In Conversation with The Alipore post

The Alipore Post comes as a balm to emotions that need soothing, issues that warrant addressing, and then there are whimsical that leave you musing. Beautiful poetry and art. If you slightly grimaced at the word ‘beautiful’, it is completely understandable. You should, however, know that the Founder, Rohini Kejriwal has curated art and poetry that transcends singular aesthetic sensibilities, so there's a Beautiful for everyone to see and read.  

There's something sublime about stitching artwork to poetry, especially since it's curated from around the world. It stands as a testament to the commonality of the human experience and aspiration. We're not too different. A South Asian bejeweled woman holds in her hennaed hand, a lit cigarette. This illustration seems made just for the poem Elegy for smoking by the American poet Patrick Phillips.

Do you think poetry and art have become more important than ever?

More than pinpointing poetry or art, I think the need for self-expression is absolutely crucial these days to make sense of one's reality and to understand how we got there. So in my case, I need to scribble into my numerous notebooks penning down words or doodling and just feeling that release, even if I'm not my most eloquent self. It's merely a reflection of a truth.

We're living in pretty bleak times, and the only real magic left around us seems to be other humans - humans who can spread happiness in the worst of times,artists who can mock Trump's penis through comic form, orchestras by society's downtrodden to embody the freedom they truly believe in, street artists who have the balls to leave a mark and call out bullshit when they see it, poets who fight on behalf of those whose words and dignity have been stripped off them. We need to believe that creativity and good intention go hand in hand, that there is a world of possibility, entire universes that can open up through art, poetry, music, beauty… 

Why, in your view, does The Alipore Post or other curators of Art have the kind of following that they do?
Because what we are sharing makes people feel something. It is honest, exploratory, and relatable to a very human/emotional level.

When a work that moves us - be it a poem, painting, song, comic, whatever the medium - it isn't necessarily self-expression but an appreciation of someone else's choice of words or brush strokes that capture what one also believes in. It is the human to human connection, the universality of art and poetry that helps one relate to another. I can't speak for anyone else but just knowing that somebody else has managed to throw light on a feeling you have felt, or resonate with beauty that goes beyond the viewer or creator, is special. It's what keeps us going.

It's also most definitely a question of aesthetics and how one defines good art. I follow a lot of wonderful 'curators' like Jeff Hamada, Peter nidzgorski, Austin Kleon, Danielle Krysa,  who like me are as intrigued and excited by art and culture. But more than the act of 'curating' or influencing, the digital curators of today see it as a role to ensure that good work does not go unseen, that a piece of art that has the power to change or affect a person reaches the maximum number of people through the amazing tool that is the Internet. At least for me, it's essentially being an admirer, or for lack of better words a fangirl.

Zines. Your thoughts?

Ever since the days of BC/MC and having worked on some zines for NH7 Weekender in their early days, the idea of low-cost, available-to-all, slightly cultish zines with strong voices that say what must be said is one of the most inviting forms of publication to me. I love the work that's being done by Bombay Underground, whom I hope to collaborate with in the future. I also love Paper Planes for the powerful way in which they have established zines and magazines as a form of sought-after reading material. 

With my own The Alipore Post zines, I was deeply inspired by magazines like Penny Magazine, Frank, Nether and numerous others who have a beautiful interplay of text and images to create a meaningful experience for the reader. I've been wanting to get a proper book designer to work with but instead, just decided to relearn MS Word and created the first edition using submissions that I collected in December. It's going to be a quarterly zine, and I definitely want to figure out the print version somehow. But in the same way that I'm keeping the post office down the road alive with my postcards and letters, I intend to keep the zine culture alive in my own little ways. That world is too special for it to die in obscurity.

Moving on to dangerous waters, at least in a writer's map. What is your favorite piece of literature from what you've written?

That's a really tough one, especially since I've actually really enjoyed some of the interviews I've done and the flow of conversation. But if I had to pick, one of my most well-researched pieces for Little India was the former village of love called Preet Nagar - a cultural hub in Punjab in the 1930s - which I visited for a writing residency two years ago.

You can read it here

What was the last poem that made you cry?

Read it here - A brief history of the future by Jeffrey McDaniel

An Excerpt below,

Instead of churches, we’ll have giant radios
with huge metallic antennas for steeples.
If you sit on the coils, you can listen to God
with your entire body, as his holy broadcast ricochets
off the aluminum walls of your bloodstream.

We’ll still be human, for the most part.
On some days, you’ll still be able to hear the echo of the wind
organizing leaves in the distance.

What was the last poem that gave you hope?

Read it here - On Friendship by Hagit Grossman

An Excerpt Below,

In the meantime your husband will chat with him about Tai Chi
And pour him a glass of cold sweet pineapple juice.
You’ll return to the living room
And go out to the balcony and light a cigarette and sip
A cold beer. You don’t yet realize
That this is a sublime moment in your life.
One of the most sublime you’ll ever know.

Has a poem ever made you laugh, if so which one?

Read it here - Relax by Ellen Bass

An Excerpt Below,

There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice–one white, one black–scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.

You've curated poems and art of the best kind. Could you pick poems that come to mind at the mention of the following words?

Love - I want to write different words for you by Nizar Qabbani

Home - Warshan Shire

Beauty - Something Beautiful by Emily Montgomery

Poetry and art have become more accessible and more importantly, democratic. That means there is a platform for the creator, whose work might've otherwise over time, withered with the paper. But Rohini, a self proclaimed hoarder of all things sacred (notebooks and other stationery) believes that even with the online room people have created, the comfort of tangibility is here to stay. She also holds The Alipore Post Offline, a pop up space for art, collectibles and good music. It is now not too hard to believe that digital and offline, do in fact belong to the same universe.

Interviewer: Roshni Kumar

Interviewee: Rohini Kejriwal

Art by: Tae Parvit, Ian Berry, Rachana Ravi, Nandita Ratan, Gaurvi Sharma

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