By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
Writing is my svadharma, my inscape. It is a twin trajectory for me to express all the churning ideas and feelings within me to make a coherent statement, and to strike a chord in the hearts and minds of kindred spirits.
Tell us about your most recent book project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
My most recent book is a collection of poems entitled B(r)oken Moon and Other Poems, published by Authorspress. It is a collection I have been working on for years, and it has the same objectives I have mentioned above. I have quoted a verse by Ralph Nazareth which gives a further insight into my objective:
Such is my hope
Blowing syllables up
To hold a world
Close to breaking.”
Describe your writing aesthetic.
I think I’ve described my writing aesthetic in one of the sections in my collection, which I have captioned “As leaves to a tree.” Sometimes the germ of inspiration is a seed that lies dormant in the sub-soil for months, which sprouts suddenly one day; at others it is a flash of lightning; at yet others, it is a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces teasing, tantalizing, with the final piece refusing to fit in till the last euphoric moment, and sometimes it comes from my womb, with all the pangs of childbirth. At the practical level, I need to sit at my writing-desk with my thesaurus at hand, and I make a ‘heap’ of all the associations that the poem, book, article evokes in me, and as I go about my other duties, my subconscious takes over. I then make a rough plan of my writing project, and again leave it. I finally hone it into shape. I always write my first draft in a large notebook, with a Mont Blanc pen, and later transfer it onto the computer. I must mention that alliteration is second nature to me.
Who are your favorite authors?
Rabindranath Tagore, John Galsworthy, Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, Chinua Achebe, Orhan Pamuk, Harper Lee Arundhathi Roy, Fatima Bhutto, Nadifa Mohammed, Michelle Cohen Corasanti, Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Jane Hirshfield, Dorianne Laux, Gregory Orr, to mention a few favourite writers and poets.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
The most challenging piece of writing I have attempted so far is a monument of words to my late daughter: “Fly Away Paloma.” While writing it, I felt like the mermaid who prayed for the gift of feet, and for whom every step that she took was like a sword-thrust which drew blood. Likewise, the recollections were like sword-thrusts in my guts, and there were months when I could not write.
What’s your idea of bliss?
To be in the flow of writing, soaring on the wings of the wind, in an untethered, unfettered movement, when the sky is just a glass-ceiling. To attain the nirvana of writing the last line of one’s poem, that Khalil Gibran spoke of.
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
Exploitation, injustice, emotional terrorism, scape-goating innocent victims, intellectual and emotional terrorism. Above all, RAPE.
What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
Comparative philosophy, comparative spirituality, including the insightful belief systems of indigenous peoples and tribals, like Native American wisdom, the philosophy of ubuntu, of South Africa, Huna of Hawaii, contemporary poetry anthologies, including works by Denise Levertov, Margaret Atwood, Eduardo Galeano, Saeed Jones, K. Satchidanandan, Meena Alexander, Sudeep Sen, Arundhathi Subramaniam… Solar Storms by Linda Hogan, books by Leslie Silko, A Strangeness in my mind by Orhan Pamuk…
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
Describe your life philosophy.
My life philosophy, my credo, can be expressed as faith in inter-connectivity, inter-being, Buddha’s Net Of Indra.
Indu K. Mallah is a writer, poet, literary critic and social activist. Several of her short stories have been broadcast over BBC, two of her screenplays have won national awards, and her novel, Shadows In Dream-time, has won wide critical acclaim, and has been translated into several languages. Several years ago, a cross-section of her writings was showcased on a BBC website on South Asian women writers. A collection of her poems, B(r)oken Moon and Other Poems, was recently published by Authorspress.
Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé is the Poetry Editor of Kitaab