Can you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
I remember writing for my school periodical when I was in my ninth grade.
And how old you were when you wrote it?
Fifteen or sixteen.
And what it was about?
It was actually an essay I wrote, followed by a poem of ten lines. The poem was about my provisional understanding (juvenile obviously) of metaphysics. I wrote it looking at a landscape painting in my grandmother's house.
Name a favourite poem or two . . .
I'll name only one or I'll end up writing more than ten: Beckett's "What is the Word".
. . . and a few of your favourite poets.
Naomi Shihab Nye, Fanny Howe, Jeet Thayil, Wislawa Szymborska, Rajendra Bhandari, Tomas Tranströmer, Jack Gilbert, Franz Wright, Mark Strand, Rae Armantrout, Philip Schultz, Patrick Kavanagh, Kevin Young – to name a few. Among the Romantics, Keats.
Do you talk about poetry with your friends or is it a secret part of your life?
I regularly engage with a few people regarding the craft of writing. Also, I edit a poetry journal myself which gives me a chance to have fruitful interactions with poets and their works. But, more importantly, it is the casual interactions I have with people, the environment and the self, and the poetry that you can distill from such encounters that matters.
Do you write poetry for yourself, or for others, or for both?
I write for myself mostly. Then think about others.
Is it important to you if your poems get published or not?
Publish less but publish well. I think it's helpful in many ways to be published in the right journals.
Do you think poetry is important in the global scale of things or just a pleasant, indulgent hobby like needlework or trainspotting?
I'm not sure whether poetry can claim to have global significance (not in the way that institutions or grand narratives claim to be). Neither can it just be cornered as a hobby. Nevertheless, it is an invisible yet tangible reality whose experience can be globally shared and made relevant.
What does poetry really mean to you?
Many things. One of them being – it is a personal confession – an urgency to explode and emerge in words.
Is poetry better than sex?
At the risk of sounding Wordsworthian, after an orgasm (figurative too) what lingers and persists is poetry.