The Making Of ‘Duets’ – Our Book Of Collaborative Poems


As the publication date for Duets draws close I thought of sharing how James and I wrote all the poems that are part of the collection.

Very often people say that writing poetry is a solitary art. For some it may be true but at the same time collaborative poetry also has a long history and now, especially in the days of the Internet, it has become easier to collaborate over messages, text, emails, or even working within the same document while living miles apart, sometimes the collaborators do not even know or meet each other before sharing the space in a book. The collaboration of visual art and poetry is also very exciting thing that we get to see now more often than before.

There are so many mediums to collaborate and so many ways to write the poems too. Renga in Japan and Renku in China are good examples of collaborative poetry forms. French Renaissance poetry was often a joint project where poets collaborated with their contemporaries.

The poems in Duet originated in the conversations between James and I on Facebook Messenger. The process was simple. We decide on posting the poems alternately. The one whose turn it was to post came up with a first line, and then we added lines alternately until one of us yelled stop. Then we each took the text and edited it into a form that we thought worked.  We then had two versions of the piece and decided which one we should post. Sometimes we didn’t agree and kept both the versions but it was rare. These poems can be termed impromptu as they were written and posted at the same time. Usually it took us an hour or three approximately to finish one poem and post.

When we began neither of us had thought it would come this far. We did it for fun and posted for friends to read and within a short span we had some twenty poems and then the number kept growing. It was then we decided to save them in a document file. We could see an opportunity of a book. James is a seasoned writer so this whole exercise was very exciting for me and a great learning process too. I think it was difficult than the usual process of collaboration where you have time to think and create once the other person has written his/her lines. Here we had no time. Once we sat down in front of the open chat window and the first line was posted it had to take shape of a poem. There was no escape or postponing. This kind of built a pressure especially on me as I am yet a student learning the craft but I must say it kicked me out of my comfort zone ..lol.. It also taught me discipline though James will laugh and say I still need a lot of it.. 😀

It is exciting and at the same time liberating to watch a new voice emerge as a piece develops. We were open to the poem leading us rather than one of us leading it and yet it was an intimate experience. Words are portals and we saw this during our writing of these poems. Suddenly a line would change the entire thought process and lead you to somewhere totally different. It was an exercise to be ready for a quick response to the wordplay that is not yours, a thought completely different from yours, to recognize another voice and be comfortable with its uniqueness and be ready to get startled by constant surprises. Sometimes not being in control gives you more strength to break mental barriers and create something beautiful and totally unexpected. The feeling is overwhelming. Sometimes frustrating too, which of course is human. We are conditioned to follow our thought process and this sort of intense exercise messes with the brain’s normal conditioned way of working. I can tell you that many times I would envisage a poem leading in a certain way and suddenly a line from James would change the coarse leaving me lost for words and ideas but he would patiently wait till I gathered my thoughts again and wrote my part. Many times I would try to steer it in a certain direction but then eventually the poem would take its own course. That is the beauty of words. They lead the way.

It is amazing how an impromptu collaborative work grows organically into a form challenging the roles like gender, age, personality, culture and other differences which usually mark your individual work.  Here all bets were off. We trusted each other and took the direction we were steered into without being judgmental. What we loved most about our work is how this exercise blurred individual lines. While reading the final poem one could really not point out who wrote which line and that was something beautiful.

The joy to create something together is irreplaceable. Time was a big challenge as both of us are writers with a tremendous amount of workload but we somehow managed to hold on to it and assigned a time to get online just to write a new piece and enjoyed our collaborative time together.  I think my creativity has grown with this collaboration.

The name ‘Duets’ is the brainchild of our mutual friend Sabine who was one of the regular readers of the poems as they were shared on Facebook. She began calling them Duets and the name stuck. Thank you Sabine for the love.

 

I asked James to give his side of the story and this is what he sent me :

 

I quote

I’m not totally sure how the collaborative poems between Tikuli and I came about. I think perhaps one of us said—and I’ll give the credit to Tikuli—“let’s write a poem together”, and so we did. Then we wrote another and another and another, and suddenly there were enough poems for our book ‘Duets’, even after leaving a few of the less good poems out of the mix.

 

For some time before we started collaborating, I had been using whatever expertise I have as an editor in trying to help Tikuli with her writing—mostly working on fiction, a long-form narrative, an as yet incomplete novel, and short stories.I think Tikuli came to realise that the best way to learn is often by example, and so she suggested that perhaps we could write something together. As I didn’t have the time to commit to writing anything of length, we began writing poems whenever we could find a bit of time to work together.

 

Writing is, by it’s very nature, a solitary occupation, so collaborating on the writing of poetry or anything else is not a natural process, but is instead a challenge, something to be mastered for no other reason than the determination to master it. In the finished work two minds have to come together as one. The writing must seem as fluid and natural as if it had been written by one person. This means compromise from both writers, without compromise nothing would ever be completed. Compromise was difficult when we both had fixed ideas in mind.

 

How can I describe the process of writing together? Think of it as being like a tug-of-war between two mules, for we both have a capacity for stubbornness. There’s a knot in the centre of a rope and a marker on the ground dividing the territories of the mules, then the mules pull in different directions until that knot passes into the territory of one mule or the other. That rope, of course, is woven from the alternate lines we wrote, the territories are the directions that we each thought the poems should turn towards. Sometimes we argued. Sometimes we discussed. Sometimes we disagreed. But always we remained amicable, for our friendship is far, far stronger than any momentary disagreement.

 

I differ with him on one point. It was his suggestion to start writing collaborative poems. Trust him for not taking credit. I wouldn’t have suggested at any cost ..lol.. I’m so jittery about getting into a new thing. I can tell now that it was worth all the fretting, nervousness and brain storming.

Here is a treat for all of you, a poem from the collection.

DINNER

only tears would clean the stains
hunger left on her face
as she tried to understand
what was wrong with the rich
and decadent food she ate
as unsatisfying as lost love
it left her gaunt and empty
her starved reflection stared at her
from the shine of her empty plate
absentmindedly her finger
traced the contours
of the plate’s cracked surface
as she dreamed of better times
twilight gathered in her eyes
and fed her inner darkness
soon the starless night would come
and invisible in the night
her empty plate might fill

( © Duets – collaborative poems by Tikuli & James Goddard)

Do pre-order your copies. The book releases on 19th of November. It will be available with all online book vendors.

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Art, Poetry And Conversations


Many of my readers asked me why I have stopped posting poems and short fiction on blog and if I was making this a food blog. The answer is, No. It is true that I post a lot of recipes these days and that is because I send most of my poems as submissions. Almost all magazines accept fresh work so I can not post them here. As for short fiction, I am not writing any these days.

I am trying to take charge of the life I left behind and really working hard to get out of the vicious circle of anxiety, depression, fear and worry. It is a hard task for me but I am making those lifestyle changes that I can to be emotionally and mentally well. We will soon talk about that in another post.

One of the things that I found really therapeutic is art. This is the first of the Warli art pieces I did. Warli painting is a form of folk art from Maharashtra. Traditionally drawn by the tribal women belonging to Warli and Malkhar koli tribes.

Warli Art

I did some digital art and a few acrylic on canvas but never seriously pursued it. Since last few months I began to draw, color, paint and experiment with various mediums and art forms. I have not shared them here but you can view them on my Instagram page  . It started when a very dear friend began to share her Madhubani art. I was fascinated and asked her how she did those. Then through a lot of research on line and after watching videos on YouTube I made some and shared with friends. I found the process very calming so looked further and discovered Warli. A new window opened for me and in those dark hours of desperation I would immerse myself in those intricate  patterns and figures but something was still waiting to be discovered. My elder son is a fantastic artist and he’s been doing water colors lately. Now, I painted with water colors in middle school so it’s been 35+ years or so but the thought of dipping my fingers in color again was too tempting that I bought myself some paint, sketchbook, micro pens and brushes.  Adi was very encouraging and it gave me real boost to launch forth and just do something that would make me happy.

Again a proper research on techniques etc began and this time on Instagram too. For days I just watched wonder eyes the images emerge on the white sheets of papers, canvases etc. I was thrilled.

After a few failed attempts I am now beginning to get the hang of it. There is nothing more therapeutic than doing something you love. Art like writing has made me stronger though I still slip down and get those panic attacks now and then.

I am very happy to have finally found my linchpin.

Meanwhile two poems got published it my favorite magazine Cafe Dissensus. Always happy to find a place in this fabulous magazine. This is my first submission after the release of Wayfaring.

Here’s an excerpt from one of  the poems :

“the river hears her hurried footsteps
with rapt attention, at its bend
under the shade of the mangroves,
a boat and a promise patiently wait
ready to carry her away.”

You can the poems HERE.

Wayfaring is very special to for many reasons and if you haven’t got your copy yet please do. I would love your feedback. The book is available with all online book vendors worldwide including Amazon.

Here is an excerpt from a recent review that got published in The Sunflower Collective .

Poet/Journalist Abhimanyu Kumar says,

” Organised in seven sections, the poems cover a wide range of emotions and experiences. The book opens with the section called Trains. The poems included in this section set the tone for the rest of the book, in a sense.”

Do read the full review.

Blogging is still my first love and many of you know that I won the Indian Blogger Award for poetry recently. I finally got my certificate from Indiblogger and here it is. Makes me so proud of my journey as a blogger/writer/poet. Now you can call me an award winning blogger 😀

The Indian Blogger Awards IBA2017 were announced at BNLF and Valley of Words International Literature and Art Festival, Dehradun in Nov, 2017

I won the special VOW award for poetry and got my certificate today. The Google Chromecast was received by an author friend on my behalf on the day of the ceremony.

I’m humbled by this recognition. Thank you team IndiBlogger, jury members and all those who appreciated my work and still do.

It’s been a great journey so far.  My second book is being read and appreciated world over. Some poems from the books were read by Poet Dominic Albanese in Open Mic in Florida where he stays. A much awaited review is coming up soon and some more publishing news is awaited.

I will be starting the Monday Memories series again and try to be regular here so keep visiting and do please leave your feedback in comments.

Let’s hope it rains soon till then I am watching the changing color palette of the sky.

Kitaab Review Of ‘Wayfaring’ & A Blog Feature


 

 

Spring came quietly in my city and suddenly it was ablaze with fiery Semal flowers. The stark branches tipped with its large crimson, orange and pale yellow flowers towering above the city structures look like giant brushes painting the city skyline. Semal is the first tree to bloom and pave the way for Coral tree, Jacaranda, Gulmohar, Leburnum etc. I spotted a few tesu trees along with the Lilac Kachnar.

The carefully landscaped roundbaouts are a riot of colors and so are the gardens in Delhi. The newly opened Central Park (Sunder Nursery) is in my list of Must Visit places.  The two Gorgeous pink bougainvillea trees in Lodhi Garden are a sight to behold. I  will try and do a separate post on these. Spring is Delhi is short lived with harsh winter in its backyard and summer on threshold but it brings the fragrance of mango blossoms. Tabebuia Aurea is another beautiful spring blooming tree that one should watch out for. I am trying to locate a Palash tree or Flame of the forest, as it is known in English, in Delhi. Perhaps some more spring pictures soon. 🙂

 

Meanwhile, a brilliant  review of my book ‘Wayfaring’ appeared  in the fabulous Singapore-based journal Kitaab. This is what a writer longs for. Good readers who explore what we usually don’t see in our own writing, reviewers whose critique is incisive and sensitive, and editors who take this dialog forward. Many thanks to all those who made this possible. Zafar Anjum, Sucharita Dutta-Asane at Kitaab, thank you for the way you always support poets and writers. This is a dream come true. Very honored and humbled.

Bhaswati Ghosh is a writer friend I admire. She has a very fine taste in music too. She writes and translates fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. She is also the Editor -at – large at Cafe Dissensus Magazine where I have some of my work published. One of the magazines I absolutely love for its content.

Bhaswati really gets it when she says, “If solitude is nature’s essential condition, loneliness, its second cousin, is a function of being human. As Wayfaring shows, we don’t always choose loneliness; sometimes it chooses us. When it does, it’s seldom romantic and more like one’s own shadow, impossible to disown.”

Please do read the complete review by clicking on the link above and do buy the book. It is available worldwide with all online book vendors.

In another new, Vishal Bheeroo featured me on his blog. We talked about ‘Wayfaring’ journey as a book and other things. Do read the full feature HERE  

Here’s an excerpt : 

“Wayfaring is the result of a much more positive attitude towards myself and to life in general.  One must never lose the sense of possibilities. That’s the healing that comes from within. I have tried to work that around in the poems in ‘Wayfaring’. Most of the poems in the book are intensely personal and at times I have used nature or another element as a mask to enable me to write about private feelings but mostly the poems are all about ‘laying bare’, befriending oneself and realizing that this difficult phase in life is intrinsic to being alive. This shift in thinking changed my perspective completely and when you read the poems you will see what I mean.” 

Thanks Vishal for giving me this platform.

If you have bought my books please do write a few lines about them and let me know via twitter/FB/Instagram or just leave a comment here.

 

 

Poetry News -‘Wayfaring’ Is Now Available To Pre-Order


It is a beautiful day in my city, cool breeze, cotton clouds and a melodious cacophony of birds and crickets outside my window.  I’m listening to Nina Simone on YouTube with a hot cup of coffee and some clotted cream shortbread next to me.

A perfect time of the day to share another good news with all of you.

My second book of poems published by Leaky Boot Press is now available to pre-order. It has a very different set of poems from ‘Collection Of Chaos‘ which was published in Jan, 2014. This book is very special to me for various reasons. The entire process of writing and assembling this book was a learning experience in various aspects of writing, editing, and presenting a literary work. I also realized how hard an editor’s job is. No one thanks them really.

James Goddard, who is a fantastic writer/photographer/editor/ mentor gave hours of dedicated time all through the making of this book and before that to help me polish my writing.  You will see what a fabulous job he’s done. Thank you Jim.

Here is the cover, a gorgeous photograph by James Goddard. I will tell you the cover story later 😀

 

There were times I felt that the book was jinxed but here it is to pre-order  .  Soon it will be available with other booksellers and online retailers worldwide too. Keep checking.

You’ll buy, won’t you? Show some love for poetry folks, we need it especially in the times we are living in.

The printed copies have arrived in England and will soon come to me too. The book releases on Monday, 20th Nov, 2017 and will be available with all online book sellers across the globe.

I will be getting some extra copies that I have earmarked for a few people. Some will be on sale too. Maybe at a lower price. Need to figure out the numbers and other logistics.

I will keep you updated on events connected to the book though there won’t be any readings etc for now.

Stay tuned.

Cheers !

 

Poetry News – A thing of beauty is a joy forever


Good news has a way to find its path in the middle of all the chaos life throws at you. A few weeks ago two of my poems were published in the fabulous Peacock Journal. Little did I know that one of them will find home in their inaugural print anthology.  When I received Kate’s email informing about the selection I was over the moon. This is big leap for me as a poet/writer.

The Peacock Journal Anthology :Beauty First  has both poetry and fiction by some very talented writers and it is an honour for me to be a part of such prestigious collection.  I thank Bill and Kate Lantry for the opportunity.

This online journal of beauty and art is just an year old and their first anthology published by Little Red Tree Publishing (Michael Linnard) is already flying off the shelves. It was at amazon #1 in Hot New Releases a few days ago.

You can buy this first edition of the anthology from amazon.com  or amazon.in .

Do visit the journal’s website and their FB pages for more beautiful work. You can follow them on twitter too.

Another very exiting news came from The Thumb Print – A  magazine from the East. Poetry editor Ananya. S.Guha informed that my six acrostics got accepted for the February issue of the magazine and were live now. This is my first attempt at acrostics and I am stoked to see the positive response to them.

Thank you editors for including my work in this wonderful magazine.

 

Sketch credit and copyright Aditya Dogra

 

Here is an excerpt from one of the poems:

 

“TOPOGRAPHY

That mole in the hollow of your back is a secret place

obscure till my tongue traces your spine’s trajectory

painting an intimate landscape, vast and varied

often the feral scent of sex clings to my skin

growing as you move to uncharted places

reclaiming territories old and new

and spaces filled with the weight of love……Conti. reading

There is a typo in the title of poem 2 and I hope the editors correct it soon.

Some more news is awaited and a few poetry lovers are reading my book. I am nervously waiting for their reviews.

I thank all of you for being so patient with me. I am at a threshold once again and trying to find direction.  Do forgive me for not being so regular in posting here. I will try to do so more often. Till then, go with the flow.

 

More Poetry News


I have not been too well lately. Seasonal viral fever and flu broke my body completely. I am desperately waiting for my eyes review too. They seem to feel tired most of the time. It’s been almost ten months to the surgery and before the fever took over I was sure that at least the eyes were not giving any reason to panic. Looks like I spoke too soon. 😦

The throat is still making those ancient sounds no one can decipher.

Overall, life is as usual. Between the notes of grief and loneliness a night awaits its morning.

September ended with more news from the poetry world.

One more of my poems got published in the Learning and Creativity Magazine.

Here is an excerpt

Sometimes I hear you… soft  whispers
riffled by the warm summer breeze,
your smile lights a dew-drop,
I catch your scent from the fragrant trees.

You can read the complete poem here –  Reminiscence

And then, the results of the Delhi Poetry Challenge were announced a few days ago. One of my Hindi poems is shortlisted to be included in the anthology called Kaafiyana. The book will be released during Kaafiya poetry festival at India Habitat Center in Delhi on Oct 10-11 in association with Readomania. You can check out the details from their FB and twitter accounts.

I am deeply grateful to the editors for appreciating my work.

While we are talking poetry, here is a very short poem I wrote a few months ago.

There was no graceful exit,
no tear filled fights,
no notes in livid ink
left to be seen later,
no arguments, co closure.
Unspoken, the words
hung motionless in the air,
stunned, ice-bound