Harnidh Kaur – National Poetry Month
What makes you want to write poetry?
I’m an observant being, and a political one. As a woman, as a minority, and as the citizen of the largest democracy in the world, I often struggle to reconcile my private and public personas. What I feel, and what I see, is through an extremely specific lens. This viewpoint is important because it gives my very being validation and legitimacy. Of all the ways I express this worldview, poetry feels the most organic to me. There’s a certain freedom to poetry, especially as I write it (that is, in blank verse). The ability to give tangible representation to intangible complexities is a poet’s privilege, and I make the best possible use of it.
How do you feel about poetry in the age of social media?
I love social media. Adore it, in fact. It’s the most dynamic form of communication because it relies less on predetermined sentiment, and more on spontaneous ability to express. It’s created so many beautiful avenues for poets around the world to connect, and to empathise. Writing is a very solitary endeavour, and social media creates a community you can fall back upon for inspiration, critique, and support. It’s also making poets out of the unlikeliest people, and threading together a fascinating tapestry of thoughts, which has the potential to change the world. Between the maudlin sentiments and clichés, I see a revolution of expression and beauty brewing, and I’m so glad to be a part of it.
How do you both indulge and learn from the literature community?
I admit that I’m an outlier. I don’t like forums, or chat rooms, or meetings with writers because I struggle with reconciling my work with my social life. I’m trying to remedy that, and Inklette, the magazine I work as a senior poetry editor for, has really helped me with the same. I do help a lot of budding writers with their work, and mentor a few people actively, though. There’s just so much to read and appreciate in the world.
Which writers and other artists have the biggest influence on your writing style?
My mother is a poet herself, and her work has probably been my biggest source of influence because that’s what I’ve seen most closely. I grew up as a reader on Margaret Atwood, Pablo Neruda, and Maya Angelou. Their works have always cast a long, comforting shadow over mine. I am lucky enough to have access to incredible contemporary poetry as an editor, and I take something away from every single piece I read.
You have your first collection, ‘The Inability of Words’ coming out sometime this year. What can you tell us about this book? What can we expect?
It’s always slightly stunning to see your own words on paper, let alone in a book. It’s been an immensely reaffirming, happy journey, writing this book. I took out very painful emotions and built them into an entire world that I can share with everyone. It’s around 65 poems collected and collated over nearly 3 years of writing. They chart various personal and political territories, and each piece was a bit of the growing up I did in those years.\
How long did it take you to write your book?
The poetry itself took nearly 3 years, but the actual manuscript barely took me an hour to create. I just woke up on day, spent an hour creating some semblance of order, and rolled out of my bed in pyjamas to get it printed. My parents, friends, boyfriend…no one actually had any idea of my manuscript pitch till I got an acceptance from my first choice publishers.
What was it like to have your first book of poems published?
It’s honestly still sinking in. I’ve already started work on my second venture, but I’m still grappling with the reality of it all. I’m just 21, and I have the world ahead of me, and this feels like one of the first sure-footed steps I’ve taken recently.
How would you influence your peers to read and write poetry?
I think the best way to introduce people to poetry is to write it. Social media has allowed me to interact with, and sometimes influence, thousands of people. There’s nothing better than someone coming up to me and saying, ‘I started writing because of you.’
What is your next poetry project?
Currently, I’m waiting for my first book, The Inability of Words, to release. Funnily, the publishing house (Writer’s Workshop, Calcutta) published my mother’s first book, too. This is an extremely emotional work for me, so I’m very excited! I’m also working on a series called Eighty Four, about the Sikh Massacre in India, which occurred in the year 1984. Inklette, of course, takes up a good chunk of my time, as does the maintenance of my personal blog (http://foreverawkwardandlearning.wordpress.com/). I’m gearing up towards my first novel, too, and can’t wait to see how that pans out.
Harnidh is a 21-year-old student, currently pursuing her Masters in Public Policy from St. Xavier’s, Mumbai. She graduated in History from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi. She’s a debater, slam poet, and TEDx speaker. She is the senior poetry editor for Inklette magazine. Her first collection is called ‘The Inability of Words’, because, for all that she’s written, she hasn’t found the exact words she’s looking for.