Interview with Irshaad

Irshaad Poetry is an anthology of poetry. Their aim is to inculcate a culture of poetry and reading among their followers and everyone who comes across their page.

You both are poets yourself, when you chose a poem to post on Irshaad, what makes you think that this is the one?

Whenever a poem makes us feel or think, we know it is right. Moreover, if it makes us wonder or question ourselves or the world, we know it’s the one.

It’s like what Emily Dickinson said: “If I physically feel like the top of my head has been taken off, then I know that it is poetry.”

Do you think poetry as an art form in India is transcending into becoming a means of performative activism?

We do not think so. We do believe that some of the space that poetry occupies as a form of protest has been appropriated for social media validation but poetry as a medium of protest will always persevere. And it has been so since times immemorial, whether it’s in wars for independence or rebellion against fascism, poetry always has been an expression of the society, and even if some people do partake in it as a means of performative activism, it doesn’t take away from its overall importance of the art form.

How do you think the accessibility of poems over the internet has affected their actual beauty? Is it more of a boon or a bane? Have the traditional poetry recitals taken a backseat in the status quo?

The internet and the issue of accessibility have been boons to poets and poetry lovers, we feel. Similar to how slam poetry as a movement sought to bring poetry to the masses, the internet and the variety of platforms have enabled a movement that is the poetic equivalent of globalization. Poets and readers from all over the world are able to connect and appreciate poetry together and that is beautiful.

While there may be some people who alter the terms of poetry and its beauty for social media validation, that is a con that is outweighed by the pros. Moreover, if a reader finds solidarity and beauty in a poem, the subjectivity of their opinions must be respected, as long as the poem in question isn’t disrespectful.

Traditional poetry recitals have certainly taken a backseat due to the status quo. However, efforts have been made to revive interest in them and the internet has been a great tool in this process. It’s been wonderful to witness, even though it is sad that such steps have to be taken.

Do you think the minorities are appropriately and sufficiently represented through art in our country?

The representation of minorities remains an issue that has to be addressed by the stakeholders of the artistic scene in India. While there are voices who represent their communities, these voices have not been able to find their way into the mainstream. Hence, their art and the representation they aim towards have not been paid proper attention to.

When we search for poetry to read and post, we struggle in finding poems by Dalit writers, or other minorities, and we are pretty sure the reason isn’t a lack of artistic expressions from the community.

These voices and their work should be highlighted and receive due attention. Until that happens, the minorities shall remain under-represented in our countries art.

If we map the trends in contemporary South Asian literature, perhaps the most noticeable feature would be the emergence of a huge number of women authors. How do you feel about women writers shattering the ‘home and hearth’ stereotype, and what do you think is the way forward?

It is not just about shattering the ‘home and hearth’ stereotype but also of developing a newer and more nuanced understanding of the stereotype.

We think that the way forward is for the greater emergence of these women writers and for their art, their voices, and their perspectives to receive the attention and appreciation that have been accorded to their male contemporaries.

Moreover, we also believe that there is no fair way forward without due representation to LGBTQ+ voices. It is only when people of all sexualities or no sexualities and people of all genders or no genders find their space in literature and other forms of art that these spaces would be considered an optimal representation of the people.

A poetry book that you would recommend to beginners so that they can understand the essence of poetry?

Raj- I mostly read poems in singularity but I do have a book of Emily Dickinson’s poems which I love and almost worship! Reading a poet’s anthology is like visiting parts of their lives on a special tour, it’s amazing.

Isha- It’s pretty much the same with me! However, there were books I wish I’d read when I’d started out Selected Poems by Kamala Das, 60 Indian Poets, Selected Poems, Gulzar, and the complete poems of Emily Dickinson.

How do you as poets come up with the theme of a poem? Is the process organic or is there a method/structural process you follow?

Raj- I do not follow any process or structure. Sometimes, a topic stirs me so much that I absolutely have to write about it. Other times, a line comes to me and I know that I have to try and build a poem around it.

Isha- Try as I might, I cannot write on cue. However, I’m always on the lookout for a word, or a sentence, which I might be able to turn into a metaphor. Once I find that I write the first sentence of the poem I’m writing- and let myself go wherever the words take me, for a couple of stanzas or so. That helps me realize the direction which I want to take with the poem, after which I’m able to write it further in a more structured manner. When I conclude my poems, I usually try to connect the metaphor I used in the first sentence, to the last sentence of the piece, so it might help make sense of the crazy. That’s pretty much it, haha!

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