Poet, author of ‘Echoes’, Mallika Bhaumik talks to deputy editor of L&C, Lopa Banerjee about her recently released book, about literature and about Kolkata, her city and inspiration.
Mallika Bhaumik had been a student of literature and has a Master’s degree from the University of Calcutta in English Literature. She is passionate about writing and has contributed in many national and international anthologies and e-magazines . Her writings have been published by Rock Pebbles, Cafe Dissensus, Duanes Poetree and Glomag.
Her poetry book , ‘Echoes‘, published recently by Authorspress, is available in Amazon. I have known Mallika since 2015 through Facebook and our mutual camaraderie has extended from the virtual world to the real world during my yearly trips to Kolkata and it is a pleasure to acknowledge and introduce her to the readers of L&C as a fellow poet/writer. In this heart-to-heart tete-a-tete, we talk about her debut poetry collection ‘Echoes’, about her emotional and cerebral journey as a poet, and about Kolkata, among other things.
Lopa Banerjee: Hello Mallika, it is a pleasure having you at L&C, and congratulations on the launch of your debut poetry book ‘Echoes’! Who/what has been your most abiding source of inspiration while embarking on the journey of poetry? What would you say have been the scattered pearls of your epiphanies in life which led to the creation of the poems of your debut poetry collection ‘Echoes’?
Mallika Bhaumik: Hello Lopa, thanks so much, it is my pleasure too! Writing is a cathartic experience for most writers and I am no exception to that. Expressing myself through words gives me an unadulterated happiness which I do not derive from anything else and yes of course, writing poetry is also a way to come closest to my own self. That was the abiding force you can say, the urge to explore, to express.
Lopa Banerjee: In your preface to your book of poem ‘Echoes’ (Authorspress, 2017), you write: “Echoes is a reflection of my feelings as I walk through the known and unknown alleys of life. Having been intrigued by the continuous ebb and flow of life and the incessant cross currents of human emotions floating in it, I have tried to delve into the intricacies, complexities and entanglement of human relationships that we see all around us.” In the light of these words, would you say that the poetry collection is more of your inner microcosm as a deep and emotionally aware poet, or more of your inner sojourn as a spiritually conscious poet?
Mallika Bhaumik: Yes, I am an emotional person, so most of my poems have stemmed from the way I would naturally and emotionally respond to a thing /situation /person /feeling. Though I must mention in this context, that not all my poems are necessarily my life experiences, rather I have often written from a sense of empathy.
Lopa Banerjee: I would also like to ask about the significance of the title ‘Echoes’. What was the most striking feature of the title to you when you zeroed down on it? Is it a celebration of the quintessential celebrations of love, life or the existential agony and pathos also define the poems of the collection?
Mallika Bhaumik: In this book I have tried to unwrap the myriad life experiences accumulated over the years, those that have left an indelible mark in my mind, thus the name ‘Echoes’ was a natural outcome.
The theme of loss and erosion of feelings is a recurrent theme in most of my poems -the loss of a person, of a fragrance, of colours, of a memory, and of love too.
Lopa Banerjee: I hereby quote some lines from your poem ‘Sips of Sorrow’ in the collection. “We make our sorrows sink
like sunken tea leaves …” The metaphor of the sunken tea leaves is very unusual and striking here. Can you share what kind of emotions compelled you to craft these lines in this poem?
Mallika Bhaumik: Thank you for finding the metaphor unusual and striking.
The poem was written during a time when we were facing the trauma of a sudden loss in the family. Every morning while making tea, a gloom used to spread over me thinking of the long day that lay ahead. It was during this time that this poem was composed; hence the choice of the metaphor.
Lopa Banerjee: Again, in the poem ‘Interpretation’, you compare words falling to the “withered leaves of autumn” with a striking emotional urgency. What would you say is your primary influence when you craft lines like these, the romantic English poetry penned by the Classic British poets, or the more free-flowing, volatile post-modern poets?
Mallika Bhaumik: There is an amalgamation of poetic influences in me which I feel is natural, some are conscious, some are subtle and subdued, yet there. Like many of our times, I too, have felt the strong influence of post-modern poets while writing and obviously I love writing in free-flowing verse for the same reason. At the same time I need to say this, that I have spent my growing years reading Wordsworth, Keats, Frost and love reading them till date.
Lopa Banerjee: What was the publishing process like? Did it take a while, or was it easy to publish your debut collection in the Indian marketplace where fiction rules the roost and poetry is generally consigned to the cozy weekend café meets and open mic sessions?
Mallika Bhaumik: I can’t agree more with you that prose rules the roost and poetry writing is best confined to open mic sessions in cozy cafeterias during weekends. Still I have to say that slowly and gradually the scenario is changing through the effort of some enthusiastic young poets and poetry groups (in my city and elsewhere too) and through social media as well.
Lopa Banerjee: You launched your book ‘Echoes’ in the comfort zone of your own city, Kolkata, amid a familiar poetry circle and guests of honor belonging to the local media. We would like to know a few words about your experience of the book launch and what was your takeaway from the event. Also, Kolkata being a cultural epicenter, has housed innumerable poets in its cozy nooks and corners since long now. What do you feel about the city and how has it been a muse to you in your poetic journey?
Mallika Bhaumik: My premier book launch was planned in my city since it can offer me the warmth of a home with my family and friends around. Kolkata is obviously a place for such events since the city encourages all art forms be it poetry, painting, music or movies. No wonder it is considered to be the cultural capital of the country. I am deeply in love with my city.
In fact, just as Istanbul is not merely a place in Pamuk’s book, ‘Istanbul ~ Memories and the City‘, it has a soul too, similarly Kolkata is not merely a place to me, it is more of an emotional connect. To me it has a soul and in my solitary hours it too speaks to me in hushed tone. So in the poem ‘Kolkata’ I have written,
‘it is not merely a place in Google earth
it is more of a swell in my heart’
I have written more poems on my city, one was published recently in Cafe Dissensus – “The City, My Muse’.
Lopa Banerjee: Any poet/author writing either in English or in your vernacular Bengali who has fortified you, enriched you as a poet? How would you want to remember the poet/author through your own writing?
Mallika Bhaumik: Being born and brought up in a middle class educated family in Kolkata the influence of Tagore was inevitable. I have noticed that Tagore’s writes have come closest to my heart and I have been able to lean on his poems and songs at different stages of my life. In my book I have written a prose poem ‘Revolution’ where I have talked about two women who, in spite of their different social status, turn out to be a strong support for each other. While writing this piece I have drawn parallel to Kabiguru ‘s novel ‘Stree r Potro’ (The Wife’s Letter) where Mrinal leaves her home in angst and agony for failing to save Bindu, a dependent of the house. Her decision to leave her husband and in-laws and to remain as a liberated soul under the unending sky was an absolutely revolutionary idea during that social milieu and it fueled my imagination for this write.
Lopa Banerjee: What is your take on the elite literature festivals in India which are mostly red-carpet events for renowned authors and celebrities, vis-à-vis poetry and literature meets in your own city hosted by small poetry circles/groups? Also, do you think the advent of the social media has changed/revolutionized the way we dissent through the medium of poetry? If yes, why?
Mallika Bhaumik: The well-known lit fests, like the Jaipur Lit fest is a grand event attended by many literary stalwarts of the world as well as Indian language authors and offers a great platform for sharing of ideas The poetry groups in my city are doing a commendable job by organizing open mic, chapbook contests and trying to spread their love for poetry ,bringing in young poets into the fold and also creating the foundation for a bigger exposure.
Lopa Banerjee: What are you working on next, another poetry collection, or a book of some other genre? Any good literary journal/e-zine where you have been featured and which you would want to recommend to our readers?
Mallika Bhaumik: I am writing poems as they keep coming to me. I wish to write stories and travelogues as well. But I ‘m afraid I am not a very methodical and planned person that way, so nothing is planned and I would go according to the dictates of my heart.
Recently (in October 2017) two of my poems got published in Cafe Dissensus and my book review too . I would surely recommend CD to all readers.
Lopa Banerjee: Finally, if you get to pass along only one piece of advice to aspiring poets, what would it be?
Mallika Bhaumik: If I have to give one advice then I would say that, they should be serious and honest about their craft yet not try too hard, rather allow the seamless merging of words, thoughts and emotions to take place.
Lopa Banerjee: Thank you, Mallika, for your wonderful words, and wish you all the very best for your literary journey.
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