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?
SUNIL SHARMA: Thanks for the opportunity of conversing with one of the finest writers and editors to-day who is in the vanguard of promoting serious writing of writers from across the world through his journal and own poetic output— an impressive feat by the way and sustained so long! As a devotee of the arts, my answer is obviously a “Yes” to this frequently-asked question. Lit—poetry being part thereof—is the supply of the pure breath in a smoggy city—and essential to our well-being and overall wellness. Regarding its relevance and relations to civilizational story and history, right from the Homeric dawn to the high-tech New Millennium, poetry has kept on marching from being oral to documented to oral. Performance poetry is back and in popular demand. So the Homeric tradition of oral rendering has returned in a big way! Poetry, recitation, performance—they are largely back to the original form, although in a new form and medium like virtual reading or video reading or as visual art, kind of multimedia—for better connect and impact, more urgently in these Covid-19 times. In a way, poetry is the heart of civilization and culture. New lyrics will always be popular and hummed by the majority even in the post-industrial and mass societies. Songs will never get out of fashion—and circulation.
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?
SUNIL SHARMA: Through arts—poetry constitutes a significant part of the sacred space—I have continued to breathe and survive. Poetry opens up invisible lands and writing uplifts you by transporting to those realms sublime and blissful! Regarding my interest, well, it is like any other hobby or habit. Some do gardening or swimming or yodelling or running a marathon. I am like the gardener who wants to cultivate words and images.
Fav writers: The Romantics for being an enduring appeal. Lorca, Neruda, for activism. The French Symbolists, Baudelaire, TS Eliot and Ezra Pound; Les Murray, Robert Maddox-Harle; Langston Huges and Emile Dickinson, among others, for craft and critique. Ghalib, Nirala, Li Bai, Rumi and Saadi Shirazi for showing other dimensions of the slew of surrounding worn-out realities.
I have been trained by these masters.
NILAVRONILL: Do you think society as a whole, is the key factor in shaping you up as a poet, or your poetry altogether?
SUNIL SHARMA: Society, of course. Collective is always bigger than an individual. the collective shapes you up and your psyche. The traditions inherited further sharpen the contours and broaden them. Then your life experiences and thinking—these go into the poetic make up. Later on, both reciprocally impact—personality and poetry.
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?
SUNIL SHARMA: If Literature no longer speaks to a literate society, the latter will not be interested. We are witness to a general dumbing down of culture. If every writer is into writing the best seller, there will be a glut of such escapist writing that entertains but no longer acts subversive. Such art might bring in lucre but no sublimity or higher vision. Mass culture wants that and encourages production, marketing and consumption of such content. Naturally writers are also responsible for this state of sorry affairs. We have not produced another Balzac or Tolstoy so far, Hemingway or Joyce or Neruda. Mass culture is oriented towards a non-serious stuff—lot of action, signifying nothing.
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.
SUNIL SHARMA: Both go together. Literary self is an extension of your personality and helps you navigate through storms and the calm seas. Of course, the times are changing. it is like returning to the Hamletian court—a tragic clash of values; of idealism and mercenary values.
NILAVRONILL: Please give us some idea about your own views on the contemporary Indian literature written in English.
SUNIL SHARMA: IWE (Indian Writing in English) is global. One of the best streams feeding the world literature. Many writers of the IWE have earned international awards and reshaped the contemporary canon. There are limitless opportunities fuelled by the proliferation of e journals and a hungry market for their products. These writers have mobilised the legacy of the Raj and enriched the English language via their contact with it in a post-colonial nation.
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?
SUNIL SHARMA: We have moved to the digital platform and digital forms and media—video poetry, ipods, live streaming, Zoom meetings, Instagram, WhatsApp. Variety of modes and media. You have to be part of such a culture—and respond accordingly by adapting to new technologies of consumption and communication.
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?
SUNIL SHARMA: The geographies inherited mould us, political theories like nationalism and citizenship make us act like that. If I am born into a post-colonial nation, my perceptions are determined by those realities. I cannot write about another nation till I migrate there. As a second-generation immigrant, I might write my experiences of being a minority—so on and so forth! Certain languages facilitate your passage into the international spaces—English, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, German. Thereby you can sail into global waters—and earn your captaincy there. An expanded mind and willingness to embrace the Other helps. Ultra nationalism and bigotry break the speed.
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.
SUNIL SHARMA: Like every sensitive soul, you decry, protest such wanton acts of cruelty, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, genocide. You recoil and become active, take part in marches and write, feel legitimately enraged by the system that encourages these acts of killing the helpless and the innocent.
Mass protests erupt.
Terror is annihilated.
Things will change. Violence never pays—as the state or group policies. Things will definitely improve over the years—sanity restored.
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?
SUNIL SHARMA: A world-wide phenomena, the ruling elites want to suppress advocacy groups and voice of liberty—and miserably fail. You cannot suppress popular protests. Recent history has demonstrated this clearly. Solidarity and collective actions counter such state offensives—and finally get neutralised. writers and activists play a major role.
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?
SUNIL SHARMA: An ideal humankind keeps on dreaming—and will sure realize this utopia. Already moving in this direction via regular interventions of law and media and arts. A doable goal—laudable mission and vision. A Republic of Realized Souls!
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?
SUNIL SHARMA: Thanks for stimulating conversation. I am a modest wordsmith with not much to show. like a worker, I keep on working with my tools in my small patch. Happily. Plans? Keep on writing more…and more. My contemporaries are all ahead of me and better gifted. I learn a lot from them—peer learning is crucial in your evolution as a writer! Younger writers are more talented. the future is in safe hands.
SUNIL SHARMA abridged: currently a college principal; loves dabbling in words—lyrical and prosaic. Managed to publish 22 books so far— joint and solo; edits Setu online journal.
2 thoughts on “TALKING WITH POET SUNIL SHARMA”
Congratulations to the interviewer and interviewee both for this superb tete a tete!
Readers are always at a great benefit when two serious thinkers chat aloud!👏👏👍
Great interview, touches on some important and also sensitive points. Wonderful, Rob