Interview with 2016 BUAPP Shortlisted Writer, Saradha Soobrayen

Photo: Saradha Soobrayen

Photo: Saradha Soobrayen

Brief Biography:

Saradha Soobrayen was born in London and studied Live Art, Visual Art and Writing. Saradha is a passionate advocate for Human Rights and the preservation of archives, libraries, and indigenous heritage. Her poetic inquiry: ‘Sounds Like Root Shock’ is a melange of arts activism, cultural transmission, Kreol dialect, political rhetoric and song lyrics that chronicles the forced removal of the Chagossian Community from the Chagos Archipelago and their ongoing fight for the ‘Right of Return.’

Saradha received an Eric Gregory Award in 2004 and was named in The Guardian as one of the ‘Twelve to Watch’, up and coming new generation of poets. She represented Mauritius at the Southbank Centre’s Parnassus Poetry Festival and won the Pacuare Nature Reserve’s Poet Laureate residency in 2015. Saradha’s poetry, essays and  experimental short fiction are widely published in journals and anthologies. Her much awaited debut poetry collection is long overdue. Her website is www.saradhasoobrayen.com.

Geosi Gyasi: You were born in London and studied Live Art, Visual Art and Writing. How vibrant is the literary scene in London?

Saradha Soobrayen: There are a variety of literary activities in unlikely venues such as poetry slams in church hall, cafés, and pubs as well as the usual established performance venues. Often key literary events such as book launches are happening simultaneously.

Geosi Gyasi: Could you tell me about your African roots and where your parents come from?

Saradha Soobrayen: My parents were born in Mauritius and came to work in the UK in the 1960s. Mauritius itself is a melting pot of many cultures and languages and yet there are distinct characteristics to the Mauritian sensibility perhaps due to being an island culture that has prospered and due to it’s commercial activity it often described as a jewel in Africa’s economy.

Geosi Gyasi: At what age were you introduced to the library?

Saradha Soobrayen: My earliest library experience was around the age of 6 or 7 it might have been earlier.

Geosi Gyasi: As a writer, what influence does libraries have on modern societies?

Saradha Soobrayen: It is often quoted that ‘libraries are the cathedral of the soul’ they are the the natural habitat for writers and allows our humanity to be read in all it’s diversity and contradictions.

Geosi Gyasi: You’re a qualified Writing Coach, Creative Arts Mentor and Action Learning Facilitator. My question is, what is the role/duty of a Writing Coach?

Saradha Soobrayen: A key factor is the ability to reflect back a writer’s creative process and to ask open questions to allow the writer the time to discover the way forward.

Geosi Gyasi: Could you briefly tell me about your poetic inquiry project, “Sounds Like Root Shock”?

Saradha Soobrayen: The project focuses on the Chagossian Communit who are based in London, Crawley and Manchester, they were forcibly removed from the Chagos Archipelago in the 1970’s to make room for a US Base. This is an important year for the community as the 50 year lease  comes up for renewal towards the end of 2016.  The original islanders and their families are still wanting to return home. The campaign is ongoing see http://chagossupport.org.uk

Geosi Gyasi: Could you comment on the lines below from your poem, “Listening Out For The Musings Of The Hawksbill Turtles”:

“to answer the same timeless, complex and simple questions:
how to survive, how to endure, and how to be one and all.”

Saradha Soobrayen: There is a degree of ambiguity in these lines as it forms part of a sequence that looks at collective consciousness and the relationship between humanity and the natural world.

Geosi Gyasi: Would you be surprised should you win the 2016 Brunel University African Poetry Prize?

Saradha Soobrayen: It is always wonderful for poetry to be celebrated and a great boost for the writer.There is often a tension between the need for the writing to be seen and the need of the writer to remain in the dark privacy of the writing process and so perhaps there is an element of surprise when the creative work eventually makes an impact.

END.

Visit the BUAPP website to read some of Saradha Soobrayen’s poems.

Note: BUAPP stands for ‘Brunel University African Poetry Prize’

The winner of the 2016 BUAPP will be announced on May 11, 2016.

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