Dr. Amitabh Mitra talks to Australian Poet Janine Daniel.
1. Janine, I encountered your works at the PCLA writing community of which you are one of the original members and a moderator, tell us about your early writing, the PCLA community and circumstances that encouraged you to write such beautiful poetry.
I was first introduced to the PCLA community by Philip Bell, an English poet who is the founder and administrator of The Young Poet’s Society. He had visited my web site and read a few poems I had posted there (“Hear Me Merlin” was one of them) and liked what he saw. They were written just for fun and I didn’t really think of writing poetry seriously until I joined PCLA (Poetry Club Literary Angels) and met the founder Shannon Wendler.
Right from the start I received encouragement from the members; there were competitions I could enter; a school to learn all the different styles of poetry and plenty of stimulation to get my imagination going. I really enjoyed all of it and found out that I had a talent for writing poetry and that everyone liked what I wrote.
2. Fantasy Poetry, Children’s Poetry, Love Poetry, you have written all in magical rhymes, words seem to fall together in perfect proportion to create a beautiful image, What is your secret, how do you do it, do you go back to your poem to read it again and edit it now and then?
With encouragement from Philip and Shannon I tried my hand at writing children’s poetry as well as the more contemporary type of poetry for adults. I’ve always loved making people laugh and I soon found that I made Philip laugh a lot. Children loved them too and left wonderful comments about my poems.
I tried humor, fantasy, mystery, romance, drama, nonsense and anything else that was offered in the weekly topic competitions. I loved the challenge of trying different topics and found that this more than anything else is what made me expand and branch out so much with my poetry.
I think my secret is that I am an artist as well as a poet. The two go so well together. I can either write a poem describing a picture or draw something to compliment what I have written. If I was given a topic to write about e.g. “Spin In A Whispering Cloud” I would think about it, visualize it, then write about what I was seeing in my mind’s eye.
Spin In A Whispering Cloud
I spin, fall, float
I shiver within
I laugh out loud
I spin in a whispering cloud
I don’t often go back to a poem and change anything but lately I’ve been changing how I present them. When I first started I was very formal with punctuation and with a capital letter at the start of each line, but over the years I have learnt that a poem flows better without all the stops and starts.
3. Myths go well with Fantasy Poetry, yet your poems have a contemporary touch, poetry riding to the next millennium embracing fiction and reality.
I have never formally read poetry at school or been taught to write it so I haven’t had any influence from the great classics or poets from the past. I write like I think and speak to the reader with a language that I understand. First and foremost I write the type of poem I would like to read. It has often been said about my poems that they (the reader) felt like I was personally talking to them or that they were right there with me in the flesh. That may be another secret to my poetic success.
Also I personally like to read a poem that makes sense and I understand what the poet is talking about. I don’t like poems where I’m left with no idea what the poem means. As I said, I write the type of poem I like to read and going by the comments I get from people who read them so do they.
4. Poets all over the world have spun their images in words and not being satisfied has gone beyond into color, photography and cinema. You are a well known artist, have created graphics for my poems too. I sit in the hospital seeing patients but I find a picture growing in my mind which I add on to it every day, before I finally create the picture. How do you do your art, does it illustrate your poetry.
Although I have illustrated my poetry my art came first. I started off drawing fantasy pictures using color pencils and went on to draw intricate black and white pictures with fine detail. I have been to collage and completed an art course, learning how to do computer graphics and incorporated the whole concept into the art I do today.
I often listen to music when I draw and this is a big influence on my imagination and on my creations.
It’s hard for me to say where my art comes from. As long as I can remember I’ve always drawn and even as a young child I was encouraged to draw by my parents. But it’s really all to do with imagination. Sitting here writing this and answering your questions Amitabh has gotten me thinking of the order of how these things have evolved for me.
It started with reading from a very young age then drawing and interests in the arts then onto writing and poetry and finally discovering the joys of singing. To me they are all wrapped up in each other and one influences the other.
5. You are a singer, having sung to large audiences in Australia. Have you done songwriting and sung them too. What are your plans pertaining to music and singing.
No, I haven’t written specifically for songs but I often say that songs are just poems set to music. My husband is a musician and plays the guitar beautifully. I have sung with him playing the guitar but have no plans in the future to become a professional singer. I sing for the enjoyment it gives me and the fun of singing with the other members of the club I belong to.
6. What is your opinion on Indian writers writing in English? The Commonwealth has influenced all writers and poets who have a lot in common yet vary in their ethnic flavors. Have you encountered Poetry of the Fiji Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Poetry from Aboriginal tribes integrating into a common Australian identity?
I love reading poems written by poets from other countries. Even though we all use the same words there is something about the way someone from another country expresses themselves that is different from our own writing. I think, as you said, it’s the ethnic flavor that makes the difference. A lot of things influence our writing and our background and where we grew up is one of them.
Even though we may all write in English it’s how we put those words together that makes us stand out from each other. I’ve used certain words that immediately depict that I’m an Australian. This’s fun and there have been times where I’ve been asked what certain words mean even though I’m writing in English.
I haven’t encountered or been aware of the poetry from the Fiji Islands, Papua New Guinea or the Aboriginal tribes of Australia integrating into a common Australian identity and I can’t imagine it happening. I think we are too different for this to happen.
Writing in a poetry forum like we do with PCLA is a good way of reading all sorts of poetry written by young and old people and from any country in the world. Even so, it’s a mostly anonymous thing where you’re not aware of the age or nationality of the writer and even if they’re male or female. This makes it very interesting and can quite often keep you guessing.
April 23, 2006