Daya Bhat writes poetry in English and Kannada and translates books from Kannada to English. Apart from writing, her interests include painting and listening to Indian classical music. Her debut work, A Maiden of 29 was published by Writers Workshop. Contact her here or at dayabhaskar(at)gmail.com
NAW- Tell us about your book, A Maiden of 29. How did you get the idea for it? How difficult (or easy) is it penning down a poetry book?
‘A Maiden of 29’ is a collection of poems published by the Writers Workshop (India) in Dec 2013. It is not theme based, and most of the poems are lucid and contemplative. Though my love for poetry dates back to childhood, I began to write at forty, more as a pressing urge to express myself. Later I felt the need to share my thoughts, musings and perspective. Also, to continue writing I needed an authentication and objective feedback. That is when I thought of a book.
The difficulty or let’s say advantage more positively, in the making of any book is that there is no time frame. Inspiration is as unpredictable as the monsoon. Creating a good book is not a quick process; one has to go through the grind. It was an honour to get my debut work published by Writers Workshop. I feel extremely gratified to be able to have my own book of poems albeit a very small one. I feel closer to the poetry world; as close as hoping to gauge its vastness and depth, to perceive poetry better than I did. These are a few lines in reverence to the sanctity of the poetic heritage: Like the miniscule grain of sand, I dabble in her waves. A peek through the frothy layers and I see what maketh her bed! Those granules of sand that grappled her current now lay in her depth, immortalized. Drawn in and thrown back innumerable times, live I shall on her shores, eternally and humbled.
I enjoy writing free verse but there is a flip side to it. It could border on prose poetry content wise though presentation wise one can make it appear like a free verse. In free verse normally line ends are places to pause and hence don’t require to end in a period. The lines are arranged in such a way as to reflect the syntax. But all poetry readers are not accustomed to these technicalities. It’s in the interest of both, the poet and the reader to use basic syntax. Writing free verse is like living on the edge. That there are no rules but nuances to understand makes it easy and difficult respectively.
NAW- How long did you take to finish the collection? How did you decide the title? Majority of poems in this collection have been written from a female point of view, right?
It took me two years to pen down these poems. That the verses in the book also talk of the woes and joys of a maiden and justify the title, is purely incidental; there are 29 verses in the book and it is my first collection, hence the name. There are nine poems which are clearly from a female point of view. Some poems are written in the first person, and though these poems have no gender specific content, one reads them by default from the female point of view. Perhaps knowing that the author is a female adds to the fact that the poems naturally emanate a feminine voice.
NAW- What can a novice reader expect from A Maiden of 29?
One of the musings of Soren Kierkegaard from Either/Or: “What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music…. And people flock around the poet and say: ‘Sing again soon’ – that is, ‘May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.” The subjects and objects of my poems are people, places and incidents that I have closely observed and personally interacted with, while navigating through life so far. The poems are screams and shout-outs of my soul. The language is simple and philosophy, relatable. I take the liberty to assure that one can connect with each of my poems in a unique way applying how she/he has seen life. The poems may give a sense of déjà vu to the reader.
NAW- Tell us about your other works.
I have translated Ravindra Bhat’s book ‘Moorane Kivi’ from Kannada to English. This book is a real life account of how a child who is born deaf turns a new leaf in his life, learns to talk and finally attends a regular school. It was no less than a miracle for this family. For the benefits of his positive experience to reach one and all, the author decided to get his book translated. The book reiterates the philosophy that miracles do happen. One has got to work to make them happen, they don’t by themselves. The manuscript is on the publisher’s desk and waits to reach its readers. Dr Triyambak Tapas has done the final editing. Four of my poems from the upcoming collection have featured on New Asian Writing. Having read a considerable number of books and more of Indian/Asian writers writing in English, I was keen to try writing short stories. My experience has been inspiring and conducive to continue exploring the genre alongside poetry. My short fiction ‘Finding Anant’ is selected for the New Asian Writing short story Anthology 2014. The Bangalore Review, eFiction India and Earthen Lamp Journal have published my stories.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
I enjoy reading books and magazines. I also paint with water colour and poster colours. I have done a course in painting and have a small collection of paintings and pencil art. I find it hard to latch on to something for a long period. Doing more than one thing helps me to switch between them before it gets too monotonous. Net surfing is one of my favourite pastimes. I love to eat but I’m not passionate about cooking. Friends and family say that I produce lip smacking dishes. I take it with an extra pinch of salt. My parents live in the same city. I try to be part of their everyday life as much as possible. I have been living in Bangalore since twenty years and breathe the city like air. I always find something interesting to do. I enjoyed the construction of my home, starting from drawing the plan, monitoring its execution and doing it up with an overdose of terracotta and handicrafts. I worked on PageMaker to edit my father’s manuscript- R K Narayan’s Malgudi: India in Miniature, his third book. We are a close knit family and spend lot of time doing things together and with a large part of our extended families living in the same city I prioritise my presence. One can generally find me sharing a tear or a smile with my loved ones.
NAW- Please name your favourite poets. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?
I enjoy reading A K Mehrotra, translated poems of Amrita Pritam, Gieve Patel, Jayanta Mahapatra, Kamala Das, Maya Angelou and Pablo Neruda. It’s interesting to note that Pablo Neruda wrote in green ink. I am nostalgic about the good old school poems. Those were the days of memorizing, understanding and reciting poems of William Wordsworth, H W Longfellow, Sarojini Naidu and Harivansh Rai Bachchan—I’m transported to a different plane when I think of them. I feel that poetry is larger than the poet. I am inspired by poems with an element of dialogue and introspection in them and those that fearlessly break popular myths. I have read some great poetry by friends and family members who write occasionally. I have read books of poet friends. I find all of them equally inspiring. Having begun to write so late it amazes me to see how the younger generation is consumed by poetry and writing in general. The mantle is being regarded, enjoyed and carried forth in all glory.
NAW-What are you currently reading?
I am reading Vassanji’s The magic of Saida and Keki Daruwalla’s Love across the Salt Desert.
NAW- Where can readers find your book?
Link to the official website of Writers Workshop where my book is listed and can be ordered online. Also it is available on bookadda.com and at Atta Galatta, a bookstore and cultural hub in Bangalore.
NAW- What will you be working on next?
Currently I am putting together my second collection of poems. I am also writing short stories and translating my poems into Kannada which is my mother tongue. It might take a while to see my second book. Writing to me is to uncover my soul layer by layer and connect with my own self, and publishing, to share that connectivity with the world.
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