Interview: Nikita Gill on Poetry, Instagram and Writing as a Woman of Color
If you had to choose a favorite piece from Your Soul Is A River, what would it be and why?
I think my favourite piece from Your Soul is a River is definitely “93 percent stardust” The reason being that when I wrote it, I was actually going through a bit of an existential crisis about my purpose in this world. Coming upon this fact, that human beings are in fact, 93 percent stardust I realised that all this angst I was going through actually had meaning. That stars don’t ever anguish over their purpose, they simply shine, as they are meant to do. And that like them, we shouldn’t question our existence as much as we do.
Will you tell us more about the trilogy of Your Soul Is A River, and what we can expect from the next two books?
The Water trilogy is all about hope and healing and surviving through grief. I hope to talk more in depth about actual survival through the use of nature imagery, to manifest the beauty of the soul with words and to continue to give people the kind of hope that Your Soul Is A River started.
You often write in very thematic ways. What inspires those themes, and why have you chosen to write about the specific themes you have in the past?
I love the idea of organising multiple pieces of writing to create a single larger piece that reiterates the same thought. When I am writing, I consider the book itself like a single story, almost a novel, a journey through a character’s experiences, the protagonist being the reader. I choose the themes that I think would be tangible to myself and the reader most. The night sky, nature, fairytales – things we experience or have experienced and then build the poetic story around it.
Much like Your Soul Is A River, your other book, Wild Embers, explores personal growth and healing in the context of nature and the universe. But, this time you explore these themes through fairy tales, is that right? Who do you hope to reach with Wild Embers? Why fairy tales?
I think Wild Embers, being the beginning of the Fire series, is a bit different to Your Soul is a River because it focuses strongly on passion, femininity and self love whereas the overarching theme in Your Soul is a healing journey from a traumatic time, whether abuse or a heartbreak. I chose fairytales and Goddesses in Wild Embers because I wanted to focus on the woman as a whole, the idea of the woman being flawed instead of the idea that women must be perfect by being silent and dutiful as has been put forth by fairytales of old.
What led you to write Your Soul Is A River? What state of mind were you in leading up to it, and did it all come to you at once or did YSIAR emerge in pieces over time?
I had always wanted to write a book. Whilst I was working on my novel, I had this idea for an anthology series of poems, each one making the reader a protagonist and guiding them through a journey. I wanted to create something truly hopeful which I personally would have needed years ago when I first started struggling with anxiety and depression. Creating Your Soul Is A River is both an extended letter to my younger self as well as something I felt strongly I wanted to put out there to help any others who were struggling and to give them hope within themselves. This is why I focus on “We” and “You” so much rather than “I” in so many of my poems. It took me over a year to write it and it came in waves.
How have you grown as a writer since Your Soul Is A River has been published?
I believe strongly that writers must constantly evolve and have dedicated myself to my own evolution as a writer since the emergence of Your Soul Is A River. Whilst I love my lovely little first book, I hope that the next book in the series Your Heart Is The Sea, fully captures the growth and evolution process I have gone through to become better at my craft. I hope the way I use language, and the authenticity I am trying so hard to achieve with my work comes across far more clearly with Your Heart Is The Sea. As writers we owe it to our audiences to constantly evolve and bring them newer, fresher and constantly changing perspectives.
Poetry is such a personal thing, how do you feel about something that you’ve poured your whole soul into going viral on the internet?
The biggest gift for any writer in the world, is to be read, and for the words they have written to help and move people. To be able to be part of a thing so much greater than myself is humbling and I am nothing but grateful that so many wonderful people have read and found healing in my words.
We always acknowledge the literary greats when we speak about influences for our own art, but are there any contemporary poets or artists that really inspire you to write?
I am so moved constantly by the work of artists and writers, each generation has so many many stars. A brief list of writers who I absolutely adore include Amanda Lovelace, Trista Mateer, Bianca Sparacino, Tyler Kent White, Caitlyn Siehl, K.Y. Robinson, Colson Whitehead, Zadie Smith, Holly Bourne, Cyrus Parker, Iain S. Thomas, Gretchen Gomez, Emily Fridland, Kaveh Akbar, Ta- Nehisi Coates, Arundhati Roy- this is an inexhaustible list to be honest! There are so many fabulous writers out there in the world right now, changing it for the better.
How do you feel your identity as a woman of colour has inspired your voice in the literary world?
I think representation is exceedingly important. I think women of colour in the writing world are an absolute need. As an immigrant who has learned English as a second language and whose mothertongue is Hindi, I think this kind of representation challenges norms and brings to light issues and stories that people would not even have considered in the past. More essentially, I think little girls of colour need as much representation as they can get, and the more women of colour that exist not just in literature but in the arts world in general, the more chance they have of being represented authentically. I use my voice to give words to the silent. I shout because I HAD been silenced when I was younger. Our stories have meaning and value. This is what I want to ensure in the literary world.
With poetry, what is one thing you want people to feel after they put it down?
Hope. Just simply a feeling of validity…and a feeling of hope.
Learn more about Nikita Gill and her best-selling book Your Soul Is A River here.