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Guest Post: Creativity & Mortality by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Please click on the image for today’s tour stop.

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a delightful and passionate poet looking to promote social justice, but more than that she’s not what people typically picture when they think of a poet. Most people I talk to think poets are crazy, depressed, or drunk. Sweta is optimistic, cheerful, thoughtful, and passionate; I haven’t seen her crazy, drunk, or depressed, but I’m sure that there are times when she feels those things, just like we all do.

I’ve reviewed several of her poetry collections on the blog, including her most recent No Ocean Here, which I enjoyed because it made me sad and made me think. But even more wondrous for me was meeting her in person and realizing that she is the same person whether online or off and that she’s as honest as I expected. She’s a delight and so fun to hang out with for lunch or even 10 minutes.

When I was talking about the blog tour, she volunteered to talk about creativity, particularly in relation to her latest project. Without further ado, please giver her a warm welcome.

2012 was an extremely dark year for me. I worked extensively on social issues affecting women. Researching, writing, and editing such pieces required me to traverse through and unravel a lot of unpleasant situations. I was exposed to unimaginable hopelessness and pessimism. There were days when I saw nothing encouraging about humanity. And even though I am a die-hard optimist, it was hard to see even a ray of optimism inside my well of poetic darkness. Thus began my quest to understand poets and writers and the impact of darkness and mortality on their work and lives.

Mortality, specifically the finality of death, is an esoteric subject. In a paper dealing with effects of mortality salience on the creative expression, Clay Routledge et.al. stated that amplified concerns for mortality decreased creativity when the act was self-directed but not when it was community directed. This got me thinking of the fact that so many genius artists have died so young. Is it that these artists simply could not face the reality which their creations exposed them to? Or could it be a vicious cycle where artists who are forced to peel back and critically examine the layers of melancholy, misery, pain, and sorrow find themselves pushed into abject loneliness because of the gloomy vision they see the world in; and in turn find their creativity stifled to the point where their very existence becomes a downward spiral into depression and eventually death.

Anaïs Nin said, “People living deeply have no fear of death.” But the truth is that death isn’t a light subject for anyone; especially not for artists who, when they explore the dark sides end up re-living death in a myriad of ways as they bring forth their creations into the world.

Thanks, Sweta. I, too, wonder about the abyss that artists look into when they create and what enables some to re-emerge on the other side, while others fall over the cliff.

  • Very interesting and much food for thought. I know that personally I was better able to write poetry during bouts of depression so there is a bit of darkness in the creative process.

  • Thank you for reading and commenting, Suko! And for your words about “No Ocean Here.” Having good, real, and grounded people in our personal lives helps remain sane. And it is a big reason for the artist to not drown in the “ocean” of darkness their work introduces them to.

    Thanks,
    Sweta

  • Serena, how wonderful to feature a guest post by one of my favorite poets and writers, Sweta Srivastava Vikram! Her work is powerful and profound. Many of the poems in No Ocean Here are heartbreaking, but they are an important means to express the plight of women in other countries. I can understand why an artist delving into that “ocean” would experience– and absorb–a cold, harsh, and altogether somber reality, although the Sweta I’ve grown to know (online) is lively and cheerful. 🙂

  • Dear Beth,

    What a fascinating bio! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I love it when artists, across different genres of expression, can relate to the same feeling of pain & gain. Our journeys are similar in most ways; we just use different vessels (forms of art) to express them.

    Hope you enjoy “No Ocean Here.” And wish you the best with your ongoing projects.

    Thanks,
    Sweta

  • Excellent post, Sweta. As a painter and interior designer turned novelist, I read your words and nodded in agreement. I feel that to create, and create well, we must dive so deeply into our subjects that our souls can become bruised in the process.

    I’ll be sure to pick up a copy of “No Oceans Here” asap.

  • Thank you so much for reading & commenting, Janel. I also feel, sometimes, an artist doesn’t choose a subject as much as the subject chooses them. When that happens, the battle against darkness is harder because the guard is down.

    Also, thank you for your kind words about “No Ocean Here.” Yes, the release party was indeed perfect–so much love and support. I feel blessed.

  • Hi, Sweta! I love the end to your post, how we experience a kind of death over and over when we create. I’ve never thought of it that way, but it is true. Each story becomes an integral part of our lives – and then it’s gone, released to the world.

    Good luck with “No Ocean Here”! I just saw your post on Facebook and it sounds like the release party was fabulous!!