U Atreya Sarma Interviewed by Sangeeta Sharma

U Atreya Sarma
Poet, Freelance Editor-Writer-Translator1. Chief Editor, Muse India the literary ejournal. http://museindia.com/team.asp
   [Also Editor for Fiction & Reviews; News & Events) & Contributing Editor (Telugu Literature)]
2. Official Critic, Metverse Muse
3. My Modest OEUVRE (More than 800 poems, articles, reviews):
A. As Author: Sunny Rain-n-Snow (2016), Poetry Collection
B. As Translator:
      (i) Salt of the Earth (2013)
      (ii) Thousand Hoods (Ch 9-14) (2015)
      (iii) Many individual poems, short stories, articles

C. As Collaborator: Marapuraani Maanikyaalu (2010)
D. As Editor:

      (i) Celebrating Creativity: HLF 2010  (An anthology of poems/short stories by 76 writers)
      (ii) Souvenir: HLF 2010
      (iii) Lung Care and Long Life (2012)
      (iv) Memoirs & Musings of an IAS Officer (2013)
      (v) Turquoise Tulips (2015)
      (vi) Prolegomena and Transformative Articles on Literary Translation (2015)
      (vii) Femininity: Poetic Endeavours (2016)
      (viii) Gian Singh Shatir (In the pipeline)
E. Presenter of Poems for: The Hans India daily (Sunday section) since 2013
F. Founding Editor, Cyberhood Weekly (2008-2009)
G. Former Managing Editor, Bharatiya Pragna (Quarterly/Monthly) (for about 10 years, during 1997-2011)

HYDERABAD ADDRESSU Atreya Sarma, 30-265-24/405, SS Manasa Priya Apts, St No.3, 1st Cross, Geetha Nagar Colony, Old Safilguda, HYDERABAD - 500 056. Mob: 9000106464
BENGALURU ADDRESSU Atreya Sarma, CC 502, Shriram Smrithi Apts, Bidaraguppe PO, Sarjapura-Attibele Road, BENGALURU - 562 107. Mob. 9000106464, 9849253952
U Atreya Sarma
Sangeeta: How was your childhood and youth? Any early formative influences?
Atreya: Thank you first of all for the opportunity to share my views. Right from my schooldays, somehow, the power of the word – English, Telugu or Sanskrit – fascinated me. Though I hail from and had my school education at a small Taluk headquarters town, the ambience for stimulation and learning was fairly good enough. The interest continued at college, at a district headquarters town, but it was not systematically channelized, with no concrete idea of the future.
Sangeeta: What prompted you to delve into arts? The inner motivations? Desire to communicate?
Atreya: The flashes of interest in self-expression and love for language, and a few brownie points I scored on the way led me on to write and speak. Whenever opportunities presented themselves I made use of them, and the little praise or pat on the back served as stimulus.
All said and done, it is a matter of self-expression and also an urge to share the thoughts and ideas engaging me fervently and this flair for expression had been an undercurrent throughout the banking career I had been into.
Sangeeta: How has been the overall journey as a writer and editor?   
Atreya: It has been, and it still is, a step by step progression of continual reading, learning, and writing. I started out as the managing editor of Bharatiya Pragna, an English socio-political monthly, as a hobby and on a voluntary basis, and I worked for this journal for ten years in all. It was a great learning experience to receive and read a variety of articles from learned writers, to edit, and to write editorials, reports and articles. Later on I was the founder editor of Cyberhood, a neighborhood weekly to which I imparted some literary flavour in addition to the usual coverage of civic and other aspects. The publisher gave me the editorial freedom. The quality of this paper earned appreciation from a cross-section of readership. Then I was taken in as an Editor of the Muse India e-journal in 2009. I was already an MA in English literature and a PG Diploma holder in Mass Communications and Translation Techniques Ever since, at Muse India I have been looking after Fiction, Reviews, News & Events, and Telugu Literature as well. Recently they have made me Chief Editor, so the responsibility and the need for a greater comprehension and wider networking has suddenly gone up. In addition, I have also edited eight books so far. Alongside writing editorials, articles, reviews and reports – writing poetry has gone on apace. The journey so far has been a satisfying one, exploratory in spirit, and with adjusting and readjusting to the demands of the situation. I have also been into translation, so much so the time for my creative writing has been rather shrinking, and the curating of the contemplated books – for which the material is ready – is getting delayed.
Sangeeta: What is your opinion about the current literary scenario in India? Is it English-dominated?
Atreya: The literary interest has been on the rise, with more and more books getting published, and with more and more writers especially the youth making their presence felt; some of them are in fact making waves. If the current literary scenario looks dominated by English, it is because of its greater visibility and also the glitter associated with it for obvious reasons. Though the regional Indian literatures are doing well, they are limited to their parochial readership, whereas English has an all-India presence cutting across the provincial territories and also the advantage of reaching beyond the national boundaries and the temptation and possibility of getting recognized there. 
Sangeeta: How are the Bhasha Literatures? Are they qualitatively different from English?
Atreya: The Bhasha literatures are doing very well, with more and more young writers across the genres steadily coming into the field. Most of them, I suppose, are rooted to their ground situation and are more realistic and closer to the people vis-à-vis the writers in English. And everyone knows that the combined readership of the Bhasha literatures outweighs that of Indian English writing. However, there is one difference – there is perhaps more research done by the writers in English than in the regional languages, relatively speaking.
Sangeeta: Please tell us about your recent poetry book, intriguingly called ‘Sunny Rain-n-Snow’.
Atreya: What with its thematic diversity, I meant my poetry book a read for all seasons and for all reasons, so its tagline is ‘An olio of poetry for pleasure.’ The central premise of my book is the contemporary social milieu, with the mood of the poems ranging from gravity to levity, anger to angst, sympathy to empathy, and ardor to humor – in tune with the context, in addition to a few psychedelic flights of fancy and epiphanic insights. The titles I have given to the various sections in the book give an idea of the eclecticism that has gone into the book. The sections are Femina, Facets of Nature, Epiphanies, Americana, Musings on Poesy, Relations & Equations, Romantic Peeps, Reflectively Yours, Social Bristles, Tongue-in-Cheek, Occasional Voices, and Metrical Forays. Whatever the themes I selected, I took optimal care to be lucid and direct, and strove to be generally universal and harmonious in spirit. 
 As for the title of the book which you call “intriguing,” it is better if I quote from my Preface:
Every poet generates his ideas like the droplets of rain falling to the earth. He broods over them and airs them in the ether of his mind. When they acquire enough strength they coalesce and shower down with a greater intensity and density, in the form of snow, sometimes solidifying into ice. This ice represents the settled poetic mind and expression, ready to be shared by its melting and sublimation. The poet, with confidence, holds this ice like a conch to blow off his thoughts like a mist and diffuse them. If it is just cold rain and snow, it would be dampening. If the rain and snow/ice are suffused with sun, it symbolizes the eclectic and the harmonious, and that to me is poetry. The image on the front cover reflects this idea.”
Sunny Rain-n-Snow was formally launched in a full-fledged function in Hyderabad on Dec 18, 2016, which received a fairly good enough press coverage. Earlier it had a couple of launches – at the Khandala Lit-fest (June 11-12, 2016), and at the 9th International Guntur Poetry Fest- 2016 (Sep 20-21, 2016). The book both in its paperback and Kindle versions is available at over half a dozen e-retail outlets like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Flipkart.
Sangeeta: How has been the general and critical reception of the book?
Atreya: Many litterateurs have reviewed Sunny Rain-n-Snow with acclaim, and the reviews have appeared in both the print and electronic media like The Hans India, Muse India, Triveni, Tuck Magazine, Verbal Art, Boloji.com, as also on the retailer websites like Amazon and Alibris. And a few more reviews are on the way in journals like Jayanti and Phenomenal Literature. I thank Dr VVB Rami Rao, Dr Vivekanand Jha, Shernaz Wadia, K Pankajam, Subasish Bhattacharjee, Jayendrina Singha Ray, and Dr Srinivas Reddy whose reviews have already been published; as also Chepuru Subbarao, Betty Oldmeadow, Dr CL Khatri, Dr Pramod Kumar Das, Dr Ketaki Datta, Dr Jaydeep Sarangi, Rob Harle, Leonard Dabydeen, Neelam Saxena Chandra, Dr Katta Rajamouly and Dr Gagan Bihari Purohit whose reviews are on the way.
I also thank well-wishers like you, and others like Sanjeev Seth and Garimella K Rao who have thought it fit to interview me and help me have some more publicity to my book – the interviews by the latter two are in the pipeline. So also there is going to be a chapter on Sunny Rain-n-Snow in an upcoming book – ‘Poets Notable and New 2017’ – by Dr VVB Rama Rao. Likewise, the Foreword by Dr Sunil Sharma and the endorsements by a galaxy of well-known poets like Ambika Ananth, Avril Meallem, Dr Charanjeet Kaur, Elanaaga, Gopal Lahiri, Dr Kiriti Sengupta, Sanjeev Sethi, and Usha Kishore have enhanced the value of my book. Critics like Dr Tutun Mukherjee, Dr KB Gopalam, Dr V Kondal Rao and Padmaja Iyengar appraise that Sunny Rain-n-Snow is a must read for the content, thought, language, diction, sensitivity, imagery and flight of fancy.
Sangeeta: Is poetry dying or is it reviving?
Atreya: I am of the view that at any point of time the readership for poetry is relatively limited since appreciation of poetry needs a sensitive soul, an aesthetic mind, an empathic strain, a little bit of patience and leisure, and a certain amount of knowledge of poetic concepts. The content of poetry in the language curricula has been drastically cut down over the time, and this could be one of the reasons for the relative dip in interest in poetry, for many impressions during the formative periods can last long. Even then, paradoxically, there are poets in all the age groups, and a good number of youngsters are taking to it in good numbers, if we go by the output of poems in school/college magazines or some others papers or poetry meets. There are even teenagers who have brought out their poetry collections. Liberalisation of poetic craft by doing away with what are called the complex and recondite rules of prosody has broad-based the interest in poetry writing. And the number of poetry journals – print or online – already available, and are still coming up – is also an indication that poetry is kicking and alive. Besides many an online journal, there are print journals devoted even to metrical poetry – like Metverse Muse from Visakhapatnam, which has a creditable international participation and circulation. To teach and guide the budding poets, there are a number of how-to online resources. There are sites exclusively dedicated to sonnet, limerick, haiku, etc. There are many organisations which regularly hold poetry meets, workshops and competitions and give away awards. It would strengthen the movement of muse if at least in bigger towns and cities, the established poets can come onto a platform and organize periodical poetry workshops and appreciation programmes. Of course, there are many workshops being already organized in the country, but they won’t be enough, and the fee has to be reasonable, wherever it is being charged. It may not be out of place here to point out the rigidity on the part of some publishers wedded to free verse and prose-poetry to frown upon and banish even natural and meaningful rhymed lines. Why should anyone try to regiment the creative freedom of others by stipulating strait-jacket approaches? Overall, I am optimistic of the state of poetry, be it now or in the future, for poetic creativity is ingrained in man’s psyche.
Sangeeta: Which Indian poets and writers have influenced you strongly? Why?
Atreya: I have read a good number of Indian poets and writers – including those of fiction, biography, autobiography and other non-fiction, and every one of them has left their own indefinable, unrecognizable and subtle influence on me for I have internalized the effect, without any conscious effort. I can’t identify any particular influence by any particular writer on me.

Sangeeta: Comment on the current landscape of Indian writing in English? Is it faithful to Indian realities?
Atreya: Yes, the Indian writing in English – I say fiction, which I review a considerably good deal – certainly reflects the Indian realities; but of course the perceptions may, naturally, vary from writer to writer. But a substantial section represents the metro and urban culture, and sometimes a few niche or micro groups, rather than a larger cross-section of the society, the semi-urban and the rural. And what I feel is that the writers should aim at harmony rather than exacerbating the social strife, without unduly letting their own biases to affect the plot.
Sangeeta: Who are the most significant voices of this field?
Atreya: To me the voice of any writer whose work appeals to me is significant, and there are many. I can’t grade them as good, better and best.

Sangeeta: How has been your experience as the contributing editor of ‘The Hans India’? 
Atreya: Having come to know me as an editor of Muse India and as a writer, The Hans India daily asked me to maintain their weekly column of poetry; and ever since 2013, I have been presenting poets from across the country and a few times even from abroad who write in English; at times, I present even translations from the Indian regional languages. Contacting the poets, interacting with them, and reading their poetry has been a rewarding experience. The ongoing reading and analysis of these poems had also served as a touchstone on which to evaluate my own poems.
Sangeeta: And as editor-in-chief of Muse India, please?
Atreya: At Muse India whom I joined in 2009, I have been looking after fiction, reviews, news & events, and also Telugu literature. Both the quality and quantity of submissions has gone up phenomenally, with the result it has become increasingly difficult to set aside any submission, despite the space constraint. As a way out, I have announced a New Annual Short Fiction Bonus for the Jul-Aug 2017 issue, so as to accommodate the surplus of good fiction submissions. So also to systematize the reviews section, I have been maintaining rapport with the publishers, and have formed a panel of good and competent reviewers.  A large number of submissions come from all over the country, and sometimes even from abroad, and many young writers approach us. And we don’t turn down the submissions on the grounds of minor flaws or on mere technicalities, but silently take care of them using our editorial discretion. I have also brought out four special features on Telugu literature. And it is only recently I have come to be the Chief Editor of Muse India. My interaction with a cross-section of writers has given me ideas how to strengthen, diversify and popularize Muse India further. We have to see how the future is going to unfold, since there are many angles to it. More than anything else, it is the joy of getting in touch with hundreds of writers and scholars from a large spectrum.
Sangeeta: How do you sum up your rich and variegated life so far?
Atreya: As a literary dilettante, I have been trying my best, with all my limitations, to add my own inch of contribution to the humongous world of literature. I only wish I had more energy, more resourcefulness, more fecund afflatus, a sharper memory, a much faster reading pace, more assimilating capacity, less laziness, more stamina, a wider and deeper understanding of the people around.  In short, I wish to be a more accomplished person, and a better human being. However, it has been certainly a satisfying experience despite all my desultory and checkered ways.
Sangeeta: What is your message to the young and the established writers?
Atreya: I am too small to offer a message to the established writers. I can only say with humility: ‘Sir/ Madam, I admire your writings. Please accept my hearty congrats. And I wish you further oeuvre and fame.’
Nowadays, most of the young writers are smart and savvy; most of them know the ethos and standard of the media they propose to approach, they read and evaluate the stuff carried in them, and try their best to dot their i’s and cross their t’s. Young or old, the aspiring writers need to study a lot to hone up their language skills; keenly observe men, things and affairs; and also try to live as ideal as possible with a positive attitude – which in itself promotes creativity along healthy lines. And thank you Sangeeta once again for your kind interview for Setu.