Why do you write?
I write to leave a legacy. My insignificance in the universe is strangely offensive to me. The fact that every morning I am a day closer to death and with me, everything I love will die too wounds me. Poetry is my war against mortality.
What books do you read?
I read a lot of fiction-thrillers and drama. Ancient history fascinates me too. Rarely poetry.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by life and the business of living. Pulling it apart at the seams and seeing what’s inside. Like an archaeologist digging for clues. I look underneath the surface of what is seen, to find the places that are not seen but felt.
The creative process itself brings me to a place of being totally present and that process itself is inspiring. Just the act of looking through the viewfinder of poetry slows me down and I am at once connected with what I see. I would say that I see my version of God or the energy of the Universe through the my words. The way the light falls on a leaf, the way your eyes sparkle in the sunlight, the way the shadows dance on the grass. The experience of really noticing the world around me and within me is the greatest inspiration of all.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
I have always loved writing. It probably came alive in me from my love of reading. And Poetry was my chosen form of expression even when I was not conscious of it as an art form. I wrote my first poem at the age of 4, it was on my sister. It was terrible but the poet in me was born. I found writing and poetry to be liberating, it meant a freeness to plunge in, almost like doing a finger painting. It’s a free flow, suspending fact, meaning, sanity, then seeing, in what pours out uncensored, what can be shaped, fashioned, pared down or enlarged to become a poem.
How do you deal with rejection?
I take it as a game. A poem that is rejected by one editor makes another fall in love with it. You win some, lose some.
Who are some writers you admire?
There are poets and writers in the small presses whose writing I admire. None of them Big Time, just average folks writing for the love of it and often their brilliance takes me by surprise. They are the ones that get me thinking above the fray, even as we dredge through it, looking for the gold.
And then there is Jhumpa Lahiri and Khaled Hosseini. I wish I wrote “Unaccustomed Earth” and “The Kite Runner.” And Dick Francis steals my heart with his gentle thrillers. In poetry I love Mark Bibbins (“The Dance of No Hard Feelings”) and Billy Collins (the magical “Aimless Love”).
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
I also model a bit. There is poetry in a picture.
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
I wish I could turn back time and tell myself to write more and submit more. While I have been writing from the age of 4, I have been submitting less than a year. So, for a long time, I had no clue how good or bad I was. I wish I hadn’t lost so much time.
Apart from that I would tell myself and reinforce the fact everything in life is transient. Your failures, your stupidity, your doubts, your confidence, your fears, your defeats, your triumphs, your equations with people, your perceptions about life. Everything that has come to pass shall pass. So lighten up.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Approach revision with the same reverence as that of inspiration with which you wrote the first draft of the poem. Go back to it again and again, love the process of revision and enhancing the nuances, making your poem or story the best that it could be.
What is your writing process?
I write whenever I can, at stoplights, at work, in doctor’s waiting rooms, at 3 a.m. There’s a poem always forming in my head. I am trying to acquire the discipline of writing it down.
Chumki Sharma is a poet, model and banker from Calcutta, India. Published widely across the world, she is a twice Pushcart nominee for 2016. Her debut manuscript “Running Away With The Garden” has just been published from the Blank Rune Press, Australia.