Sunday, May 1, 2022




MAY 2022

APRILIA ZANK:According to the American poet Robert Frost, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

Can, in your opinion, all thoughts be 'translated' into words?

SUNIL KAUSHAL: At the outset I would like to thank this prestigious group “Our Poetry Archive” for having chosen me as the Poet of The Month.  Aprilia, it is such an honour to join you for this interview. Now, to answer your question about Robert Frost’s quote, as I understand the word, ‘a thought’ is a collection of words that express an emotion or feeling. But can every emotion or feeling be expressed in words? Can we describe in words that ecstatic feeling a mother feels on the first glimpse of her new born, can we describe the sensation we feel when passing zephyr caresses our cheeks, the smell of summer’s first petrichor, a word to describe the delight of passing by a bakers shop, where freshly baked bread suffuses the surroundings with that heavenly smell? So many feelings, emotions, sensations cry for a word that describes them aptly. I was fascinated when I saw the title of a friend’s book, a collection of some of the most engaging short stories, by Samir Satam. It is called “Litost”. He told me it was a Czech word that means a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery. Other languages do not have an equivalent, so how is this feeling to be understood or expressed in those languages? Seems, I happen to disagree with the great poet!...Ha!Ha!


APRILIA ZANK:The English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelleyonce wrote: “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”

Can you explain how poetry unveils the hidden beauty of the world?

SUNIL KAUSHAL: Being a diehard romantic myself, I tend to agree with what the great romantic poet Shelley has to say in the above quote. Don’t the everyday mundane things of life around us acquire an aura of new found beauty, when described in poetic language, decorated with metaphors, similes or other poetic tools? Even the importance or utility of certain humble articles like a hairpin can be poetically described and glorified.

I had once written a poem in jest, “On Pins And needles”.

I quote a few lines:

When a clogged gas stove needs unclogging

out comes my tool

even if my flowing tresses

cascade down in a pool

the pin in my bun is my friend indeed

this sharp little one, for many odd jobs,

is always there, in times of need.

While the famous odes by poets like Keat’s, “Ode to the Grecian Urn”, and Shelley’s, “Ode to the West Wind”, and others, are classic examples, the contemporary scene has an “Ode to Autocorrect”, by Martha Silano, and as the poem proceeds, she uses it as a tool to discuss the dangers of gun violence in America. Sometimes some things need to be lent meaning or paid attention to, or honoured, as is seen in Angel Nafis’, “Ode to Shea Butter”.  She begins in the first person, “I have known you well,” and then moves on to describe the speaker’s body rather than a description of Shea butter. A deeply physical intimate relationship is shown between all parts of the speaker’s body and the object being praised, “Every single day and night too”. In the end it turns into a celebration of self and selfhood. Even a shopping list can tell a story! Snatches from poems like, “You kitchen, where rice was burned”, and “& whiskey spilled” describes an old house, much loved, where certain incidents occurred, and also about the coming of age. There’s always something worth celebrating!


APRILIA ZANK:The American poet of English origin W. H. Auden was convinced that, “A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.”

Do you think that poetic language should always be refined and cultivated, or may it also be rough and raw if necessary?

SUNIL KAUSHAL: While W. H Auden maybe right from his perspective, my belief is that before anything else, a poet is a person who is passionately in love with life.  Being in love with love, is the next essential, and although a deep passion for language is helpful in honing one’s craft of poetry writing, it is not necessarily what we study in schools and universities or halls of fame. Mystics and Sufi saints have been singing of the Divine, without having any formal knowledge of the language. They sang their poems composed in simple everyday spoken language, rough and raw as it is spoken in villages and amongst country folk, without the embellishments that techniques of poetry writing resort to, though these do enhance the beauty of poetry. If poetic language was to always be refined and cultivated, we would only be writing about sweet nothings and a perfect world where life was beautiful and smooth sailing. But life is not only about moonlit nights, and fragrances of jasmines and roses, friendships and love. Life is not always hunky-dory! Poetry is rebellion and poets are notorious rebels. My favourite poet, Pablo Neruda said, “We poets hate hatred and make war on war.”  How does one do this in refined and cultivated language? How do I write about war, rape, violence, death suffering, poverty, pestilence, cruelty, or betrayal in refined words? How do I write what a prostitute feels, or a how a marginalised one meets life’s challenges, without his or her blood boiling. A gory description of bloodshed on the battlefield is required to incite an uprising, to arouse patriotism.

In my poem, “Because I am Transgender” I have these lines :-


Exiled from the mainstream of life in this phallocentric world

I would do anything to buy genitals

anything to experience the ecstasy

of a night that satiates the throbbing in my groins

douse the fire that rages inside me....

Some may find this too explicit or raw, although it is neither erotic nor pornographic.


APRILIA ZANK:Please consider the following statement of the English scholar and poet A. E. Housman: “Even when poetry has a meaning, as it usually has, it may be inadvisable to draw it out... Perfect understanding will sometimes almost extinguish pleasure.”

Do you write or prefer explicit poetry with an obvious meaning or message, or rather more cryptic, challenging poetry?

SUNIL KAUSHAL: Aprilia, my canvas for poetry writing is spread over the whole cerulean blue of the skies and oceans and measures the girth of the earth, skirting around it. I have always been passionately in love with love and life, and have a deep reverence for all forms of life. So I find inspiration from the smallest blade of grass to spiritual truths in the depths of my core. My poetic language varies according to the theme or subject I am writing about, and also what my muse dictates. Since I am a medical doctor, I have not studied literature. When I started writing in my younger days, my knowledge of the language and vocabulary was limited to everyday language, or what little I could glean from the few books I tried to snatch time for, out of my busy practice. But even in simple words, one can create a thousand pictures as in haiku and its variations, in the Japanese form of poetry writing. I find it very fascinating, with so much beauty packed into brevity.

A simple, short contest winning poem of mine in 12 words:

First breath in

last breath out

a story over

between two bookends.

However reading more books did expand my vocabulary. The modern trend of writing poems with a collection of words, phrases, or far-fetched metaphors, dug out through the search engine, strung together or rather clumped together, are not my cup of tea, or something I can decipher.  Neither do I not want my readers to run to a dictionary while reading my poetry. At the same time, open ended poems do have a mystique about them, and make the readers a part of the poet’s writing journey, as they keep processing the different possible meanings that the poet wishes to express. There is a certain attraction and mystique in the unspoken. Like a message sent and then deleted on your phone, but it still shows up as deleted and you wonder what the other person wanted to say and didn’t!! My style keeps changing according to the subject and my frame of mind. I am open to experimenting with different techniques, a work in progress I would say. There’s nothing to lose and much to gain in flexibility. I write because I wish to write and have a long life’s experiences to share with the world. I wish to be a learner till my last breath.


APRILIA ZANK:“Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.”, is a famous quote by the German romanticist and philosopher Novalis.

To what extent can poetry have a therapeutic effect?

SUNIL KAUSHAL: I wholeheartedly support the thought of the German romanticist philosopher, Novalis, that poetry has a great healing effect over wounds which our minds invite upon ourselves due to  rational thinking. Paradoxically, imagined or real wounds also hurt our sensibilities, often for a lifetime. Poetry with messages of hope salves those wounds with soothing words, inspiring courage and confidence. The written word has a great impact on the human mind. Confessional poetry channelizes feelings of hurt, disillusionment, bereavement, betrayal, guilt, regret, anger, and other negative feelings and emotions, which one does not want to, or is hesitant to share with others. Having poured them out into words, rather verses, one gets rid of emotional baggage that has become the proverbial albatross hanging around our neck. Amanda Gorman, the 2017 National Youth Poet Laureate, the youngest poet to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration, spoke these powerful words at the 2020 presidential inauguration from the dais of the United States Capital where just weeks earlier, a violent insurrection had erupted.

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true

That even as we grieved, we grew

That even as we hurt, we hoped

That even as we tired, we tried

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious”

For millions of virtual viewers, amidst a raging pandemic and tumultuous political upheaval, her words provided healing and solace. It was a testament to the power of poetry. Medical research shows that reading, writing, speaking it, can help support mental health, especially in times of need, stress, trauma, grief. It gives a closure to gaping wounds.


APRILIA ZANK: According to Salvatore Quasimodo, an Italian poet and literary critic, “Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.”

Is, in your opinion, the poet primarily a personal voice, or rather the echo of his fellow beings?

SUNIL KAUSHAL: While the poet primarily writes for her/himself, and has a great sense of satisfaction and achievement, when he finally finishes writing, it adds to his happiness manifold when others also read and appreciate it. Basically one writes to vent out or express one’s own feelings. Human beings all being similar, have the same emotions and feelings. So, often others identify themselves with what the poet is expressing. In fact, a poet feels validated and rewarded if others identify themselves with his thoughts. At other times, poets write for others, say during sickness or on the death of someone dear to the person who commissions the poem. During war poets write patriotic poetry to inspire hope and courage. The response of the other person decides how the writer feels. All writers expect the other person to pay attention.


APRILIA ZANK:The American literary critic M. H. Abrams asserted that, “If you read quickly to get through a poem to what it means, you have missed the body of the poem.”

Do you also think readers need to be educated as to how to go through a poem? If 'yes', in which way?

SUNIL KAUSHAL: Not everybody gets a chance to be educated enough to understand certain forms of poetry. But those who are naturally gifted, and get an opportunity to study the appreciation of poetry as well, certainly find more meaning in it, especially the type of modern poetry in blank verse being written today. Very often reader’s find it daunting to understand what the poet is trying to say. Understanding the value of metaphors, similes and other tools used in poetry, certainly help a reader to understand better. While readers interpret a poet’s work in their own way, it also varies according to their own capability, experiences, knowledge or understanding of the arts, as well as the mental and emotional state in which they are at that moment in life. Reading the critical appraisals by others can open new ways of perception for the uninitiated. Attending workshops, seminars, open mic poetry sessions are also ways to learning to appreciate poetry. Reading, reading, and more reading of different types of poetry leads to a better understanding. Open ended writing is interesting because of the possibility of seeing it many different ways. However, no reader can truly identify with the poet’s emotions completely.


APRILIA ZANK: Let us now considerthe words of the Americansongwriter and poet Jim Morisson:“If my poetry aims to achieve anything, it's to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel.”

Can you please tell us how poetry can be/become educational?

SUNIL KAUSHAL: Today there is an image problem with poetry, when we stay stuck with classical poetry of olden days being taught to young people, who live in a world of hash tags and tweets.  While Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats and all the other worthy poets, have their own place in the world of literature, there are remarkable contemporary poets like Kate Tempest, the musician poet who reflect the millennial experience. The new generation identifies with the new. Rap songs, slam poetry, open mic readings are all encouraging signs of young people enjoying poetry. Teaching poetry in schools, or otherwise learning to appreciate poetry, enriches by opening up new perspectives of viewing life, its ramifications, feelings, emotions, appreciating nature and beauty.  With the world available to us at the click of a button, one learns so much about life and people living all over the globe, which develops understanding of different cultures, empathy, and love, which is most needed in today’s world of divisiveness. Learning about other cultures, promotes a desire to travel, boosts tourism, exchange of educative programs, trade, sharing of ideas about everything under the sun, certainly adds to a richer life experience. It helps us understand ourselves, understand others, express our thoughts. One learns to appreciate words and their usage, develops a sense of rhyme and rhythm. Poetry has a great healing effect on both the writer and the reader. The entertainment it provides is invaluable. I cannot even imagine a drab life shorn of poetry!


APRILIA ZANK:The British-American poet T. S. Eliot claimed that,“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”

Do you sometimes/often experience 'love at first sight' for poems that you have not understood immediately/completely?

SUNIL KAUSHAL: T. S. Eliot has said this about poetry, but I feel it is true of all forms of art.  Like love, I don’t even know when poetry ‘happened’ to me. One does not write it, it happens. The blessed or cursed ones are chosen to become artists. Blessed, because being an artist, one appreciates the finer aspects of life, beauty, love, books, people, nature, all in all a far richer life experience than others.  Artists are cursed because surviving in a materialistic world is a tough journey for one who lives in a world of his own. Being sensitive, one is vulnerable, repeatedly getting hurt because of heightened sensitivity and very often not retaliating back. Penury dogs the artist for there are no patrons of art nowadays, and art rarely fetches its worth.  Yet, there is no escaping one’s destiny! In spite of all these discouraging factors, poets fall in love with poetry. Yes, very often I have been magnetised by a poem for the sheer beauty of the words, perhaps a different format or the striking visual it conjures, without really understanding the poem fully at first sight. Seeing beauty in art is not for the head. The way to the divine is through the heart!


APRILIA ZANK:Paul Valéry, a French poet, essayist, and philosopher, said: “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”

Do you also think that the final 'embodiment' of a poem happens in the mind of the reader?

SUNIL KAUSHAL: I absolutely agree with Paul Valery that the final embodiment of a poem happens in the mind of the reader. After poets finish writing the last draft of a poem, most of them put it away for a few days and go back to it later. Re-reading it gives a detached view and many more edits and tweaks later, a final draft is thought to have emerged. Lo and behold! When you see it after a long gap, you wonder why you didn’t add this or delete that...Ha Ha! But you leave it alone, for tampering with it now will not give it the same flavour as then. You were a different person when you birthed it. Once a poem is written and published, it is out there, out of your hands, it becomes public property, for each reader to interpret it in his own way. So, there will be many more versions of it, in many more reader’s minds. And if you happen to become famous, it will be analysed, critiqued, appreciated and lauded and perhaps even plagiarised by changing a word or two, or a sentence here and there!


APRILIA ZANK:The famous British-Indian writer Salman Rushdie believes that, “A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.”

Should, in your opinion, poetry have a strong social and/or militant component?

SUNIL KAUSHAL: I do not subscribe fully to Salman Rushdie’s above statement, since I feel many of his thoughts are sensational and of shock value. How is it a poet’s ‘work’?  Being a poet is not a 9-5 job where you ‘work’ under a boss and must do certain tasks! What if one is a romantic poet, a nature lover, a writer of soul poetry or rhymes and riddles for little children? If a rebel poet, politically inclined and aware of the games, governments and countries play, writes revolutionary poetry, it will be convincing and may even stir rebellions and protests. It might even shake the world out of slumber and ‘stop it going to sleep’. Taking sides and starting arguments will certainly not help ‘shape the world’ into a better place. In fact it will create further conflicts and chaos. At least I don’t know of any poet who could do that. Those who did, people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and a handful more were not poets brandishing firearms and weapons. Poetry with a strong social component is a potent weapon, since it creates awareness about social maladies among the masses, influencing the mindset of people.   Exposing curses like human trafficking, sexual abuse, gender bias, caste discrimination, colour bias, ethnic cleansing, genocide, environmental pollution and hazards, besides other social corrupt practises are subjects which poets do strongly feel about and write about. But a militant posture is not what most poets are cut out for. 


APRILIA ZANK:The poetic credo of the highly influential American poet Maya Angelou was the following:“The poetry you read has been written for you, each of you - black, white, Hispanic, man, woman, gay, straight.”

Do you also think that your poetry addresses a large and varied audience?


SUNIL KAUSHAL: Maya Angelou is one of my most favourite poets, whom I greatly admire as a brave woman of grit, courage and one who inspired millions of women around the globe. Her poetry and her views are too tall for me to touch or comment upon even.  In my very humble role as a poet, still in the making, I feel deeply for the underdog, social outcastes, the underprivileged, especially women and children in general, and the differently-abled. At the same time I write romantic, sensuous, nature poems, revolutionary, spiritual poetry, limericks, and humorous poems as well. In fact, I am part of an editorial team, curating and editing a humour anthology these days. Off and on I write in my mother tongue, Punjabi, and Hindi also. I hope my poems will find a home in the hearts of some readers of different types. Thank you so much for this wonderful Q-A session Aprilia! It did stimulate my grey cells as I had to ponder over some of the questions. It was a delight doing this! Thanks a lot NilavrooNill and OPA!


SUNIL KAUSHAL: Awarded author Dr. Sunil Kaushal, studied in schools all over India, her father having been an army officer. Her nomadic life visiting and living in new towns every 2 years has been very interestingly chronicled in her debut book of memoirs, Gypsy Wanderings& Random Reflections, which was awarded the Nissim Award by the prestigious International poetry group, The Significant League, in the non-fiction category for ‘exquisite prose’. She attended college at one of the most prestigious colleges, Isabella Thoburn College, Lucknow, India. Later she went on to doing her medical studies at Govt. Medical College, Amritsar, India, followed by 40 years of practice in Obstetrics-Gynaecology at Jalandhar, Punjab. Although she has been writing sporadically since her childhood, her writings were carefully tucked away from the public eye. At age 70 she learnt to use a computer and started writing full time, sharing her poetry and prose online. She is pleasantly surprised to discover the poet and writer within her being recognized, every time she wins a contest or award. This trilingual writer writes in English, Hindi and her mother tongue Punjabi, which she has never studied but is self-taught. Published in a number of National and International anthologies and magazines, some of her poems have been translated into French, German and Greek. Her writing is mostly woman-centric, romantic, sensuous, poems about marginalized people. She also writes philosophical, spiritual, besides humorous poetry.

Dr. APRILIA ZANK is an educationist, freelance lecturer for Creative Writing and Translation Theory, as well as a multilingual poet, translator, editor from Munich, Germany and an Author of the Poetry book BAREFOOT TO ARCADIA. Born in Romania, she studied English and French Literature and Linguistics at the University of Bucharest, and then moved to Munich, Germany where she received her PhD degree in Literature and Psycholinguistics for her thesis, THE WORD IN THE WORD Literary Text Reception and Linguistic Relativity, from the Ludwig Maximilian University, where she started her teaching career. The research for her PhD thesis was done in collaboration with six universities from Europe, and as a visiting lecturer at Alberta University of Edmonton, Canada. Dr Aprilia writes verses in English and German, French and Romanian and was awarded a distinction at the “Vera Piller” Poetry Contest in Zurich. Her poetry collection, TERMINUS ARCADIA, was 2nd Place Winner at the Twowolvz Press Poetry Chapbook Contest 2013. In 2018, she was awarded the title “Dr. Aprilia Zank – Germany Beat Poet Laureate”, by the National Beat Poetry Foundation (USA). She has been an acclaimed guest at cultural events in Germany, Great Britain, Canada, Turkey, Singapore and Romania, where she read her poems, delivered lectures on various topics. Her poems and articles are published in many ezines and Anthologies of different countries.