SONGSOPTOK: Do you think literature is really essential in our life? If so why? In your opinion, what is the true relationship between life and literature? What is your own experience? And how does this relationship relate to the general history of mankind?

STEVEN: I’ve often thought about this question in relation to Shakespeare. If he isn’t essential, who is? Yet, as much as I love him, I don’t think he is essential to life in general. Literature gives us pleasure and knowledge, but there are many other avenues to the same rewards. Especially, if you’d take it all away, remove all literature or literacy, our lives would be impoverished, but the struggle is to live and love, not to read.

SONGSOPTOK: We would like to know the beginning of the story, i.e. how your upbringing contributed to your own writing. Who were your favorite literary figures during the early period of your life? How they have paved your early routes in literature?

STEVEN:  My mother was a big influence on me. She wrote poetry, but I don’t remember her ever talking about me being a writer, only that I should do well in school. I always loved books and spent much of my little money at the local bookstore. One of the loves of my life was the local library, where I read as much as I could, even if I didn’t understand. I knew that, someday, it would come to me and, mostly, it did.

SONGSOPTOK:  Do you think that literature also bridges the human world with the Mother Nature? As well as with the present time of our surroundings?

STEVEN:  Literature can help develop empathy, for nature as well as people. Without an understanding of history and changes in the human condition, I think the present would be very difficult to understand.

SONGSOPTOK: What are the main events that you think are the major issues that have influenced present day literature?

STEVEN:  I think it’s a gradual progression, but surely computers and the internet have had a great influence on writers. Other than that, what was the last event of great historical significance? WWII? And that was a long time ago…

SONGSOPTOK:  Do you think in this age of information and technology the dimensions of literature has largely been extended beyond our preconceived ideas about literature in general? Now in this changing scenario we would like to know from your own life experiences as a poet, writer and a creative soul; how do you respond to this present time

STEVEN: Well, literature and all writing have exploded like an atomic bomb. There is so much access. So much of an appetite. But I don’t see many changes in forms or content yet. Literature itself doesn’t seem to have changed much though the traditional books and magazines must be well on their way to dying. I used to have a large library of physical books, but I gave them all the St. Lucia National Library many years ago. Now I have more than 50,000 books stored on two giant hard drives that can nearly fit in my pocket. I read as much as ever, but it is almost entirely on screens, not pages. Publishing, of course, has also changed greatly, though I still prefer the traditional third-party channels rather than self-publishing, but that’s a good option for many writers.

SONGSOPTOK: Now if we try to understand tradition and modernism in literature, do you think poetry can play a pivotal role relating the two? If so, how? What are your opinions about the role of the poet in bridging the gap, if any, between tradition and modernism?

STEVEN:  I am a great believer in tradition in poetry and fiction, though I throw away most of the rules. So I don’t really see much of a “gap”, only an evolution forward. Whatever “modernism” is, I don’t concern myself with it. I simply devote myself to saying the things I feel need to be said.                             

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that society is the key factor in shaping you up as a writer. What about your own country? What is the influence of your country & your culture in your writing? Do you believe that all writers are by and large the product of their nationality?  Is it an incentive or an obstacle for becoming a truly international writer?

STEVEN:  I seldom think in national terms anymore. I live in two countries, the US and Bolivia, that couldn’t be more different. I’ve lived and worked in seven other countries, so I think it’s easier for me to think internationally than it is for some other writers. Of course, my American culture has had a huge influence on me. In many ways, I will always be American, even when I write in Spanish, but I would not really want to limit my audience to any one country.

SONGSOPTOK:  Do you believe creative souls flourish more in turmoil than in peace? Why? Are you a protagonist of "art for art's sake"? Can you please present us with your point of view?

STEVEN:  I know that, for myself, I need both turmoil and peace – turmoil to have something to write about and peace to do the writing. I’m a lover of both. I think perhaps you mean “proponent” of art for art’s sake. I guess I am not. I believe art must seek to help us understand the human condition, good and evil, life and death.

SONGSOPTOK:  Do you think people in general actually bother about literature in general?  Do you think this consumerist world is turning the average man away from serious literature? And do you think poetry or literature can solve any problems in our everyday life? Why should we adhere to it?

STEVEN: I am of two minds on this. I am constantly amazed by how many people all over the world read and take literature seriously. Africa and India, in particular, seem to me to contain huge pools of people who love poetry and fiction and reading in English. I love their fresh perspective and enthusiasm.

At the same time, in the Western world, we now see a huge backlash of anti-intellectualism, especially in the polling booth. The people who control America, the UK, and are starting to take Europe, don’t read and seemingly don’t care about knowledge. They operate by instinct and hate. I see this as a dangerous situation that poetry and literature don’t seem up to the task of solving.

SONGSOPTOK: Now if we want to look ahead, do you think that there is an oncoming crisis for literature in general? Will it bring new dimensions in our life ahead? Or do you think that the future of literature is not as bright as it should be?

STEVEN: I see the oncoming crisis as one of population and the environment. The world will become warmer. Growth will be impossible or almost impossible to stop. The oceans will rise. Food and water will become scarce. Billions will die. We seem to have barely started solving the problems. That crisis will affect everything, literature included.

STEVEN W. BAKER: My beautiful Bolivian wife and I now live in Florida, near our children and grandchildren. It’s wonderful to get to spend more time with them and get to know them all again after years of traveling. My wife teaches, and I do almost nothing but write. I begin the see the end of the road I am on, and that drives me to work as hard as I can. I still have much to try to say.

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen



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