First Chapters Q&A with Saradha Koirala


Saradha Koirala is a Nepali/Pakeha writer and poet from Aotearoa.  She teaches English, Literature and Creative Writing in Melbourne.  She is the author of three poetry collections and a teen novel.  Koirala also writes literature reviews and has interviewed international authors and covered events such as the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival.  

Saradha will be reading from her book of poetry Photos of the Sky for us at First Chapters on Friday 3 May.


1. Brunswick Bound has asked you to read a chapter from your published work.  Tell us what we can expect from the chapter you have chosen?

My latest book is a collection of poetry, so I thought I would read the first 8-10 poems (they’re quite short). The book is in four sections and the first is titled ‘Reach’ as in to stretch out for something. The section contains poems I wrote while still living in Wellington, but starting to long to move over to Melbourne. The first few are very Wellingtony – weather and hills and isolation – and they become a bit more dynamic and restless as ideas of migration start to form.

2. How would you describe the kind of books that you write?

I have published three poetry collections and a novel (which won the Storylines Notable Book Award for Young Adult in 2017). My poetry tends to be very personal and contemplates ideas around relating to family, partners, self. There’s lots of imagery from the natural world, as well as tension between the internal and external. My fiction tends to be a bit more fun! I’ve written a sequel to the YA novel. Both are told from the point of view of a very determined teenage bass player, who may or may not be my alter-ego.

3. What was the first book that you read (or had read to you) that left an impression on you?

My mum used to read us the Narnia series when we were quite young and I swear I could see the whole thing unfolding in front of my eyes, hear Aslan breathing behind me. My first memories of falling in love with books are from being read to.

4. Do you believe that books should answer life’s big questions?

Not necessarily, but I think sometimes they inadvertently do. We go to literature for lots of reasons, not always for answers. Big questions are always going to appeal as universal themes, but posing more questions might be an even more interesting purpose for books than providing answers.

5. What’s your go-to solution for writer’s block?

I’m not as hard on myself as I used to be if I get writer’s block. I won’t worry away at a piece of writing if it’s not working and I usually have several projects on the go at one time, so I can switch between them if I get stuck. If I’m completely stumped I’ll go back to pen and paper and just write down what’s going on in my head, what I see out the window etc. And if I’m completely completely stuck I’ll go for a walk.

6.  What is your favourite word or phrase?

Horripilation

7. What do you put down as your occupation when asked?

I’m a teacher, but I have been known to put down ‘poet’ for romantic reasons.

8. What is the question that you hope never to be asked in an author Q&A?

I often feel like a bit of a fraud, so any question that tests me as a poet – who’s the greatest living poet of our time / what’s the current trend in poetry / why do people love [insert name of greatest living poet of our time] – would be my emperor’s new clothes moment.

9. What question do you hope you will be asked and why?

I like being asked philosophical questions about the purpose of poetry. Not because I have a good answer for it, but because I love trying to articulate an answer, getting tongue-tied, ending with a shrug and realising there’s much to discuss around purpose and art.

10. Which book that you have read do you think should be better known or more widely read?

Photos of the Sky. Please read it!

Check out the Brunswick Bound website to find out more about First Chapters.

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