This week we're delighted to have Salik Shah answer a few questions for us. His poem 'After Stonehenge' appeared in the September issue of Samovar.
You wear many hats — poet, editor, filmmaker, picture book author and more — how do your different activities inform and influence each other?
Poetry, filmmaking, design—each art form requires immense time and understanding. I think if you’re in a hurry to master a form, then it makes sense to focus entirely on that particular mode of expression. Sometimes I think it’d be easier if I just focused on one medium, and I do focus on it to the point of exhaustion, or the completion of a project. More often than not, I find out there’s much to learn. It’s all part of deep learning for me. A process of discovery. And I’m enjoying the journey no matter how daunting it feels.
Indrapramit Das said “The artist’s job is to provide the seed for an infinite tree of branching meanings, all flowering inside the hive mind of a collective human audience.” As a creative entrepreneur, I think I’m interested in laying a sustainable foundation and creating a self-sustaining ecosystem for that infinite tree with its many branches of meanings and many modes of expression, as much as the need to discover, plant, and nurture these rare and precious seeds, poets and artists.
Mithila Review is a project of huge scope — science fiction and fantasy from all over the world. Can you tell us a bit about the challenges and rewards of editing an international journal?
The challenges are immense, and so are reasons for celebration. We didn’t know we were treading on uncharted territories. There are gaps in our knowledge of speculative literature from around the world, and it feels great to be able to fill some of those gaps. We’ve seen authors we featured win major awards and recognition—they worked hard for it, of course! Stories and authors we’ve published or covered have appeared, or been translated, anthologized, and featured beyond our platform.
Unfortunately, there isn’t as large an audience base for international science fiction and fantasy as much as I thought there was. Funding has been a challenge, and I find it difficult to market aggressively, or apply for grants. We’d love to commission or publish more translations, but it’s a lot of work, and we don’t have necessary funding in place yet. We had to close submissions this year after our last issue because I felt like I was failing as an editor and publisher if I couldn’t pay our contributors for their excellent work. I hope we’ll find new sponsors and patrons to help us continue this project in 2018.
What was the inspiration for your poem ‘After Stonehenge?’
“After Stonehenge” was inspired by many things—the melancholic settings and ruins of Stonehenge, its buried history, in particular. I read somewhere that skeletons of women were found during recent excavations there. It’s a monument that’s difficult to date, and its purpose is lost to us. The place of women in our society is not clearly defined—they don’t have a place they could claim as their own even today. This poem takes the reader from those prehistoric points of the origin of loss to the present state of uncertainty and despair, and then charts a course for a space-faring civilization through the eyes of these forgotten women, mothers and daughters.
‘After Stonehenge’ is from your bilingual poetry chapbook, ‘Khas Pidgin’, which is out now. Can you tell us about the experience of publishing the collection?
‘Khas Pidgin’ started as a private experiment, which taught me a lot about poetry publishing, and the role of distribution and marketing. Poetry collections don’t sell—that’s what everybody tells you, and they are right. I was doing a series of short poetry films for my Nepali poems because I felt that was the right medium to make poetry accessible and reader-friendly for this group of audience. I was right. Poetry in video form can get a lot more readers (viewers) than in text form, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise if we know the history of poetry as an oral (or performative) medium. I wanted to publish some of my early poems, but I didn’t have many. So I decided to publish them together with my speculative poems that have appeared in various speculative and poetry journals. I definitely wouldn’t recommend such an approach.
Thank you, Salik.