Nand Kishore Acharya Speaks with Indranil Chakraborty

Nand Kishore Acharya1. Let us move Thirty seven years back when your first book “Jal Hain Jaan”, was published. Please tell us how and under what circumstances this book was published.

Actually, I started writing poetry seriously in the year 1966; some of my poems were published in good and respected journals and readers and writers started knowing me but I was very hesitant to publish it in the book form. For many years they are published in journals, magazine, Sunday editions but not in book form. I was in contact with Agyeyaji for a long period of time. He had a plan to publish fourth volume of the Saptak series. So he asked me to contribute and I agreed on that proposal. My poems got published in collective form in fourth Saptak. Two or three of my publisher friend asked me to give one collection of poem to publish because Fourth Saptak was already published and many contemporary and senior writers of my own generation they were all thinking that I should publish a collection of my own in book form. I made a rigorous collection and published. It was in 1980 the book got published. I was surprised that poems which were criticised in Saptak series were appreciated when they were in collection. It seemed to me that there was something in their mind against the editor. After that I started publishing my poems regularly.


2. Your next collection was “Woh ek Samundra tha”. In that collection did you find any changes in your writing ? Was it as exciting as publishing the first book?

In this collection suddenly something happened and I became more interested in landscape and geography. In the first collection only two or three poems of this kind were only there. In the second collection, the geography and the topography of desert where I live suddenly become very symbolic to me. There is a series of poems in “Woh ek samundar tha” which was based on the topography of that area. There are twenty to twenty five poems, that directly relates to the desert of Rajasthan and this trend continued for a long time. All these poems that are addressed to desert published in a selection called “Ret Rag” and has also been translated to english as “Hyms to desert”. In the third collection “Shabd bhule Huye”, there are separate things that emerged out. Something different that had started coming out in my poems. I do not know why it started. In my poems subjects like aging, death and grief started coming. My fourth collection “Aati hai jaise mrityu” is about my old city of Bikaner. People had already started calling me the “Poet of desert”.


3. Was there any change in the style of writing? 

No such dramatic change, only the change in the use of metaphor did happen. Dramatic change happen when there is a change in the thought process.

4.  Most writers or poets want to rewrite the poems in a better way to include more perspectives. Tell us about one creation of yours you do not want to change.

I do not want to change anything. If I have some change in myself I will try to write a separate poem about that. There is no need to go to old poems and rewrite it. Some times it may also happen that I felt that two or three words can be changed but I never thought of changing the entire poem.

5. You have written a lot in your entire life in form of drama, poetry and criticism. Do you feel that the quality of writing comes through years of practice or it always that great idea strikes and hence we have a great piece of writing?

We can not compartmentalize these two things. We can not say that this happens or that happens. I think that writing a poem at any point tells us about the need the poem calls for. Practice is in our tradition – pratibha, obhyas, sadhana. All together will work. Anything can not work independently.

6. Tell us about your experience with Satchidanand Agyeya, when you first met him. What was his response on your critical writing about him?

This is a very long story. From my childhood, there are many writers whom I liked. One of them is Agyeyaji. I read some of his stories in my course book. Then there was a classical novel which I read and I was subsequently very much influenced by his writing. However I read poems later, when I was doing my Masters. Before that I read his stories and all three novels. There was a seminar about Agyeya. People asked me to say something abut his poetry. Whatever I said in that seminar was liked by many people. A senior writer asked my friend to get a book from me on Agyeya’s poetry. He came to me and I said no. I was not in a position to write a book on him. Suddenly, I thought that I can do it. I wrote a book on his poetry. At that time I was 23 years of age. I wrote my examination, then there was vacation. I started writing and finally the book got published . Many people who even were not in favor of his poetry appreciated the book. My publisher sent the book to Agyeya and asked me to write a letter to him. I wrote the letter also. At that time he was not in the country. After many months I received a letter from him confirming that he got my letter and he was coming back to India. I did my Masters from Jodhpur university. He visited Joddhpur. After his coming to Jodhpur, I met him for the first time. When he first saw me he could not believe my age, which was 24-25 at that time. He looked at me with some surprise. From that day onward, I became a close person to him. He died in the month of April in 1987, till then I was one of his closest persons. I lived in his house for one year and became like one of his family members. I consider myself to be fortunate for that. I learned so many things; like how a writer should think, study things, read other writers and how particular the writer should be about the book he is writing. Only if he knows the shades of meaning of every word then only he can write with wide range of experiences. Writer should be careful about that, should investigate about that.

7. Coming back to Bikaner, how did the landscape and architecture influence your writing?

I told about the series of poems that I had written while I was in the old city. The topography of the old city, my own house, culture, architecture, all these started telling me something about the soul of the city itself and it was reflected through my poems at that time.


8. Is it a conscious effort to let your readers visualize that setting or do they appear spontaneously?

Actually, if you look at things like a poet it becomes a way of life. This is not like that I have write this and that. When you look at them from artist’s point of view or poet’s point of view, the images start to come out.


9. This leads to a very common question: what is poetry to you?

Poetry is a journey of going deeper into your own experience of things. Things or language reveal something to you and that is what is poetry. It is not that I have to write this way or that way. You have to discover the truth. It cannot be reduced in one sentence. We experience truth in multiple facets. One experience that if he or she is open to each and every kind of experiences. Sometimes you see that you are in search of words and sometimes the word itself becomes the source of experience .They always tell something, you have to make an attempt to listen to that.

10. Sometimes it may happen that you listen to the word and that word becomes an inspiration to your poetry.
Yes it can also happen in the other way. Suddenly a word comes to you and a poem is written on just listening to the word. The first poem of mine that came from the words flute and peacock feather. Both of these are metaphor for Krishna. Suddenly an idea came to my mind from these two words. The music that comes through the flute is not the music of itself,  you are playing some thing and it is acting like an instrument. So I wrote that poem addressing Krishna, that I am not like to be your flute. I have been always your flute. Feather’s beauty was of its own. This difference is significant. You need beauty of peacock whereas the flute needs music from you. It was the first poem which has attracted many people. Words become inspiration . That is what I meant by investigating the experience. To arrive at the core of experience is the process of arriving at the poetic truth.

11. Coming back to Hindi literature we have seen romantic upsurge, we have poets like Jai krishan Prasad, Nirala, Mahadevi Verma. Later we have beginning of Nayi Kavita, Agenya, Mukti bodh. In the constant evolution of poetry in Hindi literature where you like to place yourself? How difficult it was to make a signature of yourself? Do you consider your poetry as a parallel road to this evolution or it is the same journey?

This is a difficult question for me. It is up to other people to decide on my contribution. There is always basic change with time. There is development in the sense that in Chhayavad, great poets are there like Nirala. No body will say that he is greater than Nirala. In every age, with the changing times a new poetry emerges that is more important. Chhayavad was a poetry written out of the need of time. How a poem not related directly to the politics can have its own political meaning. Chhayavad is known as the poetry of Satyagraha. The idea of freedom is depicted in Chhayavad through some imageries and metaphors. Similarly, the Nayi Kavita, began in the year 1942. There was a new sense of freedom that developed in the year 1942. Nayi Kavita gives a feeling that we have achieved freedom. So you see that the change in poetry is not about the change of language. It is also about the change of time, change of feeling, new ways to experience the feeling. I am seventy years old now, not a new poet, but many poets who are now forty, thirty and twenty years old they are writing different kinds of poetry. That is according to their own way of thinking. You see great poems are not always written. You can not say that all these poems that are written are very good or great, but the feeling is there. Some times it becomes a good poem otherwise it will be a average poem. Also it is not always that you are concerned about the form. The experience process is different and can not be called as a thought process which is something different. I believe that there are two ways of thinking—- 1) calculative thinking, mathematical thinking, analytical thinking; 2) meditative thinking which is not about logical or argumentative growth. I think point is not only meditative thinking but metaphoric thinking; a metaphoric way of experiencing things.

12. When you talk about metaphor it reminds me of a particular line from Leonard Cohen’s translation of Lorca’s poetry, “ On a bed where the moon has been sweating”.  How beautiful is the expression!

A: Moon is not moon there. It is always metaphorical in a poem. For direct and informative communication we can use prose. When there is a metaphor there are many dimensions hidden in the metaphor. I never call this to be idea or thought. It is an experience. The metaphor becomes an experience. Now you have to make yourself open and listen to what it says.

13. Do you think in the entire lifetime of a poet the self renewal process is essential?

The process of self renewal always happens whether you are conscious of it or not. Otherwise there is a repetition. Some time there is a change of language, sometime there is change of feeling, change in the philosophy. Different points of view, angles, perspectives come into the writings. That is the case in many of these political poems.

14. Since you are telling about this, it made me remember long time back, I heard about a poem which was talking about famine, there was no mention of the human subject, however the poem is entirely about humans.

Yes, that is a poem of Nagarjuna. He just depicted a deserted house. Even that is the experience of truth. Absence of human beings showing that their needs are not fulfilled. There was no food to eat and water to drink, even the crows and birds were not there.

15. Some times I felt that the words which I am using in the poem is the pretense and what is intentionally omitted is actually the poetry.

Actually, this is a way of expressing things in concealment. This is not hiding. The beauty of the poem lies in the way you envelope it.

16. It reminds me another poem written by Ranajit Das. The poem was about love. He narrates the action of a person in a phone booth. He is constantly dropping one rupee coin in to make a phone call. There is no mention of love inside the poem but the title is about love.

This is a way of experiencing human things. A way of strengthening the imaginative faculty of the reader. Even the reader experiences a poem in his/her mind . If it doesn’t happen it means either he has failed to experience the poem or you have failed to communicate. Sometimes the fault is also from the poet’s side.

17. It is true that the abstraction plays a very important part in the creation of the poem. What is your take on it.

Abstraction has always been a part in any form of art. It is never called realistic. To express things more deeply abstraction is needed. There is abstraction in the ancient art also. What is abstraction? It is an essence. When we experience something we do not need to name it. There is no need for that. If we name it the entire feel is lost. There are multi layer dimensions of meaning that remain hidden in the poem. We can say that it has been explained and can be interpreted in many different ways. If you write a play, without changing the single line of the play two directors can have two different ways of expressing the play. The same possibility is also there in the language. Same character is played by two actors without changing any lines of dialogue will give you two different types of experiences. Each director finds a way for his own creative way of experiencing things.

18. Once you said to me when you write poems you detach yourself from the rest of things. Why? Is it a conscious effort? 

It happens not only in case of poems but whenever I am writing. Most of the writings I have done, whether it is a poem or a play, I always detach myself. A very little changes are made after the writing is done. If there is difficulty in playing, then only I have made changes. I do not generally even attend the rehearsal of the play. I leave it to them for doing whatever they want.

19. Most of the poets generally read their poems for two or three times. It is believed to create a miracle if the editing is done after reading it aloud.

Basically the language is something that is first spoken. If the word doesn’t speak it is no word. When you recite the poem, you know how the rhythm works. There are many poets who are not good at recitation. Take the example of famous poet like that Faiz A. Faiz , so it is also an art how to read and recite the poem. Once the poet reads the poem, he has more crystal clear idea on which words to stress. But you see now these days it is very difficult to recite each and every poem. But one should know how to recite a poem.

20. How is the notion of metaphor, symbolism and abstraction changing over time? Since we are talking about the moon few minutes ago, does this metaphor looks cliche today? Do we need to bring in new set of metaphors?

If you use new metaphor it may not be useful but if you use the same metaphor in a different context then it becomes more powerful. Every word has history of its own. If you use the word in the known condition, it will give you simple meaning but if you use it in a different condition (knowing the history of the word) a new meaning comes out. The history takes the same word experience in a long range. Hindi poet Kunwar Narayan once wrote: “Chehara jo mere liye chand ho sakta tha bheed ho jata ”.  A face which could be the moon for me, became a crowd. The word moon is used in a different condition. The words moon and crowd both can be cliche, but are put in such a way that they become an experience of pain.

21. In post modern poetry there is a trend that adjectives are put in front of different types of nouns and it creates a remarkable aesthetics. Did you feel that way also?

I talked about the flute and peacock feather poem. Flute is very old metaphor. But you see all the shades of meaning are there with the word. Each of them has its own history as a metaphor. But these metaphors are put together to give the important meaning. Many things are created like that way.

22. We can think of a vase which is broken, now if we recollect the broken pieces and create a new structure out of it is not that this will give us a new beauty.

See this is not a broken vase it is just pieces of vase. If you put them in a way that you remember the vase also then it will give us a huge dimension. In the newer element also the memory of the vase is also there but yes at the same time it will give you new meaning and new say to the old metaphor.

23. Tell us about your last collection and road after that.

The title of my last book is “Akash bhatka hua”. I think, in the last three or four collections there is a constant journey to some philosophical type of experience. In our tradition akash is a symbolisation of an element, a material thing. So it’s bhatka huya. The whole of the collection is about love, nature, some sort of discomfort and frustration. The situataion is not political but universal. So here Akash becomes metaphor of the whole life and bhatka huya means that it is not finding its destination. This kind of confused feeling is there and this feeling is haunting me through the last two or three collection.


24. I always felt that everybody will have the feeling of saturation once in a lifetime. Do you think that such situation will arise for all of us or it will be an eternal pursuit in the realms of creativity?

I do not think that there will be saturation. Human consciousness is always growing, developing and evolving. So many things will change not only forms, experience will change. Saturation is the end of life. There is no end of life.

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