For better or verse

Sonnet Mondal on a life that revolves around poetry, travel and finding inspiration in every day life

Published - December 12, 2017 01:56 pm IST

 Poetry from the soul Sonnet Mondal

Poetry from the soul Sonnet Mondal

Sonnet Mondal remembers burning that quintessential midnight oil before most of his exams. But it wasn’t because he was studying hard.

“I wrote 16 poems the night before my geology exam,” recalls the Kolkata-based poet, adding wryly, “The exam didn’t go very well, of course. The poems still exist, though…”

Though he holds a degree in Engineering, he has never worked as an engineer, choosing instead to spend a life revolving around poetry, both its writing and editing. And he will have it no other way. As a child he found it boring, he remembers, but “one day it simply pulled me into itself,” says the author of seven books of poetry, who was here in the city as part of the Poetry with Prakriti festival.

His very first poem was penned in his mid teens,“it was called My Western Friend ,” he says. The books came soon after, with Mondal releasing his first book A Poetic Peep Into The Post Modern World in 2007.

The next decade was a dizzying number of accolades and achievements: multiple poems, work appearing in a plethora of international literary publications, travelling with poetry to innumerable poetry festivals, a poet laureate bestowed on him by Bombadil Publishing, Sweden…

Additionally, he edits the Indian section of the Lyrikline Poetry Archive, Berlin and serves as the Editor-in-Chief of The Enchanting Verses Literary Review . “Poetry itself is the inspiration for me to do more and more,” says Mondal, who counts Tagore, Yeats, Owen, Manoj Shetty and K Satchidanandan among his favourite poets.

Another inspiration? His maternal grandfather. He has fond memories of holidays spent at his maternal grandparents home in Jahidpur. “My grandfather is a very good storyteller, one of the best I’ve ever listened to. He is an inspiration indeed,” he smiles.

The call of the verse

There is something slightly other-wordly about Mondal, an old soul nestling in the body of a 29-year-old. “People often say that I am very young to be a poet but poetry is ageless, don’t you think?” he says, pointing out that Keats and Wilfred Owen wrote fantastic poetry in their 20s.

Mondal’s own poetry is, as he puts it, “an examination and re-examination of the world through metaphor.”

Take for instance his poem titled To Syrian Children , that extols them not to, “ let yourselves counted — history will be framed without you.” While another titled Seduced in the Sunderbans , describes the mangroves as, “a thick line stretches with flags of greenery, bold enough/ to sustain salty tides, as muddy lands, bronze in sunrays/ swathe itself with the poignant carpet of the Ganges.”

A restless wanderer, he confesses that his frequent travel, helps shape his verse. “Travel is a very important part of my life. I don’t think I would have written so much, if I didn’t travel. The Earth is my home and its different countries are different rooms that I need to explore,” he says, a trifle sagely listing out some of the places he has visited — Macedonia; Cork, Ireland; Istanbul, Turkey; Granada, Nicaragua; Sri Lanka, Slovakia. “It is not that my poetry is very local but I find that places do influence me. When I am in Istanbul, I’m writing about Syria, sitting in Ireland, I’m writing about Kinsale,” he says.

And while each country brings its own special flavour into poetry, he does find echoes of his own thoughts in poets all over the world. “A poet is a researcher: he researches on human feelings, emotions and ecstasy,” says Mondal, who is all poised to be a writer-in-residence at Sierra Nevada College’s MFA in creative writing program in summer 2018.

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