By Gisele Soo
Raj Dronamraju is a multi-talented guy with an impressive background. Not only is he an educator, he is also a writer/poet who owns a tuition centre, Ask English Tuition and Training and the editor/publisher of an online poetry magazine, 21st Century Flow.
Raj, who is now in his early 50s, has spent most of his life in the U.S. having grown up there. He has settled in Malaysia as a Permanent Resident after tying the knot with a local.
In his school days, Raj won several prominent prizes in national high school journalism competitions. Fast forward to adulthood, he pursued a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Oregon and a Master’s Degree from the University of California. He has always had an eye for poetry from a very young age. “As far as poetry goes, one cannot be trained in the literal sense,” he expressed.
He elaborated on the keys to writing poetry, adding, “Peer review and feedback and finding an audience is important in developing a poetic voice as well as a competency in language but in the end, it is what you have to say and how you say it”.
Having to publish both collections of his poetry and novels and receiving fan letters from all over the world, is indeed applaudable. But what makes him as happy as Larry is being published in many magazines and websites such as Black Heart magazine, Synchronized Chaos, Eksentrika, The Bitchin’ Kitsch and many others.
We must wonder what inspires this guy? What keeps him going?
Well, passion plays a big part, of course. “I feel I have something to say, and it is cathartic. I also like to experiment with language. I like to write about, one, things I see myself in my day-to-day life – people, places, etc. Two, feelings and ideas and thoughts perhaps as they are mingled with culture. I like to have a fair amount of social criticism in my poetry. Sometimes I combine it all together,” he enthused.
He shared with us a poem he wrote about Ipoh.
MIST ON THE HILLS OF IPOH
In the morning, the hills speak, who hears?
Who registers the gurgle of mist sounding like an entertained baby
Gently spreading its hand palm down to touch the hilltops
On an otherwise sunny blue panorama, here’s a private moment of nude wilderness in her essence
By afternoon, the spidery emissary has vanished
Mist commutes on subsequent mornings in thin veined envy of true solid matter
Loving dewdrop leaf imprints and grasping people free coolness of earlier tamed nature
Silent rendezvous of waterfall type ghosts with no breeze to hurry their passion
Just above the treeline where the mist stops and hugs original forest without hesitation or reluctance
Knowing as always that this time will be fleeting but they’ll melt into each other again tomorrow
Asked on how to define a quality piece, Raj explained, “A quality piece engages with original language and a clear theme and flow or construction that helps the poem, they should all be working together”.
The poet himself is also very fond of the works of other writers and has mentioned some of his favourite poets and poems of all time, ‘My Heart Leaps Up’ by William Wordsworth, ‘The Heavy Bear That Goes With Me’ by Delmore Schwartz, ‘Waving Not Drowning’ by Stevie Smith and ‘An Elementary School Classroom In A Slum’ by Stephen Spender.
People are less inclined towards poetry and the reading culture among teenagers is gradually deteriorating. This happens due to lack of comprehension and appreciation of poetry, its value and meaning as well as how to produce it. It is the fear that students and teenagers have to overcome and not be cowed by that fear. Raj agreed that interest can be developed because poetry is in concise form compared to long narrative prose and can tie in better with social media such as Instagram as a form of expression.
So, how to start?
“First, start writing, keep a journal or other method to hew to a discipline for writing that forces you to create regularly. Secondly, form a good network with other writers and editors to receive feedback from different sources. This will help you improve and find your own voice,” he said.
Despite his success, Raj still faces challenges in this competitive environment. Running a tuition centre (small business) is not an easy task and one of the biggest challenges is getting enough students to tutor. According to Raj, this business is seasonal, it is normally busy during the beginning and towards the end of the year and less busy in the middle of the year.
Readers can find more information on his work and his poetry platform with the latest poetry as well as past issues of 21st Century Flow at https://raj-books.post-egoism.media/.