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Interview with Mamata Misra, Creator of "Winter Blossoms"


Mamata Misra is a neighborhood volunteer and anti-violence activist dwelling in Austin, Texas. She has been printed in poetry collections, newsletters, journals, and contributed to the documentary movie “Veil of Silence.” Previously, the Applications Director of SAHELI, a company in Austin, Texas that assists Asian households coping with home abuse, Mamata Misra is a core member of a nationwide staff known as ACT (Motion + Neighborhood = Transformation) that’s growing prevention and intervention methods for baby sexual abuse in South Asian communities within the US. Her neighborhood service has resulted in a number of awards, together with the YWCA Lady of the Yr award in 2005.

Tyler: Thanks for becoming a member of me at this time, Mamata, and congratulations on publishing your guide. To start, I perceive “Winter Blossoms” has a theme that connects the poems. Will you inform us about that theme?

Mamata: Thanks, Tyler.

The poems had been written at completely different occasions over a interval of a number of years; so once I determined to place them collectively as a guide, I anticipated to search out a number of themes. I organized the poems underneath 5 broad themes as chapter titles: Mom and Little one, Battle and Peace, Questions NOT Solutions, Hope and Despair, and Sound and Silence. However most of the poems might have been positioned underneath a number of themes and I had to decide on. So there appears to be a deeper connection between the poems throughout the chapter themes, a thread that holds them collectively.

In all probability the easiest way for me to reply your query is by answering a unique query: Is there a phrase that may sum up what I used to be doing in all these years? If that’s the case, that may be the thread that connects the poems on this guide. I believe I used to be merely “searching for interior peace in our linked and remoted world.” For instance, the primary poem “A loving presence” is in regards to the peaceable, joyful starting of life and reference to one’s personal mom. The final poem “On Enchanted Rock,” a haiku, is a stark fact about life and demise, and our reference to parts of nature. All of the poems are about some facet of dwelling or dying. They name to pause for a second to look at how we lose peace and our connections with others, and to hunt methods by which peace and connections could also be retained.

Tyler: How would you describe the model of poetry you write?

Mamata: I exploit easy and clear language. I ask plenty of questions. I write in first individual. I’m intentional, the intention being, to seize in phrases the depth of the thought or feeling that compels me to write down, in order that after the depth of the sensation leaves me, the phrases would carry it and compel the reader to see what I’m seeing, really feel what I’m feeling. Normally, the ending observe is essential in my poems. It’s the level of satisfaction for me the place the transformation of thought into phrases has been accomplished; however additionally it is that transition level the place the poem could create an understanding or a lingering thought within the thoughts of the reader.

Tyler: Mamata, you talked about an depth of feeling-is it all the time a sense, an emotion that conjures up your work-how do you get the idea for a poem, and the way do you then take that feeling or idea and get it down on paper?

Mamata: Lots of the poems in Winter Blossoms had been impressed by the sentiments and struggles of survivors of abuse, once I was deeply moved by their tales. Then there was 911 and what adopted. There was sickness and demise within the household. Feelings weren’t on scarcity to energise an idea.

The idea for a poem could come from wherever, one thing I noticed, heard, learn, felt, found, or understood. Typically the idea comes as a spontaneous picture or thought that out of the blue surfaces from the unconscious; I really feel an amazing urge to place it down on paper simply as I see it, and it comes out simply and quick. At different occasions, it lingers within the thoughts vaguely for days till I can discover a deal with to carry it and take a look at it from completely different angles. Writing helps me to assume and the concept turns into clearer. Typically I get caught, or change my thoughts. Typically, I could have began out with prose in thoughts however it could jell in poetry. Poetry appears to have a thoughts of its personal.

One of many poems within the guide, “Author’s Companion,” is in regards to the strategy of getting it down on paper. As soon as I get one thing down, over the subsequent few days, I strive alternately to be the reader and author, declaring what is not working and attempting to repair it. This is usually a lengthy endless course of generally.

Tyler: Why did you select the title of “Winter Blossoms”?

Mamata: “Winter Blossoms” is the title of one of many poems within the guide that was triggered by seeing spring blossoms in winter. The poem got here out in a spontaneous approach; like a painless childbirth. I believed it might be a superb title for the guide as a result of it implies one thing stunning, daring, and uncommon.

Tyler: Mamata, will you inform us a bit of extra about your background as an Asian American? How do you assume that have is completely different from that of different People, and to what extent do you assume your being Asian American is the supply of your poetry?

Mamata: I used to be born and raised in India in a center class Hindu household. I lived the primary twenty-two years of my life in India, after which migrated to the US to hitch my husband. I’ve lived within the US for 35 years. So I ought to be extra American than Asian and possibly am in some methods. However my upbringing, Indian mythology, and mysticism have influenced my perspective and considering.

Experiences of immigrants are completely different from these of the natives in any nation. First technology South Asian People within the US like myself, who migrated within the 70s and 80s, missed their tradition: language, non secular and social practices, holidays, meals, music, dance, and their lifestyle on the whole. As well as, we had no household within the US to snicker or cry with. So first, we constructed communities that addressed these cultural, social, and spiritual wants. Being the educated lot, we had been, by and huge, profitable in our careers and have become often known as a mannequin minority group within the US. Whereas we associated to different People by means of our professions, our social interactions usually stayed inside our personal ethnic communities. Then we gave delivery to a second technology of youngsters who did not communicate our language or perceive our tradition. Find out how to increase kids in two completely different cultures grew to become the concern of South Asian mother and father and the best way to deal with conflicting pressures from mother and father and friends grew to become the concern of the youngsters. Thus the tradition hole did not exist solely outdoors, it had penetrated our houses too.

As we rolled into the 90s, a few of us seen that even in our educated mannequin minority neighborhood, some girls had been dealing with troublesome dwelling circumstances, akin to household violence, and had no recourse. The mainstream providers had been neither sufficient nor accessible for Asian girls attributable to linguistic, cultural, authorized, or monetary boundaries. Subsequently, some girls took management to interact their communities to assist the victims of household violence. In lots of cities, volunteer-run, South Asian women-led organizations shaped with confidential assist strains. SAHELI is one such group that began in Austin in 1992, the primary of its form in Texas, which reached out not simply to South Asians however all Asian People. I grew to become part of it as an advocate.

Thus, my life was touched not solely by my very own expertise as an Asian American immigrant but additionally by the collective experiences of ladies I got here in touch with by means of my advocacy work. My poetry attracts from Indian mysticism that’s a part of my tradition, my very own expertise as a primary technology Asian immigrant, and my expertise as an advocate for Asian girls survivors of household violence.

Tyler: Will you give us an instance of how you might have used Indian mysticism and your Indian background particularly as a supply on your poetry?

Mamata: For instance, an idea that comes from historical India is that of ‘maya’ which is a artistic and illusive energy that makes issues look completely different from the reality. I’ve a poem titled “Maya,” the place a mom is questioning the best way to clarify this troublesome idea to her American born son.

I’ve additionally used strains from Vedic peace prayers, the idea of the witnessing consciousness current in every of us, characters from Indian epics, and symbols of Hindu goddesses in my poems.

Tyler: You additionally talked about you might have accomplished plenty of neighborhood service work, particularly for South Asian communities within the U.S. How has that work influenced your poetry?

Mamata: My advocacy work offered a window to look intently at gender bias, human indignity, and injustice that I in all probability wouldn’t have seen in any other case. It moved me to motion in some ways and writing about it each in prose and poetry was one in every of them. My work was difficult and lonely. Poetry was an efficient approach for me to handle myself by taking the nagging ideas out however not dropping them. It was additionally helpful in my neighborhood outreach work. Showing in SAHELI newsletters, it touched readers.

Tyler: When did you first determine or notice you had been a poet?

Mamata: I wrote poems in my first language Oriya as a baby, round age 8 or 9. I used to be printed within the kids’s weekly of a neighborhood newspaper. I had pen buddies with whom I used to be corresponding in verse. My brother and I had produced a number of problems with a household journal that was handwritten and hand illustrated with contributions from children within the prolonged household. All this was simply childhood enjoyable that stopped finally. As I grew, my pursuits shifted. I studied science, not liberal arts, not literature, and settled with a profession in pc science. Then I saved myself busy for a few years juggling household and work with little time for anything.

My outdated love for poetry returned once I was in my mid 40s. It bought woke up within the stunning discovery that in our educated South Asian neighborhood within the US, some younger girls had been getting crushed up by their husbands or tortured by their in-laws. I remembered how lonely I had felt once I migrated to the US. What would I’ve accomplished if it had occurred to me? Shocking myself, I responded to my very own query in verse. I additionally discovered that within the US, the place girls gave the impression to be ‘liberated’ in comparison with girls in South Asia, home violence was prevalent. I took volunteer coaching on the Middle for Battered Ladies (outdated identify for SafePlace) and have become a frequent buyer within the library of the Texas Coalition on Household Violence. I began noticing and questioning sexism and different isms all over the place. I volunteered at SafePlace and SAHELI in each doable function. I additionally began writing poetry once more after thirty years, this time in English, and with depth and goal. I felt that I had this potential, this present, value exploring, and the affirmation got here from readers.

Tyler: Mamata, I assume you grew up being bi-lingual, talking and writing each English and Oriya. What are the benefits and difficulties of every language for poetry? Do you write in Oriya in any respect now?

Mamata: Truly, I did not communicate a lot English till I got here to the US though I might learn and write it properly. There wasn’t a necessity to talk English. Oriya was the one language I knew in my early years. I attended faculties the place the medium of instructing was Oriya and we discovered three different languages: Hindi beginning in 4th grade, English in sixth, and Sanskrit in eighth grade. This four-language formulation continued till the top of highschool. In school, English was the medium of instructing, however a lot of the talking outdoors the classroom continued in Oriya. With non-Oriya Indians, I spoke largely in Hindi. I additionally picked up a bit of Bengali from neighbors as a result of its sound had a pretty energy.

For poetry, Oriya, a Sanskrit-based language, has a structural benefit of ease of sound and size manipulation: it’s simpler to supply rhyming sounds and rhythmic patterns; an entire phrase will be packed right into a single phrase. English, alternatively, has the benefit of ease of expression of contemporary thought.

I believe it’s troublesome to write down poetry in a language by which you do not assume. It might be a superb translation at greatest. Once I did not communicate in English, I did not assume in English, despite the fact that I might learn and write it properly. If I had written poetry throughout my early years within the US, I in all probability would have written in Oriya. However once I began writing poetry, I had misplaced my fluency in Oriya attributable to lack of use for nearly 25 years. One of many poems within the guide, “Lady,” I wrote in Oriya initially. Once I began translating it into English a yr later, I ended up rewriting it and the English model was stronger. Selection of language was clear at that time. I do not write in Oriya now. Typically, I translate passages between the 2 languages for play and observe.

Tyler: Have you ever discovered a readership in any respect in India? If that’s the case, what has been the response by readers there?

Mamata: I’ve been printed in India a few occasions in magazines. Will probably be doable to discover a readership if I strive. Till now, the readership for “Winter Blossoms” in India has been restricted to my household and buddies circle however the response has been optimistic and inspiring. One English instructor instructed me that she used the poem titled “Silence” in her class and requested for a duplicate of the guide for the varsity library. Some individuals have expressed shock seeing the Indian mysticism within the poems.

Tyler: Why have you ever chosen to inform the tales of the ladies in your guide within the type of poems slightly than quick tales or as a gaggle of characters in a novel? What does poetry add to the theme that prose can’t?

Mamata: I discover poetry to be an efficient medium to make a degree. With poetry it’s doable to convey lots with just a few phrases. It takes much less time each to write down and skim a poem than a brief story or an essay. I haven’t got to write down about all the small print. I haven’t got to inform the entire story, develop characters, construct the plot, or do plenty of analysis. I can simply give attention to a second, and spill what I see and really feel at that second. The benefit of poetry is its brevity, its depth, its suddenness, its free type, its sound, and its energy to the touch the guts. That is interesting to me.

Having mentioned that, I need to level out that I did not write the poems for the guide; I made a decision to create a guide for the poems that had been already there, like one creates an album for photos. The guide would not inform a narrative or a number of associated or unrelated tales, for which prose would have been a simpler medium. The guide is a couple of journey; what I encountered in the course of the journey; every poem is an image.

Tyler: Mamata, would you share with us a favourite poem or a favourite passage from a poem and inform us why it’s one in every of your favorites?

Mamata: You understand, Tyler, a mom loves all her kids equally though she is aware of the strengths and weaknesses of every. So I do not wish to say one poem is my favourite. However I shall share one, together with the corresponding mom’s brag type, for those who like. Let me share the title poem “Winter Blossoms” because you had requested about it earlier.

Winter Blossoms

The crimson bud tree in my again yard

is wearing vibrant pink

fooled by the weird mid-January heat.

Certainly it is spring, it says.

The weatherman shakes his head.

The Alaskan entrance is days away

from stripping off that stunning apparel.

Malathi, if you say

Certainly he’s going to alter

when he sees his child kick and cry

and touches the tender pores and skin!

In any case, is not it his personal flesh and blood!

Once you strive to not bear in mind

how he left you

to bleed alone

to starve

not caring

if his child in your womb

kicked or not,

I really feel just like the weatherman,

realizing that the battering entrance

is barely days away

from turning your hope into despair.

I had talked about earlier that scripting this poem was like a painless childbirth. Right here is the way it occurred as talked about within the guide.

“Early one morning, I pulled the blinds on the kitchen window and noticed the crimson bud tree in our again yard stuffed with blossoms in a single day. I remembered the climate forecast from the night time earlier than and on the identical time noticed the face of a girl I had been serving to superimposed on the tree branches. It was a kind of moments when I’ve to give up myself to the writing urge that takes management of me. I discovered myself typing away on the pc as a substitute of pouring myself some espresso.”

This quick poem reveals the extent of bodily violence, the timeless hope and denial ceaselessly seen in battered girls, the priority and frustration of the compassionate listener. The climate analogy brings all of it out in a easy approach that anybody can relate to.

Tyler: Thanks for sharing the poem, Mamata. I can undoubtedly see the relation between the topic and the picture. I additionally like that you simply embody commentary about why you created the poems within the part titled “Poems and Folks.” What made you determine to incorporate this part?

Mamata: I generally used ideas or characters from Indian religious or mythological books for an analogy. It might be troublesome for non-Indians to grasp totally such poems with out some clarification. At different occasions, poems had been my response to some incident and I felt that readers wanted to know the context to have the ability to perceive or recognize the poem. I might have used footnotes for these particulars. However footnotes would have modified the look of the guide, interrupted the circulate. So I made a decision to incorporate such info as notes on the finish of the guide, and named the chapter “Poems and Folks” following the naming model of different chapters.

Tyler: I can definitely perceive that you really want non-Indians to grasp the Indian background of the poems. Do you might have many non-Indian readers? Have you ever discovered that being Indian has been a profit to you in selling your poetry or has it labored in opposition to you?

Mamata: It’s too early for me to reply that. The optimist in me thinks that the Indian parts within the guide can be a profit as a result of they add one thing completely different. Additionally we now stay in a smaller, flatter world and transfer throughout cultures greater than earlier than. Motive for individuals’s curiosity in different cultures is shifting from gentle curiosity to usefulness. Being Indian has not labored in opposition to me in my previous endeavors; it should not now.

TTyler: Which of your poems do you assume has essentially the most fascinating origins?

Mamata: A number of of the poems have fascinating origins. For instance, take the quick poem known as “Rights.” It reads:

Your rights are like Lakshm

realizing them is Saraswati

dwelling them is Shakti, sister,

the goddesses are with you.

Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Shakti are Hindu goddesses symbolizing wealth, information, and power respectively.

Right here is how the poem happened. I had participated in a workshop on the College of Texas known as the Austin Challenge the place poets, performing artists, and activists experimented with Picture Theater to sculpt their concepts with human our bodies and expressions and have members interpret what they noticed. The precursor to this poem was born on the workshop. Its theme was immigrant rights and I had written one thing describing the pictures I had made. It was the season when Hindu goddesses are publicly worshipped with grandeur and the central Texas Bengali neighborhood was preparing for the celebration. Inside per week, my scribbles from the workshop developed into this poem, retaining solely the title, bought translated into Bengali and despatched to their journal, the place each the English and Bengali translation appeared aspect by aspect.

This origin is fascinating in the best way it stretches from a degree to a line, connecting two very completely different occasions. The end result is fascinating in the best way the poem connects two dissimilar themes. A human rights activist could not often relate human rights to wealth, information, and power; and one who prays for wealth, information, or power could not see their reference to human rights.

Tyler: In the event you imagined your self because the reader of the poems, what’s the feeling you hope you’d come away with after studying “Winter Blossoms”?

Mamata: I hope the reader would be capable to really feel the feelings of the themes, join what appears distant and unfamiliar with what’s acquainted. I additionally hope the reader comes away with a sense of compassion, understanding, and hope, and a few meals for thought.

Tyler: I perceive the guide is illustrated. Who’s your illustrator and why did you select to have illustrations?

Mamata: Indira Chakravorty is the illustrator. She can be an anti-violence activist and is a co-founder of two Texas organizations that work in opposition to home violence: SAHELI in Austin and DAYA in Houston. I felt that line drawings would improve the messages within the guide, and provides the guide a singular look. I had labored with Indira for years, on numerous tasks, and had seen her creative expertise. I believed that she can be excellent for this job. I’ve been proud of the consequence.

Tyler: Thanks for becoming a member of me at this time, Mamata. Earlier than we go, will you let readers know the place they will go to be taught extra about “Winter Blossoms” and the place to buy a duplicate of the guide?

Mamata: Readers can browse the primary few pages of the guide on the iUniverse web site ( Reader evaluations can be found on the Amazon web site. A duplicate could also be bought from both of those web sites, from Barnes & Noble. The SAHELI web site ( additionally showcases the guide on their dwelling web page. Along with being a device for understanding home violence within the Asian context, the guide helps SAHELI with royalties obtained from the gross sales of the guide. I’m accessible for studying at non-profit occasions, particularly for comparable causes. I’ll quickly have my very own web site at with details about Winter Blossoms.

Tyler: Thanks, Mamata. I’ve loved speaking to you. It has been a pleasure to satisfy each a poet and somebody intent on enhancing the world. I want you all the most effective.

Mamata: Thanks, Tyler. It’s my pleasure.


Supply by Tyler R. Tichelaar

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