Poetry of Immense Grief: An Interview with Kamla Kapur by Dr. Nilanshu Kumar Agarwal

Kamla Kapur is a sensitive poetic voice, who lives half the year in a remote Kullu Valley in the Himalayas and the other half in California. Her poetry and short stories have been published in the original English and in Hindi and Punjabi translation in several journals and magazines. In 1977, she won the prestigious The Sultan Padamsee Award for Playwriting in English. Her full length play, The Curlew’s Cry, was produced by Yatrik, New Delhi. A Punjabi translation of her play, Clytemnestra was produced by The Company in Chandigarh. Her award-winning Zanana, was produced at the National School of Drama, New Delhi. Seven of her plays were published in Enact, New Delhi.

Since 1985, Ms Kapur has been commuting between the USA and India. Her full length plays, Hamlet’s Father, Kepler Dreams, and Clytemnestra were showcased at the Marin Shakespeare Festival in San Francisco, Gas Lamp Quarter Theatre in San Diego, and Dramatic Risks Theatre Group in New York, respectively. She was selected by the New Mexico Arts Division as the Playwright in Residence for two years. She has recently completed her first novel, The Autobiography of Saint Padma the Whore, a chapter of which was published by in Our Feet Walk The Sky (Aunt Lute Press, Berkeley, California, USA), and a fantasy novel, Malini in Whirlwood.

Ms. Kapur has published two books of poetry: the critically acclaimed, As A Fountain In A Garden (Tarang Press.Del Mar,CA,USA-Hemkunt Publishers Private, Ltd., India, 2005) and Radha Sings (Rolling Drum and Dark Child Press, USA, 1987).

Ms. Kapur was also on the faculty of Grossmont College in San Diego, California for 18 years and taught creative writing courses in play writing, poetry, creative non-fiction, fiction, and courses in mythology, Shakespeare, and Women’s Literature. Kamla Kapur was also a freelance writer for The Times of India, The Hindustan Times and The Tribune; she had taught English Literature at Delhi University too. This multi-faceted literary genius talks to Dr.Nilanshu Kumar Agarwal in an illuminating email interview.

NKA: Pain is of paramount importance in As A Fountain In A Garden. For example, the expression “and left me/ here, / with this absence, this gift/ of grief” emotionally presents a glimpse of the seething volcano of grief inside. Has the production of the just-mentioned poetry collection helped you in the release of your emotions of grief, anxiety and pain? I suppose, by the creation of this collection, you must have found some release, as literature is cathartic and therapeutic. What do you say?

KK: I don’t know how I would have survived the experience of my husband’s suicide without processing it through poetry. It’s not to say that people who don’t write poetry don’t survive, or survive well, but without the outlet of poetry I might have fossilized in my grief, or developed a chronic habit of sorrow or even bitterness, and certainly a debilitating regret and guilt. Poetry that is not merely release – crying is also that – is an adventure of the soul in its journey towards itself. It demands an utter honesty of experience and expression without which writing remains only cathartic and does not touch the depth at which it becomes art. The discipline of crafting a poem with patience and honesty gave me the perspective and the detachment to pursue a subject that was very painful for me. Making art in this sense is the highest spiritual activity of humans, for it takes one through suffering beyond it. Continue reading