Interviewed by Jagari Mukherjee
Vinita Agrawal’s recent book, “Two Full Moons” published by Bombaykala Books received a handsome reception by poets across the country and abroad. We quote Preeti Vangani who reviewed her book on Firstpost.com; “Like Hughes, for Agrawal, the moon oft-times becomes her dutiful muse but also morphs into a storekeeper of everything the (now mature) speaker has journeyed through so far.” That built an intrigue for Jagari Mukherjee, poet and academician, to further interview Vinita Agrawal for you to enjoy a nice literary conversation.
1. Why Two Full Moons? Is it magic or science?
Good question! For me the moon has always had a magical connotation. It’s that silvery disc that appears on the night skies and illumines the darkness, gives the night a velvety feel. However the title of the book has a slightly more metaphoric implication – it refers to the cycle of the waxing and waning of the moon and how that defines our time in months, years and so forth. Two full moons is that bracket that cusps time and gives us our experiences of life. So, in that sense, it is a scientific or let’s say a realistic title.
2. With each passing book, the next is an evolved one. Explain.
That’s a good thing isn’t it? Always good to move forward and evolve, both as an individual and as a writer. I’d like to be this person who’s absorbing more and more about esoteric life every minute. Poetry becomes universal if it’s sourced from this deepest space that exists inside all of us. As for the evolution of the craft, I believe it’s bound to evolve if we keep writing, revising and editing.
3. Two Full Moons takes over from The Silk of Hunger: the one begins where the other ends. Do you agree?
That’s a sharp observation! Yes, it’s true. The Silk… is a window to those years of my life – I mean the year it was published and the preceding year or two. Two Full Moons is a composite reflection of my perspectives that I assimilated after that.
It has a more settled voice, the surface is calmer and the realisations are a notch deeper.
4. What are your three favorite poems in the book? Or is it hard to pick and choose?
It’s really very hard to choose. They’re all apples from the same tree, right? Having said that, I guess I’m partial to Water Is A Lesson because it contains some deeper truths of existence. The fisherman is a metaphor for us.
5. Tell us about one particular memory that is buried in the pages of the book.
Well, it’s the memory of my parents’ home no longer remaining a home. Both my parents are no more and I when I visited the house alone for the first time after my father ‘s passing, I experienced a loneliness so debilitating that I was afraid to drop the latch on the door. I reached the house around 9 at night and was terrified of the silence pervading the house. In those first few moments I knew what it was like to yearn to turn back the hands of time. The poem So This is What a Home Looks Like in the End is based on these emotions.
6. Your book is divided into sections. Is there a common theme/thread that you worked toward to weave the sections together?
The sections are actually independent of each other. That’s why they are there. Otherwise I’d have let them run through the book seamlessly.
7. How and when did you decide that your manuscript is ready for publication?
When I felt that the poetry as a collective had acquired a voice and tone of its own. There came a point when the poems seemed very much to belong to me, they were cloying at me and were asking to be released.
8. Who are some of your favorite contemporary poets?
Ranjit Hoskote, Vikram Seth, Arundhathi Subramaniam, Sophia Naz from our side of the world and Ocean Vyoung, Kei-Miller and Ruth Padel from the west.
9. Do you have a reading list for poetry lovers?
I’m actually a very random poetry reader. I grab anything I can to read poetry. Sometimes it’s even the poems that just come through in the email. Mostly I like poems as opposed to poets – so apart from the works of the names mentioned above, I recommend these poems : The Anorexic’s Aubade By Kirk Schlueter, Hummingbird by Mona Arshi, Helen of Troy does Countertop Dancing by Margaret Atwood, Nativity by Lee-Young Li and many more…
10. If you had a chance for bartering your poems for anything, what would that be?
A meeting with the Buddha. That wouldn’t be a bad barter. Smiles.
11. Three reasons why Two Full Moons is a must-buy.
a. It might help you connect with yourself
b. It’s existential poetry from the universal perspective
c. These are the kind of poems you can read at night, just before going to bed.
12. How important is the role of emotional pain in creating poetry? Is there a connection?
Pain is a purifier. It brings things into perspective. However, I don’t believe that emotional pain is the only ink with which to write poetry. Yes, emotional pain creates a gush of words, outpourings, expressions… but it’s not always poetry. The raw material needs to be crafted skilfully. So to answer your question, emotional pain provides some raw material, that’s all. One is at the risk of sounding juvenile if one allows that pain to dictate one’s words. After the initial scribbles, you need the skills of Pablo Neruda to bring it to another level! Who can forget his timeless line :
I learned about life
from life itself,
love I learned in a single kiss
and could teach no one anything
except that I have lived…
International buyers can grab a copy of Two Full Moons by Vinita Agrawal, here.
Buyers from India, can grab a copy of Two Full Moons by Vinita Agrawal, here.
If you wish to be interviewed on P&P for your recent book of poems, email at mail @ poetryandpoets.com.