Poets are those fascinating humans who can transform their anguish into melody and breathe gripping emotions into words. So, to be able to sit down and chat with even one member of this unbelievable family is an honor. And with this build-up, I welcome the poet of Piled Up Pauses, AV Anjali Menon to the wonderful readers’ community of Mojito with a Twist.
1. How did you discover your love for poetry?
I had an early reckoning of my affinity towards poetry. I think I wrote my first poem, even before I had a formal exposure to the art form. I was quite a dreamer right from my childhood and was always secretly scribbling my thoughts in notebooks.
2. There is an undeniable feeling of heartbreak and betrayal in several of the poems in Piled-Up Pauses. Are these inspired by real-life?
As I mention in the note of my book, these poems are a result of my experiences, perceptions, and imagination. I cannot call them autobiographical. Maybe, it starts from my experience, but then I color it with my imagination.
3. Out of all the poems in your book, which one is your favorite?
I think it is “My Five Dead Friends”. It happened to me at a very intense moment and I wrote it quite spontaneously. I never edited the poem, I wanted to keep it raw and real. It’s about coming of age, how we are brought up to believing in things for its arbitrary value and how the exposure to philosophy, music and literature changes your perceptions. There are so many things that we unlearn as we grow up. By “five friends”, I meant five senses. We initially take things at its face value, but as we evolve, we realise that things are not the way we see, hear, taste, smell, or feel. We keep adding layers and connotations to our linear understanding of the world.
4. There are quite a few poets in today’s world. Any favorite?
I really like the work of Leigh Stein. Her writing is fierce, candid, and humorous, and that’s the kind of writing I look up to. When you read her poems, you know this is a woman from the 21st century. She talks about bad dates, traveling, gym workouts, and also includes a lot of pop culture references (like she compares herself with Lindsay Lohan in one of her poems). I like honest people and I like honest poems. She doesn’t try to impress Shakespeare, if you know what I mean.
5. It appears to me that poets are more in touch with their feelings than other humans. How else can they infuse their words with so many emotions! What are your thoughts regarding it?
I do think that I am an extremely sensitive person, and channeling that into words is sometimes my need rather than my hobby. Writing has been therapeutic for me and mostly, I don’t really write for an audience. At the same time, it is not very easy when you’re a person who gets affected so much. It’s like I’m never walking, I’m either taking a leap, or falling in a pit. Extremities are good for writing poems, but in real life, I’m not a proud ambassador of it.
6. Although we can talk about poets and poetry forever, I am sure the readers would love to know about you. Who is AV Anjali Menon? What does your normal day look like?
I work with LinkedIn as a Content Strategist and I’m also a freelancer. Having said that, my normal day does include a lot of poetry. It is very difficult for me to separate it from my daily life. I host poetry events and most of my friends are writers and artists. So yes, my WhatsApp chats do have a lot of metaphors and similes :P.
7. What did the process of publishing your book look like? Any obstacles that hopeful writers should be aware of?
It is a journey with its own bumpy roads. For me, the battle was always internal. As I said, a lot of these poems are personal and I wasn’t sure whether I had something to give away to my readers. When I was selecting the poems for the book, I would question myself, “Does this poem have aesthetic value or any takeaway for my readers?”. And that’s how I selected the poems for the book. I was never ready to publish, the pandemic changed that for me.
8. What advice would you offer to aspiring writers and poets?
I think there’s a tendency to follow trends. We’re tuned to follow patterns. These days, I see that the style of spoken word poetry becomes repetitive. It loses authenticity and they all start sounding the same. It’s wonderful to have influences, but under the influence, one shouldn’t copy.
9. What are we going to get next from you? Any project that you are working on? Could we get a sneak peek?
My plan is to go with the flow. I am not a disciplined writer who plans or commits to a project. It’s mostly instinctive and spontaneous. The writer’s block is real, so I might as well not plan.
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