My poet/writer friend Seni Seneviratne has introduced me to The Next Big Thing where I write about my new poetry book – The Courtesans Reply
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It was inspired by a translation of The Caturbhani, four monologue plays written in Sanskrit and set in the courtesans quarter in India around 300 BC.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Actually, I’ve thought about this because I’m adapting the book as a play, and I can see it as a film… perhaps directed by someone like Samira Makhmalbaf.
I would love for the actress Manjinder Virk to play one of the courtesans. The characters are all Indian/from the Indian subcontinent, and all women, apart from Sukumarika, who is a MtF transgender character and would be played by a man.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
The Courtesans Reply is a long poem sequence imagined in the voices of Indian courtesans: women who were known for their skills in 64 arts including music, storytelling, dancing and the art of love.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I began working on the first poem in about 2005/2006, but didn’t know it would be a sequence until about 2008. I redrafted a lot, working on individual poems, so I didn’t really have a full first draft for another three or four years.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My biggest inspiration was Glimpses of Sexual Life in Nanda Maurya India: an english translation of The Carturbhani by Manomohan Ghosh.
I was captivated by the courtesans glimpsed through the narrow gaze of the male narrator, and as I began to imagine their lives, I found myself straying further and further from the original text. Given a voice, the courtesans had their own stories to tell.
I also drew inspiration from The Complete Kama Sutra and other historical texts, and although I believed my characters were real, that they were once living, it is fiction.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
What drew me to The Caturbhani was the erotic charge of the writing, and the way this was married to a subtlety and modesty that is characteristic of the culture of the Indian subcontinent. That the courtesans enjoyed their sexuality and took pleasure unapologetically was important to me… even in light of their situation in life and lack of choices.
I hope readers will fall under the courtesans’ spell as I did.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My pamphlet is published by flipped eye, an innovative press I admire for its ethos and for the quality and range of the work they publish.
Interviews coming up on The Next Big Thing: