Poet Urvashi Bahuguna On Her Debut ‘Terrarium’ and Its Inspirations

Urvashi Bahuguna’s debut poetry collection, Terrarium, is the poetry of our planet. While deeply rooted in the Indian imagery of mangoes, mud and monsoons, it is by no means insular. Bahuguna, whose concerns lie beyond physical boundaries, also points her poetic compass to other, more global coordinates—from gender relations to environmental disasters and mental health issues. And in the space of a single poem, the reader can travel miles when crossing a line break. Published by the not-for-profit press The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective and winner of the Emerging Poets Prize selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Terrarium is terrestrial, atmospheric, oceanic.

Poet Urvashi Bahuguna On Her Debut ‘Terrarium’ and Its Inspirations

Urvashi Bahuguna Urvashi Bahuguna’s debut poetry collection, Terrarium , is the poetry of our planet. While deeply rooted in the Indian imagery of mangoes, mud and monsoons, it is by no means insular. Bahuguna, whose concerns lie beyond physical boundaries, also points her poetic compass to other, more global coordinates—from gender relations to environmental disasters and mental health issues. And in the space of a single poem, the reader can travel miles when crossing a line break. Published by the not-for-profit press The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective and winner of the Emerging Poets Prize selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Terrarium is terrestrial, atmospheric, oceanic. Over an email exchange, Bahuguna spoke to HuffPost India about this ‘microcosm’ of her life—and about foregrounding female (and familial) spaces and demystifying mental health through her writing. Edited excerpts: Let’s start by giving your readers a sense of how this book was born: the title (and titular, opening poem) Terrarium ; the selection and organisation of poems into five (untitled sections), some of which have been previously published; and the dedications. Why Terrarium ? What have these portals and platforms meant for you—as professional support systems in encouraging (and publishing) your work as a young poet? Terrarium started with the 30 poems in 30 days challenge that takes place worldwide in April each year – better known as NaPoWriMo or National Poetry Writing Month. I’d describe it as an informal support system for poets—one can write with a group, a partner, or by one’s self. I emailed my poems to a writer-friend on a daily basis that month – not because I required feedback (the poems were too new) but because our email thread was a way to clock in and out each day. Writing for 30 consecutive days meant that I discovered the true breadth of what preoccupied me as a person, what I was interested in writing about – the environment, past relationships, geography, family. It showed me a blueprint of what a debut collection might look like if I wrote it. I named the collection Terrarium because a terrarium houses living things, but it’s also a place of incredible stillness. That’s how I see the images in the titular poem as well as the others in the collection – a memory frozen in time, and when I go back there, I can un-pause it and watch it over and over. It made sense to call this gathering Terrarium – a microcosm of my life. Publishing in magazines and anthologies was a way to test the waters in terms of whether people connected with the work and to grow more comfortable with rejection and the need for editing. Those were really valuable experiences to have before I published a full-length collection – I learned to be receptive, grateful, and thoughtful in how I processed rejection and feedback. Creating in a vacuum can be isolating and challenging. Supportive literary magazines are an important part of the ecosystem that sustains Anglophone poetry – they encourage […]

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