Shiv K. Kumar, the estimable professor-poet-critic delineates the art of writing poetry

He is 91, but then what’s age to a writer? Sonnets, ballads, free verse and fiction can be written with just imagination and insight, and Shiv K. Kumar has plenty of both. A conversation with the former academic invariably leads you to poetry. “Poetry is an exacting genre — you need to think and ponder over a poem,” he says. His recently published anthology of poems titled, ‘Which of my selves do you wish to speak to?’ has themes ranging from love, loss, passion, sensuality and death. There Kumar forges his way down a rhetorical road, speaking of dilemmas, hopes, fears and on love and lust.

Many believe that melancholy prompts good poetry, Shiv K. Kumar sighs and agrees for most part; after all he wrote his first poem 'An encounter with death’ after the demise of his mother. “The prime force that drives a writer is authentic emotion; it could be a feeling of immense joy or pain. A poem should be able to touch a deep chord in the reader’s heart,” he says. ‘It is no wonder that our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts’, he quotes Shelley.

A clue to his creative process lies in his own poem (‘Birth of a poem’): ‘Ninth month, after a brief mating of image and idea…’ Shiv K. Kumar believes a poem just happens and like John Keats, he too believes that it ought to come like the leaves to the trees, or it better not come at all. This is also why he doesn’t believe in the element of rhyme, ‘it is an element of artifice,’ he says. A poet he says has the capability of seeing and feeling things invisible or unheard and it’s expressed beautifully through free verse.

Sadly, the multifaceted professor has come to the conclusion that there are no takers for poetry. Sitting in his room whose walls are lined with bookshelves, he says, “Poems are a dying species in this age of technology and urbanisation. Fiction and drama is taking precedence and in particular novels that play up sex and violence.” He supports this statement by letting me know that there are hardly any publishers in India or abroad who would be interested in a collection of poems; “The Oxford University Press in England has almost shut their poetry section,” he claims. Shiv K. Kumar disports himself and says that everyone however fancies a poet. At this point, he can’t resist the temptation to quote Shelley, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” The lines ring true and he reaffirms, “Poets guide and make the world a better place to live in.”.