Creatives In Profile: Interview with Rishi Dastidar

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Creativity, in all its myriad different forms, can take us to the edge of the world and look beyond. It can inspire, inform, influence. Used in the right way, it can illuminate the path ahead.

Because of this, Nothing in the Rulebook has been founded to emphasise such creativity. Yet we’re also here to highlight not just works of creativity; but the creative individuals who write our stories and our poetry; take our photographs; create our artworks.

Our new ‘Creatives in profile’ interview series offers creatives the opportunity to discuss their life and art at length. And it is an honour to introduce our very first interview – with journalist, copywriter and poet, Rishi Dastidar – Assistant Editor at The Rialto.

He has written for a wide variety of brands in different sectors during his career, while his poetry has been published by the Financial Times, Tate Modern and the Southbank Centre amongst many others. His work was most recently in Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe, 2014). A winner of And Other Stories short story prize in 2012, he has also had reviews published in the Times Literary Supplement. He was part of the 2014-15 Rialto / Poetry School editorial development programme, and also serves as a trustee of Spread The Word.

INTERVIEWER

Tell me about yourself, where you live and your background/lifestyle.

DASTIDAR

Ach, no, that stuff doesn’t really matter. Suffice to say: London-born and still reside; older than I’d like to be; over-educated, work in marketing; you’ll mostly find me in bookshops, theatres and burger joints. If your readers really want to know more, and frankly I’d be worried if they did, I’m not too hard to find online.

INTERVIEWER

Is creativity and writing your first love, or do you have another passion?

DASTIDAR

Let’s say ‘writing’ rather than creativity, as in the advertising / marketing / brand world I also inhabit, it does have a different, means-to-an-end spin. It’s a love, yes, fraught with all the difficulties that implies… I knew I wanted to ‘write’ by the age of 14. But I had no clue what I wanted to write, let alone how I could make a living out of it. Thank God I did find out in the end… But music was actually my gateway to everything: discovering Queen, R.E.M. and then My Bloody Valentine early in my teens, and then the NME, the writers, the sub-cultures, the new genres… I have spent a lot of time being a neophiliac, chasing new sounds and new words, which in an analogue age was much harder than it is now.

INTERVIEWER

How long have you been working with The Rialto – and could you let us know a little more about the magazine?

DASTIDAR

I’ve been lucky enough, along with Holly Hopkins, to be part of the most recent editorial development programme the magazine has been running along with the Poetry School. The programme started in October 2014, and we recently ‘graduated’ with the publication of issue 83 of the magazine. So about 10 months or so, during which we worked with Michael Mackmin, the editor, looking at submissions, choosing and then finessing poems, working out running orders, organising launches, even getting involved with behind the scenes stuff too – a real immersion in what it takes to get a magazine published.

The Rialto is (adopts sales voice) the UK’s leading independent poetry magazine; going for 30 news now, based in Norwich, with an enviable track record in spotting and publishing some of then best new voices in British poetry. I might of course be a bit biased, but it’s really the place to come if you want to dive into and immerse yourself in poems, loads of them. And if you’re a writer – send some poems! We’re always on the hunt for good ones, from every quarter.

INTERVIEWER

When looking to submit poetry, what are the steps and key aspects to consider before doing so?

DASTIDAR

I think talking of ‘steps and key aspects’ makes it sound far more of an intensive burden than it should be. It’s mostly advanced common sense, I think:

  • Make sure you read the magazine / publication you want to submit to: if you’re a writer of doomy melancholic epics, the editor of that light verse magazine isn’t going to be hugely impressed. Do your research.
  • Don’t send your first draft: it won’t be ready. I guarantee it. If it takes 8, 16, 20 drafts to get a poem right, then take that long. This is a patient game. And the poem will wait for you.
  • Speaking of patience, don’t be alarmed or downhearted if you don’t get an instant response. Most poetry magazines are labours of love, run in people’s spare time. Things do sometimes get lost and timelines slip; but if your poem is good enough, it will get found.
  • But do send. You won’t get on to editors’ radar without doing so – or rather, it’s less likely. And you deserve to give yourself that shot. Editors are hungry for new poems and new voices. And yours could be the one their page has been waiting for.

INTERVIEWER

Do you have a specific ‘reader’ or audience in mind when you write?

DASTIDAR

Depends; I’ll often write poems which are for, or inspired by, a particular person, and I try to keep them in my mind’s eye when drafting. But mostly, I’m self-indulgently trying to entertain myself – that someone else then subsequently likes my nonsense is unutterably humbling and pleasing.

INTERVIEWER

How would you define creativity?

DASTIDAR

Putting two or more different things together, and hoping for the best.

INTERVIEWER

What does the term ‘poet’ mean to you?

DASTIDAR

On a good day: a post-modern Casanova. On a bad day: a failed post-modern Casanova.

INTERVIEWER

James Joyce argued poetry was “always a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality.” In the modern world, ‘actuality’ is increasingly hard to define – with reality often seeming more fictitious than fiction and beyond the imagination of mainstream culture. How does poetry revolt against actuality in a reality increasingly ‘false’? And what role can poetry play in protest and activism – specifically protest and revolt against current dictats of ‘reality’?

DASTIDAR

Let’s separate some of that out, mainly because I lack the brain power to try and conflate poetry and power, and then deal with reality on top.

In terms of activism, politics, and the relation to power, poetry clearly can’t do much in terms of the hard stuff of changing things on the ground, policy, implementation. But where it can and must play a role is in that more indefinable sphere – the one of arguing for new vistas, new perspectives on problems; bringing into the public domain voices that might otherwise go unheard; opening up space for the imagination, because at one level politics is the art of using power imaginatively. I think part of the disaffection from politics as currently practiced that lots of people feel at the moment is precisely because the language of it is managerial and corporate, rather than poetic. People hunger for rhetoric – it wasn’t just because Obama was cool that people flocked to him; it was precisely because he could couch his arguments in ways that were, more or less, poetic. Of course, you have to deliver, but bloody hell you have to inspire too.

Now, you’ll note that I said that politics and imagination are linked. So I think part of what our job as poets revolves around imagining new realities – that is to say, not to take the world as it is, but to dig about, to reveal what’s underneath, sense what can be changed, find the language that can help to change it. If there is any revolt that poetry has to make, it’s against that sense that there is only one way of doing things, one way to the truth. Our gifts as engineers of metaphor should make us embrace the idea of multiple realities. Because we can do and do see the familiar anew, and we should wake the world up to that.

INTERVIEWER

In an internationalist, interconnected world, ideas and creativity are constantly being flung across community threads, internet chatrooms and forums, and social media sites (among many others). With so many different voices speaking at once, how do you cut through the incessant digital background babble? How do you make your creativity – your voice – stand out and be heard?

DASTIDAR

If I crack that, I’ll be rich and I’ll tell you afterwards.

INTERVIEWER

For all writing, the importance of finding the right ‘voice’ is of course crucial. Often, writers’ speak of developing an ‘other’ – who provides that voice when they write. How have you created and refined your voice and tone for your writing – and do you have a separate, ‘other’ persona who helps you write?

DASTIDAR

Hmmm; my day job involves a lot of writing for different brands, so I guess I’ve got reasonably skilled at some form of ventriloquism. Whether that’s come across into my poetry, I’m not so sure; but then, looking at the tone that’s emerging through a lot of what I’ve written over the last 18 months or so, the poet in them is probably more sure than I actually feel about things; probably more political than I actually am in real life; and certainly more articulate in conversation than I ever hope to be. Though I do worry the guy in the poems could be a bit too bumptious, and wearing if you have a prolonged exposure to him… How has that voice arrived? By writing and writing and writing, I’m afraid. No shortcuts. Oh and embracing the tendency to maximise that I appear to have. Even my short poems appear to be full – of nonsense mostly, but still.

INTERVIEWER

Could you tell us a little about some of the future projects you’re working on?

DASTIDAR

At the moment it’s trying to pull a manuscript together for a first collection, and writing some more poems to flesh that out. There’s always other ideas for projects floating around, but I have great trouble committing to any one of them… but the itch to write something like a verse novel is becoming almost unbearable so I think I will have to attack that at some point soon.

INTERVIEWER

And, finally, could you write us a story in 6 words?

DASTIDAR

‘Lazarus was tired of his trick.’

I’ve done loads of those. More here.

2 thoughts on “Creatives In Profile: Interview with Rishi Dastidar

  1. Pingback: 5 top writing tips for writers, from Rishi Dastidar | nothingintherulebook

  2. Pingback: Poets on poetry – poems for the soul | nothingintherulebook

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