The Blue Mountain Review Issue 10

Page 120

Waqas Khwaja

WAQAS KHWAJA interview by Clifford Brooks

What calls to you when you write poetry? What therapeutic value does it give you? Words, fragmentary phrases, sounds, stray bird calls, the rustle of a squirrel’s feet, the murmur of a bee’s wings, a note from a violin or a sitar, the throb of a tabla under supple fingers and an eager hand, the slow rhythmic splash of an oar in the water, visual images, tastes, acrid, and sour, and sweet, fiery and cool, provoking and questioning, smells, fresh and bracing as the morning breeze, fragrant as mango, guava, and orange, musty and mysterious in rooms that have been shut a long while, thick and suffocating with the refuse, spoilage and decomposition of daily life, tactile experiences, textures of things, water running through the fingers, the scratch of pine needles in the soles of my feet, bodies twining in each other’s arms . . . whatever stimulates or deranges the mind, makes the heart beat faster . . . the sinking in the pit of the stomach . . . the color, the vitality, the exuberance of life, its despairs, hurts, and traumas, its madness and exhilaration, its quiet reflective moments, its spontaneity, its pleasures, its sorrow, its painful labored stumbling toward an unknown future, toward half-distinct, half-realized goals, its uncanny designs and exasperating indeterminacies, its exquisite forms and maddening, enthralling formlessness . . . oh, every fiber and cell and gobbet of existence, even stone and rock and metal, whatever is natural or manmade, visible or invisible . . . the unity behind it all . . . the source that generated and discharged it in this intoxicating abundance and multifariousness. It is only in and through poetry, I find, that I can truly live and feel. To inhabit it entirely will be, paradoxically, to lose myself to the world around me, its socially regulated ways of existence and actualization. But poetry gives me the freedom, the comfort, even the vitalizing thrill of remaining in touch, existing in, and transcending at the same time the confines of our politically structured human and social geographies. What question do you want asked that you never do? What’s the answer? I don’t ever think about this at all. Whatever I have to interrogate myself about, I do so in my reflections and in my reading and writing privately or in a conversation with others. And it would be rather presumptuous of me to conjecture what others would want to know about me, or that they would at all want to know anything about me. Besides, I have a hard time answering questions anyway, for I often have a number of disparate ideas and feelings that I need to sort out for myself before I can hazard an answer. So I struggle with how to approach and respond to a query as much as with what I should be saying that would best reflect my thoughts on the subject, which, to my dismay, may end up with the realization that this response is contingent only on certain circumstances and that I may actually have a different view if the context were to change. I much rather prefer a conversation than a question-and-answer approach. What are some things you want people to know about you? Nothing. Literally, nothing. Just read the poems I have written. There’s nothing outside them that is worth knowing about me. Where do you go to write? If this is a question about starting a poem, or making notes about a poem that I would write later, then this can, and does, happen anywhere and everywhere. I may be brushing my teeth and a phrase, an idea, or an image may come to me, and I will pause straightaway and jot it down in my notebook. I may be driving and have this brief moment of illumination. There is no set place at all. But the drafts of poems are written and honed in my

116 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

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