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Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed poet and mystic Maya Kalaria about her life, what inspires her, and the creativity that went into her new poetry book; Half Woman Half Grief.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m an Indian Gujarati woman born in the UK, and an author, astrologer and educator. My mum died when I was just 9 years old and I have since tried to make sense of death and grief, speaking about it publicly and in my book, Half Woman Half Grief. It is a poetry book which takes the reader through the underworld of grief and back out into the light again. I’m also a mystic who offers 1:1 astrology sessions and I speak publicly about topics such as mysticism, grief, decolonizing and energy work. I also co-host The Decolonial Podcast.
When did you first WANT to write poetry?
When I was a very young child, perhaps about 6 years old. I just knew that it was for me.
When did you take a step to start writing poetry?
At that very young age of 6, I started writing poetry. When my mum died, I wrote a poem for her funeral at the age of 9 which I placed in her coffin. .
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
The whole process took around 6 years from start to finish. I started writing the poems about 6 years ago, as a way to process my grief. Then the actual process of putting the book together was during the last two years of that process.
What made you want to write Half Woman Half Grief?
My Mum died when I was 9 years old and my dad, brother and I never spoke about her after that. For about 20 years, there was radio silence about her death, and the overwhelming grief just became buried inside me. When I started to write poems about it, I realized that other people would probably benefit from my poetry too, as grief isn’t something we speak openly about enough in our society. Not only that, but it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to publish my work. I always knew it would happen one day!
What were your biggest challenges with writing Half Woman Half Grief?
All of my poetry came as intuitive downloads, rather than sitting down to specifically write them. With that being said, I had no shortage of poems. The hardest part of writing the book were the technical issues and deciding how to publish it.
Do you keep to a theme with your poems, or just go where the mood strikes?
I always went with my mood and my intuition. But they always followed the same underlying themes of grief and the emotions that often surround it, such as rage and shame.
What is your favourite poem in Half Woman Half Grief about and what inspired it?
My favourite poem is the opening poem, which comes after the introduction. I love it because it is wild, rageful, loving and healing all at the same time, and it sets the tone for the whole book. It’s very visceral and it also refers to the Divine Feminine. It’s very multi-layered, like all of my poems. It was an intuitive download, but around that time I was reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, which was a life-affirming book.
Does music help you write or is it a distraction?
I find it to be a distraction, at least when I’m writing. If I listen to it separately, then it can be inspiring!
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Half Woman Half Grief need?
I asked a couple of people to proof read it, but apart from that I didn’t have much support with editing it.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write poetry?
I would say a couple of things. One is to get into nature and walk around. I found that my greatest inspiration was nature, and I often received my poems as intuitive downloads when I was walking in my local woods. The other thing I would suggest is to just keep writing, even if you don’t think it’s any good. Honing it afterwards is always an option!
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Yes, I have a children’s book in mind about belonging, and another poetry book about our sacred connection to Mother Earth and the Divine Feminine.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes! It was very much worth the effort, especially since I received very little support from most of my family members. I did it mostly alone, with a lot of self-belief. I’m so glad I did because hearing how it has deeply impacted those who have read it, and how it has helped them with their grief, has made it all worth it. Plus, I did it for the little girl in me who always wanted to publish a book, as well as my Mother, who I have dedicated the book to. Writing and publishing it helped heal my own grief.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
My website is www.mayakalaria.com
The papareback is available here: https://www.lulu.com/en/gb/shop/maya-kalaria/half-woman-half-grief/paperback/product-1y594zk6.html
The ebook is available here: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/half-woman-half-grief
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