The author, Kaushal Suvarna, was born in the East but was educated in Western thought and has spent the greater part of his 35 years on earth thinking and experimenting on love, morality and life in its myriad shades, dabbling in literature, chess, music, cosmogony, quantum mechanics, psychology, neurology, genetics, philosophy and spirituality, grabbing an MSc in Mathematics along the way before retiring to work in IT.
1) Tell us something about your book.
In a way, Siamese Compassion was written in a span of 2 months; in other ways, it’s a distillation of over 2 decades of thinking, experimenting and course corrections thanks to multiple heartbreaks and life-altering changes in philosophy, physiology, and perception.
I present to the reader various questions, shake them up a bit, ask them to look around and beyond this shell of coziness and constant business that we’ve built and hopefully, they’ll introspect and come up with some real answers and not the hand-me-downs we’ve been doused with.
2) Your book is a collection of poems, what made you chose the varied topics that you have written about?
I have always felt deeply, inquired deeply, and cared deeply about the world, it’s people and the cosmos in general, and wondered why are things so and if we are such a logical race with such technological marvels, why is there so much disparity, suffering, bloodshed and outright stupidity?
I have tried to answer these questions by delving into various disciplines from literature to cosmogony – I wanted to do a PhD in astrophysics – to religion to philosophy and, funnily, though aptly, ultimately ending up closer to home in genetics, neurology, and biology.
I had been digesting these thoughts the last couple years while being all but bedridden thanks to Graves’ disease, it’s a kind of hyperthyroidism when an old friend suggested I start writing again to kill time. I used to be a very active poet in my college days, mostly romantic lyrical poems but had hardly written 3 poems in the last decade. And then Siamese Compassion happened 🙂
3) How important is it for the poem’s meaning to be accessible to your readers?Should one just understand it as is..or should they have to work to understand it?
Haha, I hope you’re not pulling my leg for the eclectic and esoteric mix I have here 🙂
But honestly I have given this much thought and, of course, the truth cannot come down to your level, the reader, as a seeker, must rise up to it. Having said that, I would love to write philosophical essays but I don’t see the point of sitting in an ivory tower! As a writer, if you believe in change, your thoughts, no matter how deep or difficult, must be accessible to a reasonable layman.
I understand it’s a veritable tightrope walk but the solution I came up with was to keep the tone conversational, the form free, the language contemporary and add some idiosyncratic images and colloquialisms and pop references. And perhaps if you can hold their attention long enough you might have the time and the opening to land a punch 🙂
And then that opens the possibility that perhaps the readers might research it a bit more to understand what hit them!
4) Do the happenings around you inspire you?
Oh too much, I’m too sensitive, always have been! It doesn’t show on my face and I have learned not to let it trouble me as I earn my daily bread, but my mind keeps registering everything from vegetarianism to vigilantism.
I like what one of my readers has remarked in her review, “from Linda Goodman to Freud – from washrooms to barber shops; everything makes for introspection”.
Hahaha, true 🙂
5) Which are some of your favorite excerpts from your poems and why?
I think some of the strongest images and thoughts come in the second section which is full of rage on the way things are, and our blind adherence to religion is one of the targets there:
In a world where dog eats dog
And mommy cats kittens
How furry li’l things hold our imagination!
And none more than a loving Father
Who watches us from a distance
As we’re innocently at play
Killing a million dispensable souls
That He must reprimand at eventide
For coming home with dirty feet
I love Nine Lives and Juke Box Blues coz they are very personal, e.g.
I’ve been the redheaded stepchild
In my blue-blooded environment
The apple that fell in alternate realities
But I hope that black sheep too have a silver lining
And some crabs walk far but eventually find their homes
No one asked how pure your love was
Or what price a heart sells per kilo
but sometimes you, of course, love it ‘cause that metaphor fits so nicely or that reference was so neat like you noticed in Stockholm Syndrome – that is one among many references by the by, this book is a literal minefield of Easter eggs from literature, movies, games and even Mathematics!
Here’s another lovely image, your loved one’s traveling alone in an airplane:
How it must feel above the clouds
Sipping the froth of a sleepy coffee
Or stretching on a lazy duvet
Windy sans Aladdin
But I think the poem that is the most memorable for me is Topological Mixing and not just because it was so hard to explain the concepts of Chaos Theory to the layman and still have any semblance of rhythm to your writing – I was additionally using the imagery as a backdrop for long term relationships! Boy, am I crazy!
6) Who are some of your favorite poets?
Though most know him as a playwright, I love Shakespeare as a poet more, and of course, I adore Robert Burns and Ghalib.
While this book is mostly free verse, my first love is always lyric poetry; hope to showcase more of it next, and in an equally profound way.
And lest I should forget my current favorite, Jeffrey McDaniel – if I have started writing again, after almost a decade, it’s only because of reading his The Quiet World!
7) What is the advice you would give to other poets?
I will repeat something that another of my favorite poets, Mangesh Padgaonkar, said – READ!
It is very important for all writers, but even more so for poets, to read and not just because you get better content.
I think with poets it’s a bit of an ego issue, we think mushy emotions or half-decent thoughts alone make for a good poem but there is so much to form and rhythm that one cannot just get unless one has read and analyzed great poetry!
I was part of a poetry group and was correcting someone’s poem for rhythm and suddenly other members flared up thinking me to be a snob and said something to the effect that rhythm is a myth, it just matters how you recite!
Nothing could be farther from the truth, rhythm is the single most important aspect of poetry, and if one only one knew how the great poets have played with it could you realize that most of what passes today is not even bad verse – it’s not verse!
And this is all the more relevant now that the world shifts more and more towards free verse; remember what T S Eliot, one of the original masters of the free verse, said – “No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job”.
8) Tell us something about your publishing journey.
O boy, I’m still learning, and it’s a long long way to go! Haha 🙂
There are very few publishers who want to do poetry today, and some exclusive poetry houses won’t even entertain you unless you’ve been published earlier. So you’re trapped in a vicious circle. I tried submitting individual poems to some reputed magazines and international competitions but didn’t have any luck there either – it felt more of the same and with substantial entry fees, a year down the line, I would rather use my limited budget elsewhere.
I wanted Siamese Compassion to be my first book but, since it’s quite serious and close to my heart, it would hurt if it didn’t reach anyone; which is why, to test the waters, so to say, I compiled random poems I had written earlier, mostly romantic, and published them in A Trans-Arabian Handshake.
While, thanks to CreateSpace/Amazon, the process of self-publishing was very easy and absolutely free (aspiring writers please beware and keep away from vanity publishers!) I learned the hard way that books don’t sell just by being good and being out there!
And for me personally that’s really really hard, I’m an abstract philosophical introvert with no network and zero business skills 🙂 Writing poems is the easy part, selling them is where it’s at!
Thankfully I stumbled upon ThereandTheir and, fingers crossed, good times are ahead.
9) How can the readers get in touch with you?
I do not have an author website yet, hopefully soon, but you can always drop by on the Facebook pages for either of my books:
@ATransArabianHandshake or @SiameseCompassion
You can also follow me on Twitter @lovelifeetc
Or if, like me, you prefer a more one to one, less noisy medium where real discussions can take place, feel free to drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org