Lopamudra Banerjee, is a Writer, Poet, and Translator, currently based in Dallas, USA. Her prolific writings include a range of books to her credits. She is the co-editor of two anthologies, ‘Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas’, published by Readomania in collaboration with Incredible Women of India and ‘Darkness There But Something More’, a collection of 30 ghost stories published by Blue Pencil, where she is a resident editor now. Thwarted Escape, her debut narrative non-fiction work, has received Honorary Mention at the Los Angeles Book Festival 2017 and has also been First Place Category Winner at the Journey Awards 2014 hosted by Chanticleer Reviews and Media LLC, USA. Her recently released books, ‘Let the Night Sing’, a poetry collection and ‘The Broken Home and Other Stories‘ have already received much critical acclaim. She has received the International Reuel Award 2016 for her English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s novella ‘Nastanirh’ (‘The Broken Home’) instituted by The Significant League, a renowned literature group on Facebook and she is also the recipient of the International Reuel Award for poetry 2017. Apart from books, Lopamudra has got many of her works published in numerous literary journals.
It was my privilege to be able to take her interview, when we got connected on her recent trip to Kolkata, India. This interview was electronically conducted via mail.
1.What draws you towards poetry?
Poetry has been my home and my shelter and my refuge from the banalities of the outside world ever since I can remember. Blame it on my mother who had first sown in me the seeds of reading and appreciating Rabindranath Tagore or my English classes during my college days and beyond which introduced me to a vast and magnanimous world of the English romantic, Victorian and modern poets, I have woken up, drenched in their sweat, their rhythm and their cadence. Later when I started writing poems myself in various life situations and when that gained momentum gradually, I also realised that poetry can be the ultimate form of attaining my own personal catharsis. It can be the lens through which I not only perceive the world around, but also dissent about its vast periphery of subjects, unabashedly, without any inhibitions. So, in a word, poetry is the essence of my heart which I cannot escape, and also the weapon with which I try to fight in my own small way against indiscrimination or atrocities or discrepancies of any kind which I see around me, and poetry makes me accomplish small but significant wins in a way no other literary form will probably make me accomplish.
2. Which poets, authors or books have fortified you as a writer?
That is really a difficult question as there are a huge gamut of poets, authors, books and even songs and their lyrics which keep inspiring me, fortifying me, strengthening me in their own inexplicable ways from time to time. While some days I might gain inner strength as a writer from Maya Angelou’s “I Know When The Caged Bird Sings”, some days it is the intricacies of the mythological narrative of “Palace of Illusions” by Chitra B. Divakaruni which makes me put on my thinking caps. Some days, a song of Bob Dylan or Tagore or “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman might make me delve into my quintessential inward journey; some days, short stories by Maupassant or O Henry or even essays by E. B. White or Annie Dillard might nurture me with their haunting, long-lasting and emotionally impactful narratives. It is such a vast, boundless ocean out there and a lifetime is not enough to explore it. What I have mentioned here and also, what I have explored till now might be just a mug of water from that boundless ocean. I would always remain thirsty for more.
3. How has writing changed your life?
Oh yes, in countless and inexplicable ways! Writing poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction has, first and foremost, taught me to respect solitude and to celebrate the little, minute nuances of human life in words, embedded in those blissful moments of solitude. Writing poetry, especially, has endowed me with rhythmic compositions that are born out of sweet nothings; out of raw, naked emotions while embracing the language of longing. As writers and artists, we might be thousand times poorer than other professionals, but on the other hand, thousand times richer when it comes to the manifestation of our longings, our expression of feelings that we give birth to, in the garb of an aesthetically refined literary form. It is equally true for all artistes—writers, painters, musicians, singers et al.
4. Tell us something about your latest book. What are some of the themes you have touched upon?
In 2017, I have come up with two books of mine as of now, launched almost back to back. My debut poetry collection ‘Let The Night Sing’ (Global Fraternity of Poets, India) is a collection of 70 poems, most of them born as lunar musings in the wee hours of the night. The poems are the manifestations of a restless child woman and also a restless sojourner who celebrates the splinters and shards, the broken pieces of life in its continuum in this meticulous assortment of musings. Divided into five short volumes, through the poems I have attempted to trace my various trajectories starting from my girlhood and puberty to being a woman and grasping my own inner world as well as the world outside which has been a vital part of my womanly being and consciousness.
The second book of mine, ‘The Broken Home And Other Stories’ (Authorspress, India), released in Delhi Litexperia in August 2017, is my English translation of eight selected works of fiction by Bengal’s illustrious Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, including two novellas, ‘The Broken Home’ and ‘Laboratory’ and six short stories where women are the nucleus of the fictional narratives. All these eight works of fiction by Tagore are deep, enthralling sagas where women have been scripted in an inimitable, powerful aura. As a translator, I have tried my best to portray the essence of their complex emotional world, originally depicted by Tagore. In this context, let me add that I have received the International Reuel prize (category: translation) for ‘The Broken Home’ in summer 2016, when it had made its first appearance in Amazon Kindle, a year before its appearance in paperback.
Apart from that, I have co-edited with Dr. Santosh Bakaya an anthology of 30 spellbinding ghost stories, ‘Darkness There but Something More’, which also has a story of mine in the collection. It has been released in July and evoking very good response from the readers. The dark and esoteric has always fascinated me to no ends and thus, this book has been a dream project for me ever since its inception. Let us see where all these diverse books lead me to, but for me, the journey is more important than the destination, if any.
5. How do you deal with criticisms?
I have always welcomed constructive criticism in any form whatsoever, regarding my writing. As writers and creative artists, we keep evolving in our craft and it is the critics who value and appreciate our craft as well as see through our loopholes to help us evolve into better, more consummate writers. So their comments, if made in good sense and with due respect to our craft, is always much sought after. On the other hand, each negative criticism I have endured in my life till now has stoked the fire in me deeper and more vigorously, so I am thankful to all of them in a way. More than a decade back, when I went to Delhi to learn about the publishing industry and make a place there, I had been told by a cousin brother that I do not have the makings of a writer at all. Today, after so many years, I AM a part of the publishing world in my own small way and my literary journey has gained momentum in the most unthinkable of ways. Had I not faced criticism and rejection during those days, I do not think I would have striven to push my boundaries and emerge stronger as I have done in all these years. So I am thankful to the criticisms and the bouts of rejections too, which has made me what I am today.
6. Do the reviews that you get from your audience, affect your writing in any way?
No, I wouldn’t say that the reviews I get from my audience/readers distract me, or affect my writing in any way, because as a writer, I feel it is my job or responsibility to pour my thoughts and feelings on paper and serve the cause of literature in my own humble way, no matter what the reviews/feedback might be. Having said that, I must also say that there have been many detailed, insightful reviews of my books, ‘Thwarted Escape’ (my memoir, published by Authorspress, 2016), and ‘Let The Night Sing’, my debut poetry collection praising my poetic craft and my narrative style which has brought a wide smile on my face and filled me with inspiration and gratitude. On the other hand, if I come across a negative review of any of my books ever, I will try to grasp the essence of the reviewer’s words as much as I can and see if working on those would help me in becoming a better writer.
7. How would you describe the market for poetry in India? Do you think it is suffering a setback considering the sheer number of fictions being released in comparison to poetry books?
Let me tell you here that no matter how many works of fiction are released and read all over the world, poetry as a superior art form will always have its niche readers. Had it not been true, there would be no Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley or Byron, or no Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Kamala Das, or no Walt Whitman or Pablo Neruda. Poets in all ages and eras, for that matter, have survived and even thrived in their own peripheries amid the ruling estate of fiction and the best ones among them have carved names for themselves and are read and remembered even after ages. So poetry will always have a long shelf life and sustain itself as an art form as long as there are readers who swear by the sheer artistry and captivating nuances of languages expressed in the genre.
8. In the age of Social Media, how would you see it connecting you with your readers?
In today’s age of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, the world at large is a small village and every miniscule voice is being given a platform and sharing words, pictures and creative outpourings in a pace that was unthinkable some years back. When I started writing poetry as a mere teenager, I wrote in complete isolation, with no media to express. It was like that for many years before the virtual world and the Internet came in my way and changed the way I look at things forever. Now due to the internet, there is a surge of creative energy, and voices dispersed all over the globe are converging and coalescing. There is a greater virtual-turned-real community, where vibrant Poetry groups all over India are doing substantial work. In Mumbai, I know of a woman empowerment group which employs poetry, as a vehicle of protest. In Dallas, Texas, which is my home now in USA, there are various poetry groups with diverse demographics which are both physical platforms to share poetry and dissent in big public spaces and also strong virtual spaces in Facebook and Instagram where poets from all over the state and the nation share their works. So the possibility of connecting with more readers with the passage of time is immense and will continue to expand our horizons as more forums open up in the days to come.
9. If you had a chance to talk to a dead poet, who would it be and what would you tell him/her?
It has to be Sylvia Plath, the mad and melancholy poetess because I see so much of myself in her, sometimes. I would like to ask her why she went away so soon and let her know how much she invades my mental space. I would definitely read out a couple of poems from my poetry collection ‘Let The Night Sing’ to let her know how much I was influenced by her raw vulnerability as well as the surreal, alliterative rhymes in her poetry.
10. When can we expect your next book?
As I am writing the answers to this interview, I am also checking the final PDF version of an anthology of women poets: ‘Cloudburst: The Womanly Deluge’ to be published very soon by The Poetry Society of India, which I am co-editing with Dr. Santosh Bakaya, another prolific author, academician and poet. It will be an assortment of verses penned by 28 women poets of the Indian origin, including myself.
As for my own book of fiction, I am working on my upcoming book ‘Of Frailties And Old Flames’, which will be a collection of short stories on love, betrayal, promises, old ties and all the virtues and vices of human relationships, with women at the core of the narratives. I am taking some time to finish and fine-tune the manuscript and will then submit for publication.
11. Any message for your readers. . . . . .
Be yourself and express yourself freely, without any inhibitions in your art. That is the only single factor that will let you push your boundaries and justify your work at the end of the day, no matter what others have to say about what you create. If it comes from your heart, it will touch other hearts too.
Lopamudra’s book are available in paperback . They can be purchased online through the following links:
The Broken Home: Amazon
I would soon be back with the reviews of some of her books in subsequent posts.