Rohinton Daruwala lives and works in Pune. His first collection of poems is The Sand Libraries of Timbuktu(Speaking Tiger 2016). His Interview at WIC India Dehradun Community Literature Festival 2017.

Share with us your thoughts on your book “The Sand Libraries of Timbuktu”. Would you please share your favorite lines and poem(s) from your collection?
It is hard to pick a favorite poem or line from your own work, but if I had to pick a couple of lines I’d pick the first couple from the Sand Libraries of Timbuktu –

“What does a book that’s been

silent for seven hundred years

say when you open it?”

I think that expresses my excitement when I first open any book new or old, ancient or recent. I wonder exactly what the book will say to me, and if it will change how I view the world.

What’s your inspiration for these poems and what enticed you to write about Timbuktu?
I first thought about the title poem of the book The Sand Libraries of Timbuktu when I read an article about the numerous ancient documents that have been preserved in the city of Timbuktu, Mali in families for generations. Thinking about the rest of the world finding out about the existence of these ancient books and wondering about what would happen to them is what led me to the poem.

How was it when you realized you wanted to be a poet and to take it up as your profession?
I’ve been writing poems since I was a child. And I’ve continued writing poems off and on since then. It was never a conscious choice to take it up as a vocation. It’s always just been something that I’ve always been doing.

Why poems? What made you choose poems as your language of penning down thoughts instead of writing stories?
Actually I do write both, though the poems do get written more often and published more often. I do love the immediacy of a poem, and the process of putting ideas together to fit an exact structure.

Share with us your process of writing, from holding a pen to penning your thoughts down.
The ideas for poems come from many different places, sometimes specific references or events, sometimes just a general notion. I usually have to hold the idea of what I want to write in my head to gestate for some time. I jot down notes from time to time, and write down the first draft of the poem at a stretch when I am ready. After that I edit and revise the draft until I’m happy with it.

Who is your favorite author and poet?
That’s a difficult question to answer, but if I were to pick just one poet’s poems whom I admire greatly, I would pick Jane Kenyon.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a writer?
The biggest mistake I’ve made is the one I still make sometimes, which is not following through and finishing a poem or a story. I do sometimes come back to abandoned ideas after a gap, but there are always those that fall by the wayside permanently.

Is there any book or poem that you are working on at the moment?
Not a book as such, but I am always working on individual poems.

Who are you reading at present?
The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin.

What message would you like to give to aspiring writers?
Just this – to write regularly, and to keep writing.  To keep away from trends and perceived marketability, and to just write the stuff that makes you want to come back to the blank page.


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