Monday, October 1, 2018



ALICJA KUBERSKA: What does poetry mean to you?

LILY SWARN: Poetry, to me is a perception or a feeling that has crossed the realm of ordinariness and moved ahead to a finer, more evolved experience, which finds a new shape in the folds and waves of words. The ostensible and prosaic meaning is elevated to a different level altogether with the means of symbolism, metre and metaphors. It's the release of so much that lies buried beneath my being. It comes out in a rush of honest creativity; all shackles broken, all dams cracked. Poetry is also my sustenance.

ALICJA KUBERSKA: What’s according to you the meaning of poetry in the contemporary world?

LILY SWARN: It’s the oasis in a desert, an evergreen cedar in a wasteland. Poetry is the refinement of the soul, caressing aching hearts with muslin fronds. Poetry let’s you get intimate with the reader without actually fondling them. In the contemporary world, motion poems, animated poems, poems put to music, pictorial poems shake or shock the reader into reading. It’s soul food for desensitized humanoids of technology. According to me poetry is an indulgence and a catharsis rolled into one, in this fast paced world of geeks and machines.

ALICJA KUBERSKA:  Can you describe your creative process while writing a new poem?

LILY SWARN: A poem germinates in my mind in a flash at no given moment. It begs to be written. It beckons and beseeches till I soak the screen on my ageing iPhone with its perfume. It simply doesn’t let me be. It nudges, it prods and playfully punches me into writing it. It’s a surreal journey from beginning to end for I (the poetess) seem to take a back seat. The poem takes charge. It becomes the master of ceremonies of its own creation. Words tumble out helter-skelter, tripping over each other in their haste to be written. I rarely if ever go back and forth with its editing for I firmly believe that the first thought or emotion is the perfect one for it has come out distilled and aromatic. I am possessive and protective of the first draft. I think it is haloed turf.

ALICJA KUBERSKA:  Did it happen to you that a poem was just your dream?

LILY SWARN: Oh yes! Many poems are hidden desires cutting off from their doggy leash and breaking free. These unfulfilled dreams tug at the reins and gallop out like stallions in the shape of powerful poems. They carry in their words the yearnings of a million throbbing hearts. 

ALICJA KUBERSKA: Tell us about your inspiration. What’re the most important subjects to you?

LILY SWARN: The apparent injustice, stalking life, forces me to write against it repeatedly. War troubles me and the shrieks of widows, orphans and refugees angers me. Nature’s wondrous healing ways endear me to the Creator. Sufi philosophy and spiritualism often adorn my poetic garments. The innocent charm of a hill maiden makes me write just as much as the wailing sound of a flute or a “sarangi”. I am referred to as the poet of everyday life. I see the miraculous in the mundane. I am enamoured by Love and enslaved by hearts that love. Real human sagas jostle my creativity awake. I visualise a world without borders of any genre.

MARIA MIRAGLIA:  Which were the emotions that inspired your first verses?

LILY SWARN: Rib tearing grief oozed out as verses, the untimely death of my young son smudged my poetry with tearful streaks. Calf love and infatuation had made me a poet much before that in my early teens. The changing vista of seasons constantly inspires me and I am secretly proud of the praise that I garner for my nature poems. An autumn leaf whispers its tales to me and a snowflake teases me.

MARIA MIRAGLIA:  Was your aspiration to become a poet or did all happen by chance?

LILY SWARN: Since I was very young I had been scribbling in the margins of books and behind flyers dropped in the letter box. The written word was my first real pal. I read it, wrote it, hummed it, enacted it and sang it. Folk songs and Sikh Holy Scriptures had me hooked for life. Pain and loss accelerated my foray into the domain of poetry. It definitely was part of Dame Destiny’s master plan for me .The vast ocean that is the internet expedited my quest.

MARIA MIRAGLIA:  Who is the first person you read your poems to and why?

LILY SWARN: I think I read them to the Red Silk Cotton tree that grew outside my school. On a serious note, I hid under the staircase at home and wrote them in a diary. I never showed my first, rather exquisite though moony poems, written about puppy love and adoration, to anyone. They shall go with me to my grave and never see the light of day. The first self-composed poem that I recited was about the mystery shrouding death and life. It won me various awards in Panjab University Youth Festivals while I was still in college and it was heard by a huge audience.

MARIA MIRAGLIA:  Have you published any poetic anthology, if so what did you feel the first time you got it in your hands?

LILY SWARN: Yes, I have published a poetic anthology titled, A Trellis of Ecstasy. It has Prize winning poems as well as different sections Ike Conversations with my soul, Nature poems, Love poems, Portraits, Alliteration etc. It was a supremely fulfilling moment in my life to hold it in my hands, almost akin to giving birth to a child. I gazed lovingly at it with a startlingly similar fondness. I stroked it repeatedly and held it close. A Trellis of Ecstasy went on to get rave reviews with five stars. In fact a book about the nature of my poetry is being planned by an erudite scholar, even as I answer these queries .It was also applauded by the Chief Minister of Punjab.

MARIA MIRAGLIA:  Who are the poets you prefer reading? Do you get inspiration from them?

LILY SWARN: I love reading the Romantic Poets like Keats, Shelly, Byron. John Donne and Yeats are inspirational as well. I like to keep abreast of modern poetic trends though I don’t follow them. I prefer to be as original as my own thinking lets me. Women poets like Maya Angelou move me. Robert Frost, Neruda and our very own Tagore inspire and awaken. The images and metaphors stir new sensations.

APRILIA ZANK:  How important is accessibility of meaning to you? Do you challenge the readers to work hard to decipher your poems, or do you prefer transparency of meaning?

LILY SWARN: Accessibility of meaning is most important to me. Poetry that cannot be understood at some level by most people who read it, can never qualify for greatness. The love and positive feedback in the form of devoted readers is my strength. I am grateful for the reach of my verses. International acclaim came to me because I am told my words touch chords. There has to be an instant connect with the reader even though, some poems tantalize you with their layers and images.

APRILIA ZANK:  What kind of poems do you write mostly? Do you have recurring themes, or are all your poems unique?

LILY SWARN: I write about anything. A drop of dew holds a poem in its fickle heart as well as the gruesome gang rape of a baby girl. If it moves me, it needs to be written about. The downtrodden, the underdog, abused women and children walk through my verses with the same ease as lilies of the valley and red breast robins. The mystical allure of metaphysics creeps into my verses as do the wonders of hand written letters. My poems speak of nostalgia but look ahead with strong hearts though misty eyes. I feel that my poems are all unique due to their varied metaphors and images .I always think out of the proverbial box.

APRILIA ZANK:  Do you think your poetry is typically feminine / masculine? If yes, in what way?

LILY SWARN: In the literal as well as literary sense, a feminine rhyme is a double rhyme with verses with feminine endings like willow and billow. It has one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable like landing, standing. A masculine rhyme has only one stressed syllable like mine, thine. I prefer writing in blank words. If raising my voice about the dismal plight of women in some situations or ethnicity is feminine then perhaps my poetry is feminine. If writing about the healing and uplifting powers of nature is feminine then it is. I believe that mine is a powerful, genderless world voice, read and understood as sheer poetry globally. It has been translated into over 12 languages.

APRILIA ZANK:  Do you write mostly about yourself, or do you also have an open eye /ear for the issues of the world?

LILY SWARN: I feel honoured to share with you that I have been conferred with the title of Global Icon of Peace by World Institute of Peace, Nigeria and Global Poet Encomium of Peace and Universal Love by World Union of Poets. I write about world issues with a fervent passion. My poem on the plight of refugees, titled "His Sister's Scarf, "figures in the multilingual anthology, Colours of Refuge and is widely appreciated. Besides my peace poems which are in various global anthologies, I must mention my poem on the situation in Palestine in the anthology which features powerful poets of the world. Titled “Treacherous Breaths”, it is highly applauded. I write about Humanitarian issues constantly. Women's empowerment poems by me have been translated into various languages too. This does not mean that I have not peppered my poetry with chunks of my own being. I do that as well. 

APRILIA ZANK:  In what way is your poetry different from that of other poets?

LILY SWARN: I may not be the best person to answer this one for I write instinctively and spontaneously about anything that moves me at that particular time. I think I write without guile and pretence as do many other poets. What sets me apart could well be the colloquial flavour that creeps and crawls unabashedly into my verses. Words and images with a Donne like metaphysical conceit also make occasional appearances. My readers who live abroad tell me that they can easily conjure up a vision of the poem through the local references. I think my pride in my heritage seeps through. My Sikh roots also colour my all-encompassing love for humanity, regardless of creed and race which oozes out repeatedly in my work. There is ample use of alliteration in my poetry too. My poems hanker for a better world. Personification is used quite often, rather effectively as well. As a technique, I sometimes use mythical collation and syncretism as a technique to universalise the theme of love and nature which in Bakhtin's sense implies that Being has a common origin. Portraits of real suffering like those of an overworked preteen maid servant or a child bride sold to a rich old man spill out with brutal honesty.

LEYLA IŞIK:  What are the main factors to make poetry real poetry?

LILY SWARN: For me real poetry should immediately create an impact on your feelings as well as intellect. The sheer truth must gaze out candidly from the substance as well as the diction and style of the words. There must be an instant bond created with the reader or listener. Poetry must do what weapons can never achieve. Poetry is real if it haunts you again and again.

LEYLA IŞIK:  Do you think imagery is important in poetry? Where does the importance of imagery begin in a poem, where does it end?

LILY SWARN: For me effective imagery is the Circulatory system of a poem. It sustains it’s Life breath. The reader gets a vivid mental snapshot at once. Literature is replete with examples proving that imagery is akin to the foundation of a building. It provides the sensory aspect to the written word. It’s importance lies in prodding the imagination awake. It should not draw away from the poet’s line of thought completely. It is natural that our stream of consciousness wanders off along with the imagery in a poem. Imagery and conflation are very important as is obvious in Sylvia Plath’s poems. Vital imagery is much more than word pictures .It may trigger an almost physical response!

LEYLA IŞIK:  What are the most used types of poetry in your country?

LILY SWARN: My country India, contributes to the vast azure of world literature with diverse and rich genres of poetry. This is due to its unusual diversity and ancient heritage. Besides being classified according to the language or the region, the most prevalent genres of Indian poetry are, (1) Devotional, as the holy Hindu or Sikh scriptures, (2) Epic, like The Ramayana and the Mahabharata which are two of the longest poems written in the world, (3) Couplets called Dohas, in which an entire poem could be in couplets , (4) Ghazal, generally written in Urdu originally about passionate love for a woman or for the country, is a unique form, (5) Bhajan, devotional verses set to music, (6) Folk songs, usually passed down by word of mouth, representing varied customs, traditions and culture of my uniquely diverse country . 

LEYLA IŞIK:  What’s important to be a good poet? To write good poems!

LILY SWARN: A desire to share your own understanding of the truth. When compelling ideas and flawless diction merge into any chosen form of poetry a masterpiece emerges. The reader must be moved emotionally. When someone tells you "I cried when I read it", it means your poem has reached hearts. Poetry should stir the intellect. It should remain with the reader long after it is read. A lingering mental reaction that longs to be deciphered. An almost evasive but suggestive poem that is layered and intriguing stays forever as a classic. The similes, images, metaphors should be powerful enough to be memorable and distinctive. The choice of words must be precise and exact. A treasure trove of refreshing vocabulary is the raw material for a literary bonanza.

LEYLA IŞIK:   Who are the most important poets and their main properties nowadays?

LILY SWARN: I believe in powerful voices that shake the very roots of ethnicity. There is angst in the poetry of the war torn world, a ripping apart of walls and veils. A tear soaked valley has its own wailing sound. I find it hard to name a few. African and Latin American poets move my sensibility and shake me awake. Blood oozes out of much verse and substance abuse has triggered unusual poems. In this fast paced world smaller rhymes and two liners are being read by humans on the run. I am guilty of not having read most of the names that are doing the rounds like Fatimah Asghar, Warsaw Shire, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Terrance Hayes, Sarah Kay, Rupi Kaur. Though tiny bullets and capsules of punch lines seem to be the order of the day, I still swear by a poem that is fulfilling like a meal with a dessert thrown in for good measure. 

DEBORAH  BROOKS  LANGFORD:  Understanding poetry begins with visualizing the central images in the poem. What do you see, taste, smell, hear, and feel? What is the imagery of your poetry?

LILY SWARN: Sights, sounds, pictures, smells of flowers, of spring and autumn, hills, mountains, yogis, dervishes, the Sikh Gurus, Kali, Durga, Aphrodite, astronomy, architecture, geographical phenomena, medico physiological terms find a place in my verses. Passion runs like a nuanced undercurrent in my love poems but my nature poems are choc a bloc with vivid and vibrant visual and sensual images. My poetry reflects life and often becomes sad and morbid as I talk of death, gore, bloodshed, deprivation, poverty and exploitation with explicit word images. Donne and Dickinson type of similarity in obviously dissimilar things can be often perceived in my poetry. A host of incongruities and ironical and paradoxical juxtapositions that embody psychic and social antagonisms are revealed.

DEBORAH  BROOKS  LANGFORD:  What is the mood of your poetry? (Or How does it make you feel?)

LILY SWARN: Since I write about a vast variety of subjects, there is no single mood that I can fairly pin point. My readers have written in their reviews that my work reflects Wordsworth's popular definition of "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, taking its origin from emotions recollected in tranquillity, "as well as T S Eliot's" not a turning loose of emotion but an escape from emotion, not an expression of personality but an escape from personality". I feel that my writing is a release and a catharsis for me. It has given me solace in my grief and showed me reserves inside me that I was unaware of. It heals me and strengthens me. Atmosphere often becomes the content of my poetry.

DEBORAH  BROOKS  LANGFORD:  In your poetry who is the speaker of the poem? Are you speaking to yourself or to others?

LILY SWARN: There is no specific speaker in my poems. There are times when I speak in the first person. Those poems are bound to have autobiographical elements. There are poems in which I personify the object as in a tree that stands watch over me. I hardly ever speak to myself though. The verses are generally addressed to others.

DEBORAH  BROOKS  LANGFORD:  What is the message of your poetry?  What messages do your poetry convey?

LILY SWARN: There is always the all-pervasive message of love, rather an appeal to shun hate, greed, ego, war and opt for love each and every time. A spiritual strain conveying the transitory nature of human life is predominant, due primarily to my personal loss. The passing away of my young son has made this message paramount for me. Embrace each other just as we are is the plea in my poetry. 

DEBORAH  BROOKS  LANGFORD:   Does the internet and social media contribute to the success of your poetry? Is this the reason you write for?

LILY SWARN: Oh yes, definitely! The internet has been the most important vehicle for providing a global reach to my writings. I have international recognition, awards and titles because people all over the world read me. Literary organisations invite me abroad to felicitate and honour me. I am indebted to the man who created the concept of social media. I write because I get instant response. It is the virtual version of a stage performance!

NILAVRONILL SHOOVRO:  Thank you so much dear poet for the interview. We would like to know your personal experience with OPA as a literary web journal. Would you like to share anything more with our readers?

LILY SWARN: Thank you for featuring me here. I am grateful for this opportunity. I feel honoured to be part of Our Poetry Archive!!! 

LILY SWARN, poet, writer and columnist, won the Reuel International Prize for Poetry 2016 and was recognised as "Global Poet of Peace and Universal Love "by World Union of Poets .The World Institute of Peace awarded "World Icon of Peace "title in Nigeria . The administration of her city Chandigarh gave her the Icon Award .She has been decorated with a "Woman of Substance "trophy .Lily was awarded the Elizabeth Barrett Browning Award in the World Poetry Festival and the Sarojini Naidu Award for Excellence in Poetic Recitation and composition .Lily 's book of verse ,A Trellis of Ecstasy is  highly appreciated by the Chief Minister ,Punjab and by India Today .Her book Lilies of the Valley which  is a collection of essays has got rave reviews .Lily's columns in international web magazines are widely read . She writes with a poignant touch in English , Hindi , Urdu and Punjabi .Lily has been a radio show host and believes in world friendship and loves all humanity regardless of colour or creed.Her novel , The Gypsy Trail , is due for a launch any day . Lily feels that the spirit of her late son watches over her.

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