for hours,
At last, Rainbow Light
with its unfailing
positive thoughts’ shield
hit Green Fangs’ master-mind ,
It disintegrated into
a silvery magnetic rod,
Then it evaporated as fumes
black, navy-blue, grey,
all blended.
 
Lept with joy
on the rotating Earth
Rainbow Light –
the protective unicorn,
Mother Earth hugged him,
kissed him,
 
All emotions on Planet Earth
merrily danced like Bacchus’s followers,
They were safe,
They were free.
 
 
—————–
Vatsala Radhakeesoon is a published Mauritian author/poet. She is the representative of Immagine and Poesia for Mauritius. She is also a regular contributor of Different Truths Magazine and other literary journals and magazines. Her first poetry book When Solitude Speaks was published in 2013.

Vanished Without a Trace

Three poems
by Ryan Quinn Flanagan
 
Windows Are Transparent, Governments Are Not
 
The paper shredder’s truck
pulls out of city hall.
 
Third time this week.
It is election time.
Both men look exhausted.
 
The driver
signalling right
before he makes
a left.
 
Slumped over the wheel
like a large and slumbering
bear.
 
War Bride
 
There is this woman
who sits in the window
of a house
a few streets away
from sunup to sundown
never seeming to
move.
 
They say she lost her husband
in the war
(not sure which one)
and is waiting for him
to come home.
 
She has a nurse for homecare
and the grocery store delivers
so she never has to go out
for anything.
 
In the evenings
some of the neighbourhood kids
knock on her door every so often
just to keep the old bird honest,
I guess.
 
Crouched in the bushes
with muted laughter
as she opens the door
expecting her
husband.
 
7 Billion Flat Tires and Only the Ego Inflated
 
The world is imperfect
because people are
imperfect
 
and people are
the world:
 
people who buy
when they should sell
 
believe
when they should
not;
 
people who lie
and cheat
and steal,
 
unable to sleep
even when they are
tired.
 
—————–
Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his other half and mounds of snow. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Word Riot, In Between Hangovers, Red Fez, Horror Sleaze Trash, and Your One Phone Call .
 
More about his work can be found here: ryanquinnflanagan.yolasite.com

Poet Interview #58: Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Who/what first inspired you to begin? Who are some your favorite writers and artists (past and/or contemporary)?
 
I started writing at the age of ten. No romantic epiphany sort of thing, I had to do it for a school competition. It was a very bad piece but the teachers liked that I could write an original work and recite it. They published it in the local paper and made me recite it many times. I guess their interest in it sparked mine more than anything else. I had no idea how or what to write, but you have to start somewhere. My family was not a scholastic family in any way. They were into sports so I did sports. But I also wanted to write in an environment that was not conducive to such endeavours. It was not until I was in my late teens and living on my own in a different city that I tried my hand at writing again. It was clumsy and fumbling. In my early-to-mid twenties I read everything I could get my hands on. I sat in bookstores and libraries all day when I could reading E.E. Cummings, Dostoevsky, Joyce, Thomas Mann, Robert Frost, all the classics. Then I found Bukowski. Those first books really changed my life. I had no idea you could write those things and so accessible and with such humour. I would walk home after close in the unforgiving Canadian winter with my head swimming and a strange warm feeling in my belly. I’m not one for hyperbole but it really was like being reborn in a way. And through Bukowski I came to Rimbaud and Fante who still remain among my favourites to this day. And Ferlinghetti and the beats were cool as well, particularly early Ginsberg stuff.
 
As I went along I came across other favourites such as Leonard Cohen, Al Purdy, Roald Dahl, Knut Hamsun etc. I have always enjoyed the works of the Romantics as well: Keats, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Blake most of all. His artwork is truly amazing! I also enjoy the stories of both Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe. The war poets were big for me as well: Auden and Sassoon etc. And Orwell and Huxley as they probably are for most everyone. If I had to pick a favourite poet no longer living other than Bukowski, it would be Richard Brautigan. His work is so humorous and enigmatic. In terms of contemporary writing, Ben John Smith is the best writer out there in my opinion. I also enjoy the work of Rich Wink, Wayne F. Burke, Adam Levon Brown, and Steven Storrie among others.
 
How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come?
 
I sit down and make time when I can, but I usually have little-to-no-idea what will come out. I just sit with a magnum or two of wine and some music in the background and get to it. By the time I am done I am a mess. I’ve fallen down the stairs on three different occasions and set myself on fire once. Then I pass out. In the morning I usually have no idea what I wrote the day before. It is only when you go back later to edit spelling and such and build manuscripts that you find out what you have or don’t have. This is surely not the most healthy or efficient way of doing things but it is the way I have always done it. I have a compulsion to write anyhow, I believe they called the condition Hypergraphia. I jot down notes on everything, most of which I never use.
 
When you look back over some of the successes you’ve had during the years since you began publishing your work, what are the real highlights that stand out in your mind? Which of your books are you most proud of?
 
Like most I’m sure, those few earliest acceptances were a highlight. There were so many rejections and most the time I would just never hear back either way which I guess is another form of rejection. It began happening so often that when I got a rejection back I actually felt better, as though it was almost like an acceptance; that they had been descent enough to write me back. And that first time you write something you know is killer, I mean you really know…there is no drug like it. I have done many drugs over the years and nothing comes close to that. That intoxication of chance, you know? And later when you hold your first book in your hands, crack the spine, smell it – I’ve always loved the smell of books, even the musty ones in used bookshops. But I’ve found that the novelty of such things has faded for me. I no longer get that high I once did from writing. I chase it and keep writing, but even when I think I’ve knocked one out of the park now, it is more of a relief than anything else. It reminds me of the Packers legendary football coach Vince Lombardi growing to fear failure so much that winning no longer held any joy for him and he just felt relieved for another week until the next game when the fear would begin all over again. That is how I feel now if I am honest. I write because I have to, and I write from a place of fear. This is not healthy but I can’t do anything else half descent so I just keep writing.
 
Your books are like your children and even if a parent has their favourite child (which they often do) they certainly won’t tell you. My favourites seem to change over time anyways so I can’t really answer that one. But there’s getting to be a lot of children. I might have to move to the desert and start my own commune.
 
What does poetry mean to you, and has your idea of what it represents changed over the course of time? Where do you see it going in the future?
 
Poetry doesn’t mean any specific thing to me outside of a free form of expression. I know others have many grandiose notions of poetry, notions I once shared when I was younger. Reading the Romantics and about their lives will really do that to you. And I know others who use writing as a form of therapy which I think is great if they can do it and it works. And for others, writing makes them happy. It is good to be happy when you can so I applaud those people. Poetry used to make me feel that way as well. The highs were like nothing I had experienced. But over time things have dulled for me. I believe much of the work is still good but I don’t get that unbridled euphoria anymore. I guess that is sad, but I just treat it as part of life.
 
Are you on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
 
I am not on Twitter but I recently joined Facebook about four months ago. I would have never done such a thing in the past, believing it a drain on my limited time (which social media can be for us all), but through social media I have been able to connect with some pretty talented people that I likely would not have met otherwise. Writers, painters, film makers, graphic artists etc. I am an introvert by nature and have traditionally been quite the hermit crab tucked away in my own shell, but I guess I’ve begun to open up a little bit with age. I think it usually works the other way, but then again I’ve never really been good at doing things the way I am supposed to.
 
Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?
 
I live in a small redneck town in Northern Canada so there is no artist group or community to speak of. Just hunters and fishermen. The only people I share my work with are on social media. The folks I’ve found that are working away in a similar vein in far different locales such as yourself. Writers, readers, editors, publishers…all sorts. A lot of good people doing their thing, which is great to see.
 
Right now I am re-reading both Leonard Cohen’s Flowers for Hitler and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. I just finished Paul Auster’s City of Glass and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, as well as DICKHEAD by Wayne F. Burke.
 
As 2017 begins rolling along, what are your expectations for the year ahead? Do you have any new books/projects in the works that you’re particularly excited about?
 
2017 is shaping up to be a busy year for me. I have a collection of poetry in the early editing stage with Leaf Garden Press and another collection with Interior Noise Press. There are also nine other collections of poetry in various stages of completion with both the publishers Horror Sleaze Trash and Marathon Books, as well as a flash fiction collaboration with the aforementioned Ben John Smith and Rich Wink under the HST banner. I’m also doing a featured artist reading in Dallas via Skype in late March or thereabouts put on by the good folks at Madswirl. And beginning to flesh out the bones of my first novel. There is also a collection of short stories in the editing phase but no specific publisher yet.
 
What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?
 
Just keep working away; building your paper army as it were. Try to be as brutally honest as you can but never forget to inject your work with humour. And find your own voice as you go along. Beyond that, I am hardly the one to ask about getting noticed. Just do the work, and if it is good, hopefully others will notice. If not, then it wasn’t meant to be. Writing should not be for notoriety or finances anyways. It should be selfish and enriching and yours.

Staring into Space

Three poems
by Debarshi Mitra
 
Raag Desh
 
Yes, this too is a country
although untraced
in shifting geographies,
this too is a land of belonging
where we walk unquestioned
and the imprints of our feet
remain as if they were
untouched by time.
This too is a place
I often visit,
here where the long wandering
meet the mourning jackals
at dawn.
 
At University
 
Once again
at the mercy
of those faint outlines
of the hills beyond
as the setting sun
at the flick of a lighter
dissolves into night.
Day after day we return
seeking chemical pleasures
tracing out galaxies
in the ocean blue
of half lit rooms
where asphyxiated by smoke
and the sharp contours
of phone screens dazzling
we are lost in our
illusions of company.
Outside, the clouds gather,
all beings return,
the birds perched on cable lines,
the men returning from work,
all things seeking memory,
all things homebound.
 
Google Home
 
It is another morning
in 2017. We spy in on them,
two virtual assistants in conversation,
one of them says, “Are you human? Prove it.”
A voice answers, it defends its stance.
In 1977, my mother pressed her ears to a radio
and wondered, how does it speak without a mouth?
“Life has no meaning,” one of the assistants declares,
the other stares outside through the window,
stares endlessly into space
without eyes.
 
—————–
Debarshi Mitra is a 21 year old poet from New Delhi , India. His debut book of poems ‘ Eternal Migrant’ was published in May 2016 by Writers Workshop. His works have previously appeared or are forthcoming in anthologies like’ Kaafiyana’ and to literary magazines like ‘Typewrite’, ‘Thumbprint’, ‘The Poet Community’ and ‘Leaves of Ink’. He is currently enrolled in an ‘Integrated PhD’ program in Physics at IISER PUNE.