Poet Interview #26 – Debasis Mukhopadhyay

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?
I am my fractured pictures. In other words, I am hiding within the tapestry of my fractured self. I don’t always know which one is me the root, because I am so plural with my wings flying in different skies. Perhaps, the tension between root and wings, to borrow Jimenez’s words, describes me the best. There are many examples to illustrate my point, but I think I shall bring up the one the most pertinent to writing: the relationship with language. Three languages, Bengali, English and French, inhabit me. These three languages have colonized different spaces in me over the years. These spaces are not hermetic, they remain though distinct and distinctive. For instance, my debut collection of poetry (2005) was in Bengali. I was in love with French for a long period of time and earned also a PhD in literary studies (it was though a bricolage of sociology, anthropology and literature) from a French-language university situated in the francophone province of Quebec, Canada. Beyond the frontier of academic discourse, French had hardly any repercussion on my creative writing. Now, interestingly enough, though, my poetry writing has become double-tongued, as, since a while, I am feeling more and more the spur to write in English. I don’t know whether to say this bilinguality in my writing stems out from the need of finding a voice on a poemly basis. Now, one can also see this “need of voice” in the light of what is popularly known as Sapir-Whorf hypothesis concerning linguistic relativity and determinism. Perhaps, I can say writing in English allows me to “create honestly” to paraphrase Walking Is Still Honest. I don’t care really how much it problematizes the involvement of my emotional intelligence as well as my anxiety for using and not using a certain lexical, syntactical and poetical arrangements as English is, in my case, a rather conscious acquisition compared to Bengali. I like to see these languages as multiple voices dwelling within me. Or, if you want, they are the sub-personalities of my psyche. And I do entertain a problematic relationship with them.

I started writing at an early age. Not poetry though, but fiction. My hands turned poetry when l was in the late twenties and “suffering” from the overdose of love, left-wing politics and literature.
My favorite poets? Lorca, Neruda, Michaux, and many others. It would be a long list.
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? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?
So far I have never been really bowed down by the concept of a writing place and/or schedule. Not that I am against the idea of having a writing place and/or schedule, a kind of recluse to have a cold eye on life, and on what we write and intend to immortalize. But I have always been keen to reach out to live music: to capture the words slipping through the now-here of life. That said, I am not good at notebooking. I have never managed to keep a diary or journal of that kind. I suffocate very quickly. I can’t record anything in a  stitched/glued/spiral bound journal/notebook. Creativity cannot be bound is literal for me, as one of my friends once pointed it out to me! I feel at a loss of words as I displace the words from my head and confine them to the journal. They feel stale and powerless. I prefer to carry them in my head as long as I can. At a point of time, some of them become violent. What I mean by that is some of the words end up gaining momentum to come to life and burst forth. Only then, I need to jot them down on a piece of paper. Though nowadays, I use a lot my phone, I always love scribbling on cocktail napkins, the backs of receipts, the insides of brown envelopes made of recycled paper. Later these words become the agents that imagine and play about with my poems.
For finding inspiration, I drive my bones almost everywhere. The “triggering town” to paraphrase Richard Hugo, can be the tapestry of my fractured self, an overheard snippet of a dialogue, a news article, a story, a poem, a political discourse, an event, etc. I am also someone who reads everything that comes along. So anything can take root in my writing.
My idea of poetry has not undergone any radical change. However, of late, my approach towards poetry writing has become different. I have never been a prolific writer. Rather it so happened that I did not write for years and I didn’t miss it much. I always knew I was a poet (without having to write)!!! I was, first and foremost, a big sucker for Life. Just too lazy to seize the interplay of words and arrive at a sacralized version of a written text. For me, it was as if to make those ladybugs live in solitary confinement in a Petrarchan sonnet without having to breathe any light! I would rather watch them swarming in the mirrors of my imagination, even if I had to squander them away at the end. Today, it’s though different. I try not to deny the need of discipline which calls for a kind of self-violence. I do my best to write regularly and when I can’t, I feel sick, as if I am not my body. It never happened like this before. I wonder whether it has something to do with what David Bowie once said: “As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?”
Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
Yes, I am on Facebook and on Twitter and I also have a WordPress blog. They all are meant to mark my presence as a writer and showcase my work. It is quite useful in terms of reader’s feedback and submission calls, but most importantly, this online presence allows me to get to know other writers and their work, and to participate occasionally in a community of writers where we can discuss each other’s work. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to keep up with friends and acquaintances in my life through social media.
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 frequent a few Facebook groups such as Modern Poetry, I am not a silent poet, The Curly Mind, among others, and have been lucky to receive excellent feedback and kind encouragement from the wonderful members. I am planning to participate in a couple of good (online) poetry writing workshops this year.
Right now, I am not reading any significant book. I am somebody who is passionate about the written word. Indeed, from the very childhood, I like to read everything I can get my hands on. The last pages I have read are from a lonely planet travel guide.
What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?
“Creating honestly” the slogan of the journal says it all. I would add: find and craft your own lens through which you will not only see the worlds in you and around you, but you will also make them seen and scene. Remember, whatever works for you is what you should do. Just read and write as much as you can. And yes, keep sending your work out to suitable venues. Dealing with rejections, one has to grow thick skin, but one has to be also self critical without compromising one’s own voice.

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Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, and books can be found. He is a Best of the Net and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Scott's poetry books include: Songs of a Dissident (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015), Chaos Songs (Weasel Press, 2016), Happy Hour Hallelujah (CTU Publishing, 2016), and Poison in Paradise (Alien Buddha Press, 2017). Scott is a member of The Southern Collective Experience; he also serves as an editor for Walking Is Still Honest Press, The Blue Mountain Review, The Peregrine Muse, and Novelmasters.

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