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Five Minutes With is a series of interviews with contemporary poets from India.

Sonnet Mondal is an Indian poet, editor, and the author of Karmic Chanting, Ink and Line, and five other books of poetry. Editor in Chief of The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, Mondal is an international coordinator for Lyrikline Poetry Network (Haus für Poesie, Berlin) and is the founder director of Chair Poetry Evenings International Festival. He has been a guest editor for Words Without Borders (New York) and Poetry at Sangam (India). Sonnet has read at literary festivals in Macedonia; Cork, Ireland; Istanbul, Turkey; Granada, Nicaragua; Galle, Sri Lanka; Berlin, Germany; Hungary, Slovakia, and Italy.

Photo of Sonnet Mondal
Credit: John Minihan

What prompted your interest in poetry?
A longing to write–to realise that at some point in my life sighs replaced my natural breathing, and to find a place to settle the stories that I carry within me prompted me to write poetry. I invoke Maya Angelou here: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story within you.” Perhaps writing poetry has helped me settle my life stories on paper which I keep revisiting. Also in this chasing world, we are engulfed by two layers of smoke–one arising from pollution that blankets our places from stars–and another–the smoke from our fast burning life that doesn’t even give us an opportunity to look above towards those stars. In these situations, I have always felt poems have acted as a respite, allowing me to revisit my past, look above towards the infinity, and realise how far I have come in life.

What are you reading?
Calling a Wolf, A Wolf by Kaveh Akbar, Love is a Dog from Hell by Charles Bukowski and Love Without a Story by Arundhati Subramaniam.

How do you find inspiration?
My inspiration arises from the reaction of my consciousness with daily incidents, accidents and encounters, and takes its form through the words I chant to realise the importance of Karma and awareness in my life. The poems I write are a part of my ‘Knowing’ which is supported by the unwavering will to inquire, perceive and discern. There is an imperfect fit between our perceptions, actuality, and articulation. Poetry for me fills up this gap or at least gives an identity to it. Poems also help me create and recreate a much coveted life that is sometimes far from existence but imperative to my life as a whole.

Where do you write?
I usually note down my observations in my notebook while travelling and later work on them past midnight in my bedroom. I have been working like this for over a decade now.

Why do you write?
I see myself as a person who writes, writes out of curiosity, writes out of hunger, writes out of love, and for whom poetry is the best medium of writing when it comes to expressing those thoughts which cannot be depicted through direct and exact sentences.

What is your advice for emerging poets?
Read, write, read more, write more.

What is the role of poets in shaping the future?
From ancient times, poetry and poets have played a momentous role in giving rise to debates and discourses that have shaped the literary history of a nation. Upholding the truth, balancing it with imagination is the literary duty of a poet toward society and I think this type of writing has much more futuristic role to play than the flimsily news items we encounter everyday. That which lies on paper as poetry shapes our cultural theory. So we should always be careful to sustain the ideologies of humanity while writing poems.

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