Today marks a special day on my blog, ‘The Tina Edit.’
I’m elated to feature our first male author for this year. Since April is National Poetry Month, our featured author for the month is a contemporary Indian poet.
I am honored and privileged to host not just India’s, but one of the world’s greatest contemporary poets – Sonnet Mondal.
You don’t need to look too far to study the finer nuances of poetry when you can read Sonnet’s numinous body of work. His poems have a transcendental quality to them and linger on for its noetic experience. Each of his poems will have you pondering on its verses, and reflecting upon its astute profoundness. Be it ‘Nobody speaks of you Syria,’ ‘Talaq, Talaq, Talaq,’ ‘Answer Maa,’ Sonnet 19 from which speaks of the sojourn of a hermit, and so many more.
What fascinates me the most about Sonnet’s poems is the socio-political themes. He doesn’t shy away from using the power of the pen, to ask the uncomfortable questions. To the establishment. To humankind. I find his poems wise, pensive, brave, hard-hitting, and the need of the hour.
Here’s a case in point!
Verses from ‘To Syrian Children’
The handsome presidents have osculated you goodbye.
Now burn yourself completely, or they would light cigarettes
out of you, blaming you for the cancer rampant in air.
Don’t let yourselves counted — history will be framed without you.
You won’t smell good like those dead woods and leaves, so
vanish with the fumes and transform yourself into water–
it would fulfil your hope —
of staying away from fire
and desire to wash blind eyes.
The Unborn ones, please retreat to your mother’s womb
The mouths of guns are shouting outside.
Sonnet attributes his muse to everyday life, and it is this randomness and spontaneity that makes his poems a thing of joy to read.
He pens about anything and everything from nature, humanity, the planet, and even smoke emanating from a cigarette. It is this diversity that makes his poems an unpredictably, predictable dipping experience.
Even if you close your eyes and listen to his poems, you cannot miss out on his unmistakable voice. It has the stamp of ‘Sonnet Mondal’ writ all over them.
Reading his poems is a very satisying experience.
About Sonnet Mondal
Sonnet Mondal is an Indian poet, literary curator, editor, and globetrotter. Mondal is currently based out of Kolkata. He has authored eight books of poetry to date, including Karmic Chanting, Ink and Line, and Twenty One Lines Fusions of the Twenty First Century.
Sonnet Mondal was born and brought up in Asansol, West Bengal, India. He owes his literary influence to his maternal grandfather, who he lists as one of the greatest storytellers he’s come across. Sonnet was a shy introvert as a child and used to take part in a lot of drama plays. He encapsulates this side of his personality in his poem ‘I’m still shy.’
Interestingly, Sonnet is not a student of English Literature and Art. He’s a science student, having done his B.Tech in Mining Engineering from Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur, the second oldest engineering college of India.
Writing is his passion while engineering is his profession; he states.
Sonnet’s list of awards, accolades, and achievements over the last few years stand testimony to his prowess as a prodigious poet.
Sonnet’s latest collection of poems, ‘ Karmic Chanting’, has been shortlisted for this year’s Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize. The Jury’s comment was:
‘Surprisingly mature poetry of Sonnet Mondal is savory, pensive, and aesthetically compelling.’
Sonnet’s invention of the fusion sonnet form, which is a blend of the traditional and contemporary styles of writing poetry has earned him a lot of accolades in the field of poetry.
He was featured as one of the Famous Five of Bengali Youths in India Today magazine in 2010, longlisted in The Forbes Magazine’s Top 100 Celebrities (2014) among India’s most celebrated authors.
The CultureTrip website, London, listed him among the Top Five Literary Entrepreneurs of Indian English Poetry (2015).
Winner of the 2016 Gayatri Gamarsh Memorial award for literary excellence.
Sonnet’s poems in Slovenian translation by Barbara Pogacnik were aired at the Literary Nokturno program of the Public Radio & Television of Slovenia in 2016.
His writings have appeared in more than hundred literary publications across Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia including The Stremez, The Sheepshead Review (University of Wisconsin, Green Bay), The Penguin Review (Youngstown State University), Two Thirds North (Stockholm University), California State Poetry Quarterly (California State Poetry Society), The Mcneese Review (Mcneese State University), Common Ground Review (Western New England University), Clackamas Literary Review (Clackamas Community College, Oregon), Willard and Maple (Champlain College), Steam Ticket (University of Wisconsin, La Crosse), Sanskrit magazine (University of North Carolina), The Thing Itself Journal (Our Lady of the Lake University, Texas), Sheepshead Review (University of Wisconsin, Green Bay), Fieldstone Review (University of Saskatchewan), Connotation Press, Nth Position, Blesok, Burning Word literary Journal, The Adroit Journal, Fox Chase Review, International Gallerie, Red Ochre Lit, The Metazen, World Poets Quarterly, The Journal of Poetry Society of India, The Single Hound, Kyoto journal, Irish Examiner, the World Literature Today, Blesok, Holler of Princeton Poetry Project, Midwest Literary Magazine, Rochford Street Review, Palestine Chronicle, Drunken Boat, Indian Literature, and Asia Literary Review to name a few.
His poems have been included in Sahitya Akademi’s Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians edited by Sudeep Sen.
He is the Founder of The Enchanting Verses Literary Review. He is the Editor-in-Chief of The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, international coordinator for Lyrikline Poetry Network (Berlin), and founder-director of Chair Poetry Evenings International Festival.
He has been a guest editor for Words Without Borders (New York) and Poetry at Sangam (India) and was one of the authors of the “Silk Routes” project of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa (2014-2016).
He has read his work at several literary festivals in Macedonia, Ireland, Turkey, Granada, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Slovakia.
Sonnet is the youngest Indian to have represented India at the historical Bridges Poetry Event, Struga Poetry Evenings, Macedonia.
Mondal represented India at the 10th-anniversary edition of the International Istanbul Poetry and Literature Festival.
He was inducted in the prestigious Significant Achievements Plaque at the museum of Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur, in 2011.
His works have been translated into Hindi, Bengali, Italian, Chinese, Turkish, Slovak, Macedonian, French, Russian, Slovenian, Hungarian, and Arabic.
Now, the best part, listening to the man himself. In his voice. Unfiltered.
1. Your poems are philosophically rich, profoundly spiritual, and astonishingly cerebral for a 29-year old. What’s the secret of Sonnet’s ingenuity?
A. Some of the masterpieces penned by some of the most prominent poets in history were during their 20s.
I think good poetry is ageless and has nothing to do with age.
I see myself as a person who writes, writes out of curiosity, writes out of hunger, writes out of love, and for whom poetry is the best medium of writing when it comes to expressing those thoughts which cannot be depicted through direct and exact sentences.
There is an imperfect fit between language, perception, and articulation. Poetry fills up that gap for me. All these aspects shape up my writing.
2. Why poetry? Is it because of your birth name, or there’s more to it? Please tell us the whole story from the start to the present.
A. The relation of my name with a poetic form has nothing to contribute to my making as a poet. The match is coincidental. I started writing from 2005, and I don’t remember any exact point when poetry pulled me into itself. Poetry itself has been the inspiration for me to pen more. My journey is a daily revelation that arises from the profoundness of my past and what I see today.
3. What have been the highs and lows of your journey as a poet to date?
A. I think every human life is filled up with high and lows striking the shores of our realization like the tireless waves from a sea. I have had my share, too, but it will be too long to document it here.
4. It will be interesting to read your challenges in your journey someday. Anyway, what are the makings of a true poet, in your opinion?
A. One who can deliver the something through which readers can enjoy – the inconclusive.
Saying this, I consider poets to be the flag bearers of human consciousness, and they should always maintain a balance between truth and imagination.
From ancient times, poetry and poets have played a momentous role in giving rise to debates and discourses that have shaped the literary history of a nation. Upholding the truth, balancing it with imagination is the literary duty of a poet toward society, and I think this type of writing has a much more futuristic role to play than the flimsy news items we encounter every day. That which lies on paper as poetry shapes our cultural theory.
So we should always be careful to sustain the ideologies of humanity while writing poems.
5. What is your advice to aspiring poets?
A. Read. Write. Read more. Write more.