You can read here below a few excerpts from my mail correspondence with the hindi poet Rati Saxena about some topics we were talking about during my work of translation of her One window and eight bars collection of verses.
These texts have not been edited any further and will not be, with the hope of conveying the lifelike nuances of our first real conversation.
How did you get to know that you would write poems in your life?
My friendship with words is as old as my memory. There were days when I found myself very lonely in my childhood; even in those days words used to flutter within my closed fist. As soon as I opened my fist, they used to fly towards the sky shining like glowworms. I used to sadly watch them go far away, They had some colors on their black bodies. I was very talkative child but there was a dark shadow of loneliness enveloping me, its claws hurting my chest. It would be difficult to breathe. Then a number of words used to come to my rescue. They used to play around me like juggler’s balls, they had colors. Moreover they have wings, they could take me anywhere, where I wanted to go. Those days my eyes used to be glued to words just as ants stick to sugar. Words could attract me any time; even while sweeping if I happened to come across a torn piece of paper with words, dust was free to enter the house as my eyes would be busy reading those words. I was very good reader, but used to read only prose, fictions etc. I never used to read poetry in early days. But first time whatever I wrote was some thing like poetry. Though I was not sure, what I have written. I used to write a few lines most of the in my early days. These lines talk about my inner heart which was lonely? I could take my poetry seriously only after crossing forties. And it took time to understand for me that whatever I was writing was poetry. Once I could understand my own poetry, I stopped reading fictions and started reading poetry. I have also written a few fictions but I am not happy with them. Actually for fiction writing, one must learn to speak lies, but poetry come from heart, and one cannot speaks untrue. So I feel, this is my way of expressing.
Which are the closest interlocutors in your poems?
I have dialogue with most of the things in this world which come across me. I mostly have plenty of words, but because of poetry I learnt to convert those words in images that is why every thing around me can talk to me. I talk to tress, sea, to ants, to kite and to earthworm even. I feel that these are not images, but living souls. I remember the day, when I found a smell of sea around me, and it was so passionate that I had to go to see the beach and spend an evening, after that a very strong love poem came out. Same things happened with mountains, valley. Once it was difficult for me to hold my self from jumping in a beautiful valley. Among human beings “He” is image of a lover, which used to talk to me a lot. I could also talk to my relations like mother daughter etc. most of the time I talk to my self. Who else can talk to me except my self?
How does the themes of time and body get interleaved in your poetry?
Wow, this is a good question; I think time is pure Indian problem. Early from Vedic time we wanted to know about time. I am student of our ancient literature Vedas, and read time in a different way – I quote (from Atherveda- 19-53-1-10):
«He, who looks after this world, He who creates the entire world
He is the father and takes birth as son; nobody has greater power than him.
This space has come out of Kala only, this earth has come out of Kala only
The past, future and present also reside in Kala
The living beings have their origin in Kala, the sun shines in Kala
The whole universe sees through the eyes of Kala
Mind is in Kala, Life is in Kala, and all names live in Kala
All people get happiness through Kala
The Tapa, the Jyeshtha the Brahma are in Kala
Kala is the god of every one; he is the father of Prajapati
This universe took birth from it and stays in it
Kala becomes Brahma and takes care of Parmeshthina
People created by Kala, Kala was the first Prajapati
Supreme god and Kashyapa came out of Kala, Tap was born out of Kala»
It is possible that my thrust to know time in different manner asks me to write about time. Regarding body, it is universal problem. Body is some thing which is very close but extremely strange. It treats a soul in a very strange manner. It is not sufficient to know it by names like doctor. Is it important to understand it as a very good friend. For woman, body is very different thing. It is a very important part of her personality. But most of the women do not know a perfect treatment to their bodies. It needs freedom, but not a way we think. Woman thinks that taking out clothes is freedom for body, but this is not true. Understanding ones own body is a way to understand universe. It needs a spiritual approach. But be aware of so called spiritual gurus. One have to search this truth in her/him self.
What do you think European readers get from your verses?
I don’t ask any one to take any thing from me or my poetry. I have been editing “Kritya” for 4 years and I see very good poetry from Europe, special small countries in Europe. We had Italian issue, polish issue etc. they were very good.
Still I think, readers can take my way of handling images. They can see, that it is not necessary that one speaks out every thing directly. They can learn that every thing in this universe is as important as one herself or himself.
And one can learn that – don’t write, unless poetry force you to write. Emotions should blossom on poetry.
What’s the most difficult feature and/or most important one in your mother language to be rendered in English or into any other foreign language?
I think every language has a few correctors which are difficult to translate in other language. I use very simple language and more images. Some time it is very difficult to bring those images in other language. I could never translate my own poem in a perfect manner. I too like to use folk words and images, which are very difficult to bring in other language. Some time social issues also do not get proper impression in other languages. But what is the solution, we must try to reach to others.
In the picture: Rati Saxena and Federico Federici performing at PoesiaPresente, Teatro Binario 7, Monza, 2009. Photo courtesy of Satyapal Sehgal.