Amit Mishra has talked to the poet and author of a popular book, An Apology for Shakespeare, S A Joseph. You can read the interview below.
Amit: For the starters, you have attached so much importance to poetry as the preface of An Apology for Shakespeare suggests, dear Joseph. People might ask why so? Please explain a little.
S A Joseph: Yes, It is true because the defence of poetry is not a common topic even among teachers of literature. Many a people have not even heard about it. Some think that a defence of poetry is not at all needed. In such a condition, we are compelled to state before the actual text what is the main purpose of the book. It is actually not a collection of different poems describing Nature, love or a mountain. All chapters are to be combined and to be taken as one poem. It is a long conversation with the author with his master. There are a beginning, growth and an end to this conversation. The master’s reply comes at the end- the first line of the last paragraph of four lines.
Amit: All the poets who claim to be writing poetry in their own capacity, do you think all just become important? Or there is a degree or a level which should be applied to judge the importance of the poetry and the poet writing it?
S A Joseph: Well, all poems written by different people are important in one or the other context. We cannot make any parameters, criteria, or levels for evaluating poetry. Judging poetry is very difficult for anyone who knows poetry. A poem which is not important for me will be important for some other person.
Amit: As a poet, what is the process behind writing a poem for you? How does it begin and how does it end?
S A Joseph: According to me a human mind which is highly inspired only can write creatively. The compulsion of the feelings and emotions should be strong in the mind to deliver ideas for a creative work. The process of writing begins with a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings and ends with a high relief to the inspired mind.
Amit: And according to you, what is the definition of poetry which is near to the perfection? Or you also go by the definitions set by the legends of English poetry?
S A Joseph: Good, I believe the words of the everlasting masters of English Poetry regarding the definition of poetry. According to Matthew Arnold, Poetry is criticism of life as poetry is nothing but life itself. It should be the interpretation of the age and time.
Amit: As a student and as someone who has read so much of poetry, please tell us about the book of poems which you have liked the most? And why did you like it?
S A Joseph: As a student of literature I had to study all books in the syllabus for the examination. There had been some non-detailed books also to learn. There are many classic books, which are my favourite books in English Literature. The book of poems which I liked most is ‘The Divine Comedy’ by Dante.
Amit: When it comes to English Poetry, we often look towards the English Poets and often disregard the Indian poets writing in English. As a poet and as an academician too, why do you think such is the scenario?
S A Joseph: Well, It is because of the ignorance about poetry, some people disregard the Indian Poets Writing in English. They think Shelley and Shakespeare only can write. If anyone writes, it should be like that of Shelley and Shakespeare. They never knew that there were many writers in England during the time of Shelley or Shakespeare. We know that there are many IELTS coaching centres in our country which say that we should learn to speak English just like a native speaker of England. They do not know that there are many dialects of English in England itself and the people speak with a slight change in dialects and in accents in different parts. The unfortunate customer learns what the coaching centre staff gives him. English is a universal and international language. It is so flexible that it is spoken all over the world with different accents of various people.
Amit: An Apology for Shakespeare has been a successful venture and it has surely given you a recognition as a poet who is courageous enough to articulate his art in the form of a bold poetry. How do you see this success and what does it mean to you as a poet?
S A Joseph: Yes, For me success and failure are equally important and they do not affect me in any way. Neither success gives me much happiness nor failure can give me more sorrow.
Amit: What are your further plans in the field of writing after this success? Are you working on some books? Prose of poetry again?
S A Joseph: I am planning to publish my next book, probably in the beginning of next year. I am working on my next book ”The Sublime Queen’. It is a collection of poems in defence of poetry.
Amit: Many thanks for your time and all the best for your future endeavours in the field of poetry!
S A Joseph: Thank you very much.