Sutanuka Ghosh Roy: A Poet’s Journey

Sutanuka Ghosh Roy

(The noted academic and poet, Sutanuka Ghosh Roy discusses her recent book of poetry with the editor, Sunil Sharma, and allied topics, in this wide-ranging literary conversation for the Setu’s series: Author Interview.)

Q: Congrats on your debut Opera Poems? How does it feel as a poet to see the collection of poems in a book form?

A: Thanks a lot, Sir! It is a surreal feeling. I’m thankful to Hawakal Publishers, (New Delhi, Kolkata), Bitan Chakraborty for the alluring cover of the book and Kiriti Sengupta for his poetic expertise and care for giving shape to my thoughts.

Q: Please briefly share with us your journey as an academic, critic, poet and editor so far.

A: Two decades ago, I started my journey as an academic. It has been a great learning experience for me so far. I have learnt/ learning the tropes of literature. I have taught and now teaching both undergraduate and postgraduate students. My students are my assets and their unflinching love and honour help me to remain passionate about my teaching. My teachers, my colleagues, and my compatriots helped me to keep the fire burning.

I am fortunate to guest edit two issues of the unputdownable Setu Pittsburgh USA. Both the issues-- one on “Children’s Literature” ((July 2020) and the other on “Tribute to Tagore on His 161st Birthday” (May 2022) received rave reviews from the literary fraternity.

I started writing poetry at an early age-- during my childhood, I used to write a line or two and show it to my parents and teachers. For a long time, I did not write at all however over the past few years, I have been writing poetry. My poems have been anthologized and published in national and international journals of repute.

As a critic, I am happy and honoured to find a little space in the literary map. My book reviews have been published across the globe and have been received well among my readers.  I have a book Commentaries: elucidating poetics Hawakal 2020 which is a collection of twelve book reviews of poetry of eminent poets. And the journey continues…

Q: The title of your book is intriguing. What made you select this title?

A: Thank you, Sir! Etymologically the Italian word opera means “work” both in the sense of the labour done and the result therein produced. The Italian word derives from the Latin “opera”. The collection of poetry is my labour of quite a few years and the result produced so it is in keeping with the literal meaning of opera. Here my poems are sung to the music of life.

Q: Opera as a distinct musical tradition and performance is very enthralling. So, any parallels with the classical art form here in this selection of poems?

A: As a student and teacher of English literature I always fall back on the tradition the collection is a narrative of the music of life--pain, sorrow, umbrage, loss, joy and hope provide the poetic plot line and elaborate chorus of life.

Q: How relevant is poetry to the new millennial generation? Especially, poetry written in Indian English?

A: Phillip Sidney in “An Apology for Poetry” elaborated on the supremacy and relevance of poetry.  The same tradition continues and will continue. The new millennial generation is equally passionate about poetry. Poetry written in Indian English is now the in-thing. There is no dearth of talent and with so many online journals/magazines one can get published too. Moreover, the new generation kid is more comfortable speaking his/her mind in English than in the vernacular.

Q: What are the major themes that unify this collection?

A: Desire, pain, loss, silence, angst—the poems are sung to the melody of life. The broken crayons of life are kneaded with the colours of the rainbow.

Q: What is your writing schedule? What inspires you the most?

A: I have no fixed writing schedule. Usually, I write during the weekends. Taking up new challenges, working out of my comfort zone and pushing myself beyond my boundaries motivates me to work and hope for the future.

Q: Your favouraite books? The ones that have stayed on and talked to you?

A: Golpoguccho of Rabindranath Tagore, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s Pather Panchali Satyajit Ray’s Adventures of Feluda, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, and T.S. Eliots’ poetry are some of my favourite books.

The poetry of Robert Browning has also stayed on with me and I keep on reading these eminent authors time and again.

Q: How does your Bengali heritage shape up the artist within? The rich Bengali language, culture, Tagore and others?

A: The Bengali heritage and culture have in a great way shaped my life. Both my parents were students of Bengali literature. Coming from an academic family I have spent my entire childhood learning about the great maestros of Bengali literature. Most of my afternoons during the vacations were spent in Baba’s library reading Bankimchandra, Tagore, Saratchandra Chattopadhyay, Bibhutibhushan, Bonophul, Manik Bandyopadhyay, Ashapurna Devi, Jyotirmay Devi and all others. Listening to the songs of Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Atul Prasad, and Dijendralal Roy from my childhood helps me to remain close to my roots. It has given me an edge in life planted the seeds and shaped my form.

I am immensely grateful to life for honouring me with such a great heritage. This is perhaps the greatest gift of my life.

Q: How does your profession of teaching English Lit define your worldview as a poet, female academic and sensitive human being?

A: It has broadened and added to my intellectual horizon. I carry a treasure trove with me. I feel the strong aroma of the wonderful works around me and I keep learning.

Q: Does English help in capturing the essence of everyday realities of India for writers that prefer to write in this language?

A: We were a colony for two hundred years. The British have gifted us their language which we have made our own. Now we keep on adding specific cultural nuances to the language. We are comfortable and adept at expressing our everyday realities. This is perhaps one of the reasons why a large number of writers prefer to write in English.

Q: Very best wishes for the success of Opera Poems!

A: Honoured and humbled!

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