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Abha Iyengar: Poetry and the Power of Commitment

 (Three Poems & a Story by Abha Iyengar
and an interview by Andrea Pagnes)

InterviewCharred Remains | Old Woman Starfish


(Andrea Pagnes) – Abha Iyengar is writer, poet and scriptwriter. She is a Kota Press Poetry Anthology contest winner. Her story, “The High Stool” was nominated for the Story South Million Writers Award. She is a member of The Poetry Society of India and ‘Riyaz’ Writer’s Group at The British Council, New Delhi. Her work has appeared in several abha iyengaranthologies, magazines and literary journals such as Bewildering Stories, Muse India, Arabesques Review, Conversation Poetry Quarterly and others. She received the Lavanya Sankaran Writing Fellowship 2009-2010. She is an editor, holds creative writing workshops, does spoken word performances, street photography, cyber art and her poem-film, “Parwaaz” (Flight), has won an international award in Greece. Her work has been called ‘visceral’.

Anaïs Nin said “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” You have used this quote as overture for your essay “A Woman’s Cry: A Need to Write”, first published in 2001. Hence, the core for a woman writer . . .
“The first responsibility of the writer is to acknowledge the self and the need to write. It took me a long time to do this. Within me there was always a desire to express myself through words and be recognized for it, but I ignored this feeling. I had filed it away in my subconscious while I pursued more socially acceptable degrees like Economics and Business Management. But truth will out, and I have finally acknowledged myself as a writer.

A writer writes the sum total of her experiences, readings, interactions, feelings, ideas, and thoughts. She writes because she feels a need to express herself and communicate with others. I often have to go deep within myself to write. At times, I do not like what I see, and feel scared. Take for example:

I am sometimes bowed down / by my long hair, / and my bosom. / My tits and tresses torment me. / Maybe if I / Cut them off / I could stand up straight / And tell the world: / Look at me / I am a human being / Just like you. / Not Just a woman.

A writer may write on mundane issues, or on those that make her blood boil. I have written on health, study tips, and also on the injustices against the poor and against women. The issues are varied. For example, in a segment of one of my poems published in Femina, a woman’s magazine, I emphasize the need to recognize the plight of the poor and homeless:

Torn Jeans / Worn for days / Lice-infested / Crawly place. / I didn’t choose / to be like this, / Who Would? / I feel like the proverbial fish- / Out of water. / Out of water, / Out of food, / Out of hearth, home, / And brood.

The basic point here is that you may not be living it, but if you feel it you can express it. Hopefully, through the writing, you make the reader feel it too.

The writings may be of course also humorous, cynical, satirical, soothing, or moving. Consider this Haiku of mine:

Smooth as a Raven’s wing / Your hair falls, / hides your face, / Leaving me enveloped in darkness.

Or this one:

One day to live, / Fragile, the flower, / Yet blossoms with delight.

The words evoke different thoughts and emotions. Even so, they emote what the writer considers right, truthful, and pertinent. She has to write what she believes in. That is the responsibility of the writer to her self.

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