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 live in Sri Lanka, aged 24, and am currently reading for the final year of my BSc, Mathematics (Special) degree in the Faculty of Science of the University of Colombo. I am academically involved with the subjects of Mathematics (Applied & Pure), Statistics and Information Technology, and am also interested in such areas of study as Education, Psychology, Management, and Language and Literary Studies. I have always been cherishing a passion for English language and literature since the earliest days of my school career. Whenever I have some free time, I love to read poems, stories and novels written in both English and Sinhala. I think that it is my ardent desire for reading that has often been the driving force behind me becoming a writer. So far, I have produced poems, essays, short stories, articles, interviews, translations and research papers, and I am delighted that those works have been published, both locally and internationally, in various blogs, journals, magazines, anthologies and newspapers. Even though English is not my first language, I started writing in English at the very young age of 11. I remember my first publication, an essay entitled, A Tsunami Speaks (2005) featured in the Expressions page of the Junior Observer which is a supplement of the weekly Sri Lankan English newspaper, Sunday Observer. I still have that paper with me and it is always an immense pleasure to revisit my first publication. During my school days, I was able to clinch a large number of awards from many creative writing competitions at zonal, district, provincial and national levels. It is at the age of about 14 that I started writing poetry, inspired by the engrossing and enlightening poems that I read in my English Literature class. Further, I compiled my first collection of poetry titled, Oasis when I was 16, and to quote from the Introduction to the book;
“Oasis is a volume of poetry the function of which is to articulate the shallowness of manifold moral failures of the human race; to admire the beauties of some spectacular social dimensions scintillating with the density of their fragrance; to scrutinize them through what you may call ‘poetry’ with a clear perception of the ambivalence governing the matters concerned; and to provide the reader with an itinerary to go in quest of the ‘oasis’ instead of crawling into a morally sterile society.”
The pieces in this collection were well received internationally and have appeared in publications of countries like Sri Lanka, India, Nigeria, Africa, Canada, the US and the UK. At present, I am working on my second collection, Reflections of Life, and also on a book namely, A Rare Kind of Beauty, Yet Unexplored: A Selection of Modern Sri Lankan Sinhala Poetry featuring a translation of a set of select Sinhala poems written by some famous Sri Lankan poets.
There is quite a long list of poets, both national and international, that I have enjoyed reading and drawn inspiration from. I highly adore the work of such great poets as William Shakespeare, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Thomas Hardy, Wilfred Owen, W.B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. I have further been inspired by the poetry of Sri Lankan English writers like Patrick Fernando, Lakdasa Wikkramasinha, Anne Ranasinghe, Yasmine Gooneratne and Jean Arasanayagam. Apart from that, I highly appreciate the writings of Sri Lankan Sinhala poets such as Gajaman Nona, Kumaratunga Munidasa, Monika Ruwanpathirana, Wimalaratne Kumaragama, Wimal Dissanayake and Parakrama Kodituwakku. I also like to read the works of such Indian English authors as Anita Desai and Nissim Ezekiel.
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?
One important thing about my literary career is that I do not have any set schedules or time slots when it comes to writing something. I start writing whenever the thoughts knock at my door, no matter where I am and what I am doing at the moment, and in case I can’t find a pen, I would type the lines using some app on my phone. In my experience, writing has to be authentic and spontaneous. It needs to have a natural flow of emotions, and the moment you start forcing your imagination or the thought process, you tempt to get yourself detached from the originality of your expressions. Thus, the repercussion is a poem lacking in colour, vigour and life. That being said, I also have to tell that the muse is not always haunting around me. Sometimes, she appears abruptly and leaves in an instant so that I barely have the time even to write the title of my piece, and then I go on waiting for hours, may be days, for her to return. Penning poesy, in my perspective, is an experiment of some kind, and therein the writer has to indulge in a subtle exploration into the particular object, event or situation which provides the basis for the thematic preoccupation of the work.
Yes, my idea of what poetry is has constantly changed as time passes by with my enthusiastic involvement in writing and my continued exposure into the literary world. It has always remained a definition which looks somewhat imprecise and incomplete, yet evolving incessantly with experience. And, I am pretty sure that I will have a lot more to add to my definition of poetry as I thrive more in the world of literature in times to come.
Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
Actually, I use both Facebook and Twitter, though not very active with the latter. Also, I am eagerly keeping contacts with a worldwide network of writing professionals on Linkedin. It is striking that Facebook has often proved to be an ideal setting for keeping in touch with contemporary writers throughout the world. Thanks to my active membership in writers’ groups like Contemporary Poets, Their Works, Current Poetry Projects, News, Links administered by the renowned American poet, Michael Lee Johnson, I have been able to learn a lot of good tips for writing and also to discover numerous venues of publication (blogs, zines, mags, etc.). Further, I share some links to my publications among these groups and that has enabled me to widen my audience internationally. Moreover, I was recently added to the list of editors at the Facebook page of Poets International (The Peregrine Muse), and hence am looking forward to publish and share on that page too.
Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?
Yes, I share my work among the aforesaid poetry groups and I regularly update my Linkedin profile with links to my published works. Also, I am currently working as an editor and blog administrator at Chrisolite Writerz which is a literary organization of young writers based in Nigeria.
I am presently reading Dubliners by James Joyce and Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze which is an anthology of contemporary poetry edited by Michael Lee Johnson.
What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?
As a burgeoning poet and author, my advice for the amateur writers is to read as much as they can. To be clear enough, here, I would like to modify the cliché, “Reading maketh a full man” as “Reading maketh a successful writer”. The more you read, the richer your writing will be. Moreover, it is really important to have constant feedback from your colleagues and constructive reviews from well-established writers. For those who are just starting to submit work for possible publication, I would like to encourage them to first consider small presses. During the initial phase, you may try the blogs, e-zines and e-journals which are willing to publish emerging writers. And, the most important piece of advice would be not to get disheartened by rejections, because I personally know that even the giants in the contemporary literary society get declined at certain times. You may be refused, for instance, for twenty times, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be rebuffed by the next press in your list too. So, never give up. Try harder and harder until you get the wings.
Finally, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the team at W.I.S.H. Press for the great opportunity lavishly offered to me in order to share my ideas with the literary community.
Readers can find out more about me and my work by following the links given below.