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Interview to the Indian poetess Pratyusha Sarkar

First of all, I’d like to welcome you to Quills, a space dedicated to literature, music, culture, and interviews with artists, writers, musicians… people who develop creative activities.

Today a very special and talented guest is taking the quill to show us a part of the literature which is far away from the Western countries.

She is Pratyusha Sarkar, an Indian poet, writer, and novelist, born on January 15th, 1995. Her first poetry book was published in 2018, the second one in 2019 and the third is "Iswar Thodi Na Dekhchen" which has gained much popularity in Kolkata International Book Fair 2020. Her recent storybook "Bristi Ranger Nakchabi" is published to contribute the amount for the attack of COVID-19 and Amphan in Kolkata. One of her popular works, especially in social media is "Anticlock" a dark psychological thriller novel written in facebook in this lockdown period. She has written in several well-known Bengali and English magazines throughout India. Besides writing she is a well-known voice artist. Rabindranath Tagore is her only inspiration.

1. When did you start to write poetry? How did you realize that you wanted to write?

It was 2009, I was in 9th standard and started my pen for poetry. Actually, I wanted to eruct the catharsis... The way I look upon the world, the way I think about people and society must come in light. I think poetry has a sort of taste that can help the purgation come out. Poetry is my love, my protest, my emotion where I sleep, walk, eat, and dream. Poetry is not a statement but a discovery.

2. What are your main influences when writing?

My family has had a great influence on me since I was a child. My mom is a teacher of a school and my dad does a government service. After coming from school and the office both of them start rehearsing recitation. They have also been engaged in theatre for thirty years. I'm very lucky to have a cultural family. From my childhood I listened to them, I imitated them, and also heard so many stories and poetries every day from my granny before coming to bed. West Bengal is the richest place in India regarding its culture. Rabindranath Tagore, the first nobel laureate from India in literature is my inspiration and muse.

3. What is poetry for you and what role you think it plays in people’s lives?

For me, poetry is just like to discover a new world. I like to pen poetry by giving up the actual definition to inflect a new dimension. Poetry is an obsession and one of my daily needs. I can express reality as well as the subconscious world through it.

I think that people cherish poetry when they write. They write what they observe. Poetry is a spontaneous and critical thinking. It is not possible for everyone to express their feelings by writing poetry. Poetry needs to be worshipped and practiced like mathematics.

4. How is your writing process? Where does the inspiration come from? Who are your muses?

I basically work in deconstruction through construction. I like to write in an open-ended form. Abstract poetry is most attractive to write and read but when I play the role of voice artist I obviously choose easy poems which the mass can understand.

I've got this inspiration from the romantic poets like Wordsworth, Blake, Keats and from Jacobean poet Shakespeare also, moreover I like his tragedies... I like the way he has played with various words in his writings. I don't imitate him, but I follow his way of psychological analyses, ascribed in his characters. Apart from these poets Jone Donne, W.B. Yeats, Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling, Sylvia Plath inspire me. I love to read English more though my ink flows mostly for my mother tongue Bengali. Rabindranath Tagore, Sunil Gangopadhya, Mallika Sengupta play a great role in me by their outstanding works.

5. Tell us about the first poem you wrote… and about the last one. How has your style evolved over the years?

I wrote my first poem in the 9th standard. I don't know if that was that a poem or a love letter which I wanted to send to my friend! Jokes apart... My first Bengali poem was published in 2016 in West Bengal (India). It was a personal poem named "Aamar Aami". And my first English poem was published in 2019, on an English journal from Bangalore(India).

The last poem I wrote for an English journal it was last night. I try to write regularly, as writing needs worship.

As I l've said, I can't remember what I've written in my first phase when I started to write. After that, day by day, the construction developed, the words get more matured. And now I'm trying to discover new dimensions in poetry.

6. Can you tell us about the literary scene in India? What are the main difficulties a new writer has to face?

As India is a subcontinent it has unity in her diversity. There are 28 states and 8 union territories... a total of 36. Every state has its own culture, its own way of living. And the literature is also cultivated here in different ways. From Vedic age India is enriched in its culture. Ramayana and Mahabharata are our major epics written works in Sanskrit. After that Palas, Senas, Pratiharas, Rashtrakuts, Cholas, Das, Guptas ruled out the country and all of them have their literary impacts on India. Muslims too enriched our literature. India's culture was also impregnated by Greek and Portuguese. After that, for 200 years we got British influence on our culture. Thus we had a rapid change in literature. And nowadays literature is also developing as the globalization has gone on the peak.

There are so many things which a new writer has to face. Moreover, it's a field of competition now. Everybody is fighting for awards and fame. And in West Bengal, everyone tries to spend their time writing or reading books. There is nepotism, there is hopelessness... Beyond this negativity, we all appreciate each others' work. We all participate in poetry festivals and in the biggest festival throughout Asia, the International Book Fair which is held in Kolkata. I think the newcomers should read more rather than imitating the themes. They should have a new form and need to make their own signature. They always try to write like their muses but never aim for their personal contribution to literature.

7. Which is the work you are proudest of so far? Why?

I am generally not proud of my works but yes, I try hard to cultivate more and more and give shape to my own signature. My taste should be different from all and try to communicate with my readers. Recently, I've written a novel. I started my pen on the 3rd of May and stopped it on the 3rd of June. During the lockdown, I went through a deep depression. After that, I realized I should go on writing. And I started, I started to discover the pain, eruct the societal consequences which we face daily. It was not so difficult, but different. In Bengali literature, there are very few Psychological works. And I depicted the dark psychology with the imposition of normally unutilized words in literature. "Anticlock" is a dark psychological thriller novel, it gained much popularity in social media. After that, I got a pen for another novel and this is another challenge for me because it's the first time in Bengali literature when the life of a male-prostitute is going to be depicted, as well as showing the psychological disorder of a cannibal.

8. What are your future projects? Where can we read your works?

"Patabahar", the novel is going on... beyond this project, I have signed for a translation. The name of the poetry book will be "The Casement of Life", translations from Bengali collections of Saikat Ghosh. He is a well-known Bengali poet and lyricist. He has already written eleven books and worked on different genres in poetry. By translating his Bengali poems to English I have come to know about Visual poetry, Structural poetry, Mathematical poetry, Metamorphoses, Post Modernism, Relative Poetry, Power Poetry in Bengali literature. He has various dimensions. As Bengali can accept different languages and become independent, he uses hybrid words in his writing. All these things inspire me a lot. And the work is in progress. Few translations from this section have already been published in several journals throughout the world. Hopefully, another project is coming soon... it will be my first audio album working on poetry.

You can listen to me as a professional voice-artist on several YouTube channels. I'm also providing my personal channel here. To read me you have to follow me on Facebook. And as India produces more printed magazines than the e-magazines I am honored to write there. "Ekdin", "Yugasankha" are the newspapers and magazines like "Vashanagar", "Brishtidin", "Kobi Sammelan", "Kobita Pakkhik" "Sudhu Bighe Dui", "Masik Kobitapatro", "Ekhon Santiniketan", "Srot", "Nirantar" etc... Since 2019 I'm working as the joint editor of an online portal, "Sahityo Cafe", now this is going to be International. We have got responses from every corner of this world. You can go through the following links and find a few of my online works:

As the best way to know a writer is by reading what he/she writes, Pratyusha has honored Quills with one of her poems:

Whom to love

You stand as a wave

After a severe shower, scene reverses 

Season forgets it's month

And in this way our pains stuck mutual 

I use to draw brackets, one after another

Gradually smaller and smaller

Childhood swings on knees 

Landscape changes...

I can't find myself 

Even after crawling from first to last.

There are so many complaints 

And if you would be the mirror

No need to look at the clock

As there's an oblivion, whom to love...


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