By Ciéra Cree
Over the summer of 2019, I had the chance to speak with the talented poet, Abirami P. Kurukkal, and today we decided to share a part of our conversation with you. We hope it’s inspiring, that it makes you think, and that it encourages you to be kinder.
Abirami is a writer, author and visual artist based in South Africa. She’s currently standing as the proud author of two books: ‘Remember Me As A Time Of Day’ (2016) which is a collection of poetry and essays exploring emotions, loss and strength, and ‘Rudra’ (2018) which explores resilience, freedom, and the breaking down of stigma.
I chose to research Abirami P. Kurukkal not just because I was a fan of her work, but also because she was one of the first Instagram platform poets that I had discovered. We had exchanged greetings and comments about our writing now and then before we spoke, and she seemed like an interesting person who was clearly in love with the work she does. I wanted to learn more about her and what inspired her to write in the first place.
The Conversation: Arts Career
What got you into writing?
‘I started writing when I was very young, around 7 or 8. I just loved books and that inspired me, but I never publicly put out my work because I didn’t have the courage.’
‘My father passed away suddenly in 2013 due to a stroke and the experience completely changed my life. Tragedy and pain can deeply affect a person and the path they take in life. I turned to poetry for comfort and I haven’t looked back since. Grief is still a struggle on the hard days, but writing helps a lot.’
How does writing make you feel?
‘Writing makes me feel free. It is one of the things that I can control, even though at times it feels like it takes over. I feel like chains have been broken, like the gates have been opened. I feel empowered and released.’
‘It can be compared to how one feels when on a motorcycle, holding on to the one you love, taking in the moment and nothing more. That’s the kind of feeling I aim for when it comes to life. Hopefully, someday.’
The Conversation: Life
Do you have any siblings? Are they into writing?
‘I have one sister, and she is a lot younger than me, but supports me in my work a lot. She is first to congratulate me, comfort me and encourage me. I am grateful for that more than anything.‘
What do you do aside from writing?
‘I am studying Psychology and working as a consultant, plus I also do freelance writing in my spare time. I work hard and I find joy in simple things. Finances always get tough, but I have somehow pulled through and I keep at it with the hope that one-day things will be worth it.’
‘My hobbies are music, crime series, stand up comedy, road trips and being a foodie. I also love all forms of art, and cannot survive without my gel ink pens.’
The Conversation: Work
When do you tend to write – day or night?
‘I mostly write during the night as well, but always from impulse, and always when I feel inspired to. Sometimes, I go for days with nothing. Then, all of a sudden, at 6 AM while getting ready for work, something clicks and seven poems come out. It’s a process and I let it play itself without forcing it.’
Why did you choose each title for your books? Were you afraid to release them?
‘I was dead scared and considered cancelling at the last minute for both. It’s natural to feel that way, I realised later… but yes, it was scary. The first book is about grief, in memory of my dad. The second book is about revival, in tribute to living life despite the struggle.’
‘The first book’s name was inspired by an episode from the series One Tree Hill, which I still love because it was the name of an episode and it inspired a poem which inspired me to go ahead with the book. The second book’s name was inspired by my culture, as I am a Hindu Brahmin and in Sanskrit, the word Rudra has a very special meaning on survival, something that I explain in the book at the beginning.’
Do you plan to release more books in the future?
‘Yes, I do… but with time. I have a lot of new work but no structure. With time the books will come and their birth will happen but for now, I am content as is.’
Where do you see yourself in five years?
‘I really don’t know, but I hope to see myself mentally at peace, graduating, finding a bigger purpose and hopefully helping others to find theirs too.’
The Conversation: Everything Else
If you could describe yourself in five words, what would they be?
‘Intense, complex, intuitive, heartfelt, strong.’
Is there such a thing as being “too open” in writing?
‘I do not think expressing emotions has a limit. Expressing details of personal lives and experiences definitely has a limit, but expressing the emotion felt? That has no limit. There is no ”too much” or “too open” there because once you write something and put it out into the world, it becomes open to interpretation and that’s the beauty of it. What may seem “too much” to you could be “that is exactly what I need right now, I can relate to that so well” to another. I try and follow that principle in my work.’
What would your message be to those who also wish to be writers but are perhaps too afraid to share their work?
‘Being real is the key. Your pain and past experiences might make you feel ashamed, angry, vulnerable and terrified. That might keep you back from sharing your work. Fear of being judged, fear to be open, fear, in general, might keep you back and that’s okay. It took me three years after my dad passed away to actually find the strength to start sharing. I knew when I needed to. Things will happen at their own pace, but keep your work YOURS and never an attempt at imitating another’s work.’
‘Authenticity always wins. The rawer and honestly personal it is, the more you are able to own it. The truth is, poetry is not a competition or a way to become famous, even though Instagram tends to give off that vibe. Poetry to me is an expression, and the hope is that my expression of my emotions will help another soul somewhere, regardless of whether my follower count is 500 or 500k.’
‘Just work on original, honest content. Share your heart and the world will show you the good things in life, like fulfilment and inner peace, on most days if not always.’
From this conversation, I feel like I have learned a lot about Abirami. She’s very grounded and human. Learning about her father passing away, and how she turned to poetry as a sort of comfort, is an insight into her life that I’m honoured to have heard. When I read her pieces now knowing more about her story, I perceive a whole new layer of depth and understanding to them. I could sense it in her work before – there was pain there – but after talking about it with her, gaining further insight, I feel both closer to the words as well as the person behind them.
It was nice to have a bit of a general chitchat as well. It wasn’t related to writing; we went through what shows she enjoys and discovering our old mutual love of gel pens, as well as talking about our courses which also shared some similarity. To be honest, I wasn’t too surprised to see that we had things in common as I felt that we might before we even spoke. We’re both relatively young, enjoy writing, and as I learned from her Instagram captions, we share the same sort of views on the world as each other.
I loved the way she answered my question of how writing made her feel: ‘It can be compared to how one feels when on a motorcycle, holding on to the one you love, taking in the moment and nothing more. That’s the kind of feeling I aim for when it comes to life’.
From this conversation, I could clearly tell that she’s found what makes her happy, and the way she is so unapologetically passionate about the world and what she does is inspiring to me. And I hope that this has gone on to inspire something in you too.