Interview with Salil Chaturvedi

'In the Sanctuary of a Poem' is an intriguing title. Tell us more about the sanctuary!
The title comes from a poem in the book, which is about a frog that has taken sanctuary inside a particular poem. But the frog is just a metaphor for all of us. It’s a world that is coming into a slow boil and we all need a place of safety, where we feel free from persecution, free from danger. I think art, in general, and for me, poetry, is one such place of refuge where we can connect with our inner selves. Also, sanctuary comes from the Latin root sanctuarium, from sanctus ‘holy’. I do believe that as a collective we have lost the sense of the sacred. The poems in the book lead you back into the world as a holy place, not in a religious sense, though there is nothing wrong with that, but in a more immediate, sensorial way, through ‘deep’ images.
So, would you say it’s a book about rediscovering Nature?
It’s a book about rediscovering connections. Whether we are aware of it or not, we do inhabit a planet which is mind-bogglingly interconnected. We feel fulfilled, even thrilled, when the interconnections come to the fore. There is an added charm one experiences. So, this book is really about discovering connections with the world around us, and with each other. The poem ‘Grandmothers,’ for instance, discovers a connection with my maternal grandmother’s death and an ibis, a bird that returns every year near where I live.

As far as ‘nature’ is concerned, the word has its roots in ‘nat’ born, hence ‘natal.’ I think the poems take pleasure in the functioning of the world which is constantly renewed and invites us to be born many times over. I like to think that the reader will experience some kind of birth, maybe of a feeling or an insight, as she discovers potent images in the poems.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Now we are talking about time, which is always a difficult thing for me! ‘Sometimes I feel Like an Orangutan’ is a poem that captures my feeling about time, and being-ness, in some sense. The poems in the book span about seven to eight years, with a few that might be even older. But, the book came into being in an instant when, one afternoon, I knew what I wanted to do with many of the poems I had written.
Are you working on another title? Tell us something about it.
Yes, there’s something brewing, but I’m not sure which way it will go…so this might not be a good time to talk about it. But, I can say that they are poems in a completely different style and voicing…breezier, I guess, and well, they are a series of love poems set in a challenging epoch. That’s all I can say.
Do you think poetry changes the world in some way?
Sure. Just as a leaf falling changes the world in some way. This is a world that is continually changing! I don’t think that ever since the birth of Earth there have been two days that have been exactly alike, where, let’s say, the cloud patterns have been identical. But if by ‘change’ is meant ‘to alter in some beneficial way,’ I think we really ought to pay attention to what we are doing. I read this lovely line some place recently, and I’m paraphrasing: ‘We have never known what we are doing, because we have never really known what we are undoing.’ So, I’m quite frightened of making the world a better place. I’d rather just take sanctuary in it, in the way it is. So, over the last many years I’ve started learning about the creatures that live around me, what the weather patterns are, what the landscape is like, which butterflies show up, how the trees and the grasses behave, what kind of migration takes place, which tree the owl sleeps in. I never tire of saying that a habitat is just a collection of habits. There is much pleasure in knowing these habits, in knowing our fellow beings, and the pleasure is all for free. It's just good manners knowing about other fellow travellers. If my poetry can spark a sense of wonder about it all, I'm happy.
Published 2018-01-14.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

In The Sanctuary Of A Poem
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 6,520. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: January 17, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » South Asian and Indian poetry
A sanctuary where anything is allowed, and everything's possible! Fifty-two poems by Salil Chaturvedi, an award-winning Indian poet, collected over almost a decade of wandering and wondering among the Western Ghats, along rivers and within forests and wetlands of Goa. Amitav Ghosh, the renowned Indian writer, calls it a 'delightful book,' singling the title poem as his old favourite.