Meet Anoushka Sharma ’23, who has published a book of her poetry and photography, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Images, Words, and Reflections.” She’s also a singer-songwriter and will be in the cast of “A Christmas Carol” at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J. December 10-29.
Q: “Hidden in Plain Sight: Images, Words, and Reflections” is a collection of your poetry and photography from ages eight to 13. How do you feel your work has evolved over that time? Did you have any hesitation about including your early work?
Anoushka Sharma: I think when I was younger, I wrote mostly about simpler happier topics. But as I got older, I gained different experiences that influence my writing. For example, my more recent poems have more layers or a deeper meaning, which might make the reader stop and think for a minute, whereas my earlier poems didn’t have any underlying meaning. They would just be a cute poem that might make the reader smile.
I also feel like many of my earlier poems tend to be a bit cliche or kind of cheesy when I look back at them. When it came time to publish them I felt pretty embarrassed about those poems at first and I thought people would laugh at them. But I realized that I should publish those poems to show how much my writing has grown since then.
Q: The cover photo of your book received an honorable mention in the 2019 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards – and ended up inspiring the title for the collection. Can you tell me a little about the photo, why you felt it belonged on the cover, and why it was the perfect title for your book?
AS: That photo is really special to me because it was what pushed me to explore more into photography. I think the photo and title were perfect for the book because my poems come from a different perspective and talk about things that really are hidden in plain sight.
Q: Your poem, “Hey Girls,” won a gold key in the 2019 Scholastic Art & Writing Award competition and is featured in the 2019 Appelley’s Rising Star Collection. Of all of your poems, why did you submit that one for the awards competition? Why do you think it resonates with so many people?
AS: I always thought that “Hey Girls” was one of my best poems not just because of the message but also because of how well written it was. I think it resonates with people because the message is one that we all think about or agree with but not many people talk about.
Q: When did you start writing poetry? Songwriting? Photography?
AS: I was around eight years old when I started writing. Poetry and songwriting kind of came all at once. What would usually happen was I would write a poem, but a melody would come to mind as I wrote that poem. Then as the poem became more complete, I would decide whether I wanted the poem to be the lyrics to a song or if they should remain a poem. The same would happen in reverse. In fact, many of the poems featured in “Hidden in Plain Sight’ were originally songs.
When I decided to publish my writing, I took a lot of songs that I had written and edited them to make them poems for the book. For example, “Sunshine,” was one of the first songs/poems I remember writing. When I wrote the words, a melody came to me at the same time.
I began photography much later than I started writing. I had always enjoyed observing nature and taking pictures of things that I thought were really beautiful. It wasn’t until the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in 2018 that I realized that photography was something I should explore even more.
Q: What are some of the things that inspire your work?
AS: For me, poetry can be inspired by absolutely anything. Most of the time I take a situation or a part of an ordinary day and describe it through my perspective or a different perspective to create a poem. Other times, I’ll simply describe a beautiful scene, usually based on a past experience or memory. Most of the time however, my poems are inspired by difficult situations, many times by disputes with friends or family, but also by internal struggles like anxiety. Overall, my emotions in a certain moment are what inspire the majority of my poems because, for me, poetry is a way to just let those feelings out.
Q: How do you hope Lawrenceville will influence your work?
AS: I really just want to learn more about writing and improve my skills. I’m really excited to explore even deeply into poetry at Lawrenceville.
Q: Who are some of your favorite poets and songwriters? Do you have a favorite poem or song that you wish you’d written?
AS: Two of my favorite poets are Maya Angelou and Rupi Kaur. One of my favorite songwriters of all time is Lin-Manuel Miranda. Some of my favorite songwriters are Billie Eilish and Khalid, but I am also a huge fan of the bands Queen and The Beatles. Two songs that I wish I wrote are “Let it Be” and “Yesterday” by The Beatles.
Q: What advice do you have for other student writers, especially those who might not have the courage to share their work?
AS: If you’re scared to share your work, don’t be. I was, and still am, scared to share my work. It’s normal to be a little scared when you’re sharing something so close to you with other people, but if you just go for it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much people will love your work.
Q: What activities are you most eager to try at Lawrenceville?
AS: I want to further explore writing, photography, and music at Lawrenceville. But mainly, I want to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone, especially when it comes to sharing more of my work or performing.
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