Introduction to the Author:
S A Joseph is a poet from Kerala, India. Writing since his college days, S A Joseph has published a book, An Apology for Shakespeare and his book, which is a poetry anthology, is a defence of poetry in the modern age when the young minds are becoming callous towards the great art of words. In this interview, S A Joseph tells Alok Mishra, a well-known book critic, about his writings and his art and his future plans in the field of writing. You can read the interview below.
Alok Mishra: Dear S A Joseph, first of all, I must admit that your work was so courageous! You have done what poets often hesitate to do and rather play safe. How did you muster so much courage to do such challenging role of a poet who can even question the highest authority – God?
S A Joseph: Well, Thank you for your feeling. A creative writer or author is a visionary like a prophet. His/her words are for the humanity. Here in the book ”An Apology For Shakespeare” the author represents a hapless generation. Poesy is consisting all art forms especially Poetry. When you understand Poetry of the most modern age, we come to know that it is much deviating from its primary objectives of instructing and delighting. Poetry is nothing but criticism of life during the lifetime of the poet. When we are inspired, we automatically write. So many incidents happen in due course of time. We can challenge God and His enemy at the same time if we are blessed with Poetry.(An Apology For Shakespeare, page 49, chapter 23) It is an allegory to teach that everything is possible with the power of imagination. In short, we can understand Poetry includes everything being superior to all other branches of knowledge.
Alok Mishra: You have mentioned that your Guru suggested you to write a defence for poetry. Well, what was it like? What exactly did he tell you to inspire to come up with an idea of such a wonderful work?
S A Joseph: Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati was a great teacher, philosopher and writer both in English and Malayalam. He was very particular to guide me insisting on the creativity of the work. It is he who told to conceive the form of a soft feminine form and character for the goddess of Poesy who is in need of defence from all sides in this most modern age. Here Poetry is depicted as a loving, beautiful maid who can give us happiness and delight in our lives. Unfortunately, we are not aware and do not save her. She loses all her importance and dignity. She is no more capable to influence the human beings and inspire the noble minds and she is unable to show anyone the way to the immense bliss of virtuous actions and noble thoughts.
Alok Mishra: Please walk our readers through your writings before An Apology for Shakespeare. When did you begin writing? What was your inspiration because you must have been so busy with the nature of your work?
S A Joseph: I am not a born writer and I have not written anything before ”An Apology For Shakespeare”. It was in 1994 and 1995 when those lines were written during the time of my master degree in English Literature. The references are all from English classics like the Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost etc..This is written not to read as a collection of poems but it is to be read as one poem. It is divided into 52 chapters for the convenience. The work is written as if the author meets his greatest master in his imagination and the author tells so many things to his master.
Alok Mishra: You have presented the current scenario of the poetry in the modern world very wonderfully in your book An Apology for Shakespeare. What are your thoughts on this? How do you see poetry and its reception in the modern world?
S A Joseph: The current scenario of the poetry in the most modern world is alarming as Poetry today is far far from its real aim of instruction and delight. Only a few people want to read, study or to teach poetry seriously. Majority of these men and women are unaware of the need of studying poetry. They think studying poetry is a waste of time and it is totally useless. They never spend their time or money for studying poetry. The social setup has been made in such a way that study of poetry is useless. We lament a lot when we come to know, there is corruption, violence against women, acts of terrorism etc… Now we can only weep as we are unable to defend ourselves from the evil clutches.(An Apology For Shakespeare, Line 22 chapter 8) We never go to trace the reality why these happen and how we can eradicate all these evils. As a result, we totally tend to forget and abandon all actions which generate goodness in us.
Majority of our people, unfortunately, do not know that the ultimate end (aim) of poetry is nothing but leading human beings to noble thoughts and virtuous action.
Alok Mishra: As a poet, what does poetry mean to you? And at the same time, as you are into academics too, how do you see poetry doing in the academics today? What do we need to do in order to promote this art in reading and writing?
S A Joseph: Poetry is the purest and the best form of all art forms. It is the most effective medium to instruct and delight human minds even today. Poetry is there in academics, but without any importance to its teachers and students. We cannot do anything to promote poetry unless there is a change in the mindset of people. We are too late to understand the value of poetry in our lives. These notions have been brought out well in the pages of ‘An Apology For Shakespeare’.
Alok Mishra: I presume after reading your wonderful work An Apology for Shakespeare that you must be an enthusiastic reader of the classics. Please tell me who are the poets and the authors you love reading? And if there any particular author whom you like.
S A Joseph: Dante, Milton, Marlowe and Shakespeare are some of my favourite authors.
Alok Mishra: You seem to be so inspired by your Guru as well. Please tell our readers about him in a little detail. When did you first meet him and how did he become so important for you?
S A Joseph: I with some of my friends first met Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati while we were studying for our post graduation in English Literature, during 1993 and 1994. He used to tell of grave and serious topics like life, death, life after death, God, Evil, and so on, with great authority and ease. In his opinion, each human being shall be a God of small things. We could meet him many times those days. Thereafter, I could communicate with him with letters and he used to respond to many of my queries through letters. It is he who reviewed the first manuscript of ”An Apology For Shakespeare” and wrote to me,
”A rapid of fiery golden lava
Rushing down the ravines of gorges
Studded with dark granite heights
Never scaled by any one!
With overgrowth of old trees,
Branches bent and crooked,
Snakelike hands of ancient trees
Which suggests the treacherous path of Dante
When he made his reckless climb
Through the jungle, that was for ages
Blindfolded the eyes of humanity from the Inferno
Listening to the hisses of vipers
Howls of jackals
And thundering roars of mad lions,
That you have enough companions
Even in the heart of darkness.”
He was a world-famous philosopher known for his thoughts and poetry and philosophical talks. He was an exponent of Advaita Vedanta and also was a successor to Nataraja Guru. His most popular works were:
1.That Alone, the Core of Wisdom
2.Love and Blessings (Autobiography)
3.Meditations on the Self
4.Psychology of Darsana Mala
5.In the Stream of Consciousness
6.Bhagavad Gita, (English Translation)
7.Living the Science of Harmonious Union
Alok Mishra: Are you working on some other books right now? What are your plans after the success of your book An Apology for Shakespeare?
S A Joseph: I am working on a new book and its title is ”The Sublime Fairy Queen”. It is a collection of 5 poems. It is also written in defence of Poetry. The 5 poems are as follows
- The Sublime Fairy queen(written and sent on the occasion of 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and got Her Majesty the queen’s good words )
- The Face of God
- Identity Crisis
- Teachers Day
- The Invincible Tide
Alok Mishra: You must have received positive as well as negative feedbacks on your book. How do you react to those? What’s your response to those who come badly on your work and how do you receive the positive criticism?
S A Joseph: Fine. There will be positive and negative criticism of a work. It is quite common. Positive evaluation gives us encouragement and negative criticism gives us the opportunity to understand more about our mistakes and shortcomings. They help us to find out which area we should improve. A creative work by an author is a creation. It will have its own merits and demerits. It is a reality and we have to acknowledge it.
Alok Mishra: Thanks for giving time and answering the questions, Mr. Joseph! I wish you all the best for your endeavours in life – professionally as well as in the writing field!
S A Joseph: Thank you very much.