Tanya Singh is a non-binary writer and editor from Chandigarh, India. Recognised by the Times of India, as well as Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, their work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rising Phoenix Review , Gone Lawn , The Ginger Collect , and Black Napkin Press , amongst others. They are the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the literary magazine The Cerurove, and serve as editor for Half Mystic, Terse Journal, and The Brown Orient, amongst other places. Their chapbook Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides was published by Ghost City Press in 2018.
So you recently had a micro-chapbook released with Ghost City Press – ‘Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All The Sickness Resides’. Can you tell me a little bit about that? How would you describe it, and what has the process of writing it been like for you?
I had been playing with idea for a while then but began writing ‘Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All The Sickness Resides’ only this March. So much was going through my mind, thing hardly made sense, & when they did, I wish they didn’t. All this is to say that March did come in like a lion, & at the end of the day, I still knew I wanted to speak about partition. Because this is who I grew up to be. How I live today, what I see & hear, whatever I consume goes back to the history of this land. And all I knew was that I wanted to write it, I had to write about partition. These poems are as much for my grandparents who came from the present-day Pakistan to India during the partition. These poems are for them so much as they live. I’m writing about the present as much as
I'm writing about the past. As such, writing about partition wasn’t easy. Writing isn’t easy. All I wrote was written questioning everything just as furiously as it was with tenderness. I sent out the first draft as soon as I wrote it. A part of me is incredibly hopeful, it’s wild. And with every rejection I received, I revised the manuscript. It was a series of revisions in that sense. I continued to revise the manuscript even after the acceptance. How could I ever be done with these poems? I’ll pick them up again someday, I’ll continue to write them again. In this sense, I am kind of scared to read my own work. Because every time I look at my poems, I see them growing. Sometimes, they grow too much & that scares me. In a different version of the story, I don’t read my own poems as often as I should. There’s so much they could be, there’s only so much I can do. These poems, I promise they take a life of their own.
I’m interested in the title – is it a reference or something you came up with yourself?
There was this poem in the manuscript that didn’t quite fit in. I really loved it though. It ended with these lines, “but heaven is only a part of our body/ where all the sickness resides.” As far as I remember, the lines were about questioning our ideals, asking - what really happens to the body, the mind when we let injustice prevail, answering it at the same time - that yes, heaven too could be corrupted, & perhaps it already is. In the end, the poem did not work out, these lines are all that's left of it. This is also to say that sometimes home feels like an incomplete poem - something bruised. I’m still discovering what it all means, what it all could mean. I like to surprise myself.
You’re also the Editor-in-Chief of The Cerurove. What made you want to start a digital magazine? What are the best and worst aspects of running one?
There are so many magazines out there that are doing so much good, it fills my heart with light. I too wanted to play a part - to create a safe & welcoming space. That’s how The Cerurove came to be. Because there can never be too many poems. How sad would the world be without them? I really can’t see a downside to running a magazine because I get to read poems & stories & so many more poems & so many more stories. Poems & stories are so good for the heart. I promise with poems you’ll live twice as long. They are a constant reminder to be better & kinder & more gentle & you should believe them often that it’s enough.
Why do you write? Why poetry?
I feel like such a failure sometimes & that’s one thing I have learnt living with social anxiety. I see people talking, interacting & asking questions, & participating in discussions, & all that is so, so cool. I feel I can only admire them from afar. It makes me feel sad because I too want to be able to do all that but it scares me so much. The feeling that I’m not good enough, or smart enough still continues to pinch me. I go blank when I’m around people, I forget the words, I forget english. Sometimes, I wonder, what is even language? I’m sitting in a class, & the teacher points at me, & I want to disappear & just not be there ever again & not return & let that be the end. I can’t talk for 10 seconds without over-analyzing everything I ever said. Maybe that’s why I started writing. Maybe that’s why I write. Because writing things down makes me feel okay & I don’t feel like such a loser. Everyone wins in poetry, you see. And I don’t know how to answer ‘why poetry,’ because I can’t even begin to imagine not writing it. I mean, I can but like I don’t want to. Poetry is so beautiful, & I am making it, that feels so unreal. I am making something beautiful. I mean, am I even allowed that? Now, all I want to do is write for my friends & everyone I love & everyone else - to let them know that they can write it too. Writing is such a beautiful reminder that we are there for each other. I want to write & let someone know that I’m there for them, that I am also here for myself & that we’re in it together.
What’s your writing process like? Do you have certain rituals or things you need to have around you while writing?
Sometimes, words just come so naturally, & then there are times where I can’t even write a single line without wanting to give up writing altogether. Most of what I’ve written feels like an accident, but now it’s there, alive & breathing so softly, it’s devastating honestly. Sometimes, I just force myself to sit down & write, that’s okay too. I don’t end up producing the best work but I do end up producing work that could someday be turned better. I write & then I write again because it’s not where I want it to be, & I keep writing the same thing over & again until it begins to ask me questions I never had the courage to ask. These poems, they’re always growing, meaning they’re always emerging, meaning route A is also route B and not, meaning I see it now. And sometimes, I’m left wondering if someone’s going to read my work. If they do, will they like it? I mean, validation isn’t the cure but a little validation isn’t too bad. I wonder if I will ever be good enough to inspire someone to want to write poetry, or write anything at all, that’d be really, really cool. But in any case, I’ll just keep writing, that’s cool too. I’m doing things differently right now. I am slowing down. Honestly, I just realised that I didn’t know why I was rushing in the first place. I mean, I have all of my life before me to learn how to lose with grace, that should do for the time being.
What kind of media (books, poems, films, art, music, etc) and which artists (in the broadest sense of the word) have been most influential in your self-development, both as a person and a writer?
I watch a lot of anime. I grew up watching anime, it was awesome. Honestly, anime taught me so many wonderful things - I learnt compassion & kindness. I also learnt how to speak & understand english well enough watching the english sub & the english dub, that sure was helpful. Anime opened doors for me, so many of them. I mean, anime still is a big part of my life. When I’m watching anime, I temporarily forget about my anxiety & all that stress & my heart feels so happy. There are so many brilliant anime that come to my mind. The first episode of My Hero Academia really hits close to home. When All Might tells Midoriya that he too could be a hero, it hits me. I immediately thought of the first time someone told me that I could be a writer, & how that made me so happy. When someone recognizes you, & especially when that someone is your hero, or just someone you look up to, it means the world, it is honestly everything - there is a world of possibilities that I am living in & I want to continue living there. Then there are so many comics/manga/manhwa I enjoy. Annarasumanara by Ha Il Kwon is still one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Annarasumanara continues to serve as a reminder to why I want to be a writer. I am beginning to have the courage to want to pursue my dreams. I mean, I could give up the next but today sure won’t be dull because I know I
wrote that one poem I keep going back to, I always go back to.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
I’m working on a manuscript of poems about trauma and healing. I also want to write a chapbook of poems on anime. Maybe I’ll start a journal for anime poems, I would love for that to be a thing. I’m reading for a couple of journals, they are such warm spaces honestly. I enjoy reading & learning from everyone all the time. I think, I’m going to start sketching again. While I’m here, I always want to say this - please support artists & writers & small journals/magazines. Your kindness & support encourages someone to live their dream. Be someone’s All Might, tell them they too could be heroes.
Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides is available for free from Ghost City Press . You can find Tanya on Twitter @TanyaSinghPoet or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can check out The Cerurove here.