In September-October, 2017, Coldnoon celebrated six years of publishing, and travelling with you. To mark our anniversary, we got together with writers, intellectuals and stalwarts of the art of thinking (and travelling). Here is an interview with Meena Alexander.
We believe making travel arrangements, we subconsciously tend to eliminate those possibilities which we deem unfit to perceived etiquettes, or norms or occasions. Our understanding of travel is based on premises that define what travelling is not. Is writing for you a similar activity, where you are conscious of what writing is not? If so, what according to you is not writing?
Writing is not living breathing walking, yet all of these are involved in the act of writing. I used to wake up at 3 am to write when my children were little. They still remember this. So I am one of those acutely aware of what writing is not. Sometimes I get on a bus notebook in hand to write a few lines. Sometimes I sit in a cafe or at a desk. Often as I walk in the park near our apartment I compose lines in my head. Several poets do this.
Besides writing what would you most like to be known for?
I would like to be remembered by those I love. I would like to drift away like a cloud in the summer sky. My father who was a meteorologist taught me the names of clouds, particularly monsoon clouds. And they have always inspired me. Yes I would want to be remembered for my writing.
In 1794, the French author, Xavier de Maistre, wrote the renowned book, Voyage Around my Room, during a month and a half of solitary confinement, in consequence of a duel. Besides being a satire on the contemporary literary culture of voyages and adventures of colonial sailors to prospective new worlds, the book proved to be a demonstration of how an individual is almost always travelling, but perhaps does not recognize the value of their domestic travels, mobility or even touristic acquisitions. How do you see or understand travelling? Do you think it is a necessary activity for a writer?
I think that is exactly right, the nature of time forces us all to travel, that is the miracle of internal time consciousness as both Kalidasa and Edmund Husserl realized. Perhaps this is why we have poetry, the music of the lines raising us out of and retuning us to time. How can we forget the horizon of mortality, always with us? I like to write in liminal places, like transit lounges, while waiting for a taxi cab. Then too, of course jotting words on the page is just part of it. There is the ceaseless meditation a writer is engaged in. Tiny little things strike consciousness. I travelled a great deal when I was making my book of poems Birthplace with Buried Stones and I carried my copy of Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North to guide me. I have a cycle of poems composed in the Himalayas, inspired by Basho.
Your favorite or most striking lines by another author; or if you will, any composed by yourself?
So feeling comes in aid
Of feeling and diversity of strength
Attends us if but once we have been strong
William Wordsworth’s lines have been very important to me, and I keep returning when I need them, and here are two lines that came to me and I put them in my poem ‘Question Time.’
We have poetry
So we do not die of history
Do respond to the following words:
“A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”— Charles Dickens
What do you think of Coldnoon?
I like the idea of a journal inspired by travel and writing. All my writing has involved journeys. Even if one is bedridden or cannot leave the room, writing is a journey of the imagination