Tara Rai interview: Poetry, Pictures, Poetry In Pictures and Pictures in Poetry

‘Do I always have to/Spell it out to you/Can’t a poem be/A blank page/An expanse of silence/ A moment for nothing’ asks Tara Rai in ‘Anti-poem poem.’ It’s clear that this maker, photographer and poet has more of an affinity for written elegance and everyday eloquence than most.

Tara delicately threads words together, sometimes accompanied by image and at times illustration. She shares her poems conversationally and personally, sometimes like simple confessionals, but inviting readers to fill in the blanks for themselves. And she does so with a such an ease that it makes you think of poetry itself as a way of thinking.

With chatted with Tara over e-mail about words, poetry, photos and life:

1) Why are you a poet?

Poetry for me is like breathing; it is what keeps me alive and is channelled through me instinctively without force. 

2) If you had to tattoo a line of your own poetry on your body, which would it be and why?

I have considered getting a tattoo for a long while but have never gone through with one because I can’t decide on something I would want permanently on my skin. However, if I absolutely had to choose a line of my poetry I would use the ending of my piece titled Pop: 

Your existence is nothing more than a bubble that has already burst.” Maybe written inside the shape of a bubble could be interesting…

3) How would you describe your poetic style? Is there a particular mood or theme addressed by the poems?

That’s a really hard question to answer as each poem is unique in a way.

My work explores a variety issues mostly based on my personal experience. They are sarcastic in places and generally are a meditation on something my mind has indulged in for a substantial amount of time.

4) Can you tell us a little about ‘Mask’?

I wrote Mask whilst travelling through India two years ago. I was struck by how differently I was treated as a tourist because of my brown skin combined with a British accent and needed to interrogate the way it made me feel through words.

The poem explores the vulnerability I felt as a traveller trying to connect with alien yet familiar roots. 

5) You’re drawn to photography as well. Do you think as a medium, it, in some way, complements poetry?

My photography practice works in parallel to my poetry. I enjoy working with pinhole and analogue photography as I find the slow pace of the process extremely meditative and therapeutic.

I would say my photographs are an extension of the words I write, never separate from my other creative outlets such as mark making.

Ultimately, it comes from the same innate curiosity to understand the world around me through quiet observation and reflection. 

6) Any upcoming projects we should keep an eye out for?

I am currently in the process of devising a poetry workshop to coincide with the Cochin Biennale at the end of the year in Kerala so watch out South India, I’m coming for you! 

Follow Tara on Instagram for more photos and poetry.

All images credit: Tara Rai

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