The Na/GloPoWriMo Interview with Uma Gowrishankar

Uma Gowrishankar’s first full-length collection of poetry, Birthing History, was published by Leaky Boots Press. Gowrishankar lives in Chennai,  South India. South India. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in online journals that include QaartsiluniBuddhist Poetry ReviewCurio PoetryWords DanceCarcinogenic PoetryPure Slush, and Postcard Shorts.

1. Why did you start writing poetry? Why do you still?

Writing poetry is for me the natural and basic of expressions. I carry words, images, memories, and stories, and a poem is a place where I rest these. Poetry opens my spirit, and that is perhaps the reason I read and write poetry every day. Poetry is the yoga for my soul.

2. What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve gotten? The worst?

The best piece of advice I received and have used well is – Read. Read. Read.

3. How did your new book come into being? 

I never had a collection of poems in mind. The poems in ‘Birthing History’ were written over three years. The poems are memories, the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we tell each other. Legends, myths are from the collective memory. They impinge into the personal, shape my experiences.

4. Is there a generative prompt, practice or ritual that you find particularly helpful, or that you would recommend to students, friends, or other poets?

For many years, I have participated in the National Poetry Month, writing a poem a day in the month of April. I have written to prompts. Energy and discipline are required to write a poem every day, prompts help to create a wide frame to work. I like open prompts like, write a cento, a villanelle… I also like an intriguing one like this one from Rachel MccKibbins: ‘Write a poem that re-tells a family anecdote. If
you don’t have one, think of one you’ve heard from someone else. A story that has never left you. Let the last line be what you learned from this anecdote; a power you now have, or a black hole you avoid.’


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