By Vishnu Makhijani
New Delhi, September 1 (IANS): Her academic background in political science taught her to be objective and critical in her writing, but poetry is the only space through which she can express herself openly without fear of inhibitions, says Sreya Sarkar, a public policy scholar based in Massachusetts, co-author of ‘The Same Sky’ and whose poems exude optimism and a love of nature.
“I consider myself primarily a prose writer and more recently as a short story writer. I’ve spent more
over 15 years of analysis and writing on public policy and politics in the United States and India. But at the same time, I’ve always had a desire to write fiction. My academic background in political science taught me to be objective and critical in my approach to writing, but throughout on a more personal level, I had a lot of observations steeped in raw sentiment and from time to time , I let off steam through the short poems. I wrote for my blog and later for some literary magazines. I think poetry is the only space where I can express myself openly without any fear or inhibition,” Sreya told IANS in an interview about her 22 poems in the book, a collaboration with Kolkata-based writer Sankar Sarkar. (no parent).
Example of this stanza from ‘Spring’:
Regained its lost rhythm and pulse, The young tree becomes ten, then a hundred more, The whipping wind has now calmed down to a gentle caress, The strident howl of the snow exchanged with the melodious melody of the birds, The carpet of greenery sprouting sprouted a sprinkling of wildflowers, Creatures long asleep, deep in their resting caves, Looked out to hear and feel the change in the air, At last the season has hung, Spring has come!
Knowing that she also writes non-fiction for certain Indian magazines, how does she manage the passage between prose and poetry?
“For me, it’s not that hard,” Sreya said, adding, “For me, writing can have many layers. at night, when I collect myself and my thoughts, I sometimes find that my emotions and observations overflow as poetry.”
“Nature touches me, as do people and their energy, and it looms large in my poetry. What I find interesting is that if I hadn’t had a career constantly interacting with new people unearthing and covering news, I wouldn’t have had the fodder I have access to now, to weave my poems in. I approach my non-fiction writing objectively with my wit and analytical skills political, but sometimes I find the effect of poetry, tinged with the translucent shade of According to my readers, empathy makes my non-fiction articles for newsmagazines like The Quint, Scroll, The Wire and Dainik Bhaskar more relevant and comprehensive,” Sreya explained.
How did the collaboration come about?
Sreya met Sankar on Facebook in 2021 when he introduced himself as a poet and wanted to know more about his work as a journalist and writer.
“He read some of my short stories and was moved by my use of words. In early 2022, he asked me to write an essay or a poem for his bilingual (English and Bengali) magazine, Delta. I submitted a poem and soon after proposing to me to publish a book of poetry together.
“I wasn’t convinced that I could collaborate on an entire book for my love of poetry and trying my hand at it was rather personal and not necessarily something I shared with a wider audience, but he convinced me that my writing, although personal, has a universal sound to it Sankar Sarkar came up with the theme ‘The Same Sky’, continents apart, as he is based in Barasat, West Bengal and I live in Sudbury, Massachusetts, USA.
“He felt that the themes he conveyed through his philosophical writings on love, loss and life, I could translate into everyday life and stories with casual comfort, bringing a modern twist that felt like a breath of fresh air. My ‘not being trained in poetry writing,’ according to him, made my work original,” Sreya explained.
The pandemic also had a role to play in the collaboration.
“For the first time, physical distancing became a big obstacle for me, living far away from my elderly parents in Kolkata. I realized that nothing could be taken for granted anymore. The escalation of fear and other gut feelings made me and Sankar Sarkar collaborate on a book that we believe could have the ability to build a bridge between the two continents, making us all feel connected on a much deeper level than physical contact “Sreya said.
According to one reviewer, “their collaborative work excels in the well-worn flavor of contemporary literature with a unique symphony and cadence”. How does she explain this?
“Sankar Sarkar has written several books of poetry, the latest being ‘Handful of Dust’ which got excellent reviews. He also wrote ‘A New Philosophical Classic: Theory of Love’, a groundbreaking book on philosophy. He is a veteran in the world of English poetry in India and seeks contemporary poets who can express themselves beyond the trappings of poetic writing grammar.
“He wanted to collaborate with a newcomer who is not convinced that he belongs to the community. In his words, he was looking for ‘a reluctant poet who sought to express himself without any pretensions’. connection with the real world through its daily occurrences. My poems are mainly about our present time, and its challenges. I also address the impact of the pandemic on our bodies and souls in some of my poems in accordance with the era,” Sreya added.
And then ? Is another collaboration in sight?
“We plan to collaborate on another poetry book in the future, which may be even more philosophical and abstract in theme than the current collaboration. We also plan to work on a collection of short stories,” Sreya concluded.