An introduction to poet Arun Budhathoki (Daniel Song), from Kathmandu, Nepal. Founding editor of The Applicant, a Kathmandu-based journal of literature and art, Budhathoki is also currently working on his second book of poems and a novella. When asked about his writing process, and where he would most want to live and write, Budhathoki shared, “I do not want to live in one place. Boundaries and geographic restrictions restrict creativity, at least in my case. That’s why you find my poems based in different places.”
Quick Facts on Arun Budhathoki (Daniel Song)
- Home: Currently, I live in Kathmandu, Nepal.
- Comfort food: I am choosy about food and always prefer delicacies. I say this because we live once, and my spiritual dad always says that we should work hard and eat like a king. I have many favourite foods but I like roasted pork, homemade beef curry, Korean food, sushi, and fish.
- Top reads: Of all the poets born so far, I like Sylvia Plath the most. Other favourite books include And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou, Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes, The Waste Land by T S Eliot, and The Dream Songs by John Berryman.
- Current reads: The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve submitted my manuscript for a second poetry book to a publisher, and I’m also waiting for my novella to be published.
Who do you picture as the ideal reader of your work?
I grew up reading works of famous poets, and I always wondered what kind of people they must be and how they could write such masterpieces. For me, an ideal reader is someone who can understand what I write even if they don’t relate to where I come from. Just because I come from the land of the Himalayas doesn’t mean I write about mountains, or only talk of politics and poverty. An ideal reader is someone who can get into the text without scrutinizing the writer.
“Just because I come from the land of the Himalayas
doesn’t mean I write about mountains,
or only talk of politics and poverty.”
What do you hope readers will take away from your work?
I am inspired by Plath and somehow write in the confessional genre. However, my writing is unique in the sense that I capture the events surrounding me, and I give a different touch to emotions. Readers who have encountered my work often tell me that they find uniqueness in what I write. This is what keeps me writing.
What does poetry mean to you?
I still remember the first time I wrote a poem. I was in my classroom and I saw rays of light passing through the ventilation. Immediately, I scribbled my first poem. Since then I haven’t stopped writing. Poetry is enlightenment to me. I see the world and write the world through it.
Where and when do you prefer to write?
I do not have a specific time to write, but I often write during night or morning. I usually write in my room. I’m not the kind of writer who takes a notebook and goes around observing and writing. I observe first, meditate, and then write.
Do you listen to anything while you write?
Usually I don’t listen to anything, and if I do, then I listen to music that’s related to what I want to write about. There are times I only listen to instrumental music. I rarely listen to something because I feel poetry is music too, and I do not want the external music to affect the internal music.
“I do not want the external music
to affect the internal music.”
When you’re having trouble getting started on a poem, where do you look for inspiration?
I keep being inspired by what I see and feel.
Do you have a philosophy for how and why you write?
I am not philosophical, but the reason why I write is that I want to express my feelings and emotions, and also to record the events of my life.
How do you balance content with form in your poems?
My poems generally shape up as I write. If I thought too much about making a balance between content and form then the outcome would be much different than what it should be.
Do you generally write poetry only in English, or do you write in another language first and then translate your poems?
At my book launch, one Korean poet asked me whether I think in Nepali or English since I write in English only. I think in English while writing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think in Nepali at all!
Is there a quote about writing that inspires you?
“I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle. / Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in / it after all, a place for the genuine.”
These lines by Marianne Moore motivate me to write. I, too, dislike poetry at times because not many read it, and somehow that gives the feeling that it creates nothing. But writing poetry always gives a sort of satisfaction.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Keep writing. Do not get discouraged by rejection. The tragedy of being a poet is often that the poet’s work is only recognized after death.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a writer?
Poets are mad. Think twice before writing! I thought to myself, better write and become mad than not write and become mad.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Time! I need to make time to write as I often get engaged in the daily mundane and I fail to scribble. But I have kept the habit of writing one poem every day. This is the challenge for me—write a poem every day.
“Write a poem every day.”
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
I like to live my life! The most important thing is to live life; writing comes secondary. Words are like wind, and we are dust. I personally feel that writing and living should be balanced. Let’s live and write, but not die by writing only.
About Arun Budhathoki (Daniel Song)
Arun Budhathoki (Daniel Song) was born in Kathmandu. He went to Hyderabad, South India for undergraduate studies at Nizam College, and then to the University of Northampton, United Kingdom for a master’s degree. He is nomadic in nature and does not wish to live in one particular place for a long time. Budhathoki’s poems have been published in The Kathmandu Post, in the anthologies Weather and Journeys, and in ezines Kritya, MadSwirl, and more. He runs a Kathmandu-based journal of literature and art called The Applicant. Budhathoki published his first book Edge, and is working to publish a second poetry book and novella.
[Toffoli, Marissa B. “Interview With Writer Arun Budhathoki (Daniel Song).” Words With Writers (May 9, 2012), http://wordswithwriters.com/2012/05/09/arun-budhatoki-daniel-song/.%5D