Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Ten Spot: Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Tell us about your most recent release.

In spring of 2013, my collection of poems "No Ocean Here" was published. It bears moving accounts of women and girls in certain developing and underdeveloped countries. The book raises concern, and chronicles the socio-cultural conditions of women in parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The stories, either based on personal interviews or inspired by true stories, are factual, visceral, haunting, and bold narratives, presented in the form of poems.

Writing "No Ocean Here" was difficult. To do justice to each of the stories and eventually poems, I had to “victimize” myself and empathize on many levels with the victims and survivors. All the more I am humbled by the response to the book and the way the poems have echoed with others. For instance, the poem, "Superwoman," was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. “Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome” is now a part of an AIDS awareness film: “The Dawn.” Another poem, "Brothel," is part of ArtWorks for Freedom, a campaign to end human trafficking. And few others from this collection are helping social media campaigns around the world to help end violence against women.

How many promises you have made and how many of them you have fulfilled?

Wow, we delve from poetry into reveal-and-tell-all nonfiction right away, is it? Words are extremely important to me. I won't make a promise until I have the full intention of keeping it. But life comes in the way of my idealism. When that happens, I will make sure the person knows why my words, not intention, disappointed them.

Who do you admire and why?

My father. He is one of the bravest, hardworking, fair, generous, ethical, forgiving, and smartest human beings I know. Unlike most South Asian parents, he never once pressured my brother and me to study or work in a specific field. He's imparted such irreplaceable values. I love that he's taught me to love people with all honesty and minimal judgment or expectation.

I have always been a curious, opinionated, and rebellious person. While he is a man of principles and won't tolerate disrespect or rudeness, my Dad is also the man who has changed with times & tries to understand the younger generation. I argue and debate with him all the time. And he encourages the dialogue. He has his flaws and is very aware of them. His humility, given his achievements, is something I hold sacred.

Is there anyone who you love or loves you?

I wish I could start the sentence with “Bradley Cooper…” Jokes aside, I am blessed with a lovely set of people in my life who love me for who I am, including all my flaws. I am a poet—verses and love are integral to my existence. Of course, there are so many people in my life whom I love more than life itself. But it’s my husband, Anudit, (he loathes any social media attention sent in his direction but given it’s the holidays, I want to bother him extra J) has “shown” me how love can be so much more than the clich├ęs we read about. And for a writer, it’s “showing” that’s always more effective than “telling.”

When was the last time you really talked with your parents/family?

You don’t have many Indian friends, do you? Haha, just this morning I spoke with my parents. See, even though I've a hyphenated identity—Indian-American, culturally, I will be more Indian always. Family and friends and social gatherings are very ingrained in my being. And I genuinely cherish being surrounded by them. They are a big part of who I am.

If you would clone yourself, which of your characteristics you wouldn’t want to be cloned?

Wait, a masterpiece needs change? Whaaaat? I am kidding. I am honest to a fault. While I truly believe that honesty might hurt in the short run but helps in the longer run, I have come to realize that not everyone appreciates the truth. Life could be a lot simpler if I could embrace the mantra.

Which one would you prefer, having a luxurious trip alone or having a picnic with people you love?

A picnic with all the people I love unless those people suggest going to a bowling alley or camping. I might have to give them a rethink :)

Have you ever abandoned a creative idea that you believed because others thought you were a fool?

Never. Art and writing—this is how I make sense of the world. For the most part and with the exception of a few, I don't share my ideas with anyone unless it's ready in completed form. I work on a lot of sensitive topics and people close to me have always shown care and concern. I believe that I must always write/pursue creative ideas with all honesty. And they have to be about something that matters to me.

What’s the difference between you and most of the other people?

I am not proud of this quality, but the fact is that I am too gullible for my age. Despite working extensively on social issues and seeing all the grime in the world, my first instinct is to look for good in people. Not everyone is genuine in sharing their stories or pain, but I can't sieve insincere words from genuine stories, often. When someone says they are in pain, I believe them. Most other people, I hope, learn from their mistakes. But I fall prey, get burnt, hurt, smile, and eventually go back to not giving up on humanity.

What makes you happier, forgive someone or hate someone forever?

I don't believe in the feeling of hatred—not as a long-term solution to anything anyway. It's too consuming and self-destructive. Life is too precious to be wasted on people who hurt us. Sure, there are different stages in healing and I do feel anger. But that too is short-lived. I believe in not victimizing myself or even blaming everything on one person. It’s about closing the chapter and moving on. Forgiving means I learn my lesson and become indifferent to the person. “Hate” means you give energy, emotion, and time to a person who disappointed you. Nope, not in my world.

Sweta Srivastava Vikram ( is an award-winning poet, writer, novelist, author, essayist, columnist, and educator. She is the author of five chapbooks of poetry, two collaborative collections of poetry, a novel, and a nonfiction book. She also has two upcoming book-length collections of poetry in 2014. Her work has also appeared in several anthologies, literary journals, and online publications across seven countries in three continents. Sweta has won three Pushcart Prize nominations, Queens Council on the Arts Grant, an International Poetry Award, Best of the Net Nomination, Nomination for Asian American Members’ Choice Awards 2011, and writing fellowships. A graduate of Columbia University, she lives in New York City with her husband and teaches creative writing across the globe & gives talks on gender studies. You can follow her on Twitter (@ssvik) or Facebook (


  1. Ueber kool answers Sweta :) Proud of you, as always.

  2. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your views, Mahesh.