Poet Shikha Malaviya says that poetry has always been an essential aspect of her existence

Shikha Malaviya has been writing poetry ever since she learnt how to spell, “Poetry gives me instant gratification. You can read a poem, put it down and be satisfied. My grandfather was a Hindi poet and I’ve always been drawn to poetry. I read The Prophet when I was eight or nine years old and was blown away.

Poetry captures every aspect of human life and emotion in a beautiful form. It is an act of creation that condenses experiences, moods and messages into something small and powerful,” she says.

Her debut anthology of poems Geography of Tongues is a haunting treatise to roots, belonging and self. Related in fluid, amorphous verse it certainly leaves the reader hungering for more. “Its all about me telling a story where I delve into identity and family and discover what it means to me. The tongue here refers to both the metaphorical and literal one,” she adds.

The questions she seeks through her poetry is possibly reflective of her own origins, “I was born in England, brought up in the US, did some part of my schooling in India,” she says. “I had a bit of a kichidi upbringing and was exposed to different ways of life. My parents however inculcated love for the motherland and taught me to embrace my culture. I think it helped me understand things better. This is my first book even though I’ve written poetry for over 20 years. I had small children and put my career on hold when they were young. But now I am pursuing it full time.”

And the poetry she loves has certainly permeated into every aspect of life. She is the Founder of The Great Indian Poetry Project, an initiative to document, preserve and promote the legacy of Indian poetry, “It is a very sad fact that too many of our Indian poets have died in obscurity, their work lost to humanity. I want to create an archive of their work,” she says. She is also involved in community poetry initiatives and events, gives talks on poetry and is the founder of Monsoon Magazine—the first online South Asian literary magazine.

“Poetry gets a bad rap because of the poetry taught in school which is still old-school. We need to dispel myth that poetry is unattainable and unreachable. Poetry is there everywhere,” she says saying that performance poetry was a great way to sustain an interest in the art. “I love performance poetry. It’s a wonderful way to deal with a social issue and engage an audience. We have a strong oral tradition—the epics were related orally. We have unfortunately subdued that quality and we need to bring it back.”

On future plans, “Well I also write fiction and have a novel on its way. I am also working on my second book of poetry where I contrast the women of mythology with Indian women of today. I am trying to carry forward that image and turn it on its head. Let’s see where it will take me,” she smiles.