An Interview with Poet Arun Budhathoki
''I don't write poems, it comes spontaneously to me''
Arun Budhathoki was born in September 19, 1986. He is a poet, fiction writer and journalist from Kathmandu, Nepal.
Budhathoki did his undergraduate studies in Nizam College, Hyderabad, India and pursued master's degree in the University of Northampton, England. He has written six books so far. Because of his nomadic nature, he likes travelling around.
Edge, his first poetry book was published on 2011 and launched on January 24, 2012
Now he is working as editor-in-chief of Kathmandu Tribune. His works have appeared in India Today, The Huffington Post (India), Daily O, The Citizen (India), Republica, The Kathmandu Post, and Asia Pacific Daily.
Siam Sarower Jamil talks to him about his poetry and dreams for Rtv.
What does poetry mean to you?
When I wrote my first lines I never thought it would be a lifetime journey. Poetry, for me, was a spontaneous outburst of explosive feelings—that, I couldn’t translate into violence or any form of humane expression—so I had to carve it on language. In the simplest words, poetry is a lifeline for me. One thing that has helped me to continue living is poetry. While for many it means nothing, poetry holds a special meaning in my heart. It is my voice; I’m incomplete without it.
Do you have a philosophy for how and why you write?
As I explained earlier that poetry is a powerful tool for me to express, I continued to write because I understood how much I could express without uttering words. There are times when I’ve found non-responsive to people. It is the intricate behavior I’ve developed—to ponder, observe, and contemplate. These processes have become the key ingredients for me to write. I write because not I want to but I must in order to survive in this mad world. I mean what really can keep writers sane? That’s a question I’d leave to you.
What do you hope readers will take away from your work?
I want them to interpret and go where I’ve been to. Poetry is not fictional. It can be imaginary but poems can never become fictitious. That’s why it is so powerful. That it speaks to us directly. And I’ve tried to do that with my readers. On the other hand, my stories take the readers to places where they have never been to. One particularly short story called ‘Fighting the Cold’ has earned me readers from the South East Asian countries and the readers often connect with me to explain what the story means. The fact here, however, is that a writer writes to not explain. A writer may discuss the writings but to write and explain is a bit unconventional. And this is what I believe: if you are my reader then you are free to interpret.
When did you start writing and what do you think attracted you to poetry?
I started writing when I was studying in Grade 10 so I would have been around 16 years old then. While sitting at the end of the classroom, I saw shafts of rays passing through the narrow ventilation. That moment changed my perspective—I quickly picked up my pen—and wrote my first poem. I haven’t stopped writing since then. So it’s already been more than a decade. And the same sort of moment captures me again and again. I have even written about sitting in a visa section in London. And at times I’ve written about beer bottles. My detailed observation and extreme sensitivity to stuff around me have pushed me towards writing poetry. A lot of readers have asked me how I write poems. My answer has been simple: it comes automatically to me. It’s spontaneous like a raging river from the Himalayas.
Have you done anything to promote your publications?
Initially, I made use of social media tools like Facebook page (where I am verified) and now there’s a Wikipedia page too so I don’t have to do much online at the moment. Other than that I have spoken at the Sharjah International Book Fair where I was invited there. I did a bit of promoting there. These days people can easily find me if they want to connect with me so I don’t think there’s much to do now to promote my works other than just sit down and write.
How do you respond to writer’s block or not knowing what to write?
I do not believe in writer’s block and it has never been an issue to me. What I’ve realized is that if I become lazy and not sit down to write, that’s when things get complicated. I have always believed in Haruki Murakami’s philosophy. Writing is like running because you need stamina, focus, perseverance, and will. The same thing applies to the art of writing. If you don’t toil you cannot write. Even if you have a talent for writing but you work hard then you will never become a good writer. Let’s not forget that there are writers who got famous after their thirties. It’s never too late to start, they say, but without discipline and will, you will fall into the belief that you got writer’s block. And that’s dangerous for any aspiring writer.
What motivated you to go on to focus on a career in writing?
I’m still not a full-time writer but I plan to do so. These days I’m also focusing on writing for several platforms and it has worked for me. I never thought to focus on writing career but it turned out to be so. I still have a long way to go but this is one of the strengths I have and I shouldn’t let it rot. I always remember what my social studies teacher told me once: you’re a talented person and don’t let it go waste. That really motivated me to write and another time an English teacher declared me a future poet during my High School. Even though I hadn’t realized my potential, my teachers saw something in me, and that too inspired me to write. To be honest, in the beginning, I was jealous of American poet Sylvia Plath and tried to imitate her. I wanted to win her. But now I’ve understood that every writer has their own voice and thanks to Plath I’ve found mine too.
What’s the best experience you’ve gained through your writing?
I’ve understood the world and gained an in-depth understanding of my own soul. I wouldn’t say it’s nirvana or awakening but to be able to achieve that through writing—it’s the best experience I ever had.
Where do you see yourself going next?
I’d say there will be more short stories collection, novel, and poetry. And I’m definitely going to do quality journalism here and there. I’m also thinking to do a doctorate degree so let’s see how it goes. I want to travel extensively and make a poetry collection that bridges race, people, and nations. I strongly feel a poet and writer has that responsibility to make the world a better place.
If you could pass along only one piece of advice for other poets, what would it be?
No one can teach you poetry but you can definitely learn its structure and emotion from others. You should always read and be open to criticism and experiment. I’ve written hundreds of poems over more than fourteen years and still I am not sure how I write it. If you too find in that illusion then you’re good to be a wise poet. And you should write poems not because you like to write it but you feel a strong desire to express your emotions. Poetry can never be robotic.