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venerdì 7 ottobre 2016

Interview with Vandana Khanna

by Giuseppina Biondo
Questions translated by Maria Basso

While we wait for Sunday 16th October’s event of #Recitationes, I wanted you to know the poet Vandana Khanna through a few simple questions. 

GB: Hello Vandana, I start the interview by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to have this chat.
The first thing I would like to ask you is at what age you found out you wanted to be a writer. What event triggered in you the need of writing poetry?
VK: Writing has been a part of my life for so many years it’s difficult to remember a time without it. I tried to write my first novel when I was nine years old because I loved the stories I was reading and wanted to create my own. There wasn’t one event that triggered my turn towards poetry. I started writing poety in my early teens—partly because I liked the rhythm of the lines (so much like music) and partly because I liked how poetry could evoke emotions in such a short, powerful space.

GB: Studies. What is your path?
VK: I took my first poetry writing class as an undergrad in college. I was lucky to have studied under some amazing and accomplished writers such as Rita Dove, Greg Orr and Charles Wright. They were so instrumental in my education as a poet and much of what I learned as a young writer still informs my writing today.

GB: What are your literary and life role models? And what do you think you have in common with them?
VK: I feel like I have so many literary role models that I could go on and on. When I first started reading and writing poetry I was looking for other writers who were immigrants, who had similar experiences to mine of expatriation. I was first introduced to the poems of Li-Young Lee, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Meena Alexander in college and reading their work changed my perspective on my own writing. I found comfort and bravery in their words. They gave me the courage to write about my own life and experiences.

GB: What is the main characteristic of your poetry? What the main themes? How would you describe your works?
VK: I think my writing is constantly evolving. In my first two books, I was more tightly connected to autobiographical storytelling—my main concerns were with telling stories about my childhood and growing up in America. With this third book that I am finishing, my interests are wider. I am telling stories about Hindu gods and goddesses but I am also writing about the ways in which the world sees women and girls, they ways in which we treat them. I am always drawn to a strong voice and imagery—if I can reveal the experience through an image, I feel more satisfied, like I’ve done what I was meant to do.

GB: In your opinion, what is the most important between the sound of the words, the transmitted images and metrics?
VK: With poetry, I don’t think you can isolate one element to be the most important. The sound, the language and the beat of a poem are intertwined. Each component informs they others. This is what I love the most about poetry: it works in many different ways—in the mouth, in the ear, in the mind.

GB: When you are writing a poem, what do you follow more your instinct, the inspiration and your spirituality or do you follow schemes, sequences or rules?
VK: I am a writer that believes in instinct and inspiration. That first flash of an image, a phrase, a sound is what drives me to the page. This is the part of writing that is the most exhilirating for me. But, after the initial inspiration so much time goes into shaping the images and ideas, to following an internal pattern to the words.

GB: Politics and poetry. What is the priority politics should have towards citizens? And what role should poetry have in politics?
VK: There is so much that can be said about the role of politics in art—and much smarter poets have written brilliantly about this connection and the role of politics and citizenship. If Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen” hasn’t made it into your hands yet, remedy that situation.

GB: What is your next project? I think that some new proposal from me is soon to come…
VK: I am still working on finishing my third full length collection about gods and goddesses. They still have stories to tell and I’m happy to receive them.

GB: Thank you for everything, dear Vandana. The only thing left now is to ask you to say “Hello” to our readers with a phrase or some verses that are important to you.
VK: “Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought.” Joan Didion