INTRODUCING SHEILA RAJAMANI,
POET OF TEA UNBREWED
As the author of the memoir The Day My Brain Exploded: A True Story (Algonquin Books) -- which tells of my unlikely survival from a full-throttle brain hemorrhage -- I am accustomed to writing about uniquely intimate material. However, it has been unexpected -- and rather delightful -- to write about my very own mother personally.
The following conversation was taken with my mother over a cup of, yes, hot tea -- fully brewed, of course.
AR: This is your debut poetry collection. What motivated and inspired you to write it?
SR: Yes, this is my debut poetry collection. My motivation- After relocating to a different state, children in college, I felt it was my time to do something for myself. Writing seemed a far fetched idea, however the right setting- a sunroom facing large oak trees and deer coming out from time to time, provided me the ambience to pick up a note book and start writing poems. My inspiration- reflections of the past, and drawn by events occurring around me at certain moments through the years.
AR: TEA UNBREWED is such a fascinating title. Can you tell us what it means?
SR: The title is my metaphor for LIFE. It takes at least two of anything to make something. I thought of a tea bag. Just by itself it is a tea bag. Now, you add hot water, spices and the tea comes to life. So is LIFE! It is a blend of sweet and sour. When we experience both of these flavors, can we fully appreciate the essence of living.
AR: How did you decide the themes and ideas for the poems in this book?
SR: It is how I felt at certain moments of my life, my journey, my experiences, that I was able to externalize through written words in the form of a poem.
AR: Which poets, or authors, or books have influenced your poetry?
SR: Children book authors and poets have influenced my poetry. Poetry is word in motion, and all of the children authors and poets make it fun and hence children love to be read to, and love reading. Some of my favorites, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Milne, Mo Willems, Mike Curato.
AR: Where does your love of poetry come from?
SR: Growing up in India, we had to memorize poems. One never got to truly appreciate the depth of the poets thoughts and feelings. As I grew older, I started listening to Ghazals, which is a chain of couplets, and each couplet is a poem, filled with emotions of love and loss. I started to enjoy poetry.
AR: Many of the poems in TEA UNBREWED deal with your family members. How have they inspired your writing?
SR: Because of who they are, and how they perceive life and living, , I am who I am. They will always be my source of inspiration.
AR: The book’s cover with the face of Buddha, gives the book a definite spiritual vibe. How do you feel your poetry relates to your spiritual practice or any other life path?
SR: The book is the arc of my life’s journey and experiences, and at certain moments I know there has been a higher power holding my hand and guiding me through. I found peace in the knowledge that “everything is momentary, and this moment in time will pass”. Yes, the face of Buddha is serene and calm, and the diya or candles- symbol of self. I have come full cycle to understand “myself”.
AR: What do you think most characterizes your poems?
SR: They are playful, relatable and understandable.
AR: What was the hardest part of writing this poetry collection?
SR: I had to dig deep into my emotion and my feelings. It was difficult.
AR: What did you enjoy most about writing it?