Poet Interview #57: Ananya S. Guha

Scott Thomas Outlar: First off, Ananya, I want to thank you for taking some of your time to do this interview for W.I.S.H. I’m going to dive right in and ask you about your new book that was released recently. Could you talk a bit about the collection and the type of poems it contains? How was the experience working with Scarlet Leaf?

Ananya S. Guha: Thank you, Scott. It is always a pleasure to talk to you, and to be on the platform of W.I.S.H. which is a trendsetter and a path breaking online magazine. My new book is ” Now, Then And Again”. It was written roughly between the period of September to November 2016. That was a time when I felt the country was going through a crisis, because of new ideologues trying to impose an impaired vision on the country. It is the rightist ideology, and secular values which I believed in, and grew up in, were being smashed. History was being misrepresented and rewritten. Now, you can’t tamper with history, which has its inexorable logic. Tampering with it is danger. If you blacken out the Mughal period of history in India, you are doing not only the country, but history a disservice. So, one means to say that what we learnt in school and college was gibberish, that Akbar the Mughal ruler, did not have a vision of the country? Moreover right wing non secularists emphasize only on culture as religion, the Hindu religion. Culture and religion are not totally synonymous. Indian culture is an amalgam of race, ethnic origins, religion and language. Most of these poems are related to culture and politics, the politics of the times, and violence based on religion. However my home town Shillong, its natural beauty also echoes in the poems.

It was great working with Roxana Nastase of Scarlet Publishing House Canada. She is very professional and adept at what she’s doing, a concerned publisher. I am very grateful to her, for her action oriented work.

Outlar: You are constantly publishing your poems in the small press, but that doesn’t stop you from still posting even more work on social media. Where does this motivation to share your work come from? Can you recall what factors influenced you to start submitting your work to literary venues in the first place?

Guha: Social media is a tool for creativity. Sadly enough it is being misused. I find in social media a leverage for communicating creative and heightened tension. The blank space is regenerative, prompts me into urgent quest for words and their deployment in a creative manner. I find online journals a more simple way of communicating rather than pen or paper and the dreaded SASE!  Replies are prompt from the editor, sometimes very fast. You will recall that you introduced several links to me. Prior to that I had published a bit, but I did not know where or how to search!

Outlar: One of the ways I’ve noticed you giving back to the worldwide literature community is through your efforts serving as poetry editor for The Thumb Print Magazine. Apart from the highly questionable decision of publishing my work when I was first breaking onto the scene, you seem to have good judgement and a real knack for tracking down new poets. What are you generally looking for in your capacity as editor? Who are some of the emerging poets you have your eye on these days?

Guha: I normally write to some poets I know, and the emerging ones are always on the lookout! But I must say most of them are very talented. I want to explore their work, their mentality, their style. They are writing in droves, and the internet has laid bare to them the world of poetry. They are not afraid of ‘big ‘ names, they are gutsy and write with verve. ( I am not afraid of big names too! so I share a mental bond with them!!). Some of the names which come to the mind are William Gordon Suting, Tikulli Dogra, Prerna Bakshi, Debashish Parashar, Nathan Hassall, Debarshi Mitra, Goirick Brahmachari and a host of others. In fact the poetry scene in English in India too is very vibrant, and more and more young poets are taking to writing poetry and publishing online magazines. I would say that the internet has driven the writing of poetry and short stories in an unprecedented manner. Nathan Hassall is a young poet in the UK, brilliant and has a very stark and original voice.

Outlar: In searching for justice and equality, you also somehow find time to write essays and articles about the political climate in your home country of India. In your opinion, what is the overall social situation currently?

Guha: I have mentioned the situation earlier. I am not doctrinaire nor overtly political, but I cannot cherish non secular and intolerant beliefs. You cannot mix politics with religion and culture. You cannot define culture in narrow restricted ways. You cannot especially be antagonistic towards a particular religious community. You cannot redo history according to your own whims and fancies. You cannot put a slur on the great National Movement in the country.

Outlar: We’ve just recently cycled into 2017. Do you have any special goals on the agenda for the new year? Are you optimistic about what lies ahead for the world?

Guha: I will continue to write poetry and articles on cultural politics. I will continue to edit, to showcase others’ poetry. The ego is damaging. We must be concerned with others as well, not only to: you scratch my back, I scratch yours, which is religiously and disgustingly happening in our country. The world is becoming a one cosmic zone. But political deterrents are making the world fractious. Unfortunately it is happening on religious lines. Unless the youth of the world become passionately introspective and do away with zealotry this will continue, but changes are taking place, for example the very fact that you are talking to me on the internet, is a sure sign of global friendship. The poet cannot be dissociated from politics and society.

Outlar: Finally, returning to the theme of poetry and literature, do you have any advice for young writers concerning their craft? Getting work published is fun, of course, but we all know there are some challenges that can come along with it. Do you have any pointers when it comes to the “art” of being professional, submitting, and dealing with the inevitable rejections?

Guha: They must write and not be afraid of rejections. At the same time they should not espouse the ”publish or perish” belief, in that manner they will compromise art. They must read. The art of professionalism is simply trying, trying and trying. One rejection, two more submissions! Commitment, belief, and conviction in the craft are very important. Life’s experiences count a hell of a lot. Poetry can be written on anything and everything. The subject matter is vast. The other day I was reading an article here in India about sexist attitudes in the country, and how poetry could take up issues such as these. Or, the identity of women. But poetry must go beyond gender, activism, categories, only then will the universal appeal of poetry reach consciousness. To be mired only in issues or specific ideologies may mar aesthetics. Yes there is protest poetry, direct, coming from the heart.

While the World Is Sleeping

Three poems
by Damian Rucci
I sold my soul
to a grocery store
in town
for eleven dollars
an hour
and it doesn’t look
like I’ll be going anywhere
anytime soon, ‘cause nowhere
else pays that
seven days a week
ten hours a day
they don’t care
if I smoke dope
as long as the job is done
the world sleeps
while third shift chews
at my flesh like a plague
I can’t even work sober
when will the sun rise?
how many more days in autumn?
how many more nights
chasing my youth through
these frozen food aisles
praying dawn brings
She likes to fuck and she likes to fight.
Sometimes both at once. She’s a walking, screaming match––
a family fist-fight. She’s a hoarse-voiced, bloody-nosed knockout.
On date nights I’d ask, “What do you feel like eating?”
But as every man knows, that question leads to nowhere
so we’d stick with fast food and Netflix––
and argue about everything and anything under the moon.
She’s a super nova in leggings and a sweatshirt
with knuckles clenched. She’s a beautiful car wreck,
a cut-throat beauty queen. She’s as dramatic as an atomic bomb.
She’s a lit match in a tank of gasoline––
and the only thing that she was ever willing to let go of was me.
For Charles Joseph,
“Don’t smoke drugs with girls man,” He said.
We’re seven quasi poets, throwing back drinks—
throwing back conversations like gatling guns of poems.
And I can’t believe I’m sitting here right now.
Six months ago, I just sat at my desk and chewed
these little blue pills staring at the blank screen in silence.
Each morning begged for the nightly end to come
as I wore creases through my work-boots and my soul.
But we’re here now! Poets! Lost souls battling
this modern day blasphemy with words just begging
to be heard for once in this life. And maybe to be understood.
Damian Rucci is a writer and poet from New Jersey whose work has appeared recently in Eunoia Review, Beatdom, Yellow Chair Review, and Indiana Voice Journal. He is the founder and host of Poetry in the Port, one of the Damned Poets, and the author of Tweet and Other Poems (MDP 2016), Symphony of Crows (2015), and The Literary Degenerate Blog.

Poet Interview #56: Damian Rucci

Scott Thomas Outlar: First off, Damian, I want to thank you for taking some time to do this interview with me for W.I.S.H. Judging by what I read on your social media posts, 2016 must have been a busy year for you as far as writing and performing was concerned. Looking back, what were some of the highlights for you last year?

Damian Rucci: Hey Scott, thanks for having me! Yeah, 2016 was an absolutely wild year for me. I read at the Kansas City Poetry Throw Down, and then came back again in October for some dates in Blue Springs, Missouri and Lawrence, Kansas. I was fortunate enough to host the Jersey Shore Poetry Slam Finals and was a nominee for Poet Laureate of Asbury Park. 2016 was a year where I really began to dip my toes in the wider national poetry community out there in this crazy place.

Outlar: On a similar note, it looks like you’ve already lined up a number of shows for 2017. What are your expectations as this new year gets rolling along at full steam?

Rucci: 2017 is shaping up to a be a year of pure madness. I’m returning to the Kansas City Poetry Throw Down for my second year alongside my girlfriend Rebecca Weber who is an outstanding poet. I have several projects that will be released this year and will be doing more road work to promote the releases. I am going to be reading my poems in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Fort Worth, Kansas City, Philadelphia, New York City, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and a half dozen other cities that are still in the works. 2017 is really about going full speed ahead and getting my work out in front of more people.

Outlar: Could you talk a bit about your most recent chapbook, Tweet and Other Poems, and how the collection came together?

Rucci: Tweet and Other Poems is my second chapbook and the way it came about was interesting. I was in the depth of the darkest period of my life and would have these three a.m. drug epiphanies, where I would write pages and pages and pages of . . . crap. But one thing that made it out was the poem “Tweet” which is a modern day satire of “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. I rewrote it a hundred times and buried it. Later in October, I read it at the first open mic I had been to in years and received a standing ovation. Later, working with Charles Joseph on my chapbook Symphony of Crows, “Tweet” was originally in the manuscript.

When we decided to go a more themed route with Symphony, we cut it from the chapbook. I put it in a folder and kept working on the chap with Charles. We spent days skyping with one another as we took a manuscript of twenty four poems to twelve. I was already bored with the project and most of my energy was spent writing newer poems. These new poems I would pop out between long editing periods of Symphony became the manuscript of Tweet and Other Poems.

Outlar: Do you have any other books or projects in development that you’d like to mention?

Rucci: I actually do have a couple. I am working on a project with Joseph Quiroz, a dope poet from North Jersey. I have a full length that I’ve been assembling and I hope to have it out by fall of 2017.  I run a blog called The Literary Degenerate where I journal the life of being a poet in the 21st century. I’ll be having a podcast counterpart drop this Spring.

A big thing I’m doing is a split with Ezhno Martin, he’s a Kansas City poet who is an absolute madman in the best way possible. We’re publishing the book during the Throw Down and are touring it through the Midwest the following week.

Lots of good stuff.

Outlar: In your opinion, just what in the hell is the purpose of poetry in this modern day and age? What first motivated you to pick up the pen and start writing?

Rucci: I’ve been thinking a lot about that. I work overnights at a supermarket to keep the lights on and sometimes in those aisles you find space to think. I think that we’ve been so incredibly lucky to have been blessed with music, movies, television, and video games but words hold a certain power.

A word can be so concise yet so vague, so exact, but so open-ended. A poem can melt your mind with two lines. A poem can read to you differently every time you lay our eyes on it. I think poetry is still the pillars beneath the American ethos. The lifeline of its spirit.

I began reading very early and the moment I started reading, I wanted to write my own stories. I’ve always had a big imagination and writing let me make something concrete out of these flowing thoughts. I wanted to do two things when I younger: I wanted to be a writer and I wanted to be a New York Yankee. When it dawned on me that I was too fat to be a Yankee, I realized it was going to be a life with the pen or keyboard or whatever.

Outlar: Who are some of the writers, artists, and musicians (past and/or contemporary) that you draw inspiration from?

Rucci: I’m fortunate to be surrounded with loads of amazing poets who constantly inspire me. Charles Joseph has been a mentor of sorts to me and has helped me shape my voice and really work on my craft. He’s a great poet who knows how to strip down poems to necessary punches and kicks. Other inspirations to me are poets Bill Gainer, John Dorsey, and Joe Weil who are just literary greats whose work sing on the page and on the microphone.

Cord Moreski who strives to bring poetry to his life in every facet and Rebecca, who inspires me daily. She’s poetry personified.

Stephan Jenkins, Max Bemis, and Chris Cornell are pretty awesome too.

Outlar: What words of advice would you have for other poets in the small press when it comes to dealing with journals, editors, submissions, publications, rejections, and everything else involved in the grind?

Rucci: Be true to yourself, keep moving forward, don’t be a jerk, and don’t stop. That’s about it. Everyone’s own path rolls out in front of them, but it’s those who quit who miss out.

Outlar: Finally, where can folks find more of your work?

Rucci: My website www.damianrucci.net/ has my tour dates, books for sale, The Literary Degenerate blog, and links to my online work.

Thanks Scott for the opportunity.

Foggy Forecast

A poem
by John Thomas Menesini
it’s grey here in Pittsburgh, shroud covers the city in cold, wet cloth
sticks pick the sky’s bellybutton, belly hangs drooped and resigned
mist moist flaps of sacks
stuck to small of backs
hobo tramp stamps
(clown porn?)
block glass distorted crystal ball scry
bright white air
screed tight screen door dime store novel
(this poem has wove itself from it’s tracks)
detours are fine amid these minutes as ideas are conveyed
from one to others and furthur, the connection, spark, one-ness
as the satyrs
scratch their jizzy poems
in our scalps
John Thomas Menesini would rather play with kittens than talk to people, although he is nicer than his bio suggests. He wrote a few books which contain a handful of golden and immortal poems, but much of his writing is whatever. Everything the critics said was true.

Boys Will Be Boys

A poem
by John D. Robinson
His 1st punch was weak and
way off-target,
leaving me to take advantage
and I hit hard, cutting his nose,
he fell back in shock,
I stood still in shook,
I had always been a lousy
he must’ve sensed this
and came back with a
hammering right to the
side of my hung-over head,
I struck back, getting in
some lucky shots and he
tumbled to the barrack-room
floor laughing and then
he got up and we embraced
as friends and we knew,
without question,
that we were assholes,
and fortunately,
with a sense of humour,
the NCO’s agreed.
John D Robinson is a published poet; ‘When You Hear The Bell, There’s Nowhere To Hide’ (2016 Holy&intoxicated Publications) ‘Cowboy Hats & Railways’ (2016 Scars Publications); he is a contributor to the 48th Street Press 2016 Broadside Series.