In the times of fiction, or to be specific pop-fiction, composing verses is a risk, but not for those who write for greater achievements, rather than for the sake of turning businesses.
To quote Greg Bear, “Once, poets were magicians. Poets were strong, stronger than warriors or kings — stronger than old hapless gods. And they will be strong once again.” Here is the time, when poets are reclaiming their stance, which was long lost, or faded, at least. We have now poets of strength, rebellion, evolution and much more. They are beyond the confines of any such thing, which tries to take the freedom of their thoughtfulness away.
One such poet is Dilip Mohapatra, a navy veteran, who began writing almost four decades ago. It is impossible to sail on two boats, altogether, however, Mohapatra made it possible and that too masterly. His creative urge (secretly) went hand-in-hand with the urge to serve his nation.
Till date, he has published six books (all by Authorspress), out of which five are collections of poems (‘A Pinch of Sun’, ‘Different Shades’ , ‘Another Look’, ‘Flow Infinite’ and ‘Taming the Tides’) and one is based on his thoughts (‘P2P’ nee Points to Ponder) on various life issues like Relationship, Society, Spirituality, Humanity, etc.
Varsha Singh: Sir, first of all, a warm welcome to you and many thanks for agreeing to be with us.
Dilip Mohapatra: The pleasure is totally mine. Thanks for giving the opportunity to connect with the readers of Reviews India.
VS: So, let us begin from the beginning. What is poetry for you?
DM: Wordsworth, the poet of poets says
‘Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility,’
I couldn’t have agreed with him more.
Poetry for me is more of a purifier and sanctifier. Every time I read, write or discuss poetry I experience a kind of distillation process within me and I come out cleansed, fresh, rejuvenated and more humbled.
Also poetry for me is a series of conformations and contradictions. If I may venture to describe it acronymically:
Private yet Public
Oblique yet Outspoken
Exacting yet Exuberant
Transparent yet Turbid
Reflective yet Riveting
Yin yet Yang
VS: That’s beautiful. Moving further, it’s a well-known fact that Poetry cannot touch your core unless you don’t have an urge for it; what was the urge that made you write verses?
DM: Yes, the prime mover of poetry is passion that is deeply embedded within. But it needs a trigger that starts the process. Then it’s a chain reaction starting from perception to penning through perspectives, picturing and phrasing.
Inspiration could be from own experience, an individual, nature, an event or an incident, a news item, a social or human issue, a song, an observation from everyday life or even a simple word.
VS: So, do you believe that poetry can turn the ways of humanity?
DM: Being central to human culture, poetry perhaps is the most potent and transformative of all creative arts. I had mentioned earlier how poetry influences me. In fact poetry as a medium can in a subtle yet powerful way, re-engage the reader more meaningfully with a world that is taken too much for granted. Poetry illuminates, poetry equalises, poetry unites, poetry challenges, poetry encourages, poetry provokes, poetry celebrates, poetry heals and poetry reveals. Because of its penetrative properties, it touches the right chord embedded deep in human minds and has tremendous impact on human emotions. The rhythms, the metaphors, the images and the language leave a lasting effect in the minds of the readers and promote a sense of oneness that is at the core of humanity.
VS: What has inspired and evolved you as a poet and how?
DM: My poetic journey started from my junior school days when I contributed to the school magazines just to see my name in print and feel distinguished. During the college days, though not a conventional student of literature, I somehow got invited to a writers’ club founded by some friends of English department. And while hobnobbing with the budding litterateurs some shine rubbed on me too. Then my Physics professor Jayanta Mahapatra who was an accomplished poet of repute , mentored us to write and contribute to then leading literary magazines in India like Caravan, Mirror and The Illustrated Weekly of India. My first ever poem to be published in such magazines was one titled Target Practice that was selected by Gauri Deshpande the poetry editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India. That was when I thought that perhaps I can really write something worthwhile. This was during the early seventies.
Soon I joined the Indian Navy and priorities changed. Pursuance of a competitive professional life sidelined my poetic pursuits except for occasional contributions to some in-house naval publications. You can say that my poetic dreams went into a prolonged hibernation till about 2012, for almost forty years.
Then one fine day after my retirement from professional life, I wrote a poem titled The Cellophane Man and sent it to my good old college friend Bibhu Padhi, who is a well-known poet with great credentials as an English professor and author. He liked the poem immensely and decided to stoke the latent embers in me which perhaps had still some sparks left in them and almost coerced me to come out of my slumber.
And then the flood gate opened and during the last four years I wrote almost four hundred poems, most of which got wide acceptance in the literary world globally and as of today I have five poetry collections under my belt thanks to Sudarshan Kcherry of Authorspress who had been very supportive to make my books see the light of the day.
VS: Your engagement with Navy kept your poetic interest under cover. How did you manage to make a comeback?
DM: The last part of my response to the previous question answers this to some extent. As regards to my comeback I would like to highlight the encouragement that I received from poetry editors of literary journals like Muse India, New English Review, BlazeVox, Indian Review, Chiaroscuro, World Poetry Year Books, Kavya Bharati, etc. and quite a few Anthologies published by various groups from time to time. The social media poetry groups also gave me ample opportunities to read, discuss and share poems and such intellectual osmosis also has a role to play. Then of course my admittance to various poetry festivals across the country gave me some visibility and helped in some manner.
VS: You mentioned about your poem ‘The Cellophane Man’. It somehow reminds us of Eliot’s famous poem ‘The Hollow Men’. What would you like to say about it?
DM: The titular resemblance is purely coincidental. Eliot’s poem in five parts, rich in paradoxes and imagery portrays the spiritual deprivation, faith bankruptcy and hollowness in humanity residing in a stagnant and delusory dead land and who survive only for the sake of existence. My poem is rather less complex and depicts the travails and tribulations of an once-upon-a-time man of substance whose time is up and who is just another face in the crowd and people see through him and perhaps take him for granted because he is now denuded of his power, his authority that he enjoyed in his good old days and all the attention and adulation that he was privy to earlier, elude him for ever.
VS: Do you find any relationship or difference between your speaking voice and your written voice?
DM: Mostly both the voices are congruent as regards to my feelings, my philosophy and my world view. But the written voice is perhaps more refined, more embellished and more lyrical.
VS: Are the poems organized completely in your head before you begin it or does it unfold, surprising you as you go along?
DM: It’s an interesting interplay of the right brain with the left brain. The rational, logical and algorithmic one; with the creative, free flowing and lateral thinking one.
In my case I have been fortunate to deal with both the brains in a balanced way. When thoughts get generated due to some trigger, they flow in multiple directions, exploring all dimensions in a divergent manner, invoking emotions. And then the thematic focus emerges and reins the thoughts to confine them in a flowing flux and binds them within the confines of the discipline of poetry, then images emerge, metaphors materialise, picture forms and finally words flow and crystallise. The phrasing process is more convergent which captures all colours and contours within a framework and the poem is born. Conception and gestation period are prolonged and actual delivery is rather brief and incidental. Sometimes during review, some un-captured thoughts are discovered as gaps and the same are suitably bridged to make the final version wholesome.
VS: What do you think, can a poet learn style or it is something which comes naturally?
DM: Knowledge of different styles is important, but not mandatory. There are many gifted poets who wrote whatever came to them naturally and created their own style for others to follow. Sometimes strict compliance to lay down styles restricts the freedom. But again, a poet must understand what makes poetry different from prose or other forms of writing. The basic ingredients like aesthetics, rhythm (not necessarily rhyme), music, lyricism, alliterations, metaphors and images must not be forgotten.
VS: How do you see poetry in these times of technology? How has the multiplicities of electronic media helped or distorted the very identity of poetry in your views?
DM: This is an interesting question. Technology is double edged. On the one hand social media like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp groups and many online self-publishing Poetry sites open up tremendous opportunities to any one and every one to post their poems and reach out to the readers and friends. Almost anyone can realise his/her dreams to see their creations in concrete shape in the digital space. But on the other hand you may find the space over crowded with sub-standard poems and the few genuine works get subdued and swamped. Too much chaff, less of grains.
VS: According to you, what should a poem do to the reader?
DM: As I hinted earlier, from the poet’s perspective the flow is from the inspiration that triggers the thought, the thought that triggers emotions, the emotions that trigger the expression and finally the expression gets encapsulated in the poetic framework.
When the poem is read by the reader, the process goes in reverse. The words stimulate emotions and the emotions stimulate thoughts. The thoughts lead to actions or change in behaviour. The emotions could be soothing, or could be fiery but if the right chords get stimulated the effect could be intoxicating and evolutionary. The reader could get motivated, or could change his paradigm, or could even become the evangelist to spread the message around. The poet however has no end in mind. He just allows his poetry to flow with the natural rhythm and wishes to reach out and connect with the readers.
VS: What does being a poet mean to you?
DM: Sometimes I wonder whether poetry makes a poet or it’s the other way around. I never thought deeply if I am really a poet just because I write poems. But one thing for sure that I believe in, is that a poet has a responsibility to his readers. A responsibility that should restrain him from abusing his power to promote negativity, a responsibility towards the community, to the society and to the humanity to promote only goodness , greatness and civility.
VS: Sir, thanks again for sparing your precious time and quenching the thirst of our curiosities. It was indeed a pleasure to have you with us.
DM: I also enjoyed the questions which made me reflect, made me think and allowed me to express my feelings and views. Thanks for this opportunity. Very Best.
To know more about the poet, visit his website: http://dilipmohapatra.com/
Varsha Singh (Managing Editor, Reviews) is an Independent Researcher, Poet, Translator, Critic and Editor from Jharkhand. She earned her Ph. D. in English Literature from Vinoba Bhave University for her thesis entitled “The Midnight’s Grandchildren: Articulating the Postmodern Spirit in English Fiction of India”, which was followed after her M.Phil. from Indian School of Mines (now IIT – Dhanbad), with a dissertation titled “Translation of Flight of Phoenix: Some Linguistic and Cultural Issues.” She has authored – Deluges: A Collection of Poems (2014), Unbangled and other Poems (2015) and Bhor – A Collection of Hindi Poems (2016). She also edits for numerous Journals of repute. Her upcoming books The Midnight’s Grandchildren and Parbati the Traitor and Other Poems are all set to hit the stores by the month of June, 2017.