Interview

”An individual appreciates poetry on the basis of their intellectual sphere”

Suman Pokhrel is a widely read poet with more fan-following in foreign countries than in Nepal. His works have appeared in various global poetry platforms. Two-time South Asian Association for Regional Cooepration Literature Award recipient, Pokhrel has also penned short stories, essays, translations, plays, and songs, among others.

Pokhrel has been quoted worldwide in various ‘Quotation Websites’ and literary articles. Making his mark in writing, activism and inspiration, Pokhrel’s Facebook page is one of the few verified pages of literary figures from South Asia.

One of his several quotes published in topfamousquotes.com goes like, ”If I’d ever grown prosperous like Shah Jahan was, I’d not have waited for my beloved’s death before I erected a Taj Mahal” has been ranked among the top three quotes on Taj Mahal. This quote was extracted from his poem titled ‘Taj Mahal and My Love’.

A media-shy person, Pokhrel agreed for an interview with Birat Anupam for Lokaantar.com. Below is a summary of long conversation with this versatile poet.

suman-pokhrel

How do you define yourself–as a poet, playwright, lyricist, essayist, translator or an artist–since you have worked on all these genres of literature?

I am happy to be reckoned as a poet as poetry covers all spheres of literature. A powerful poet can pen a powerful essay but a powerful essayist may not be able to write powerful poems. I think all other genres are derivatives of poetry.

If so, are you happy with your definition in Wikipedia that goes this way:  ”Suman Pokhrel is a multilingual Nepali poet, lyricist, translator, and an artist.”?

That is their style of introducing people. People define others in their own way, based on their findings and perceptions. There is a saying that people have three identities: one, the identity they are convinced upon; second, an identity given by others and third, the real identity which may lie somewhere between the first and second.

You have good reputation in literary translation. However, your Nepali poems are translated into English by Prof. Dr. Abhi Subedi, poet Manu Manjil, poet Mukul Dahal, among others. Why so?

In my view, an effective translation can be carried out by a poet and a good translator who is better equipped with poetic and lingual ingredients. So far as my own experience is concerned, a poet has some constraints to translate his/her own creations. Translations should be executed by a translator. While translating own poems, the poet has to be extra cautious or else the original essence of the poem can be altered. This is only because s/he thinks s/he has the liberty because it is his/her poem. However, I have translated many of my poems myself.

When is a poet supposed to publish his collection of poems?

This is a very common and easy question with some complex answers. I guess any poet with his/her sizeable poetry audience can publish his\her poetry book.

What sorts of poems are appreciated by a huge audience?

Generally, a poem is liked on the basis of the intellectual sphere of an individual. Poems falling under the intellectual sphere of larger size of readers can be popular. It doesn’t mean that all popular poems are powerful in their content, structure and art. Many of the vibrant poems haven’t been appreciated by a larger mass of audience as those poems don’t fall under their intellectual sphere.

It is said that contemporary poems in Nepal are thematic and based on certain trends. How do you assess this?

I believe that poem itself is an invention. And an invention or discovery doesn’t go with any particular trend. Poetry must be exclusive and it mustn’t go with the trend. Bucking the trend is the very nature of good poetry. Nepal’s great poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota and pioneer of prose poetry Gopal Prasad Rimal are always remembered as they didn’t follow any trend but paved their own distinct way.

What is your take on women’s literature in Nepal?

A litterateur or a poet definitely does belong to one of the genders. That doesn’t mean it is always visible. A male poet sometime writes as a man and sometimes as human. To cite my own example, I wrote ‘Children’ as a human and wrote ‘Taj Mahal and My Love’ as a man. I think the same applies to women poets and litterateurs everywhere.

You have good rapport with poets and literary figures around the SAARC region. What is their impression on Nepali literature?

I have had the opportunity to witness many such occasions when Nepali poetry got recognition. Nepali poetry has definitely made a major impact in South Asia and beyond. Poetry possibly is one of the few areas where Nepali content has been acclaimed.

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