Poet Santosh Bakaya Talking on Poetry With Maria Miraglia

MARIA MIRAGLIA: When did you approach poetry?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: Till the sixth standard, I had no idea I could write poetry.  Then there came a girl in mid-session who would sit on the last bench in the class and scribble away. This stoked my curiosity, so I dared to ask her. “What do you keep writing?” She told me that she was writing a limerick. I did not know what a limerick was, so I went home and asked my dad. He told me that it was a five line verse with the rhyme scheme of aabba. Then there was no stopping me and I started churning out one limerick after another. So it was that girl who started me on my writing career, and the first poem that I wrote was about a haunted fort, where owls hooted and the trees rustled eerie tunes.  I was so fascinated by the limerick rhyme scheme that I wrote my poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi in aabba rhyme scheme.

MARIA MIRAGLIA: Do you think of anyone to dedicate your words while writing?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: I always think of dedicating my books to my parents. My mother was very enthusiastic about the launch of my poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu, but she left this world suddenly on a cold day in January 2015, so I dedicated this book to her which was published after she was no more present physically to bless the book.   Where are the lilacs? My collection of peace poems is also dedicated to my parents. My forthcoming book Of Runcible Spoons and Pea-green Boats, which is a book about childhood, will be dedicated to my parents and also to Sr. Janet who taught me in Sophia School, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. 

MARIA MIRAGLIA: Air, water, earth and fire. What element would you like to be in poetic terms?

SANTOSH BAKAYA:  I would like to be fire in poetic terms, not the forest fire that destroys huge forests, but the fiery glow that adds luster to all facets of life. I would like to be the fire that is perennially present in a child’s belly, which makes him\ her ask questions endlessly about the things that are unspooling around him\her.  I would like to be that fire that makes all evils and negativities suffer a fiery annihilation, purging it of all vile and vicious viruses. 

MARIA MIRAGLIA: Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what kind?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: Yes, I do listen to music, “If music be the food of love, play on”, Shakespeare had said, and I am a staunch believer in the power of love. So, music is very much a part of my life, be they Hindi or English songs, they lift me to a different level altogether. I always write in the backdrop of music, and the kind of songs that I listen to, depends on what I am writing at the moment. It can be pretty soothing and can calm the nerves especially in these unprecedented times. I have my special favorites too. There is this iconic song from Casablanca which I always keep listening to, Play it, Sam, and the way Ingrid Bergman says, “Play it once, for old time’s sake”, has such an endearing quality to it that it makes me keep listening to it- it is an all-time favourite. The world will always welcome lovers  as time goes by.  Songs of Leonard Cohen, Frank Sinatra, Mark Knopfler and many more have lifted my spirits at different writing moments. Sounds of Silence, [Simon and Garfunkel] is also one of the songs I keep listening to, while writing.  Some Hindi songs have an ethereal quality and I love to be serenaded by their soothing strains. It is while the songs of Bhupen Hazarika [especially Dil Hoom hoom kare] and Sachin Dev Burman’s compositions, lyrics of Shailendra [Especially songs of Bandini, Merey saajan hain Uss paar and songs of Kabuliwala –especially Ganga aaye kahaan sey, [Salil Choudhury, Hemant Kumar] are playing in the background that I have churned out many of my poems.

MARIA MIRAGLIA: What did you feel when you held your first book in your hands?

SANTOSH BAKAYA:  Needless to say, I was ecstatic, almost like a child who has got a new toy, and the first thought that came to my mind was that my father would have been very happy, had he seen my book. And the second thought was, hope there are no typos and misprints in the book.

MARIA MIRAGLIA: Where does poetry come from?

SANTOSH BAKAYA:  My poetry comes mostly from the heart- and anything can stir my heart into poetry, be it the first ray of the rising sun, a moonbeam filtering into the room, a kitten lounging in feline grace, a pup nestling next to its mother, the chortle of a child, a woman suckling her child, the sun peeping through a canopy of clouds, the serendipitous gleam in the rag picker’s eyes, or an old couple walking hand in hand. I have a very strong sense of fairness and justice, and if I see any injustice around, my fingers itch to write about it immediately.  It was Wordsworth who had said, poetry is Emotions recollected in tranquility, but poetry can attack me anywhere – it can burst forth like a whisper or a forgotten note even amidst the cacophony and chaos of a crazy world.  It comes from that itching in the fingers, the churning in the head and heart when one sees a particular scene and immediately wants to unburden the overwhelmed heart.

MARIA MIRAGLIA: Is there a time of the day, you prefer writing?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: No, I don’t have any particular time of writing because an idea can strike me any time, so I have to write it the moment it strikes me- be it midnight or siesta time. In fact, I have furtively crept out of bed at 3 am, to write something that has suddenly caught me unawares.

MARIA MIRAGLIA: Does poetry come from the heart or from the mind?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: Poetry can come both from the heart and the mind. There is no dearth of cerebral poets, but, let me reiterate, my poetry comes from the heart- sometimes I write with a raw intensity, not wanting to edit what has come spontaneously from the heart. It is only later that I rework and edit, giving my poems a makeover. 

MARIA MIRAGLIA:  What do you think of poetry and poets on the web?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: There was a time that the poets on the web were looked down upon and I myself have come across many people who hurled derogatory jibes at the poets on the web, but,

Times they are a changin’, and the poets on the web have now been universally embraced- all geographical boundaries and walls have been quashed by the tender hammer of poetry. There are different nuances, myriad undertones, and eclectic cultural whispers and also the throbbing sounds of silence wafting across to us from differ parts of the world. This reminds me of that famous poem of Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall

Before I built a wall I’d like to know

What I was walling in or walling out

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall

This something that Robert Frost talked of so many years back, for me, is POETRY! Poetry definitely loves no barriers – no walls – no boundaries- and poetry and poets on the web are proving it by their verses which manage to touch and stir at least a few hearts in the remotest corner of the world.  Thankfully, all those walls that the esteemed poet was wary of, in a different context, of course, have been broken- thanks to poetry on the web. I have come across some wonderful poets on the web and the web is there to stay. Every day one stumbles upon new and wonderful sites where one can read and write, and which is brimming with many active readers and writers from across the globe.  Moreover, the new breed of Instagram Poets has a massive potential reach and has followers which run into millions. Who can deny the fact, that due to web poetry, we have come across some wonderful poets transcending all geographical boundaries?

MARIA MIRAGLIA: Who are your favorite contemporary poets and why?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: It would be unfair to take names, because every poet has a particular style which appeals to the reader, impressing by the stunning imagery, subtlety, harmonious interplay of words, rhythm and meter. Still others might enchant the reader by the narrative content of their poetry while still another by the playful diction. Poems can be sensuous, succinct or even satirical punches – all impressive in their own way.  Some writers I have come across, excel in penning political allegories. I believe every poet is unique, and has something different to offer. So, let me just mention that I have come across some very extraordinary poets in the contemporary world and I doff my hat to all of them for their brilliance in their special field. We can hear different poetic voices – strident, humorous, incisive, vibrant, vehement, sardonic and also compassionate.  Let us keep our ears riveted to all of them and also to the mute whispers between those lines.

Dr. SANTOSH BAKAYA:  Winner of Reuel International Award [2014] for Oh Hark![ a long , narrative poem], Setu Award for excellence [2018] for her ‘stellar contribution to world literature’, [Setu, bilingual Journal Pittsburgh, USA], the First Keshav Malik Award [2019] for her ‘entire staggeringly prolific and quality conscious oeuvre’, academic,  essayist, poet, novelist, editor, TEDx Speaker, [Her Tedx talk on The Myth of Writers’ Block is very popular in creative writing workshops], Dr. Santosh Bakaya has been  internationally acclaimed for her poetic biography of Bapu, Ballad of Bapu [Vitasta, Delhi, 2015]. Some of her other books are:  Flights from my Terrace, [Essays, Authorspress, India, 2017] Under the Apple Boughs, [Poems, Authorspress, India, 2017]  Where are the lilacs? [Poems, Authorspresss, India, 2016] Bring out the Tall Tales [Short stories, coauthored with Avijit Sarkar, Authorspress, India, 2019].A Skyful of Balloons [novella, Authorspress, 2018 ] Only in Darkness can you see the Stars [A Biography of Martin Luther King Jr.  Vitasta, 2019] Songs of Belligerence [Poetry, Authorspress, 2020] Morning Meanderings [Essays, E-book, Blue Pencil, 2020]  Vodka by the Volga [E-Book, poetic collaboration with Dr. Koshy, Blue Pencil, 2020]. From Prinsep Ghat to PeerPanjal – Kolkata and Kashmir Poems [E- Book, a poetic collaboration with Gopal Lahiri, Blue Pencil, 2021]

Maria Miraglia

MARIA MIRAGLIA: Educationist, poet, translator, peace activist, Maria A. Miraglia was born and lives in Italy. For a long time, an active member of Amnesty International, she herself founder and chairwoman of World Foundation for Peace. Member of Ican, of the International Observatory for Information and Human Rights. Founding member and literary director of the Italian cultural association P. Neruda, honorary member of Nationes Unidas de las Letras, advisory member of the editor board of Galaktika Poetike Autunis, member of the editorial board of Our poetry Archive, member of the editorial advisory board of Sahitya Anand. Presidente de la organization Mundial de los Trovatores, Italy and Deputy President – Coordination, at a child rights global organization, the United World Movement for Children (UWMC). She collaborates for poetry with numerous national and international newspapers and magazines. Her poems have been translated into several foreign languages and are collected in numberless anthologies all over the world.  Dr Maria Miraglia is often a welcome guest of international events for poetry. Beauty and profundity are the most important characteristic of Maria Miraglia’s works and although these elements are found in some of the exceptional works by modern writers, blending them together seems a challenge for many, where Maria is found to be successful applying them into her poems. Author of anthologies in Italian, English or both languages She is recipient of numerous national and international awards and recognition.


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