Interview with Dr. Pragya Suman
An interview with Dr. Pragya Suman
Thank you for taking time out from your busy day to chat to THE POET Dr. Suman. Do you remember writing your first words of poetry?
Yes I remember. It was written in the year 2000. I was in the first year of MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine). I wrote a small poem titled Strength. After that I began to write many more poems; it all came in a rush. It was a fantastic feeling to know that I could also write! I was always an avid reader though, and those were the days of print media; digital media and the internet were not prevalent in India at that time, and so I used to buy lots and lots of books. My father’s library was also a great source of inspiration for me too.
Did anyone read your poetry back then?
Yes, my first readers were my MBBS mates and friends. I also wrote lampoons and humorous poems about my friends, which they always seemed to appreciate!
During those first years of writing poetry, did you have any early poetry influences ?
No, I can’t take any particular name as an early influence, although I used to read a lot of books. However, I do still remember reading the first book of Maxim Gorky’s autobiographical trilogy. My father won it as a prize during his school days. It was such an interesting book; Maxim’s childhood took me into a fantasy world, and reading about the trauma he endured, became a great source of inspiration for me. I then bought the remaining two books of this series: In the World and My Universities. I also read a few poems by Shelley and Keats.
“O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be
The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seem’d a vision; I would ne’er have striven”
These lines from Ode to the West Wind were my favourite.
How did you then develop further as a poet?
Initially I wrote poetry for a few years, bit then I didn’t write poetry for several years thereafter; besides being engrossed in my medical profession, most of my leisure time was occupied by all the books I read! But I did continue writing prose, and wrote a few short stories, but all that happened fairly irregularly. It wasn’t until around two years ago that poetry again came to me again in gush. I shared my work on social media and, after getting lots of encouraging comments and feedback, I then participated in a few poetry contests. In 2020 I won the Gideon Poetry Prize for my poem Lost Mother, which was then developed into a book of the same title. Published in October 2020, its foreword was written by American poet David Thane Cornell, who always gave mentorship to me.
Do you remember your first ever published work?
Yes , how could I forget that. An Iraqi author Dr. Anwer Ghani gave me my first chance, and included my prose poem Coffer Box in Arcs prose poetry anthology, an annual anthology by the Prose Poetry Society. Seeing my name in print was a quite hilarious moment for me. He also asked me to write reviews of prose poems of anthology, and included my reviews in the essay section of the anthology. The interesting thing is that have a common profession; we are both doctors.
What other publications are you most proud to have been published in?
Some of my experimental poetry has been published in the Beir Bua Journal (Ireland). This is a warm place for the avant-garde, and the editor Michelle Maloney King is so meticulous. But everything I have had published makes me proud.
➡️ Học ngay cách làm bùa may mắn khi đánh bài, mang theo chúng đến sới bạc chắc chắn ăn cho đủ!
Does your culture and background influence your writing?
As writers and poets, I think one’s cultural background and heritage is always important; we are not merely a jumble of genes, but euthenics takes a huge part in one’s development. I belong to India, which has a long history, and is one of the very few countries that has kept many of its traditions for more than five thousand years. Also, my religion is Hindu, and this of course affects me, my words and the way I live my life and in many different ways; for example our untouchability and caste system, which I believe are deformities of the Hindu religion, and are protested about in my writing.
I saw the black Doms bickering
in the gully
They sat on the last ladder
and lived in thatched
of plastic canopy
“how do they live there”?
“doesn’t snake bite happen to them?”
They fought in the open sun
And drank elixir in the earthen mug
One day my eyes got black
When a Dom touched my father.
The poison of centuries was drilling
deep in my soul.
Though they made the platter
For God –
(Ancient basket makers for sacred religious rituals.
Isn’t it ludicrous ?)
Waist dipped in water
My mother’s offering
Fruits, cucumber, thekuas,
to the lord sun
In the first ray of sundowning.
Sitting on the bank
I used to see with my sleepy eyes –
Red lord showering
the pale basket
This poem is based upon the cultural heritage of India and its caste system. In Hinduism Domars are in the lowest category of Varnashrama. They are called untouchables and for thousands of years they were denied even the basic rights. Irony is that the baskets weaved by them are used in puja rituals of lord Sun, but are denied to worship places. Though nowadays their conditions are a bit uplifted due to social reformation, but they still have a long way to go.
THE BLUE BROOK
I don’t know how
the coffee spilled –
on the rotatory chair
In circle of stories
of indigo planters
dripping sweats in sun
Scorching – Scorching -Scorching
(The ancestral embryo of chrysalism got blue)
The neurons were so much in patterned bruise
that even after long –
I saw the indigo enmeshed in sweat.
The Blue brook –
Laving my mother’s stories
(She used to tell me)
You know –
The burnt stories are immune to pyre.
This poem is based upon the torments endured by Indigo planters of Champaran, in colonial India. At that time, India was a slave country under British rule, which inspired Mahatma Gandhi to start the Satyagraha Movement truth and non-violence). My mother used to tell me stories of those days, my personal aspects are also intermingled in this poem.
What other subjects inspire you to write?
Mostly I like to write about abstract things, of which the material tends to originate from mundane life. I like surrealism, postmodernism and the breakage of genres. My favourite genre is prose -poetry, and I like hybrid art.
The serrated green pond
was perhaps square one –
The mosses upon the fleeting
drops got obscured-limpid
Harangue of black skeletons
Coming to me
Soon some perched old talks –
creeping beneath –
and full moon was gravitating above
A breakage was in the soft fabric
Thousand winds turned
At the quay I was laving my face.
Ganga sprouted in my dark soul
Littered rags, excreta floating
I tried to curve my boat
seek sacred song in me
When whole eyelashes would stuck
I will leap
In a collapsing creek
Ganga is India’s main sacred river, but now it is extremely polluted due to people’s ignorance to sanitation. In Ganga, Hindus seek spirituality. I have seen the many phases of the Ganga, and at different locations – it originates in the Himalayas and spreads throughout India.
How does poetry come to you?
My poetry descends on a whim; sometimes in a hypnagogic state. At first my thoughts come in doodling, which I scribble on paper. In the second draft I decipher those initial scribbles in words. I then redraft it for nesting and trimming.
How difficult is it to be a poet in your country?
Literature is pure passion for me but, like in most other countries, if you are a pure poet here in India it can satiate your artistic hunger, but you do have to work for your possessions and worldly requirements, and I am a doctor by profession .
Thank you once again for your time Pragya, and we look forward to reading a lot more work from you in the future.
Dr. Pragya Suman is a doctor by profession and an award winning author from India. She is posted now as Senior Resident in Shri krishna Medical College, Muzaffarpur. Writing is her passion, which she inherited from her father. Surrealism, prose poetry, and free verse, avant-garde are her favourite genres, but she also writes short stories and reviews, which have been published in many magazines and anthologies. She is Editor in Chief at Arc Magazine (India), and recently she won the Gideon poetry award for her debut book Lost Mother.
FB : @Pragya.Suman.50
Twitter : @DrPragyaSuman 7