I’m working on a new collection of poetry, which will be my fourth, and I’ve begun to send these poems out to journals to test their mettle. I’ve also been trying, when work and life permit. Often my poems begin with a line, a phrase, or an image, ideally something with a little grit and texture. I look through my notebooks and desktop folders where I keep all my fragments.
You write reviews of poetry collections—some are even shared on your website. What do you appreciate the most about a collection of poetry?
I was recently re-reading Mark Strand’s interview in the New Delhi in which he talks about the “chahat,” a quality that he works toward in his poems, and that he looks for in the poetry of others. He goes on to say, “I like to be mystified. Because it’s really that place which is unreachable, or mysterious, at which the poem becomes ours, finally, becomes the possession of the reader. so that something beyond his understanding, or beyond his experience, or something that doesn’t quite match up with his experience, becomes more and more his.” These are the qualities I most admire about Ghalib, Rahat Indori, Allama Iqbal—three of my favorite Urdu poets. But I like a lot of different styles and approaches.
Which do you enjoy more: the writing, revising, or sharing of a poem?
I enjoy revising the most, because I get to attend to the poetry of the poem. The words on the page have some control and I can either submit to their possibilities or explore the alternatives. I enjoy sharing, or performing a poem in front of an audience, the least. If you could pass along only one piece of advice for fellow poets, what would it be? I would only pass on advice to beginning poets! I would advise them to read and study the poets who write the poems they wish they had; then read the poets those poets admire; and finally read the poets whose poetics differ completely from the two previous groups.
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