A n award winning poet and translator, Usha Kishore is making waves in the literary circles. The writer, who hails from the city and is currently residing in the Isle of Man, United Kingdom (UK), has released a new collection of poetry – Night Sky Between The Stars . Usha, who says she was “fed on a rich diet of stories from Indian epics and legends as a child”, and that all these experiences re-incarnate in her poetry, chats with MetroPlus in an email interview. Excerpts from the interview.
Where does your love for poetry stem from?
My poetic sensibility was shaped by my mother, Gomathy Subramoney, a Hindi teacher.
My first serious excursion into verse was during my MA in English Literature. I started off by emulating Rabindranath Tagore and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
What was your debut collection of poetry on?
My first collection, On Manannan’s Isle , was published in the U.K. in 2014 and received The Isle of Man Arts Council Award and Culture Vannin Award. The collection presents an immigrant’s perspective of the UK, juxtaposing assimilation and marginalisation.
Night Sky Between the Starsseems to focus on women…
Night Sky Between the Stars was published earlier this year. The collection highlights a shift of paradigm from accepted conventions of myth as it challenges patriarchal texts, renders new voices to female mythical characters and creates an alternative dimension for Indian womanhood, articulating my concerns on a marginalised gender identity. The title is from the Bengali Shyam Sangeet and is a reference to the goddess Kali; it is also eponymous, from a poem bearing the same title. I am most certainly preoccupied by Indian womanhood. A patriarchal Brahman society, which refuses to give way to gender rights, has made me feminist.
How would you describe your style of writing?
My poetry has been called radical. The common threads to my poems are postcolonial elements, feminism, myth, nostalgia and exile. I cannot write as the English do; my narrative is different. I carry my culture with me, my language is hybrid; ‘Indianness’ permeates my work.
My writing, I feel, is an act of resistance against racial and gender discrimination. It is also an act of emancipation as I can speak my mind, without any fear of political correctness.
How is the poetry scene in the United Kingdom? As a teacher, how do you make poetry interesting for your students?
Poetry is increasingly gaining popularity through small presses, competitions, social media and online journals in the UK. It is important to create an interest in poetry at an early age. In order to make poetry accessible for my students at Queen Elizabeth II High School, two strategies I use are: audio-visual stimuli and in-school poetry anthologies. I also write poems for students, some of which have found their way into the British Primary and Indian Middle School syllabus.
What is next on your list?
My next book, is Translating the Divine Woman . This translation of Kalidasa’s Shyamala Dandakam interprets the source text from a contemporary feminist perspective. My co-translator for this project is neurosurgeon and Sanskritist, M. Sambasivan. I am also editing an anthology of British Indian poetry with poet Jaydeep Sarangi and have an ekphrastic project with the British artist Carola Colley. Something close to my heart is ‘Gendered Yearnings’, my ongoing work on the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, who I feel is a kindred spirit depicting mythicised women subjugated by legendary patriarchal worlds.