Dr Vyjayanthi Srinivasa Subramaniyan is a practicing psychiatrist. A post graduate from National Institute of Mental Health And Neurological Sciences (NIMHANS), she is a former lead actress in a Kannada film Huvu Hannu that won the national award. She was also an actor in the theater group Spandana, headed by B. Jayashree, a recipient of Padmashree award. Dr. Vyjayanthi works with adult and child survivors of abuse in the private sector, she is also an associate professor of Psychiatry at MS Ramaiha Medical College Bengaluru and consultant psychiatrist at Indian Institute of Science. Her poetry is published in Peacock’s cry (2006) I, me and my self (2009) anthologies by Unisun Publishers and Silent Flute (2013) by Navodaya Publications of Kendra Sahitya Akademi to promote Young Indian English writing and recently by Wagon magazine in 2016.
This interview was conducted by email.
The Team Opener: What prompted you towards poetry? Was it an incident or something you think you were destined to do?
Dr Vjayyanthi S: Poetry was an inherited talent, since both my parents are poets and have published poetry collections in Kannada. Poetry was spontaneous for me in English. It was a basic need and an irresistible urge that kept me writing.
My first poem was named “Tears” written when I was 13 years old and it won in an interschool competition, and suddenly I felt ashamed of sharing my vulnerability with public, as my poem was displayed on a notice board, but admiration by my teachers and friends, made me accept my talent to showcase vulnerability as poetry.
The Team Opener: Who are your favorite Indian and international poets? List two each and why you like their work.
Dr Vyjayanthi S: I have loved Yeshwanth Chital and Gopal Krishna Adiga as Indian poets. I have liked the lyricism and melancholy of Mr. Chithal. He suffered from Parkinsonism and his writing tackles biological depression in a very innovative psychological method. I perhaps shared my father’s fascination and admiration of Gopal Krishna Adiga’s poetry, as it is a delight in several meters of poetry, alliteration, assonance and rhyming, at the same time is full of logical riddles, making a reader think and feel simultaneously, a feat most admirable in a poet.
I have loved Margaret Atwood‘s poetry deeply, as she propounds feminism in poetry and she prescribes to a narrative style in many poems that makes it intimately endearing. She takes to a reverse-confession stand in her poetry for example “Poet has returned after being virtuous for years instead. Can’t you be both? No. Not in public” She is rationally passionate! A rare combination that is explicitly declared in her poems.
I am an admirer of Wislawa Szymborska a poet from Poland, because of the profound blending of pragmatism with romanticism in her poetry, and portrayal of the Vietnam War in which refugee camps are vivid and evocative. “Children of our age are born to political age. Whether you like it or not, your genes have a political past” “4am poem “… are etched in memory. In fact, every poem of hers is a masterpiece that is rich in imagery and philosophy.
The Team Opener: Poetry and healing, what are your thoughts about it. Is poetry a personal diary or a community-based mirror that records and lists feelings of many people.
Dr Vyjayanthi S: Poetry therapy is a journal published in American Press, I think poetry is therapeutic. Because an image speaks a language in poetry, it voices the traumatic memories stored in the non-dominant hemisphere or the right brain. Hence by making painful silent memories accessible to language and narration, it has an intrinsic power as a genre to facilitate healing. I think poetry like any other art makes a personal experience universal. It acts as a mirror to reflect the predicament that every person experiences but does not express or is unable to express.
The Team Opener: How much had your profession influenced your writing?
Dr Vyjayanthi S: My profession as a psychiatrist often evokes a vicarious trauma in me, and I heal by writing poetry. When some of my patients who are victims of trauma have been defensive about their experiences, I have encouraged them to write poetry to resolve their conflicts and achieve a deeper level of understanding of their problems.
Example: - Poem called “Recovery” in my book “Silent Flute”
Some healing is incomplete, Scars stare like tattoos, but a wound is healed, we can remove the bandage, Scar is just a reminder, once upon a time there was a wound here. We cover that scar with a veil. Who likes such reminders? They are not stars or medals. Then it is recovery.
The Team Opener: Any other thoughts you wish to share with our readers.
Dr Vyjayanthi S: I think I survived some difficult transitions in my life because I was able to beautify ugly experiences by finding a meaning in pain through poetry. Poetry helped me to re-invent myself. I am grateful for your readership and humbled to be interviewed in this magazine of literary value.