By Rebecca Vargese
Mihir Vatsa, the winner of the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize 2013 is a current Masters student of Literature at Delhi University. Read on as he gives Aggregate a peek into his life of his transition into a poet.
1. In this age when engineers and doctors are mass produced pursuing a degree in arts is never appreciated. How did you decide to pursue English literature?
Like most parents, mine wanted me to be an engineer, especially my dad. Back home in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand schools did not offer the Arts stream. I had to study Science. Finally, around six months before my 12th Board exams, I told my dad that I wanted to study Literature at DU. The deal was that if I scored more than 85% I could do what I wanted, else I would have to study to be an engineer. I guess it was a ploy because I hated Physics and wasn’t good at it. Now, here I am, a final year student of English Literature.
2. You are the youngest winner of the Srinivas Rayaparol Literary Prize; did Literature help you become the poet that you are turning out to be?
I guess we all make the mistake of thinking that Literature will help you write, but it actually gives you tools to deconstruct, understand and analyse language and writing better. I will not say that poetry came naturally to me. I have worked on my skills as a poet, but I believe that I have always been inclined towards it. I remember when I was four-years-old, my mother was then the Principal-in-charge of her residential school in Hazaribagh, and so I was put in a hostel. I was the youngest and was the comic relief for everyone around. One day the Principal and his wife kept prodding me about home and asked if I did not miss it. I still remember I told them, ‘Yaad toh aati hain, magar khoon ke aansu pee ke reh jate hain.’
3. If Literature did not help much, how have you honed your skills as a writer of poetry?
Earlier, I thought I was naturally gifted as a poet and poetry was a given. As an adolescent you tend to write about teenage angst, love and then one day you see all the injustice around you and you think, ‘I am going to write and change the world.’ When I used to write poetry then, I used to think to myself, ‘Wow! You write good poetry.’ Once I started blogging, I realised my poetry needed work. It was then that I came into contact with Luke Prater, a British independent poet, who told me about a group of poets who critically reviewed poems. I learnt a lot from them and have improved ever since.
4. What kind of poet are you? In terms of subject matter, how do you draw your inspiration and what is your process of writing?
I cannot classify my poetry. I depend a lot on my senses; certain sights, certain distinct smells bring back memories that I hold dear. I often write my poems in a series. The three poems I sent for the competition were from the series of poems on a particular Mother figure narrated by a 14-16 year-old boy. I usually make notes on my phone, when i feel inspired by something and write my poems when i find the time. I cannot write if you give me a pen and paper; I need my laptop and my personal space.
5. What do you think the future of a poet is in India? And what are your future hopes?
This prize has certainly given me a boost. I have gathered some confidence in my poetry and now I have something to show for it. India has been hostile to creative writers. Poets usually never get published by big publishing houses and writing is always thought of as a hobby. For a writer, writing is their means of survival, which is something India ignore. It is no surprise that most of our poets stay outside India. I hope to pursue MFA in creative writing someday in the US. In India you can get a degree in acting, music, painting and most other fine arts, but talk about having a formal degree in creative writing and all hell breaks loose. If every Fine Arts can have a formal degree, why not writing?
Mihir Vatsa is the Poetry Editor of VAYAVYA and is the founder of “The tales of Hazaribagh“, a portal about his hometown. His poetry has been published by The Island Review, Eclectica Magazine, The Four Quarters Magazine, and UCity Review. He also runs a blog to share his poetry.