Born in Mauritius in 1977, Vatsala Radhakeesoon has had a keen interest in poetry-writing since the age of 14. Her poems have been previously published in various local and international printed and online newspapers, journals, magazines, anthologies and blogs. She is the representative of Immagine and Poesia (Italy based artistic movement) for Mauritius.
Vatsala considers Poetry to be her first love , her friend, guide and confidant.
As a teenager in the early 1990’s ,her love for poetry mainly originated from the lyrics of songs of the French Canadian singer, Roch Voisine , Australian singer, Jason Donovan and British singer Phil Collins. Her mother being a Hindi teacher and her best teacher of poetry has also been her inspiration for poetry-writing. The great poets of English Literature,
William Blake, T.S Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou and Carol Ann Duffy have had an influence on her works.
Depth of the River is her second collection of poems following When Solitude Speaks (2013).
Vatsala Radhakeesoon is a MBA graduate from Management College of Southern Africa and is currently self-employed. She lives at Rose-Hill, Mauritius and continues to write poems in English, Mauritian Kreol (Kreol Morisien) , French and Hindi.
INTERVIEW WITH VATSALA RADHAKEESOON
Welcome to Scarlet Leaf Review!
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I was born on 17 October 1977 at Curepipe, the coldest and rainiest town of Mauritius. But I have been brought up and live at Rose-Hill, one of the warmest and business-centered towns of the island. I’m the youngest of a family of 4 children. My late parents were both Hindi teachers and they maintained much discipline at home. They emphasized much on formal and informal education as well as reading books in the main languages that were taught in Mauritius. I was a pupil of St Enfant Jesus RCA , primary school and a student of Loreto Convent Rose-Hill, secondary school – both schools founded initially by Christian missionaries. At tertiary level, I did a MBA from Management College of Southern Africa. I’m currently self-employed and also an independent interviewer and translator for Setu journal.
Q: Do you think that your school years have had an impact in your writing career? If so, what were you like at school?
Yes indeed. When I was in Standard One (first year) of primary school), my mother who was also my teacher taught me a short poem in Hindi referring to a little girl called Manjul Rani . Then I had to learn this poem by heart and recite it in front of everyone during the school artistic event .Since then I enjoyed reading and reciting poems in English, French and Hindi. When I was in Form I (first year of secondary school) our English teacher, Sister Antonia originally an Irish nun taught us a poem entitled The Lovely Unicorn. It was a poem referring to Noah’s Ark. We had to learn the poem and recite it during the prize giving ceremony programme at school. So all these led to my writing of poems a few years later when I was in Form 4 (fourth year of secondary school).
At school I was shy and mostly love to study. I could hardly express myself verbally or voice out. So my pen and paper helped me to express my thoughts, views and feelings as a means to unburden my confused teenage mind.
Q: Were you good at English or like Einstein you excel now in a field that was a nightmare for you as a student?
Well, I have always loved English language. I enjoyed mostly the grammar related parts as everything was systematic and well organized. But I didn’t like all genres of English literature as the critical analysis of novels were too tedious for me. However I loved studying poetry and plays (drama). Later on I chose Science as main subjects.
But English as a language has always been compulsory in all Mauritian schools at all levels. When I was in HSC (Higher School Certificate) (last year of Secondary school), I enjoyed the General Paper classes , that were part of English class. General paper helped us to do research in all fields that is Arts, Science, Economics, politics and much more and then write essays regarding a vast range of issues.
Q: What are your future ambitions for your writing career?
I wish to keep writing more poetry books and also short stories books in various languages that I know that is English, French, Hindi and Kreol. I also wish to translate the works of other authors in the field of Literature.
Q: Which poets have inspired you and how? What was their impact on your work or your literary perspective?
I have been much inspired by William Blake, T.S Elliot, Victor Hugo, Maya Angelou and Emily Dickinson.
From Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, I have learnt that poetry can be written beautifully in a simple language. T.S Eliot and Victor Hugo have inspired me to write philosophical poems. Maya Angelou has inspired me to write feminist poems and voice out without fear as an independent woman. Emily Dickinson’s poems have taught me the beauty of writing in solitude.
Q: So, would you mind telling us what you have written so far?
My first poetry book is entitled When Solitude Speaks. It was published in 2013 by the sponsorship of Ministry of Arts and Culture, Mauritius. This book is a self- published one .It consists of a selection of poems that I’ve written between the ages of 14 to 35.
Some of my poems have been published in Immagine and Poesia anthology 2016 and 2017 (Italy).
My poem Being Myself with Maurtian Kreol, French and Hindi translations has appeared in Women, Wit and Wisdom Anthology 2017 (India).
My second poetry book entitled Depth of the River has been published in July 2017 by Scarlet Leaf Publishing House, Canada. It consists of a series of philosophical, spiritual, and emotional poems.
Q: Where can we buy or see them?
When Solitude Speaks – Available at Bookcourt bookshops Mauritius
Immagine and Poesia anthology 2016 , 2017 can be read for free by downloading from
Women, Wit and Wisdom anthology can be ordered by Author’s Press India (New Delhi)
Depth of the River – Available on Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon France, Amazon India, Amazon Italy, Amazon Australia.
Kindle price : $2.99
Paperback : $10
Q: What are you working on at the minute? What’s it about?
I’m actually working on my first poetry book in French. It basically consists of philosophical poems.
Q: What genre are your books and what draws you to this genre?
Basically I’m much into poetry. Poetry’s musicality, its ability to covey feelings thoughts and facts in a concise way and delivering powerful messages instantly draw me to this particular genre.
Q: When did you decide to become a poet? What was the decisive factor or you just took a pen and starting writing poems?
I decided to become a poet at the age of 14 in August 1992. I have always been a music lover.
And the songs sung by my favourite singer, Roch Voisine (French Canadian singer) mesmerized me.
I loved the lyrics of his French songs , Hélène , L’Idole, La L’égende D’Oochigeas and those of his English songs such as I’ll always be there, Jamie’s Girl and others . So this compelled me to start writing poems.
Q: What makes you write? What’s the force behind taking your pen (or your keyboard) and put verses down?
Basically I feel my inspiration comes from God – the Divine energy. Then the words in my mind and soul begin to flow on paper.
Q: Where do your ideas come from? Or is it just the spur of the moment, a special feeling you experience or a specific conjuncture that offers you inspiration?
A word, a conversation with someone, an event, a friend, a song, a movie, observing Nature and moments of solitude compel me to write poems.
Q: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
During my 25 years of poetry writing, contemporary poetry has evolved as well, so have I creatively.
When I started writing poems I was using a simple language and merely free verse style. But with continuous poetry -writing practice and reading more poetry books I feel I use more complex words, and alter the styles from free verse to rhyming or at times blend both. I no longer follow the trends or rules.
I’ve acquired my own voice and my freedom in writing.
Q: In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about writing?
To write for a particular cause and within word limit. This hinders the freedom of a writer. A writer is a person who loves freedom; his/her space and hates inhibitions or shackles of various sorts.
Confining a writer to word limit or asking him to write for a particular cause is like stopping his spontaneous flow of feelings, views and ideas. It destroys the writer’s individuality.
I have written some specific cause related poems but after writing them I have always felt that I didn’t give the best of myself and I felt something imposed on me.
Q: Now, what about the easiest thing about writing?
The easiest thing is that once we become a writer, it means we have created our special space, comfort zone. So whatever happens in life we can find solace from writing. It’s a cozy place where no one can interfere, or really judge us.
Q: Do you ever get writer’s Block and if so do you have any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
When I was much younger I did get it. But now I don’t really get writer’s block. My tips for writer’s block are:
Never panic. If you can’t write just stop and take a deep breath. Go for a walk, cook something in the kitchen or do some routine household tasks.
Read a book by other writer.
Gradually writer’s block will disappear. Writer’s block is just the product of a stressed mind. A relaxed mind produces better works of Arts.
Q: Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors? For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
Yes I do read. My favourite Mauritian poets are Anoucheka Gangabissoon, and Cyril Luximan.
Among the classics I like William Blake, T.S Eliot, and Emily Dickinson.
Among the contemporary poets of foreign countries, I like the poems by Scott Thomas Outlar,,
Sunil Sharma and Santosh Bakaya.
Among the novelists, I’m a big fan of Mitch Albom and Paulo Coelho.
I like both e books and traditional books as both help us to perform the same action, that is reading and to cultivate our minds.
Q: What book/s are you reading at present?
I’m re-reading Selected Poems of T.S Eliot.
Q: Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
I first edit it myself. Then I give to someone else to have a look.
Q: Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?Yes as times I take a break after finishing my book manuscript and edit it much later. This helps me to go through my poems with a different perception.
Q: Tell us about the covers of your books. How did it/they come about?
The cover of my first book consists of the Maurtian sea with a single boat sailing. This represents the title of the book When Solitude Speaks.
For my second book, Depth of the River, the cover consists of lady walking amidst the river. This represents the poem The River’s Poetess featured in the book.
Q: Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Yes the cover can play an important role. An attractive cover definitely catches the customers’ eyes and makes him/her willing to do a purchase and read the book.
Q: What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
Self -publishing helps the author to maintain complete control of his/her book ie. in terms of marketing, sales and profit in his/her own country. But self-publishing doesn’t make it easy to market and sell internationally. It is difficult and stressful for a writer to handle both his writing and marketing all alone.
Publishing with a publisher gives a book a more professional look. The marketing and sales responsibilities are shared by both the author and the publisher. So sales and marketing become much an adventure instead of dreaded duties. However publishing with a publisher, at times restricts the freedom of a writer as he/she cannot decide what to do with the book independently.
Q: How do you market your books, if you do the marketing yourself?
I market through Facebook, individual Facebook messages, Whats App, e-mails, newspapers, Literary T.V and radio programmes and book signing at bookshops.
Q: Would you or do you use a PR agency?
I haven’t done it for my previous book but may be in future I will do it.
Q: Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
The fastest way to reach out a large number of people is social media. So it is worthwhile to keep marketing through it. Then, marketing is an ongoing process. Ups and down will be there but we must keep on marketing every week or every month. Never be discouraged. If one strategy doesn’t work, try another one. Always have an innovative and positive approach.
Q: Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
Once when I was doing a book signing a child who was passing by took one copy of my book and didn’t let go of it. This compelled the parents to buy it.
Q: Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work?
I haven’t tried so far. But I’m willing to do it for my second book that has been recently published.
Q: Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?
Yes for my first poetry book When Solitude Speaks I got interviewed by the local newspapers L’Express, Le Défi and literary T.V programmes Passerelles and Portraits D’artistes.
Q: Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
Marketing through Facebook and doing book signing have helped in the past.
Q: Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
Yes, previously I was informing everyone about my book but gradually I have realized that all people are not interested in buying and reading books. So now I use the marketing technique of proper market segmentation and select the potential customers properly.
Q: Why do you think that other well written books just don’t sell?
Tough question! Based on my Marketing knowledge as a MBA person and following the great marketing guru, professor and author Philip Kotler’s advice, I think sales depend on the marketing approach.
When we talk about sales it refers to the business world. When we study sales and Marketing, we learn that business is all about building a long term business relations with the customers.
Logically in the writing world, most writers simply let the publishing companies do the marketing and sales job. But we must realize that the publisher doesn’t have only our books to sell. He/she has to care about other authors too. So, well written books may not sell because many writers shy off and don’t like to reach out to customers and readers in a humane and friendly way. Many writers remain hostile to readers and do not make the effort of getting to know their readers even at book festivals or other literary events.
Yes, we need our solitude to write but if we want our books to sell we must adopt a friendly and humane approach to others and not walk with the aura of ego that we are writers, we have published thousands of books and keep thinking that people are compelled to buy our books. Many good books don’t sell because the writers don’t take the responsibility of being involved in sales and marketing themselves.
Q: What do you think of “trailers” for books?
I think they are good means of marketing books in order to attract the right readers and customers.
Q: Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
Sometimes it may work, sometimes it may not. Providing books for free may enable those who can’t afford to buy it, be able to read it. It can be an incentive for the reader to read the book.
The negative aspect of this is that when we give books for free, readers adopt ‘the taking for granted attitude’ and they do not value the book as a valuable work of Arts and the writer’s hard work. So we must bring a balance between providing books for free and selling them
Q: How do you relax?
Since, I’m a great music lover. Music is my best means of relaxation. I like pop music, classical music, spiritual songs and I’m open to all other forms of music. Then I like to go for walks, observe nature and go to the seaside whenever I can.
Q: What is your favorite motivational phrase? What is your favorite positive saying?
“To let go” – in the Buddhist way.
Q: What is your favorite book and why?
When it comes to poetry, my favourite book is Four Quartets by T.S Eliot. I like that book because it centers on deep philosophical views. When it comes to novels, my favourite book is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This book shows the strength of a woman and teaches women to keep fighting for their rights and never give up. Never fall in the trap of self-pity. Regarding plays, my favourite is The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams as the playwright has shown a deep insight in human psychology.
Q: What is your favorite quote?
“I am no bird, and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Q: Where can you see yourself in 5 years-time?
Writing more books and exploring new horizons of spirituality and philosophy.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
To keep reading so as to cultivate their minds. To bring a balance between the mundane and the spiritual in order to live happily.
Q: Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I would like to meet my favourite contemporary American author Mitch Albom . I’m mesmerized by all his novels as they really touch my soul.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Keep writing. Never be discouraged by rejection notes and other ups and down. Persevere and you will fulfill your mission as a writer.
Q: Where do you see publishing going in the future?
Since the world is IT oriented I see e-books being the future of publishing world.
But paperback books will co-exist much as a luxury.
Q: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
Death and After
Wait, wait, I’m coming!
Neither am I scared nor screaming,
With joy my eyes are dancing,
I can hear Divine Music echoing.
Feel, now, O, Detached Soul, you surely can!
Feel pure light, perfect knowledge of Immortal Friend;
Fly freely to all planets, you surely can!
It’s All- blissful, no sorrows to mend.
Depth of the River is the author’s second collection of poems emphasizing on her life as it is. She considers this book as her open confessions manifesting from her subconscious mind.
This book also brings forth, social and global issues that touch the Human race, as a whole.
Through her poems, the poet has also pointed out that the connection to the Divine energy,
that is God, is the best cure to all sufferings and the priceless means to recognizing real joy and leading a peaceful life.
The poems in this book have been written by blending elements of modern and traditional poetry. Some have a rhyming pattern. Others are purely in free verse.
To bring joy to readers everywhere.