Uma Parameswaran was born and educated in India. She came to Canada after spending two years in the United States as a Fulbright student. She earned her Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Indiana University, and later (after she immigrated to Canada) earned her Ph.D. degree from Michigan State University. She taught for many years at the University of Winnipeg. She has worked on women’s issues and has served on National Council of The Writers’ Union of Canada. She has published about ten books of creative writing, in addition to many articles etc. in literary criticism. She is married and has a daughter and two grandchildren.
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
No. I always liked to write, and at some point I must have started trying my hand at poetry.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
It usually comes from an external stimulus, from something that happened to someone or some news item or real-life event that has an impact on my emotions.
What is your writing process?
Usually a line or phrase comes first and keeps going around in my head, and then the other words to complete the story appear.
What is your revision/editing process?
Once the outline or draft is on the page, then I start working on the consistency of imagery and metaphors, and then I work on the sound—often a word has to be changed for a synonym because it is too long or too short, too difficult to enunciate or too clichéd to use. Line divisions are an imporatnt aspect—and there are no rules one can follow to make the divisions come just right, but I generally don’t fool around with chopping up the lines as some people do—to me the line has to stand on its own as well as be part of the flow.
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
Yes, I did. At that age, I read Nature poetry, such as the poems of Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats, and also narrative poems, such as Matthew Arnold’s Sohrab and Rustum, and Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. So I tend to use metaphors from Nature in my poems, which also often tend to be narrative, in that they tell a specific story, which, however, can resonate for many readers because of their own experiences.
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?
No, there are so many resources out there, but I have no specific place or book to recommend, I would say, however, that one has to read poetry in order to be a poet—no text book can teach you how to get inspiration—only one’s own experiences or another’s. However, there are books that help one edit and improve one’s poetry.