Meet Shloka Shankar
A very warm welcome from the whiptail team. Tell us a little about yourself - your family, your hobbies, your dreams, or anything else you want the readers to know about you, apart from being a haiku poet.
Thank you for the kind invite to participate in your interview series. I live in Bangalore, India with my parents. Aside from being a haijin, I edit the bi-annual journal Sonic Boom, publish e-chapbooks via Yavanika Press, enjoy making digital art, abstract art, and collage, and conduct online poetry workshops a few times a year. I also run a mentorship program for my students.
Are you active on social media? How do you think social media affects the writing process?
I was introduced to haiku thanks to a secret group on Facebook called INhaiku in late 2013. A few months in, I also joined another group called Virtual Haiku, moderated by Mike Rehling, and both these proved immensely useful to me as a beginner. Getting one’s poems workshopped is crucial during one’s formative years as a haijin. I am rather inactive on Twitter and use Instagram only to share the occasional published piece. But I was fortunate to make the connections I did back then and Facebook helped me grow in that sense.
A sense of community certainly grounds and inspires one, but that does not mean one has to be on social media to “make it” as a haiku poet. To each their own. Find a way that nurtures your practice, it could be anything, really.
What made you decide to try out haiku and/or tanka in one line versus their more popular enjambed formats? How does it feel different to you?
I didn’t quite understand the nuances of the one-line haiku form until I just simply started writing them. It wasn’t a conscious switch, but I noticed that some poems read better as one-liners than tercets. I have never considered using kigo to be my strong suit, so I liked the loosening up of the strict fragment and phrase structure of the tercet. To me, monoku are more fluid and the multiple cuts add that little extra something to an otherwise “ordinary” observation.
Many poets still struggle with the dilemma of whether a particular poem will work better as a one-line poem than the enjambed form and vice-versa. What is the deciding factor in your practice?
I have always been an advocate of brevity and believe that if what I wish to say can be achieved in a monoku, why add the extra lines as padding? Being mindful of distilling my images down to their bare bones/essence, is what helps me decide whether the germ of a poem is better suited as a one-line, tercet, or in some cases, a gembun. The poem’s consciousness pervades quite strongly and I’m just the vehicle that makes sure it lands safely onto the blank page.
It would be a great help to our readers if you could walk us through your writing process from the conception to the eventual birth of a one-line poem. You are most welcome to take a one-line poem or two of yours to discuss how it came to be and/or process.
If you’ve been in the game for a while, let’s say eight years in my case, it gets hard to keep reinventing the wheel and stay relevant/true to your voice. I write only when I’m moved enough to do so and the muse is an infrequent visitor. But what keeps me interested are isolated words, phrases, stray lines, or even facts that later spark something that curiously resembles a poem.
For instance, the following monoku, published as a haiga in Issue 2 of your journal, came to me upon reading the interesting and unknown-to-me before fact that hummingbirds make the infinity symbol in flight:
looping through my finity hummingbird
While the poem works independently of the image, I wanted the added visual juxtaposition of the infinity symbol and the “finity” of the poem to come across.
Poetry is everywhere. You just have to observe and keep a notepad at the ready.
Shloka Shankar is a poet and self-taught visual artist from Bangalore, India. A Best of the Net nominee and award-winning haiku poet, Shloka is the Founding Editor of the literary & arts journal Sonic Boom and its imprint Yavanika Press. She is the author of the microchap Points of Arrival (Origami Poems Project, 2021) and her debut full-length haiku collection, The Field of Why (Yavanika Press, 2022). Website: www.shlokashankar.com.
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