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Interview with Poet Bhuwan Thapaliya

June 18, 2012

Source: The Applicant



Bhuwan Thapaliya was born in Kathmandu, Nepal and is one of the most widely read Nepali poets writing in English today. Thapaliya, who works as an economist, is the author of four poetry collections.

His books include the recently released Safa Tempo: Poems New and Selected (Nirala Publication, New Delhi, ) and Our Nepal, Our Pride ( narrative verses of love, peace, and human understanding. .

Poetry by Thapaliya has been included in The New Pleiades Anthology of Poetry and Tonight: An Anthology of World Love poetry

( as well as in literary journals such as UrhalpoolMahMag, Kritya, FOLLY, The Vallance Review, Nuvein Magazine, Foundling Review, Poetry Life and Times, Poets Against the War, Voices in Wartime, Taj Mahal Review, Strong Verse,,,, and more.

Thapaliya has read his poetry and attended seminars in venues around the world, including South Korea, the United States, Thailand, Cambodia, and Nepal.

His debut novel, “Nepal Dreams,” will hit the market in 2013.


1)  Why do you write poems? Isn’t it too boring to scribble words for nothing as Auden aptly said that ‘Poetry Makes Nothing Happen’?

Today, we call our world “a global village.” But the bitter truth is that the modern world is as fragile as ever. Considering so, I believe that the globalization of love, peace and universal solidarity is the cry of this century, and I am advocating it through the medium of poetry. I hope that by the messages that my poems convey, I may become instrumental in mitigating the woes and miseries of mankind.

I don’t believe in the Auden’s myth that ‘Poetry Makes Nothing Happen,’ and neither do I think that poetry is a boring stuff and poets scribble words for nothing. It’s the other way around – poetry is an exhilarating art. Poets write with a reason and purpose. Isn’t our life a poem? How little they know of poetry, if they say – poets scribble words for nothing!

Poets, they go to the end of their thoughts, and then come back to the beginning. And they keep on repeating these marathon innings, on and on; day after day and night after night, sauntering hopefully towards their destination – Poetry.

Dennis Gabor stated that poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them and I agree completely as that is exactly what I have been trying to do as a poet.

2)  Poetry is Not for Sale. It’s interesting to see that publishers have failed to commercialize poetry. Do you write to sell your poems or for the sake of expressing yourselves?

‘Poetry is not for sale,’ this is yet another myth. Poetry sells but in order to sell poetry you have to be an exceptional poet and these days you need to have sound marketing skills too. Furthermore, writing is changing in a digital age and literature is changing with it too. But it’s true that publishers have failed to commercialize poetry all over the world. I write because I love to write and writing is as vital to me as the wisp of oxygen that is essential for my very survival.

Poetry is to me the blood that circulates in my veins. It is the very foundation of my survival. Writing is no hobby for me. It is the way of my life. Poetry is my democracy. But writers can’t survive sans selling their books too, so if I say that I don’t write to sell then I am the world’s greatest hypocrite.

3)    There’s a universal tone that to be a poet one has to be anti-social or extremely eccentric. Have you faced similar treatment from family, friends and even society? How do you take yourself as a poet [image]?

A person doesn’t need to be anti-social or extremely eccentric to be a poet but I agree that I too am eccentric at times. I think to be a poet you need to read and write a lot because the more you write, the more you realize what it is you write for. Hundreds of times you will write and then delete and probably for nothing. Poetry, it’s not going anywhere. Time consuming. But it’s ok. At the end of the day you find yourself wishing that you’d written few more lines. Writing is the thrill that gets us going.  For few minutes we soar as an eagle, several hours we dig like mole.

I have been taken as a normal human being from my family, friends and from the society too because the rhythm of my verses are supplied by the parable of their tears and laughter. I am not always with me though I abide within myself at times. And I don’t have a love – hate relationship with the society because I’ve planted the thorns they had pierced me with in the garden, hoping to see them blossom into the flowers of serenity.

Regarding my image, I would say that I am only a drop of verse drawn up by time to become the formless clouds in the wilderness of the literary sky.

4)    What’s the role of a poem? What have you achieved by writing poetry?

In the contemporary world the role of a poem is as multi – dimensional as ever. A poem is the medium of emotional cooperation from one heart to another, from one soul to another, from one truth to another, from one religion to another, from one generation to another, from one nation to another and a poet is that medium.

Poetry is important and I think a poet is the ambassador of universal harmony and poems aren’t just poems but the anthem of humanity. “In “The Defence of Poetry” 1821, Shelley claimed that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. This has been taken to suggest that simply by virtue of composing verse, poets exert some exemplary moral power – in a vague unthreatening way,” wrote Adrienne Rich on the importance of poetry in the Guardian.

Through my poems I have rediscovered myself and understood the true meaning of life. I have also realised that all humans are closely interrelated, and are stalwartly connected by the quintessence of their humanity.  We are all analogous – the one to another.

5)    Universally poets face crucial financial crisis. Can a poet be rich and write poetry at the same time? How do you maintain the balance between working as an economist and a poet?

Most poets are financially broke all over the world and unless and until you are Mr. Yuyutsu RD Sharma, an exceptionally talented poet, poets all over the world are bound to face acute financial crisis in some point of their life. I belong to this school of thought which believes that poetry and affluence can march together hand in hand. A poet need not be poor to write a great poem and vice-versa.

Maintaining the balance between my full time economics work and working as a poet has always been most challenging for me. It’s not easy to switch mode and gather enthusiasm to write between constant demands of work isn’t an easy thing to do especially in the contemporary world hard hit by recession and ever soaring living expenses. Most of the time I am hyper busy with my economics work as it is my main job but I am somehow being able to squeeze in some time for my poetic endeavours too.

6)    Was it difficult for you to publish your first book? Do you think self-publishing is the norm of today or traditional publishing is better?

It was very difficult for me to publish my first book but the credit goes to Adam Donaldson Powell, a multilingual author, essayist, literary critic, professional visual artist and poet from Norway who inspired me to publish my first  poetry collection “Our Nepal, Our Pride,”by introducing me to

Today, authors have many options. It’s all up to them. With traditional publishing, a manuscript can take years to become a book but the process is very speedy for self-publishing. Most of the books published these days are self published due to technological advances.

I have personally pursued both self-publishing and traditional publishing and have learned the pros and cons of both options. Considering so, for me publication matters and it doesn’t matter whether the published work is self- published or traditionally published.

7) As publishers do not encourage poetry many great poets in the past have preferred self-publishing and ‘upcoming or younger’ poets are often ridiculed for being immature in their writing. What makes a poet mature? How do you judge a poem?

In this age of digital media the future of poetry lies in the works of the young poets but the truth is that they are often labelled as crap and immature. Considering so according to Daniel Hoffman, a young poet must discover who he is; he must create himself as a poet. Even a genius must do this. It’s a painful process, splitting out your own skin and squeezing your soul and body out of it, even, sometimes, before you know the shape of colour of the new self you are going to become.

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different,” wrote T.S.Eliot. What makes a poet mature is certainly not their age but their depth in writing.

Often I don’t judge poems and when I am reading a poem I forget the meter, forget the metaphors, forget the rhymes, and forget style and all. I think poetry is not about meter and rhymes only, it is more about people and their life, and it is more about their tears and smiles.  

 8. Your recent book ‘Safa Tempo’ received mixed reactions/responses. Do you personally feel that it’s too sexual? Often poetry and poets are misinterpreted and in this case do you think the role of literary criticism is needed?

When I wrote the poems that would become my second collection, “Safa Tempo”. I didn’t think of it as a book, but rather as a need to understand the basic questions that all human beings ask in their struggle for the existence: What is humanity? Why are there corruption, poverty and suffering? Where is democracy? What is the ultimate destination of our life? What is love? Where has all the foreign aids gone in Nepal? Why is there hyper unemployment in Nepal? These questions would arise in me in the form of poems, and in making the poems into a book, I tried to make transparent those questions.

Furthermore, what I attempted to do in “Safa Tempo,” – is to reach out simultaneously for new metaphors, new subject matters and images deep rooted in Nepal which was in one way or the other often ignored, deserted, and unseen, from a social, economic, religious, political, and a personal point of view. I believe the search for the oppressed became identified, in my poetry, with the very details of my own life: including the oppression of working-class people in the city of Kathmandu, where I came from.

But to my utmost surprise some readers and critics depicted the book as sexual but according to me their depiction is nothing but a meager example of poets and poetry being misinterpreted. Considering so, I humbly request you all to read “Safa Tempo” to experience me though the poetry of my soul.

I doubt the credentials of literary critics and I am not a big fan of literary criticism.

9)    Readers often complain that poetry is too difficult to understand and prefer plain poems. What’s your style of writing? Any genre?

Poetry is very simple to understand as poetry is nothing but the footfall of the poet’s heart in the boulevard of the reality. Moreover, there exists a poet in each and every one of us but most of us are afraid to express ourselves freely for the fear of being misunderstood by the society.  But isn’t our life a poem too?

I knew a poet, who once said, “I write though I have nothing at all to write about.” Today, after all these years, I discern that he must be a true poet, “Life”. For he writes when there is nothing at all to write about. Old tales in modern verses, neo tragedies in antique meters.

I don’t have a particular style of writing as I write what my heart urges me to write. My heart urges me to liven up my spirits – it inspires me to sing, laugh, hope and dream.

10)  You’ve been working in a novel. Why the sudden change to prose? What are your future plans and will you keep writing poetry till your death?

I am currently working on my debut Novel, Nepal Dreams, and the book will hit the market in 2013.  I had always wanted to try my hands in prose too and was looking for a genuine plot and storyline, and luckily for me after all these years of poetic endeavours; the prose plot came to me and I am working to make my dream a reality.

I am working on my new poetry collection too. The collection will hit the market this September.

I will forever write poems as long as I possibly can. My own poem called “Grandeur of Poetry,” motives me to write on and on.  Let me share this poem with you all.

It takes tons of time to compose an ounce of poetry

But when it is composed it surpasses the eternity

It’s connotation – as the four seasons of the earth

May change from time to time, it’s authenticity

As the existence of the deity – will be questioned

From time to time, its manifestation – like the

Symphony of clouds will be misunderstood from

Time to time, but its universal consensus

Like the perpetual soul, will forever live on,

And its grandeur – like the countenance of the sun

Will forever shine on….will forever shine on.Image


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