HOW TO PEN A POEM, HOW TO CAPTURE A FEELING
Inspired people inspire people; the consequence of an inspiration is a work of art stimulating the onlooker, the audience to think alternatively. Pen to paper, a writer, a poet composes to convey an opinion or begin a conversation – a curation of words become that of the reader’s perspective. ‘Love and Other Dangerous Things’ originates from the recesses of Andre Howson’s mind as he pens and curates a collection of words narrating stories and feeling, painting pictures in the reader’s mind of all that he sees. Andre writes as we explore the derivations of his thoughts and what stimulates and inspires.
Writer and poet, Andre Howson is the Creative Director at Roar Global and the Associate Artistic Director at Mind Adventures Theatre Co. Andre also has a background in theatre, the lingering dramatism of which we comprehend through his poems. His excursions across the country take him to places that allow him to sit back and enjoy a few good books. We converse and discuss with Andre his new book, his inspirations from adventures and theatre to authors and poets, and the new-age medium of expression that is Instapoetry.
Q | Tell us about the book you just released – how did it come to be and what is it about?
A | 'Love and Other Dangerous Things' is an edited collection of the short form poetry I wrote, but mainly focusing on relationships. I was writing these pieces when I realized that I actually have enough for a book. I spent nearly a year looking for publishers, but poetry is a hard sell, especially in Sri Lanka. I was afraid that the book wasn't good enough, either. But I didn't want fear of what other people thought of my work to stop me. I know quite a few other Sri Lankan writers who went the self-publishing route, so I decided to give it a try myself. I compiled the pieces, got a cover designed for the book, formatted it for Kindle, and published it on Amazon. I've done almost no marketing, but the responses I've gotten from those who read it are highly encouraging and mean a lot to me. With the future being so uncertain right now, there's really no point waiting for a better time. Sometimes you’ve just got to seize the moment.
Q | Who inspired you to start writing, and of all kinds, why poetry?
A | It wasn't poetry that I started out writing. It was prose. Short-form poetry was sort of a passion project that lent itself well to a particular medium: Instagram. All my life, I've had a tremendous interest in reading. From the time I was a child I'd read anything I could get my hands on. My school librarians loved me, and would always let me borrow more books than the quota allowed for. At one point I was reading 120 books a year, quite regularly. So if anything inspired me to write, it was, I suppose, the fact that I loved to read. One seems to flow from the other. If I have to pick a particular author, I would pick Terry Pratchett. I've read his entire Discworld series thrice. He showed me that you don't have to stick to classic styles, and that you can talk about really important social issues while having a lot of fun at the same time. Pratchett should be required school reading. Poetry has always fascinated me in its capacity to convey the most complex of feelings and concepts in an evocative, rhythmic, and sometimes restrictive way. There are no wasted words in poetry; every letter counts. The challenge of it but also the emotiveness of it is what draws me.
Sit at the feet
Of thinkers, philosophers,
Theologians, and poets.
Dance across the thoughts
Of the greatest minds in history.
For an audience of one
– Andre Howson
Q | Poetry, in some ways, is a dramatic description of simple notions. How would you say your background in the performance arts stimulate your poetry?
A | Theatre has taught me a tremendous deal about emotions. My director, Tracy Holsinger, pushed me not to act out a character on stage, but rather to become one. This involves diving deep within yourself to find the source and the motivation of emotion and drawing it out. That sparked a need for me to explore emotion and how it affects people, and to create something out of my process.
Q | What is your creative process like?
A | An idea for a poem is usually sparked by something I've felt, or by reading something that evokes an emotion very strongly in me. This can happen at any time, so I have a folder on Evernote where I will instantly write this idea down. Sometimes it emerges fully fledged, and I have to stop what I am doing and write it out. One of my poems, 'Run', was written literally in the middle of a run on the beach. Later, I will come back to my bank of ideas and try to flesh it out. Most of them don't work. But a few do turn out into pieces I like.
Q | What is your opinion on 'Instapoetry'? Does it help or hurt the literary industry?
A | Mediums of expression are going to change, and are going to evolve. It is inevitable. Before the written word, epics were memorized by storytellers and passed down generations. Later, they were written down. Then they were printed. Instagram is just another medium. Social media lends itself to 'flash fame' and virality, so poetry on Instagram too can go viral. However, what is good will persist and rise to the top. This is how it's always been and how it probably will be. I don't think the literary industry has to be concerned. In fact, it will be much easier to find hidden talent now.
Q | Can you name a few literary works that have inspired your work?
A | Terry Pratchett has always inspired me. There's something about his writing that is timeless and deeper than enough people give him credit for. Tolkein and Lewis drove a love for fantasy and Asimov started me off on sci-fi. When it comes to poetry, I was raised on the works of Kipling and Atwood but recently Walt Whitman, Ursula Le Guin, and W. H. Auden have been informing my processes.
Through words like a river overflowing, Andre creates a space for feeling the world one feeling at a time. His expressions and confessions penned into short poems allow the reader to understand his perspective of the world while creating their own. ‘Love and Other Dangerous Things’ by Andre Howson becomes a recollection and collection of poems and encapsulated emotions that put words to feelings that cannot be understood and follows a relationship of his perception. As we converse with Andre on the ideals of poetry and what is, we understand the potential that lies in the concept of Instapoetry – a medium of expression that allows up-and-coming writers and poets to convey in the same way writers have been doing for generations and how the ideology of the social medium has made it accessible for writers, to provide a platform for those voices that would have been silent. Andre Howson’s writing comes from his soul and it is evident in the way that it captures the reader’s attention and conveys a feeling – the purpose of any great poem subsists.