Sharanya Manivannan‘s first book of poems, Witchcraft, was described by The Straits Times (Singapore) as “sensuous and spiritual, delicate and dangerous and as full as the moon reflected in a knife”. She has received a Lavanya Sankaran Fellowship and an ELLE Fiction Award, and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice. She wrote a column, The Venus Flytrap, between 2008 and 2011 in The New Indian Express, and her fiction, poetry and essays have been widely published internationally, including in Drunken Boat, Wasafiri, Hobart, Killin
- Tell us how your first manuscript happened? Do you still love it the way you did it then?
Witchcraft came out when I was 23 – 6 years ago. I think it was representative of who I was at the time. That said, it is a frustration when journalists or students remain attached to that persona or style. Readers – those who actually follow my work – are more realistic. How futile to think that one does not grow, does not change. More self-defeating still to hope for it!
- Do you consider poetry and personal life are two different things? How?
No. The art is the self and the self is the art. Each is distilled by the other.
- Narrate one funny thing that happened to you as a poet.
Many years ago I was having breakfast at a kedaimamak in Kuala Lumpur, where I lived at the time, when a middle-aged couple came up to my table and said, “You were fantastic last night!” I must have gaped at them with my nasilemak falling out of my mouth, because all I was thinking was, “What on earth did I drink last night?” It turned out they had come to the reading the previous evening. That was a pleasant surprise; one doesn’t expect to be recognised at random, working in a niche field.
- What are your thoughts on literary fests? Do you think poetry, like mainstream literature, is getting enough exposure at these festivals?
I think they can be fun. I also think they can be ridiculous. So much depends on the organisers. I don’t think poetry is underexposed, but a festival appearance is no measure of the work itself, only of the mileage it gets.
- Share with us 5 favourite thoughts on poetry by your peers!
I am not sure who my peers are – do you mean poets in this country, of my age group, at a similar rung of experience? I suppose one thought defines it all: I think there is a real lack of a sense of community among poets today.
- Wanted names of amazing poets, dead or living who continue to inspire you!
Michael Ondaatje, Joy Harjo, Sandra Cisneros, Adrienne Rich, Linda Hogan, Jane Hirshfield, Mary Oliver, Rumi, Traci Brimhall, Natalie Diaz, Eugenio Montejo, e. e. cummings, oh I could go on…
- What is your take on translation? How difficult is a poetry- translator’s job?
Translation is vital, a way in which to both create access as well as ensure the longevity of any work. Such responsibility naturally makes it a difficult task.
- Share your thoughts on rlpoetry.org !
Any platform that keeps poetry alive, that is inclusive while maintaining standards, that creates opportunity – all of which you do – is important.