NILAVRONILL: Do you think literature or poetry is really essential in our life? If so why? And how does it relate to the general history of mankind?
AMANITA SEN: Poetry and literature are absolutely necessary in our lives. Their utility works on two levels- personal and social. By the term personalI mean it influences the inner worlds of both the reader and writer. When words come out from the depths of understanding and realisation, they hold the truth and wisdom that is beneficial for mankind.
Literature has a great impact on the society. It has been a mirror, chronicling history from a personal point of view.To know a society well, it is necessary to read its literature and poems.
NILAVRONILL: Our readers would like to know your own personal experience regarding the importance of literature and poetry in your life. Why literature or poetry in specific interests you so much? Who were your favourite writers during the early period of your life? And how they have paved your early routes in literature?
AMANITA SEN: Born in a family where books were considered treasures, I grew up spending most of my waking hours reading. From very early on I took to reading Tagore. His writing has shaped much of my world view. His philosophy of life, whatever I have understood of it appeals to me. I was introduced to Charles Dickens’ works, early in my life. Shakespeare’s plays-the abridged version was one of my favourite possessions. I got introduced to the world of poetry much later. Though I write poetry mostly, I read anything that I can put my hands on.
NILAVRONILL: Do you think society as a whole, is the key factor in shaping you up as a poet, or your poetry altogether?
AMANITA SEN: One finds their themes in the surrounding. Living in a vibrant society helps that way. Not just the injustices meted out to the people, the kinder face of humanity too, make way to my poems.
NILAVRONILL: Do you think people in general actually bother about literature in general? Do you think this consumerist world is turning the average man away from serious literature?
AMANITA SEN: For most people who are too caught up to make ends meet, literature does not hold any place in their lives. There are also those, who have other interests to pursue. Words hold little meaning for them. Time-crunch being a factor, a big section stays away from serious literature. With so many distractions in the forms of entertainment and also the exceeding obsession, addiction for the different social media handles, practising serious literature is not a viable option for many. The consumerist world is on the prowl for our time. They want to hog all our attention. The pursuit of Literature needs a solitude that cannot be broken with the lure of the attention-seeking consumerist world.
NILAVRONILL: How do you relate your own self existence with your literary life in one hand, and the present time and the socio-political space around you, in the other.
AMANITA SEN: Personally, I have kept my literary pursuits a self-willed process. I write when I absolutely have to. Writing helps me to have a clearer perspective on certain things. It makes me a surer person thought-wise. If the socio-political issues stir me from within, which they often do,I write about them just the way I think it should be written. I am not driven by any particular political agenda. That way I feel free to be who I am and what I stand for.
NILAVRONILL: Please give us some idea about your own views on the contemporary Indian literature written in English.
AMANITA SEN: Whatever little I have read of contemporary Indian literature written in English; I think lot of it is brilliant. Having said that, I take this opportunity to propound the wish that this marker, rather barrier of the label “ Indian lit in English” should be done away with. Marking a language geo-politically somewhat restricts its boundaries, forms a bias that is uncalled for. I mean, the author can hail from India or any other country. But if the person writes in English, the works should not be judged on any merit other than everything that pertains to assessing good literature.
NILAVRONILL: Do you think in this age of information and technology the dimensions of literature have largely been extended beyond our preconceived ideas about literature in general? Now, in this changing scenario we would like to know from your own life experiences as a poet, writer and a creative soul; how do you respond to this present time?
AMANITA SEN: The social-media handles have given a wider readership to many who write. That is a wonderful thing that has happened. People take to their handles to express their thoughts and creativity. There is a certainly a palpable democratization in the whole process of reading and writing. For me it has so far worked well as a poet. The publishing business looks a little non-transparent to me. There is a lot of room for improvement on the part of publishers to be more credible. Online magazines have an increasing readership. This works fine for me.
NILAVRONILL: Do you believe all writers are by and large the product of their nationality? And what are the factors which pay dividends and which become obstacles for your ultimate growth as an international writer even beyond your time?
AMANITA SEN: I have partly answered this in a previous question where I said, to be judged as a writer for belonging to one particular nation is not fair. I feel it is entirely up to the writer if he would let his nationality dominate the themes of his writing. I have seen poets from countries that are geo-politically in conflict with other nations, write poems that express their emotions related to their nationality. They express their views, share their own turmoil with their poetry. Not sure on how to navigate one’s way to become an international writer. To be able to write well consistently is perhaps the first criterion. I truly don’t know the answer to this question well, not having the recognition yet.
NILAVRONILL: Humanity has suffered immensely in the past, is still suffering around the world. We all know it well. But are you hopeful about our future? How do you react when innocent peoples suffer immensely in Gaza or in Iraq, Syria Afghanistan or elsewhere? Whether it is state sponsored terrorism or sponsored by individual terrorist groups. Innocent peoples are the first victims. Your response.
AMANITA SEN: I think terror is the weapon used by both the people who need to feel powerful by any means. It is a psychological malfunctioning on some level. There will always be a section of people who will resort to terror at the first opportunity. The law taking the people for a ride, in genuine cases too, disturbs me greatly. Where do we seek refuge, if not the law? The names mentioned here evokes a sense of frustration, anger, helplessness, defeat in the mind. It feels as if the humanity that has strode so far valiantly, is floundering badly in these places.
NILAVRONILL: We all believe in individual liberty and human rights, yet these two are the constant targets of attacks from various quarter of power, even in India. How you would like to respond to this situation?
AMANITA SEN: To curb individual liberty, to deny the people of basic human rights is the mark of poor governance in all ages and countries.
Voices not conforming to the power need to be silenced everywhere. Democracy is at peril in most countries. The media needs to be a lot more responsible, focusing on issues that can ensure greater good. No matter what the resistances are, sane voices should persistently try to stand up for the right values.
NILAVRONILL: Dear poet tell us; do you believe one day may be in the distant future this world will be a safer place for every new born? When we will see each other as an equal in dignity and embrace everybody as human being overcoming all the differences of ethnicity, religion, nationality, racism? Bringing the world altogether?
AMANITA SEN: Hope is something we can all resort to. If mankind has been able to come this far as a species, let’s hope good sense will prevail and all the “othering” in the names of religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual-orientation, race etc will stop. Let’s hope the dream in Lennon’s song Imagine will come true.
NILAVRONILL: Many thanks for spending such a wonderful time with us, we would like to conclude this interview with a personal note, are you satisfied about your own achievements in your life? What are your plans for future? And how do you evaluate your contemporaries and what are your aspirations from the younger generation?
AMANITA SEN: Thank you for asking important questions. This helped me wear the thinking cap and articulate my thoughts on literature and other relevant issues. I have mostly let life happen for me. At this age I know, achievements have no standardized worldly measures. All I know is, I have tried to do the best I could, in my situation. My contemporaries are doing great work. I am simply awed with many of them. Poets of younger generations are extremely promising. The energy and vibrancy in their works is so palpable. They make me believe that the world has hope.
AMANITA SEN is a bilingual poet writing both in English and Bengali. She has two volumes of poetry- Candle in my dream and What I don’t tell you. She is a mental health professional, living in Kolkata.
One thought on “TALKING WITH POET AMANITA SEN”
Powerful interview. Love the questions and the answers precise relating to the author’s experience.