Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Poet Who Wears Many Hats

Sridala Swami is a rising star in the circles of Indian poetry. Her other interests such as photography, film making culminate as other opuses of her poetic sensibilities.

It is not often that somebody puts his / her fingers in many pies and takes the cake home. But Sridala Swami wears many hats with élan. She is a poet, photographer, short story writer and documentary film-maker. Swami has recently returned from prestigious Iowa University after a three month Writer-in-Residence program.

Tryst with writing

Sridala began writing poems when she was in her early twenties. And what William Wordsworth had said, “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.” Sridala has an ambivalent take on the Bard’s views. She says, “An image or a whiff of perfume is enough to transport me to a different world from where I get my poems. I do not set out for a journey to find out a poem, it comes to me on its own.”

While she reverberates what Wordsworth had said her other views are juxtaposed. She elaborates, “We have overused nature as our inspiration. That suited Romanticism well, now we are in a Post Modern era; the images are as diverse as a spoon or the clitter clatter of a keyboard.” And it is interesting to explore her poetic sensibilities through her first poetry book ‘A Reluctant Survivor’ published in 2007 by Sahitya Akademi. It was short-listed for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award in 2008.The brevity of lines contains themes as diverse as riots and maladies. She has penned four books for children as well. Her next book is a poetry volume entitled ‘Escape Artist’.

Her other facets

Swami is also a film editor from FTII. She has edited a number of short movies, documentaries and commercials. Her keen eye for details brought her closer to photography. That is how come her solo photography exhibition ‘Posting the Light; Dispatches from Hamburg’ held at Kalakrti Art Gallery, Hyderabad brought her accolades. She has just come back to Hyderabad from Iowa University where she was Writer-in-Residence at the International Writing Program. She says beams with joy, “It was a wonderful experience meeting other fellow writers from different countries.”

On Indian poetry

Many publishers claim that there are no readers of poetry. Sridala lambasts this notion saying, “If that were the case we would not be having so many enthralling poetry-aficionado-pulling poetry sessions at so many grand Literary Fests that are organised all over the country. Prakriti organises South India’s big festival related to poetry only.” She laments that in India its people do not know different periods of poetry unlike those of Britain. It is because the poets of different languages do not come and join hands on one single platform. “Poets, in India, need clarity of vision and unison,” she reminisces her favourite poets - Agha Shahid Ali, Nissim Ezekiel, Rainer Maria Rilke, Nâzım Hikmet and Anne Carson. She signs off, “These poets are so close to my heart. They make me want to learn poetry all over again.”

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