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TALKING BOOKS

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Rachna Singh, Editor The Wise Owl talks to Santosh bakaya about her book The Fog A Liquid Ditty Floats

Talking Books

With Santosh  Bakaya

Rachna Singh, Editor, The Wise Owl talks to Santosh Bakaya, an award-winning poet, about her latest poetry collection ‘The Fog. A Liquid Ditty floats.’

Thank you, Santosh, for taking time out to talk to us about your recently released poetry collection.

RS: For the benefit of the readers please tell us a little about the genesis of your book and the inspiration behind it.

SB: Well, I have always been intrigued by narrative poetry. The inspiration was the unprecedented popularity of my International Reuel award winning poem Oh Hark! which so fascinated the readers that they wanted sequels to it. It became so popular, that scenes from it were enacted in schools. After that I wrote many long narrative poems, and in this book, two of them figure.  Oh Hark! was humorous, with many funny characters, but these two are sad narratives, which made many cry unabashedly.
 

RS: In your book you have followed the age-old tradition of writing long narrative poems. Our readers would be curious to know (as I am) what made you write in this genre in a world where shorter genres of poetry have become more popular.

SB: Honestly speaking, I have always been a storyteller. I don’t know at what point of time I was labelled a poet. Honestly, even my poems tell stories. They are anecdotal. In fact, Oh Hark! [2014] was also a narrative poem, which intrigued readers a lot because of its rhyme scheme, haphazard nature, surreal plot, weird characters, and as Dr. Koshy says, ‘inspired lunacy’.


My biography of Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi, [Ballad of Bapu] is also written in the rhyme scheme of aabba. In fact, I am editing another long narrative poem of mine which, [hold your breath!] is a murder mystery in verse!
 

It is not that I don’t love the shorter genre, [In fact, I have also written haibun and haiku], it’s only that I love narrative poetry more!

RS: In your Preface ‘A Poet Rambles’ you say that you have used the roseate sonnet form. For the benefit of a reader who is not grounded in literature, please tell us a little about this sonnet form. We would also be curious to know why you thought this sonnet form was best suited to your writing.

SB: The second narrative poem in the book, A Liquid Ditty Floats, has been written in the form of a roseate sonnet- a sonnet form which has gained great popularity.   The Roseate Sonnet Anthology [AuthorsPress, 2020] where 97 poets from all over the world contributed roseate sonnets became very popular. This sonnet form created by Dr. Ampat Koshy in the year 2012 has two quatrains, then a couplet, and the last quatrain is an acrostic for ROSE. An example from A liquid Ditty Floats:


“Ragamuffin! Ragamuffin!” Audacious children cried in glee.
Overwhelmed by some memory, he collapsed under a tree.
Serendipitously, his eyes gleamed, as they fell on a five- year old.
Enchanted he was by the boy’s hair, tinged which was with gold.”

 

Regarding the second part of the question, not just I, but many poets have experimented with it. The beauty of this sonnet form lies in the fact, that despite being a form, there is a certain freedom involved, which I loved. The fifty sonnets just wrote themselves effortlessly. The credit for it goes to the creator of the form, Dr. Ampat Koshy.  

 

RS: Please elaborate on what made you pick up the theme of a captive woman and her lover, on the one hand, and a vagabond on the other. What connects these disparate themes? And why a setting with gothic overtones?
 

SB: I think, the themes are not disparate. The underlying themes in the narratives are societal injustice, and a never-ending quest. Everyone in the world is embroiled in some quagmire, some injustice, and is on a perennial quest. When I picked the theme, I had read stories about how a young couple was hounded and killed by their relatives, and in another news item, I read about a homeless man, who was at the receiving end of many insults [called a hobo, ragamuffin, sociopath, and pickpocket]. Ultimately, to the shock and embarrassment of everyone, his true identity is revealed. Gothic overtones and ghost stories have fascinated me a lot. In fact, the first poem that I wrote in the sixth standard was The Fort, and it brimmed with gothic overtones- hooting owls, screeching bats and ghosts.

In his insightful foreword, Duane Vorhees says: “Gothic poetry forms an important subset of the narrative poem genre. Well-known examples include Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” and Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman,” all from the 19th century. That Romantic period featured many other respected examples of English narrative poetry, such as Lord Byron’s Don Juan and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Robert Browning’s The Ring and Book, and Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King…


Let me mention again, that I had loved reading all these narrative poems, hence this love for narrative poetry seeped into my writing.  

 

RS: I am a little intrigued by the title of the book. The term ‘A Liquid Ditty floats’ has been taken from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Bells of course. Why the term Fog? Do tell us a little about your choice of the titles of your narrative poems.

SB: The fog indeed has mysterious ways. I recall Carl Sandburg in his poem Fog metaphorically comparing the fog to a cat. The fog, like the cat, moves around silently.  But, its silence encapsulates a lot of things. So, in my poetic narrative, as the fog lifts, the readers see many things, making them wonder whether it is real or just figments of imagination. Actually, the fog exemplifies our unconscious, where our suppressions and repressions coincide.

Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic fiction has always enthralled me, hence, the title of the second poetic narrative- A Liquid Ditty Floats, because while writing it, it was as though the narrative was writing itself- flowing freely-floating…

RS: In the foreword Duane Vorhees says about your book ‘that it thus borrows from and reflects many elements of the narrative poem’s history while maintaining a distinctive poetic voice.’ How did you use the traditional elements of a narrative poem and still maintain a distinctive poetic voice?
 

SB:  Let me begin answering this question by quoting Duane Vorhess, “This brings us back to Santosh Bakaya. Her long poem is a worthy addition to the narrative tradition. Composed of heroic couplets, it tells a tale of romance and violence (common themes in narrative poetry) centered on the tragedy of a captive young woman and her lover, it abounds in depictions of nature and human character, especially fear, and it is framed by a supernatural setting.”

Well, every poet has a distinctive style. No matter whose overpowering influence is discerned in a poet’s writing, the distinctive poetic voice of that poet cannot be ignored. I have loved ‘The Highwayman’, by Alfred Noyes, ‘Casabianca’ by Felicia Hamens, ‘The Bronze Horseman’ by Pushkin, and all the narrative poems of Edgar Allen Poe, but being influenced by them doesn’t mean that my own poetic voice has been throttled.


In my writings there is a lot of humour, and an abundance of nature. Moreover, I write a lot about birds. In The Fog, many birds make cameo appearances.  Sparrows, mynas, bobolinks, pelicans, robins, peacocks, red- whiskered bulbuls, red- vented bulbuls and warblers. There is also a profusion of pines and babbling brooks:
 

“Sporting a terrific hairstyle, on a branch sat a bobolink.
It looked sad and tired and not an eye did it blink.
What ails thee, birdie dear, why do you look so sad?
At my question it looked at me as if I were totally mad.”

 

“The avian camaraderie filled them with joy immense.
Chirps, croaks and tweets resounded in the forest dense.
A red- vented bulbul and a warbler happily conversed
A pelican cleared its throat; into vibrant verse immersed.”   

 

RS:  Thank you, Santosh, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to The Wise Owl. Here is wishing you more success in all your literary and creative pursuits.
 

SB:  Thanks a bunch for asking these interesting questions, which I had a great time answering. Thewiseowl Emag is doing a remarkable job in the field of Arts. Kudos to you and the team. May you go from strength to strength.

About Santosh Bakaya
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Santosh Bakaya is a poet of repute. Winner of International Reuel Award for literature for Oh Hark, 2014, The Universal Inspirational Poet Award [Pentasi B Friendship Poetry and Ghana Government, 2016,] Bharat Nirman Award for literary Excellence, 2017, Setu Award, 2018, [Pittsburgh, USA] for ‘stellar contribution to world literature.’ Keshav Malik Award, 2019, for ‘staggeringly prolific and quality conscious oeuvre’. Chankaya Award  [Best Poet of the Year, 2022, Public Relations Council of India,], Eunice Dsouza Award 2023, for ‘rich and diverse contribution to poetry, literature and learning’,[Instituted  by WE Literary Community]. Poet, biographer, novelist, essayist, TEDx speaker, creative writing mentor, Santosh Bakaya, Ph.D, has been acclaimed for her poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu [Vitasta, 2015]. She has participated in many literary festivals, and was one of the delegates to the SAARC Sufi festival in Jaipur, in 2017, her poems have been translated into many languages, and poems and short stories have won many awards, both national and international.

About Rachna Singh
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A doctorate in English literature and a former bureaucrat, Rachna Singh has authored Penny Panache (2016) Myriad Musings (2016) Financial Felicity (2017) & The Bitcoin Saga: A Mixed Montage (2019). She has authored Phoenix in Flames, a book about eight ordinary women from different walks of life who become extraordinary on account of their fortitude & grit. She writes regularly for National Dailies and has also been reviewing books for the The Tribune for more than a decade. She runs a YouTube Channel, Kuch Tum Kaho Kuch Hum Kahein, which brings to the viewers poetry of established poets of Hindi & Urdu. She loves music and is learning to play the piano. Nurturing literature & art is her passion and to make that happen she has founded The Wise Owl, a literary & art magazine that provides a free platform for upcoming poets, writers & artists. 

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