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?

AMPAT KOSHY: Literature and poetry are definitely essential to life. They sharpen our skills of expressing things better using language and also help us to socialize better thereby as well as feel less lonely. This is clear from the general history of mankind where one started with verse and poetry and prose was only a later development. Poetry was considered in Greece as either something that made you godlike, a sub creator as Tolkien puts it later, or a problem for rulers with a subversive nature in its being primarily imaginative thus, creative. Every country or language and region has it favourite poet and traces the beginning of its entry into world culture with that figure’s works usually be it Homer or Pushkin or the sages who wrote the hymns of the Rig Veda. These poets and their work begin civilization, and build its culture and define it. The same with the writers of the Bible for the Hebrews or Chaucer, Spencer and Shakespeare for England etc. All poets.

NILAVRONILL: Our readers would like to know your own personal experience regarding the importance of literature and poetry in your life. Why does literature or poetry specifically interest you so much? Who were your favourite writers during the early period of your life? And how  have they paved your early routes in literature?

AMPAT KOSHY: My personal experience, of course, starts from home. My mother was a poet and introduced me to the poems of William Wordsworth, his Skylark, and many others, while my father introduced me to Hamlet, Tagore and sections of Isaiah and both to the Psalms via recitation. They used to encourage me to read poetry and also write it. For example once I said a few lines aloud and my mother wrote it down and they sent it for an international competition and it won a prize! They made me a poet by writing down what I said that was poetic or poetry and later I did it myself. I had a natural flair for enjoying reading and also for language, or rather for English in which I always stood more or less first, and in my English classes two Jesuit fathers praised my writing abilities a lot. This was a big boost to me and getting published in the school magazine for winning an essay competition. My brothers had a fantastic collection of books and I read them all and became precociously well read, though hopefully not proud as a result. Coming across the best of poetry and world literature at home and being surrounded by writers there as my brother and sister too wrote, I gradually found myself taking specific interest in writers like Enid Blyton and which made me write a novella and in children’s literature and also in English and Russian and European literature helped me a lot. It made me broaden my perspective and while I also read Malayalam classics like Chemmeen and Basheer’s stories as well as novels like Gora and poets like Toru Dutt, and Derozio. Later my reading became encyclopedic, you can say extending far beyond all this to include hundreds of books and writers, if not thousands and this is what has made me a good writer.

NILAVRONILL: Do you think society as a whole, is the key factor in shaping you up as a poet, or your poetry altogether?

AMPAT KOSHY: While I cannot deny the effect of society on me as being a huge factor in shaping my poetry, I cannot say that is the only one, most of the thoughts I care for that make me feel unique as a poet or artist or writer come from art or aesthetics as in from books, cinema, sculpture, drama, painting etc. So, I am unable to agree and would say I am a kind of “bookish” or intellectual writer than one who draws on society like Shaw or Ibsen. My ideas seem to come from inside or books I mean, as do my structures for poems. They are inward looking or introspective. This may be very Indian but even if not, it is more a philosophical approach than one based on a social or sociological one though that also appears in my work.

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?

AMPAT KOSHY: People in general still do bother about literature but maybe not so much in a language centred way or word oriented or linguistic way as before. The thrust is not logocentric but multimedia oriented. People may watch a movie on Manto and then go on to read him but not the other way around in today’s world. The same with Harry Potter, and awards matter as many are now buying Louise Gluck and reading her while earlier no one had much, due to her getting the Nobel Prize for literature. So while it does not die maybe serious literature has less power than it did before unless touted by consumerist media as worth consuming. This is a lovely question, by the way.

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.

AMPAT KOSHY: I think that the existence of the self leads me to spirituality but not divorced from the present time and its socio-political space. I am a very humanities and arts kind of poet, in that sense old fashioned, so connected to literature and poetry for me is politics, economics, religion, philosophy, art, aesthetics, science, geography, civics etc. They form a whole, and reading literature has made me liberal, espouse humanism, lean towards democracy and socialism, choose spirituality over religion, use politics and history and economics in my poetry and books etc. I think this is inevitable. I am against fascism, for instance, as a result of such exposure.

NILAVRONILL: Please give us some idea about your own views on the contemporary Indian literature written in English.

AMPAT KOSHY: I am not well versed with much of it but what I see is a set of groups or subcultures that are confined within themselves and as a result perhaps limited, driven by those who encourage many as OPA does, or a group like Indian Poetry, or TSL or Sunil Sharma with Setu or ALS and so many other such groups. There is no real evaluation as the scene is too vast and possible cartographers and critics are daunted by the sheer vastness of the output. The awards, anthologies and books coming out each containing supposedly the best poets and best poems in Indian literature in English, by experts or self-proclaimed experts as well as print magazines and e-magazines have proliferated to such an extent that an impartial reading may emerge only in the distant rather than immediate future.  There are blogs and youtube channels and spoken word poetry and slam and rap and poetry films and all kinds of hybrids, and what is emerging is democratization where everyone matters and no one does, a very postmodern scenario, I would think.

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?

AMPAT KOSHY:  It has been extended through hybridization. We live in a time where form-wise we can do almost anything and content-wise we are curbed. Censored. Yes, as a critic and researcher on Beckett I can say literature has changed in meaning to all writing being considered as possibly literature and can combust further into not being there at all soon as a subject in many places or poetry but only as an inset taken over by inter disciplinary measures or literary criticism or critical theory in the field of literature. Even I have adopted or adapted to having to use first spatial arrangements in poetry as in my first book Figs, and then to using videos, and music as background, and kinetic or moving images to accompany my poetry and all this surely denotes the arrival of a new language not to mention the lesser level of gifs, memes, emojis, and comments, posts, shares, views, reads etc which enter the realm of data and statistics. The melding of genres and media is needed now for more reach so it is like a new art form. A video of mine gets me 3000 to 7000 view while a poem that is only test does not so which will I choose, the former obviously.

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?

AMPAT KOSHY: I do not believe all writers are a product of only one thing or another, so while nationality matters in that I may define myself as that or against it cannot be the only thing, I am a product of. I am product of my family background, my religion, my culture, my language, my own beliefs and history and resultant changes that make me a composite figure, make me productive to the tune of having twenty-four books with my name also on the cover so far, but it is due to a very large repertoire of influences as I told you from many disciplines earlier on. For a writer to last in time or for posterity or be read beyond his nation or language he has to this become universal and human as well as humane while still having his own uniqueness and individuality in style and voice and content as well as in form, genre and structure to last.

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.

AMPAT KOSHY: I am not pessimistic, but I understand that the battle for humanity and to lessen suffering is a constant one and has to be taken up by each generation anew so that we do not become swamped by it. We have to constantly fight against state sponsored terrorism and that by terrorist groups and pass on the need to have a conscience to our children.

We also need to lead by example by being active in politics in these days.

We cannot hold on to ideology but principles and values, morals and mores or ethics and have to shift our positions according to causes and not according to identity markers. I may stand with minorities in India, for instance, whom I have to oppose in another place as they are the majority there and the oppressor. A Jew in a Muslim country, a Muslim in Israel, a Hindu in Bangladesh, a Christian in Muslim Sudan or vice versa all need protection as does an African American or Puerto Rican or Mexican who may be Catholic in America and the native Americans or the Dalits and tribals or the indigenes everywhere and each time we need to look at the principle and cause and not our indentity to fight for rights.

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?

AMPAT KOSHY: Every day they grow increasingly under attack and as a result of checks and balances of larger forces but in the middle of it words like intervention and navigation or negotiation become increasingly vital. In a state of surveillance, the individual has to fight more determinedly for his rights and the rights of human beings both nationally and internationally, in India and elsewhere. I opposed the Emergency and I can and will oppose the BJP too for instance.

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?

AMPAT KOSHY:  I believe it as only if I do can I be strong enough to fight for it, and work towards it. The need for equality, freedom, universal familyhood, love, compassion, mercy, grace or graceful behaviour, forgiveness, no war, peace and other things like that will never die out. I am very much influenced by Martin Luther King Jr. and Lennon in this respect

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 for the younger generation?

AMPAT KOSHY: I am not satisfied yet with what I have done as a writer or human being but think this dissatisfaction is a good thing to keep me going to reach my best which is yet to come. I am writing a novel on Jesus Christ and a book on Bob Dylan and bringing out a book on sonnets that I am very excited about. I like my contemporaries who push me to achieve more as today’s world is very competitive and my aspirations for the younger generation is that they will do more wonderful things than the many things I have achieved till now. If by the time I die I have brought out a hundred books of which one or two may remain forever I would want them to do more and produce four or five everlasting ones at least, but more than that I want them to not forget to be like Jesus or Buddha or Nanak or others like that whom I aspire to follow and writers like Dostoevsky or Samuel Beckett. Finally, I come to ethics and classicism.










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