Sukrita Paul Kumar on Poems Come Home
in conversation with Sutanuka Sarkar
Sutanuka: Ms. Kumar, how would you like to introduce yourself and your work?
Sukrita Paul Kumar : I think my work should actually introduce me. I write my poems as ‘Sukrita’ and do not use ‘Paul Kumar’. You can read what you like from this rather conscious decision taken a very long time ago! I guess there is a variety of persona that one slips into in various contexts…as a critic, I choose to use my full name. I like to balance between the two in the living of my life. As for my work, when I am writing poetry, there is a total submission to the act of doing so and every word matters. I become as sensitive to shedding words as using them. At times this kind of editing happens internally. If not, I end up making several drafts of a poem in the process of eliminating words and somehow squeeze the expression in as few words as I can. It is different when I do critical writing. There I know I must build the complete logic of an argument… doesn’t matter the number of words! I believe I am also an ardent teacher and teaching to me comes close to being an art. Unless I can pass on the experience of a literary text to my students for them to participate and respond, I don’t feel fulfilled in the classroom. Strangely the same text taught to a different batch of students thus, demands a different treatment…
Sutanuka: What has been your primary inspiration that has brought you to poetry, and what has sustained your relationship with poetry over the years?
Sukrita Paul Kumar : I think I started writing not just to find expression for my emotions and thoughts, but to also perhaps sort them out for myself. The privacy that writing gives one is beautiful! I tasted the pleasure of that engagement as a teenager. The pleasure of agonizing for expression! …Locating the right language from within for very personal ideas, emotions etc. that may be stirred by something happening on the street out there or some feeling of helplessness at contact with some kind of suffering of others… floods, an earthquake, or even something as simple and cheerful as say the bird chirping on the tree! Writing poetry is also like doing something, is like something happening and is addictive…I often wonder, is it escaping life or really deeply engaging with it?
Sutanuka: What does being a poet mean to you? In what genre would you like to classify your poems?
Sukrita Paul Kumar : Not any particular genre. I cherish freedom and don’t think of building boundaries and constraints of ‘form’ on my expression while writing poetry!
Sutanuka: What are your expectations from your newest release, Poems Come Home?
Sukrita Paul Kumar : I think the “curiosity” and excitement had gripped me while the process of translation was going on. Once the book is published, I mean when the poems are out there in the public domain, you become a bit detached from that writing and the immediacy of the current work takes over. But yes, of course, I am anxious to see how people respond to my English poems in Hindustani. I do want the feedback and earnestly look forward to it. I see the English of my poems as being in itself bilingual…what happens to this aspect in Hindustani? I’d like to get the reader’s take on this…
Sutanuka: How has your life and/or your relationship with poetry changed since your recognition as a poet?
Sukrita Paul Kumar : I think the real “recognition” actually touched me closely when I got invited to participate in the prestigious International Writing Programme at Iowa in the US, nearly ten years ago. This meant getting to be with writers from all over the world for over three months exclusively to write and to listen to each other. This was like a reassuring nod to my ‘writerly’ self. I have nourished myself more seriously on that front ever since.
Sutanuka: How has Gulzar's Translations helped your 'poems come home'?
Sukrita Paul Kumar : Whenever Gulzar-sab finished doing the translation of a poem of mine, he would give me a call and read it out. He read them out in his deep voice and with a cadence typical to Urdu poetry … the poem sounded quite settled and yet