Our teenage years are often filled with newfound emotions that send us on a rollercoaster without warning. Trying to make sense of the changes that we undergo is a struggle even for the best of us. Some of us keep these upheavals to ourselves, but young Charanpal dared to share his thoughts and experiences in the beautiful form of poetry with his recently released, Prison of Youth, compilation of poems. We leapt at the chance to ask him a few questions about his experience and passion for the arts!
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Having been introduced to poetry formally in secondary school, Charanpal was attracted to the themes, emotions and imagery that poems offered. He started writing his own, drawing inspiration from anything that caught his eye and then reflecting deeply about the circumstances around him.
Charanpal’s favourite poem, “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman and his favorite poet Philip Larkin, betray his youthful looks and expose his thoughts that wondered to the poets of past ages when penning one’s’ thoughts was more deliberate than the 140 characters we have grown accustomed to today.
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman
He shared his work with family members and friends through group chats and after some time, with help and encouragement from his brother-in-law, put together his art into the Prison of Youth under the brand, The Poetry House, another one of Charanpal’s creation. His goal for The Poetry House is no small one. The aspiration is for it to be a global brand boasting world-class poems, and a cafe for anyone to read poetry books while enjoying a meal, or even settling in to a cosy theatre for movie screenings.
The Poetry House logo
The Prison of Youth features 53 poems grouped into 5 themes, Life, Illusion, Death, Relationships, and Love. Many of the poems made references to local idiosyncrasies that many Singaporeans can relate to with some giving us an insight into the characters that Charanpal interacts with in his daily life.
A number of the poems dealt with the frustrations we feel when our choices are criticised. Others deal with serious issues such as suicide and depression. Charanpal believes that many youths face such circumstances often and are labelled negatively or seen as rebels. He shares that adults criticise rather than empathise and try to destroy the illusion or illusive hope youth develop when trying to make sense of the world around them. Poetry helps Charanpal express these frustrations, along with difficult situations.
Girl Under The Blanket, in particular, is a heart rending poem on suicide that Charanpal penned to share his sorrow at the loss of a friend. A 15 year old girl whose passing affected Charanpal and would continue to do so for a long time.
When asked what would be his advice to budding poets or writers, Charanpal recommends to simply pen down how you feel in a few short lines. It gives you an outlet to express your emotions and deal with any overwhelming situation. He further adds that we should not look down on our efforts or be afraid of the outcome. Every piece of work is a success in one way or another.
Having sold over 120 copies within a month after publication, Prison of Youth has been an amazing experience for Charanpal’s first foray into the formal poetry world. Not afraid to step up and show his work, Charanpal has been courageous in setting up booths at local community events to spread word of his aspirations and engage youth to explore art in their own way.
Charanpal (rightmost) promoting Prison of Youth at Khalsa Week 2018.
With Volume 1 out of the way, Charanpal has plans for another 2 volumes in the next couple of years. We look forward to seeing more of his work and hope everyone will support our young Charanpal in his exploration of art!