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Centre for Stories

Abhimanyu Kumar

"Poetry will not save the world but it can save the poet from damnation. To that extent, it has a role. A limited one."

is a series of interviews with contemporary poets from India. 

Abhimanyu Kumar is a journalist based out of Delhi. His first book of poems Milan and the Sea was published in 2017. His poems have been published in several Indian and international journals such as Cafe Dissensus, Underground Books, Riot Felice and others. Being an admirer of the works of Beat writers, in particular Allen Ginsberg, Abhimanyu likes to explore political themes in his work and to focus on the personal. He also edits the online magazine Sunflower Collective, which promotes the work of Beat and Hungry Generation writers, the latter being a group of persecuted radical writers based in the east of India in the 1960s.

 Photo of Abhimanyu Kumar

What prompted your interest in poetry?
I cannot remember as I was fairly young when I started writing in verse. Perhaps feeling lonely in a residential school, which I went to at the age of 10 had something to do with it. When I received some acknowledgement from my teachers that my efforts had certain merit, I continued. Later, the support and encouragement of peers also helped me retain my interest.

What are you reading?
I have just finished reading a book called Becoming Hitler. It traces the period in Hitler’s life between World War I and the time he made a coup attempt in early 1930s, coming to the notice of the German public at-large for the first time. The making of Hitler, and the ideology his party propagated has a lot of similarities with what we see in India today–where a Muslim man was recently lynched to death in Jharkahand, my home state. This is one of many such cases in last five years.

How do you find inspiration?
The smallest of things–the big events really do not work for me in terms of immediate response. I think journalism is more suited to it. If I am not inspired I do not or cannot write so a lot of it is just waiting for it. Reading other poets can also be inspiring.

Where do you write?
Anywhere and everywhere. Never on a desk and a table. In bed. Classrooms when I was a student in a formal sense. Near the sea. In the mountains. In the houses of lovers and friends. In a forest. On the road. In cafes and bars.

Why do you write?
Because there is nothing else that can be done about a feeling, an issue, a sensation, an epiphany. Because it needs to be written down or else you cannot sleep or breathe. Because you need to say it out loud and get it out of your system. Because you need to send across a message sometimes.

What is your advice for emerging poets?
Listen to no advice. It rarely works. Because poetry comes differently to all of us. Because nothing you presume really turns out how you had thought it would.

What is the role of poets in shaping the future?
I am less and less sure about the role of poets in the larger scheme of things. In a hyper-capitalistic and consumerist world, art is judged for its utility in the market, as Theodore Adorno has written. Poetry really has no use per se in that sense. Poetry will not save the world but it can save the poet from damnation. To that extent, it has a role. A limited one. And perhaps, some readers of it.

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