You are on page 1of 7

Writer/EditorNaliniPriyadarshni'sInterviewwithChumki

Sharma
Chumki Sharma is a poet from Calcutta, India. A twice Pushcart nominee for
2015, some of Chumki's recent works can be found on Poetry Breakfast,
Driftwood Press, The American Journal of Poetry and The Hamilton Stone
Review. Her debut manuscript, Running Away With The Garden has been
published from The Blank Rune Press, Australia earlier this year.
A couple of links where some poetry of her can be found at:
https://badacidlaboratories.wordpress.com/sharma-ana/
http://www.hamiltonstone.org/hsr34poetry.html#likeadragonfly
1. Please tell us something about your early years. How did you
become interested in Poetry?
In hindsight, it appears, some sort of meditative contemplation was always a
part of my character. Some of the most pleasant memories of childhood are
moments of solitude when I tried to peer into and listen to the world, feel it
with all my senses. It is precisely these moments when poems are born. I
started writing down my impressions almost as soon as I learnt to write and
thats how I ventured into the world of Poetry. Actually, I started writing
poems even before I started reading Poetry.

2. Your poems are marked with a most fascinating use of language,


unusual images and delicate feelings. In the practice of writing, of
poem-making can you say something about your relationship with
poesies, language and imagination?
I use very simple language to write. And the poems are all images in my
head. In that sense, I am more a painter than a poet. I draw the image in my
head on paper, only difference is I use words instead of paint. I think
metaphors are a great gift for every poet and writer. They help us so much in
saying a lot within the few lines of a poem, leave a little mystery in each
poem that the reader is at the liberty to give any interpretation she likes,
even if it is at times different from what I had in mind.

3. What does it mean to be an English writer in English? Is there a


certain expectation or responsibility attached to it?

To be honest, till date, I am not sure if my English is good enough to leave a


mark in the English speaking poetry world. But the optimist that I am, I have
a secret belief that, us, people like me and you, writers who are themselves
not native English speakers but write in the language, bring some freshness
to it. The world loves everything exotic, dont they? Am I being too optimistic
here? I hope not. As Kamala Das once said, The language one employs is
not important. What is important is the thought contained by the words.

4. Given all the social and cultural challenges Indian women face,
how important is being an Indian woman in your own writings? Any
challenges or epiphanies you'd like to share?
Very important! So much so, that there is no escape for me from being an
Indian woman in most of my poems - a very simplistic example is the
number of times I have referred to sarees in my poems, almost as many
times as the Neem tree from the backyard of my childhood home.
As for the challenges, all the clichs that we read and hear about are all true.
Poetry in India, is still chiefly, the literary terrain of men. If you are a woman
delving into Poetry, the assumption is that you must be writing about love,
nature or pious religion nothing that is too intellectually demanding.
So you realize at every step, that you need to assert your right to be taken
seriously as a poet and not conform to set ideas but write on a wide range of
subjects dealing with key social and political issues like war, nationalism,
manipulation of power and such.

5. You are not only a poet par excellence but also a spoken word
performer, a model, a banker. What does it take to wear so many
hats with elan?
It is my defiance against my own insignificance in this beautiful Universe.
Create and leave a legacy in every way I can. Be productive for as long as I
can. Make something. Anything.

6. How does a poem begin for you- with an idea, an image or a


form?

I dont know if I am combating an idea or making some room in my mind for


the image to concretize. Perhaps its a mix of both. I start fluffing it in my
mind and open up the picture and the birthing process starts. As for the
form, I really dont have a gift for it. I mean I adore and fall before Frost,
Larkin and likes, but for me, its like wearing the wrong clothes.

7. What is good poetry for you: a thought in transition that helps


the poet and the reader connect the dots about life, or a flash of
realization about anything under the sun that is worth preserving?
The idea of good poetry is too vast for me. It could be anything that tugs at
my heart, takes me by surprise, startles me. As much as clever use of
language is important for me, originality of the theme or idea is also equally
important. That is where the charm lies. My own poems are mostly about
everyday experiences that have been expanded, linked in my verses and
sometimes written about in isolation.

8. How do you think internet and social media contribute towards


the well-being of the poetry?
It has opened up a world of opportunities. I am glad I belong to a generation
that has access to social media and the internet that has helped me connect
with poets and editors from all over the world. Today it is so easy for a poet
to submit to a poetry journal from another part of the world. My book was
published by this wonderful small press from Australia, a country I have
never been to, and an editor I have never met, but the Internet removed all
these constraints. I say we are blessed to be living in these times.

9. What is your advice to budding poets?


Your poem is a living thing. Set it free. Dont become proprietary about it. Set
it free and allow it to be cut and pasted and quoted in wrong contexts, get
translated into Portuguese and come back to you with all the vibrancy and
colour of the many people whose hands it crossed. Dont be too conscious of
purity, infected is more beautiful.
Nalini Priyadarshni is a poet, writer, reviewer and professional editor whose
work has appeared in several international anthologies and literary journals
including eFiction India, The Open Road Review, Mad Swirl, Yellow Chair

Review, Calliope Magazine, Dukool, Learning and Creativity, Duane Poetree,


Poetry Breakfast, The Gambler, Camel Saloon, The Reveter Review, The
Starving Artist, Love and Ensuing Madness, Verbal Art, Locution Magazine,
The Significant Anthology, and many more. She has edited the English poetry
section of Resonating String: Lehar Lehar Iktara, a multilingual, multimedia
anthology by Poets Artists Unplugged. Nalini has co-authored a poetry
collection Lines Across Oceans with Poet Laureate D Russel Micnhimer,
which is available on Amazon. Her solo poetry collection Doppelganger in my
House is scheduled to be released in 2016.

RebeccaReviewbyPhilipElliot
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
With those now legendary first words Daphne du Maurier sets the tone for
the stunning Rebecca. A naive young girl falls hopelessly in love with the
distant, mysterious and older Maxim de Winter, lord of the fictitious estate of
Manderley. She marries him and accompanies him to his mansion home but
everywhere she turns is the phantom of his previous wife, Rebecca.
Rebecca is a masterpiece, but one that even today does not receive the
recognition it deserves. From when it was first published in 1938, Rebecca
was dismissed as a gothic romance and labelled as womens fiction. It was
a remarkably popular book, selling almost three million copies by 1965, and
has never been out of print, but this meant little to du Maurier with it being
called a romance novel, a term she despised. She asserted it was primarily a
study in jealousy, a sinister tale about a woman who marries a
widower . . . . Psychological and rather macabre, as she described in a letter
to her publisher. Drawing heavily from her own life, du Maurier spun a
haunting tale of obsession, inadequacy and duality complete with a vice-like
narrative and written in beautifully elegant prose.
Du Maurier wrote her masterpiece in the searing heat of an Egyptian
summer. She was there because her army officer husband was there and she
hated it. She longed for her home by the sea in Cornwall. She came to loathe
the role of officers wife. Shy and socially reclusive, she couldnt stand all the
small talk and dinner parties and receptions she was expected to host and

attend with every eye upon her. Her feelings of inadequacy and her rejection
of a wifes duty mingled with her jealousy of her husbands ex-wife and this,
combined further with her immense homesickness, planted the seed that
became Rebecca. Upon receiving the completed manuscript, her publishers
editor immediately knew it would sell big and twenty-thousand copies were
published without delay.
The characters of Rebecca are remarkably vivid, most of all the majestic
Manderley, which is as much a character as any other. It lurks in the
background at all times, often the focus of our protagonists romantic young
mind:
Suddenly I saw a clearing in the dark drive ahead, and a patch of sky, and in
a moment the dark trees had thinned, the nameless shrubs had disappeared,
and on either side of us was a wall of colour, blood-red, reaching far above
our heads. We were amongst the rhododendrons. There was something
bewildering, even shocking, about the suddenness of their discovery. The
woods had not prepared me for them. They startled me with their crimson
faces, massed one upon the other in incredible profusion, showing no leaf, no
twig, nothing but the slaughterous red, luscious and fantastic, unlike any
rhododendron plant I had seen before.
I glanced at Maxim. He was smiling. Like them? he said.
I told him Yes, a little breathlessly, uncertain whether I was speaking the
truth or not, for to me a rhododendron was a homely, domestic thing, strictly
conventional, mauve or pink in colour, standing one beside the other in a
neat round bed. And these were monsters, rearing to the sky, massed like a
battalion, too beautiful I thought, too powerful; they were not plants at all.
Our protagonist is as nameless as the shrubs that got left behind when she
reached Manderley. She is painfully shy and sensitive, and a hopeless
romantic. We get to know her intimately through the first-person viewpoint of
the novels graceful, almost hallucinatory prose. The juxtaposition between
her and Rebecca is at the core of the story. Rebecca was everything the timid
young girl wants to be: beautiful, capable, charming, witty, mature,
intelligent, a wonderful host and instantly loved by everyone she came into
contact with. It is this great longing of the protagonist that makes Rebecca
such a universally-loved book. Rebecca is the protagonists alter ego; the
woman she dreams of being. Each of us know what its like to long to be our
best possible self; to feel inferior to another; to feel inadequate; to feel so
bitterly jealous we drive ourselves half-mad, and du Maurier explores this
theme with all the skill of a master storyteller.
Du Maurier also creates one of the most memorable of creepy characters in
the unsettling Mrs Danvers. If first impressions really are the most important,

its clear from when the protagonist first meets her what kind of role this
woman will serve:
Someone advanced from the sea of faces, someone tall and gaunt, dressed
in deep black, whose prominent cheek-bones and great, hollow eyes gave
her a skulls face, parchment-white, set on a skeletons frame. She came
towards me, and I held out my hand, envying her from her dignity and her
composure; but when she took my hand hers was limp and heavy, deathly
cold, and it lay in mine like a lifeless thing . . . . Something, in the expression
of her face, gave me a feeling of unrest, and even when she had stepped
back, and taken her place amongst the rest, I could see that black figure
standing out alone, individual and apart, and for all her silence I knew her
eye to be upon me.
Maxim de Winter, whose name references sterility, barrenness, coldness, is
excellently portrayed as an arrogant and aloof man of mystery, and the
several recurring background characters are all a joy to read as well.
Although set almost entirely in the grounds of Manderley and with the sole
viewpoint of a young girl in obsessive love, the book never feels boring or
slow. It grabbed me from start to finish and I wanted everything to work out
for the timid girl whose head I was spending so much time in. With the story
told in retrospect by an older version of our protagonist looking back to her
youth with both nostalgia and regret, it is a fascinating mind to inhabit. Each
chapter is filled with passages of wisdom and insight told through language
so beautiful you could hang them on your wall, such as this:
I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and
a burden, too, whatever the poets may say. They are not brave, the days
when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without
foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the
first barbed word. To-day, wrapped in the complacent armour of approaching
middle age, the infinitesimal pricks of day by day brush one but lightly and
are soon forgotten, but thenhow a careless word would linger, becoming a
fiery stigma, and how a look, a glance over a shoulder, branded themselves
as things eternal. A denial heralded the thrice crowing of a cock, and an
insincerity was like the kiss of Judas. The adult mind can lie with untroubled
conscience and a gay composure, but in those days even a small deception
scoured the tongue, lashing one against the stake itself.
Rebecca opens with a dream sequence and in a sense it never stops being
one. Dreamlike, haunting and occasionally euphoric, just like the writing
itself, Manderley and our protagonists tale of jealous love is a dream that
continually threatens to spill over into a nightmare.

Writing this in 1938, du Maurier was way ahead of her time in many of the
ideas expressed in Rebecca. Torn between accepting societys (and possibly
her husbands) expectations of an ideal woman and embracing her writing
career and bisexual nature led to her becoming a divided woman who
inwardly rejected and rebelled against everything she publicly tolerated. She
viewed herself as a half-breed, unnatural and wrong, and this dualism of
character and gender-blurring is present in Rebecca as she wrestled with
these demons. There is also a strong feminist element to Rebecca, even if du
Maurier would not have called it that. In the novel, a woman who is
dangerous and awe-inspiring in equal measure rejects outright the
patriarchal society in which she lives and sends it spiraling into chaos from
within, laughing as it burns all around her. I cannot expand on that without
spoiling the novel but I can say that when the last line of Rebecca has been
read, readers will find themselves wondering who the real hero of the story
is, if any.
Rebecca is a masterpiece of a novel; part gothic horror, part romance, part
psychological thriller, it weaves a dreamlike tapestry through the enchanting
hallways and blissful gardens of the fantastical Manderley. A young woman
grows up too fast, the same woman, older and nostalgic, wishes for moments
returned, and a woman of eternal superiority lurks in the shadows, never far
away. While a far cry from the sexist term of womens fiction, Rebecca is
certainly a novel about women and more importantly what it is to be an
ideal woman, and that is the reason this story is as eternal as its
eponymous character.
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .
Philip Elliott is a 23-year-old writer and Editor-in-Chief of Into The Void
Magazine. Some of his fiction and poetry can be found in The Paragon
Journal, Ink In Thirds, Spinebind and Five:2:One. He believes there is no such
thing as characters, only people. He is a passionate feminist and animalloving vegan. Philip lives in Ireland where he writes his first novel full-time.
Stalk him at www.philipelliottwritersblog.wordpress.com.