Interview – Poet Laureate Amit Dahiyabadshah.

An Exceptional Poet, Amit Dahiyabadshah is Planning a New Kind of a Tree in Delhi. The most difficult part of DelhiPoetree’s mission has begun well. Today, Mr. Dahiyabadshah’s dream is suddenly taking on an extraordinary momentum of its own. Poets recall how poetry readings were not cancelled even for important religious festivals. The Poet Laureate says “Poetry is the golden thread of our collective spiritual entity and more important than any religion!”


Mr. Dahiyabadshah himself is a wonderfully gifted poet with unique gifts of simplicity, clarity, sensibility and above all probably the finest poetry reading voice anywhere. His works, “Last Will of the Tiger”, “Bhiksha”, “American Face”, “Mitti”, “Chidiya” and the “Script Arabic” are changing audience’s response to poetry forever. Plenty! Mr. Dahiyabadshah wants to take poetry to the pavements for the street kids to inoculate them with an appetite for hygiene, the world and the simple rights and rules of citizenship. In the coming year, poetry readings will be held in Police Stations, Hospitals for the terminally ill patients, and for special groups. That list too is growing in the shade of the Poet Tree. Delhi is destined to become the Poetry Capital of the World says Amit Dahiyabadshah with confidence and spirited enthusiasm.


VP: Could you tell me a little about you as a poet?


Amit Dahiyabadshah : I am a working poet. What this means is that unlike gifted poets or divinely blest poets, I have to get up and write every day. I cannot wait for an inspirational moment or event. I have to inspire myself to write every morning.


VP: How did you find the poet in yourself?


Amit Dahiyabadshah : I started writing for my mother when she took seriously ill in the nineties. She seemed to respond better to her medication with poetry and so I started writing for her. Often she would give me a list of topics and I would write poems for her on those subjects, later I was able to do this spontaneously. Now the poetry is practically on tap.


VP: When you began writing seriously, how did you get the inspiration for some of your favorite publications?


Amit Dahiyabadshah : I believe the poetry needs to come from one’s life and the geography, so my early poetry was inspired by nature agriculture and soldiering since I come from Haryana. Hence, these were the early influences in my life.


VP: Do you think that as a poet you have certain strengths that other writers may not have?


Amit Dahiyabadshah : I am not in awe of the great classical poets. I realized quickly that people would read my poetry and buy it if they could connect through it with me and my point of view. So my poetry is based on uncomplicated perception, simple language and an ease of readability. Also the engine of my perception is sensibility and curiosity. These keep me writing stuff that my audiences like and my appetite for reading poetry to an audience almost everyday helps refine my craft through their eyes and ears and my work takes on a certain living interactive character. Its not performance poetry but it is very connected poetry.


VP: Why does Delhi need Poetree?


Amit Dahiyabadshah : Great cities are living entities. Infrastructure projects the Metro, flyovers and good roads or malls alone are not enough to keep a city alive. The spirit of the neighborhood and the inner voice of the conscience of a community are important to save a city from road rage and Nithari type horror crimes. These are early warning signs of a decline that only we, the people can reverse in the neighbourhood. It is not the job of the police and the government to gentle the people, it is our collective responsibility, yours and mine to do it and bring about a positive change in the society. I’m a poet so I am doing poetry. You need to ask yourself what you can do to revive the spirit of the neighborhood through your own life’s work.


VP: How and when did DelhiPoetree start?


Amit Dahiyabadshah : DelhiPoetree started about three and a half years ago on my return from Philadelphia where the senior Environment Corps Centre in The Park German Town honored me for my early writings on Nature by designating me as their Poet Laureate.


VP: What is the aim of DelhiPoetree?


Amit Dahiyabadshah :
• To Give the city of Delhi 30 readings of poetry every month across the NCR.
• To Honor 100 poets as the Living Treasure of Delhi.
• To enable 100 poets to earn a taxable income by the year 2015.
• To get Delhi justifiably declared A Poetry City of the World by the year 2011 and a Poetry Capital of The World by the year 2015.
• To ensure that the community and not the academic world becomes the fountainhead of poetry in Delhi.
• To empower Poets and Poetry and to leverage the energy of both, to promote social sensibility and proactive citizenship.


VP: How are you achieving it?


Amit Dahiyabadshah : Well we achieved the 30 readings in a single given month on the 7th August 2007 (three years ahead of schedule) with a very special reading by 50 contemporary poets of Delhi at the India Habitat Centre. That event was presided over by the Chief Minister of Delhi, Smt Shiela Dikshit. I am happy to report that this initiative is being taken over and expanded by new poetry groups and also some very venerable old poetry circles.


The 100 POETS READING was held at the Siri Fort Auditorium on 23 Feb 2008 at a huge reading. It was arguably the biggest poetry reading in 150 years. But that is not enough, they also need to be honoured by the local government, society at large and their local community and neighbourhood.


Our anthologies of 108 contemporary poets Here and Now (100 pages two volumes) and Chhundan (1250 pages three volumes) have done very well stand to earn as much as 40 percent per copy if they are willing to read their hearts out.


VP: What is /has been the biggest challenge for you in terms of the success of DelhiPoetree?


Amit Dahiyabadshah : The third Measurable Objective of the DelhiPoetree Mission is to ensure a taxable income for 100 poets by the year 2015 , we’re working on it right now. We’ve published 108 contemporary poets for the first time in their lives. They’ve been published alongside some of the most distinguished living poets in this part of the world like Keki Daruwalla and K.Satchidanandan. The anthologies in which they have appeared have been sold out and this is the most gratifying aspect of the mission this far. Still this remains the most challenging part of our mission.


VP: Tell us about the diverse people that come to the poetry readings.


Amit Dahiyabadshah : The audience at DelhiPoetree is a fine slice of ‘Little India’. They range in age from 6 to 96. You have multi Millionaires rubbing shoulders with poets, working women, tourists youngsters, college students, housewives, retired couples, security guards, fashion models, glitterati, Fine artists like Jatin Das, students academicians, publishers who cant believe that poetry actually sells in Delhi, Advertising professionals, diplomats, tourists students, merchants, politicians, even an odd can make a believable poet ( but that’s a nice safe pretence isn’t it? )


VP:: Do you have any advice for other poets or aspiring young poets?


Amit Dahiyabadshah : We’re all poets. Some of us are blest to know while the rest just don’t know it YET! All you need to unleash your talent as a poet is to write your first line and the rest will follow on the strength of your inertia alone. There are no rules that you may not bend, break or reinvent. But you can’t go wrong with short poems, read slowly and clearly as often as possible, just focus on deep thought or feeling, word craft (simple language works as well as jabberwocky) and Utterance! Utterance! Utterance! Read your heart out and your poetry will learn to sell itself. Come to a DelhiPoetree reading in your neighborhood.


You can find a poem composed by Mr. Amit Dahiyabadshah at The Last Will Of The Tiger


Compiled by

Sohrab Pawar