Frequently Asked Questions for Poets
Where do you get inspiration for your poems?
SDT: For me, life is the biggest inspiration. It is full of people, experiences, objects that are intertwined in a cohesive and yet very subtle manner. Poetry is my attempt at making sense of it all.
Do you write with a particular theme in mind?
SDT: Well, that depends--sometimes there is a call for submissions, which has a pre-set theme, so I will write with that in mind. At other times, I allow my emotions to emerge in response to whatever is playing in my mind.
What is the difference between spoken-word poems and poems for the page?
SDT: Spoken word poems are expanded versions of page poems. They offer an immediate connection with the audience present in the room. The poems flail, wave, gush their way, steering the mind of the listener towards the spoken word artist. Poetry for the page, in my opinion, does the same but involves several pit stops. It seeps into the personal space of the reader, alluding to images and other texts, and arresting the mind with evocative literary techniques.
Does the process of writing leave you exhausted?
SDT: On the contrary, the process of not writing leaves me exhausted! I find that writing helps me process so many things internally that it is almost therapeutic. If I don't write, I feel restless.
How often do you write? Is there a routine you would recommend?
SDT: I try to write something at least a few days of the week, sometimes for several hours and sometimes for a few minutes. But the key to this is to discipline yourself to be fully mindful and present whenever you are writing. This means putting away anything that can distract you, requesting family/friends to give you space, and just getting some quiet time for yourself. Discipline in writing must be cultivated.
How important is ‘editing’ in poetry?
SDT: Editing is akin to brewing a good cup of tea, or roasting coffee beans for its flavour and aromatic qualities. It can make all the difference to the imprint that the poem makes on the reader’s mind. Editors are the eagle-eyed guardians of every weary writer, ever ready to relegate all unnecessary words into the bin without an iota of guilt.
What is the process of publishing?
SDT: First and foremost, you must have a well-typed manuscript. Then you can send it in to various publishing houses and wait for their response. It may take between 3-4 months to 3-4 years (if they respond at all). Sounds tedious? For fledgling poets, I would suggest starting small. Submit poems to online journals or to open calls for anthologies. Improve your work. Once you are confident and you have a sizable number of poems (at least 30), you can approach the publishers again and keep your fingers crossed. But most of all, enjoy the process of writing!
Where in Singapore can you get published?
SDT: This depends on the genre of the writings you want to publish. There are quite a few publishing houses here: Math Paper Press, Ethos Books, Epigram, Kitaab International, Random House, to name a few. There are various online journals too in Singapore that give a platform to emerging writers and diverse voices, like OF ZOOS, QLRS, Amber (a teenage chapbook that is looking to launch their first issue!), Mahogany Journal (for Asian writers), amongst others. Poetry Festival Singapore also launches regular open calls during the annual National Poetry Competition. There is a Facebook group called ‘SingPoWriMo’, which organises a 30-day poetry-writing marathon in the month of April. It is an inclusive group where established poets and new voices take time to read one another’s work and offer constructive feedback.
What advice would you give to students who are writing poetry?
SDT: Be honest about what you want to write. Be receptive to criticism and feedback, and use it to work harder. Over time, you will find that your writing evolves. This is a natural process but for this progression to take place, one must write, write, and write even more.
Any recommended reads for students?
SDT: I read widely, across different genres. Reading newspapers and magazines can broaden your horizons and raise your awareness of social issues which the world is facing, such as climate change, migration, pandemics, and so on. Also, anthologies make very good reads. Students can learn about the wide range of perspectives adopted by different poets on the same topic/theme.
Who are your favourite Poets?
SDT: My list is long but I will name a few at the top of my mind: Anne Lee Tzu Pheng, Alvin Pang, Grace Chia, Christine Chia, Joshua Ip, Desmond Kon, Eric Valles, Robert Yeo, Tishani Doshi, Vinita Aggarwal, Dorianne Laux, David Whyte, Mary Oliver, Wislawa Szymborska, Emily Dickenson and so many more.
Do poets usually receive any monetary remuneration for their work?
SDT: Hardly, unless one writes a bestseller :) Some journals do offer monetary compensation for accepted works, and sometimes artists are engaged for commissioned work for which they get some kind of remuneration.
What are the publication websites that are available out there?
Shilpa Dikshit Thapliyal is a bilingual poet, author based in Singapore. She is a nominee of Pushcart Prize :Best of Small Presses Anthology 2021, and author of two poetry collections ‘Between Sips of Masala Chai’(Kitaab International, 2019) and ‘Chimes of the Soul’ (self published-2015).
Her poems have been featured in anthologies, journals and online magazines in Singapore, India, USA. Some of her Hindi poems have been translated into Spanish . She has read poetry in Malaysia and at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Mumbai .
Shilpa enjoys weaving Poetry with Domesticity.