Interview with Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

Photo: © Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad 2020


Please, introduce yourself and your writing.

My name is Oormila. I am of South Indian heritage and was raised in the Middle East. I currently call Australia home. Besides writing poetry, I also paint, play the piano, and teach art to primary school kids. In the past year and a half I have published poetry and artwork in over a 100 literary journals and five anthologies. I live in Sydney with my husband and three teenagers (two human, one feline). I live on the land of the Ku-ring-gai people of the Eora Nation.

I write both poetry and flash fiction. Even though I blogged regularly, I returned to the literary circuit only recently, actively publishing my poetry again after a hiatus of more than ten years. The catalyst was joining The North Shore Poetry Project, convened by poet Philip Porter. We are a group of Sydney poets who meet every week on Mondays, bring new work for discussion and feedback, and support one another’s writing.

Your latest writing project(s)?

I have several things going on at any given point in time, be it art or writing – it’s just how I like to work. I switch between projects on a frequent basis, or work on different tasks simultaneously.

I am currently putting together a series of poems inspired by songs that have been significant for me at some point in time. I am a huge fan of Memoir Mixtapes, the literary magazine. They publish poems inspired by music. I started on this project by preparing a submission for Memoir Mixtapes, but now it has taken on a life of its own. I have about twelve poems completed. Some of them are  based on personal experiences. Others are persona poems – so even though they are written in the first person, I have drawn inspiration from the lives and stories of people I know, with details changed to avoid identification.

I am also working on pieces for a chapbook of art and writing which I hope to publish in 2021.

How would you describe your poetry?

I have been writing poetry since the age of seven, so of course, my work has undergone a sea change from then to now – I just turned 43! I like to push myself and experiment with different styles. While a lot of my work is direct and narrative, some of my poems are more symbolic – I try to incorporate an element of duende. 

Of late, I have been experimenting with more abstract styles. Some things remain the same in my work though – I like unusual word pairings, concrete imagery, and strong sensory descriptions, particularly colour – which I guess is because of my background as a painter. I always hope to leave some kind of an emotional impact on my readers with the pieces that I write.

I don’t have a preference for any particular theme, but I enjoy writing humorous pieces (in an alternate life I think I would be a standup comedienne! I like making people laugh). 

I submit regularly to peer reviewed journals, and write on a daily basis these days, even if it is just a terrible first draft.

Why do you write?

Because it is second nature! I enjoy creating. And I love sharing my work with people who appreciate it. I find great fulfilment in it. I journal extensively, and find that writing gives me clarity and helps me iron out things that I may be struggling with.

Who are your favourite authors?

Elizabeth Bishop, Sylivia Plath, Sharon Olds, Adrienne Rich, and Maya Angelou. 

Of the poets writing today, I am inspired by Eileen Myles, Tess Taylor, M J Iuppa, Megha Sood, J P Dancing Bear. And of course DS Maolalai, Yash Seyedbagheri and John Grey (you have published all of them!). 

My favourite contemporary poet is Carolynn Kingyens, author of Before the Big Bang Makes a Sound – you have to be very gifted to write such deeply human and vulnerable poetry.

Do you have a homepage?

You can find my published pieces at www.poetry.oormila.com and follow my artistic process at www.instagram.com/oormila_paintings.

Thank you very much for the interview!

Thank you so much for the opportunity.