Poets force you to see beyond colour, gender and their own experiences to gain inimitable insight. It’s beyond a fusion of words and rhythm. It’s about capturing emotions and feelings that you experience or have heard of. Kaviru Samarawickrama is 24-years-old. Shares a natural prowess and sophistication; in which she brings verse to life. A poet, cultural curator and critic, she also explores spirituality and relishes the contradictions and complexities around her in verses. Past pupil of Bishop’s College and is a double-graduate. Having completed British Computer Society (BCS) in Software Engineering, in 2015 and Bsc. in Business Information Systems in 2017 from the Cardiff Metropolitan University. She has completed her Diploma in Graphic Designing from the Open Arc School of Computing in 2014. She is currently reading for her MSc. in IT from the University of Staffordshire. Adding to it, she is also a MBCS member; member of the Chartered Institute for IT, BCS.
Having a lot to present and pretty much; Kaviru is a person who keeps pushing her boundaries to achieve greater heights. In her spare time she loves to write poetry and paint. Her keen interest in art led her to work in Art Space Sri Lanka since 2018; which is a company that operates primarily as the first online art gallery for Contemporary Art in Sri Lanka. She has gathered experience in the IT industry in relation to her studying domain. She has done a handful of freelance writing for the Ceylon Today MOSAIC section, ELEGANT Magazine and few published Graphic and Web Designing workat CENWOR (Centre for Women’s Research) from 2014 to 2016. Recently launching her first poetry book titled “Walking in Blind”. Her book holds a series of melancholic and elated poems. She is truly a hardworking character with a vibrant personality.
Kaviru has a conversation with Elegant Magazine about her poetry and plans for her future work.
You study IT; did you always want to write poetry?
I remember the day I started writing poetry very clearly. My sister had written a poem and she called out our parents to the room and recited it. My parents boasted about how amazing the poem was and I simply got jealous like any typical sister. That very second, I went into my room, picked up a pen and paper and wrote a poem about the first thing that came to my mind. I wrote four rhyming verses about my dog ‘Labrador’. Thinking about it now, it was an awful poem in my opinion. My parents were supportive regardless.
At the time, many students sent their poetry to the Junior Observer. My mother would send my sister’s poetry to them and they would always get selected to be published. I remember, overhearing the conversation when my mother sent them the first poem that I wrote, where she said to the editor, ‘please, just this once, publish it. She is the sister of the one who writes great poetry and Junior Observer published them’. This incident didn’t bring me down and I wrote poetry ever since and many of my poetry were published in the school magazines as well.
When I left school, it was to study IT. There are a lot of job opportunities because it is not a niche industry. However, I was more interested in art and poetry than having a career in IT. I enjoy studying IT though because I believe that technology is the future.
It took two years for you to launch your book, tell us about your writing process?
I didn’t have many friends at the time who wrote poetry, and this limited my abilities to get somewhere with my writing. There are not many poetry publishers in Sri Lanka either which became a barrier to me. I got the opportunity to perform at an open mic platform called Colombo Poetsin 2016 and thereafter Grace Wickremasinghe’s open mics gave a platform for many up-coming poets to perform and interact with other poets when Colombo Poets stopped. Going to these open mics, I realized that I should create a book out of my poetry.
All the poems in this book were written since my childhood. It took me two years to launch the book not because of my writing process but because of not having access to proper resources and knowledge to publish the book. It wasn’t until I met Grace Wickremasinghe, a known poet, who encouraged me to publish this book. I am also very thankful to Suchith Fernando, an amazing musician and my best-friend, who helped me in editing and promoting and Asela Abeywardene, a talented artist and sculptor, who collaborated with me to feature her artwork in this book.
My writing process consists, pretty much of 2am sob stories which I write on the phone and email to myself! I believe that great poetry comes from heightened emotions.
What would you say is the essence or the message of the book; what are you hoping that readers will come away with?
This collection of poetry is not just poetry. These are stories of mine and many other people who I have met over the years. My crushes, my friend’s crushes or what my friends go through, their marriages, their own personal issues and hardships. What I feel is and what I have always felt is, that people think they are on their own, that the hardships they go through are only for them. When someone comes up to me and explains their problems, they don’t know someone else might be going through the same problems, just in a different way. They think they are alone in the world without any support. This book was for them to realize how important they are and that they are not alone in the world. This is not just poetry, this is not just a book, these are valuable stories of people.
The theme walking in blind is not literal. It’s a person who has sight walking in ‘blind’ to something unknown and unexpected. For example, you are walking into a bad relationship, you are walking into a friendship that won’t last long or a toxic friendship, you are walking into a financial crisis. All of which are unexpected and only seen when you come to a critical situation where you are emotionally affected. The girl shopping represents how we are not aware of how hurt we can be in the future; in the sense we are ignorant of our feelings and do not think twice before entering something unknown.
Do you have a favourite poem in the book?
It is difficult to pick one as such, but I enjoy the poem ‘explaining my room to my mother’. I like it mostly because it reminds me of when I was quite young and how I hid secrets in the edges of the room. It explains of how I see myself in the mirror and how much of an organized mess I create before leaving the room. Almost every parent wonder why their children’s rooms are a mess and I think this poem explains a lot of it. My favourite part of that poem would be the below verse.
‘Some clothes have expiry dates after going out with boys,
So, mother, you can throw those, only if you like,
But it’s at the very back of the closet, quite hard to reach.
I hope by the time you reach there
You will still remember that history has no meaning to me,
That’s why they lie there at the back mother’
What is your preference when you write poetry; is there anything particular that inspires you to write?
I remember I recited a three-page poem at my first poetry open mic recital at Colombo Poets about my childhood and how I have come to appreciate all the hardships that I have faced. After I recited, many people came up to me and said that they too have gone through similar events in their childhood, just in different ways. This inspired me to write more. I realized that what I say matters.
As I said previously, 2am sob stories are what inspires me to write, most of the time. I try to relate to incidents or situations around me when I write. There is one part of a poem called ‘home is where the heart is’ in the book where I say, ‘the lightening in your heart, thundering on your brain walls, raindrops on your skin’. It was quite literally raining and thundering, and I was sobbing at the time when I wrote the poem. I try to write in general rather than focusing on my own emotions which is where I have embedded stories and emotions of many others in my poetry.
I also get inspired from watching poetry open mic videos on YouTube such as Button Poetry, which is a famous Minneapolis-based poetry company and independent publisher of performance poetry. They feature many slam poetry performances on their YouTube channel. I also make a habit to visit pages of talented and creative Instagram poets that I follow daily.
What are you working on these days?
I plan to find time to market my first book more and it will also be available on Amazon soon for online readers. I am working on a new collection of poetry for a second book which will quite possibly be planned to be published by 2020 or so. My poetry revolves around emotions felt by heart and this theme is not bound to change in the books that I plan to publish in the future.
Do you think your personal identity has shifted because of your writing?
I write poetry to fix a puzzle. When I feel emotions that are complex, I try to solve it through my writing. I feel that this has affected in the choices that I make and how I look at myself in life.
If you could pass on only one piece of advice to other poets, what would it be?
Go to poetry open mics, write, perform and interact with other poets constantly. I was nervous at the start when I wrote my first poem and I still do when I write a new poem. There is a huge community of individuals who are up-coming poets who have the same dream; to publish. There are many individuals who are afraid to voice out their work and you may never know that when you do, it may be the best one yet. You will never know what you can achieve if you don’t give yourself the chance.