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Author Highlight: Dr. Priya Dolma Tamang Discusses her New Book ‘Ivory Gleam’ and Stories from her Life

We are back with another author interview. Today, with us, we have Priya Tamang – the author of ‘Ivory Gleam’. Here, she talks about her journey as a writer from a young age and her latest collection Ivory Gleam. She also offers some great insights and tips into writing and editing poetry.

What attracted to you poetry? As it's a trend among new young writers to write more about love and college stories?  What makes you take a different path? 

Poetry chose me, not the other way round. Ironically, this was more of a fortunate happenstance than a coordinated event. As I ventured into online sharing of my ramblings, I never had the audacity to term them "poetry". I wrote, initially, as a release of pent-up emotional mismatches; later, to romanticize ideas that caught my attention. What widely got circulated as "poems" were my half-baked attempts at linguistic experimentation.

You must have read many poets and their poetry - so does their work influence your poetry?

It would be almost blasphemous to admit that I am not much of a reader, especially not in this genre. Nevertheless, my favorite poet is the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature - Sir Rabindranath Tagore. Great poets like him are highly under-read. Sylvia Plath and her movement of confessional poetry is inspiring. But, I have not consciously tried to emulate any poet's work. My focus is on originality, no matter how ostentatious that sounds.

Are you planning to write any non-poetry book, like novel, in near future?

My literary ambitions are not clearly chalked out. I do have a second poetry book in the pipeline. Storytelling is a different ballgame altogether. For good fiction, a lot of forethought comes into play. I am not sure if I am quite there yet.

Do you think you can lead the Modern Indian Poetry arena?

I do not think I am leading anywhere significant for people to blindly follow me. I'd prefer we walk hand in hand, verse in verse, sharing the joys of creating art, the sorrows of creative sentiment and the celebration of life.

How do you think you’ve evolved as a poet over the years?

My poetic evolution has been very rewarding. There is a clear shift in the skill, and more to do with perception than practice. A gain in experience gave me better topics to ruminate on. Objectively, the poems have gotten more verbally dense, powerfully precise and smarter. I used to write only about one person. Now I write about things, even inanimate. The focus seems to have switched from dealing with emotions to glorifying beauty. The idea of romanticism.

How does editing work in poetry? How do you do that?

Poetry is the most dynamic and liberal branch of literature. It allows enough artistic license for distortion, alteration and rewording of custom norms. It would be highly unfair to have a second person edit your poetry, no matter their expertise. That would be like asking someone else to borrow your feelings for a while and weep or laugh on proxy.

Poetry has diversified in its meaning and content, language and construct, over its trailblazing history. Traditional poetry is technical, almost mathematical. It strictly adheres to a specific structure of rhythm, and meter, and sometimes, a rhyme scheme. This artistry requires perseverance and patience. Some poetic forms include sonnets, villanelles, limericks, haikus, tankas, odes, and ghazals.

Traditional poetry used more flowery eloquence, while conversational poetry is what we read now. Contemporary poetry does not have a format or rules. In recent times, free verse is the most common type of poetry written.

Free verse is often, quote-like, or broken down into stanzas, or a sentence is enjambed into one word per line. Capitalization and punctuation are played with. Illustrations are used to complement the words, and word artists also collaborate with other visual artists (painters, photographers, graphic designers) to animate their work with a multi-media effect.

Personally, I am a confused mix of both. I attempt to toy with literary devices like alliteration, internal or end rhymes, repetition, metaphor, imagery, simile, symbolism, irony or satire, to impact the reader with more engagement and analysis.

Most of what I write is a one-attempt wonder. The poem designs itself in my head before I document it. There is not much editing involved.

Some of your poems strike about sadness, broken hearts, and solitude. What role does it play in your writing?

When I am extremely happy, I seem to outgrow poetry. Happiness does not allow much time for contemplated wisdom and yearning. In my case, a happy me is too happy to be a poet. It is in those sad, broken and solitary times that emotions are evocative enough to fuel a written word. Likewise, I have not dabbled in humour and comedy as themes for my work. Romantic poems and those on empowerment are also my forte.

Do you think that poetry has a purpose and meaning? How do you see it with reference to your own work?

What is the purpose served by popular fiction based on regular college romance? Entertainment and an easy read? Good poetry also tells a story, and if done masterfully, guides us into reflecting inwards. We are all storytellers in personal styles.

Poetry has been therapeutic for me. I unload a substantial amount of angst onto it. I have always written for myself and not for the purpose of general approval. If you like my work, then please feel free to relish it. Otherwise, I will not be pushing it down your throat, calling it a life-changing read.

What’s the best experience you’ve gained through your poetry writing?

I have had this wonderful opportunity to connect with a very vast audience. The love that I receive is heartening. My poetry has always been about connections, heart to heart, mind to mind, and soul to soul. These connections humble me and make my work worthwhile.

Is it correct to say that you are a born poet, as your work is getting quite a buzz online?

I will not be able to comment on that. I am just grateful for the kindness with which my work has been received. This feels like luck. But mostly, the graciousness of those who have accepted my obscure way of writing. I probably confuse my readers. And this secretly makes me happy for stimulating their intellect.

As a medical professional, how do you feel being about a poet? Or, how do you balance these aspects of your life?

There are a lot of other things that I plan to do which are not even remotely related to poetry or medicine. Of course, I do not have a literature background and have not read many books to improve or assess my own work in that category. I have consciously selected only the fields that I am truly passionate about. This choice is not based on commercial viability or a benchmark to achieve. It is easy to balance between heart and mind, when your mind knows what your heart wants.

Would you like to share some of your writing tips with aspiring batch?

Please do not trade your originality for what sells or for what is relatable. There is no point in making a mockery of your work by dumbing yourself down to please others. It will take time to build a dedicated audience. But you will get there with passion and passion alone. And when you finally find readers who manage to see a part of your soul in your work, they will be the ones vibrating at same energetic and intellectual levels as you. Trust me, these people stick around forever.

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