Category Archives: poetry

story of a single brown canadian woman’s body

 

If you have been following the last few posts, then you are aware of the fact that I have been working on some new stuff. Rather, this “new stuff” has become a marker of everything that I now produce, creatively.

I am not sure what opened up the floodgates, but somehow, all the inhibitions I had as a writer have been shed. I am unafraid to be vocal.

And the words… they just keep on coming.

My poem, “story of a single brown canadian woman’s body,” is a part of Media Diversified’s newly launched Tumblr Poetry Series. Some of the issues I extrapolate in the talk in my previous post are evident in this poem, as well. Go see.

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How, then, to begin, to begin?

If the subject – here, the writer of colour – is unaware of the absence of speech, then where does he/she begin? Or, as Roy Miki asks, “How, then, to begin, to begin?” – an excerpt from the final essay I wrote for Dr. Smaro Kamboureli’s graduate English class at University of Toronto end April 2015.

On 24th November 2015, I was invited by Dr. Jing Jing Chang to give a short talk to her undergrad class on Bollywood films at Wilfrid Laurier University. The talk addresses my existence as a South Asian person/academic/artist in Canada, and negotiating that identity through creative writing and academia.

The talk ends with a performance of my most recent work of poetry, “elephant in the room.”

Since I don’t completely despise how I sound, here is the talk in its entirety:

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Because anything with an ‘nx’ suffix sounds cool*

*Not my words

I haven’t written a poem about desire in a while. Mostly because the way I think of romantic relationships has changed in the past few years.

I am not a huge fan of panpanani poems of longing. I mean, what is the point of all this longing, that is never ever fulfilled? Stories of unrequited love have dominated pop culture for so long, that we almost forget that love doesn’t have to be difficult. If it is, then it’s really rather pointless.

Love, to me, should ideally exist between mental equals. It should hold some sort of balance, like an infinity symbol (minus the negative connotations associated with its ouroboros avatar), or a yin/yang. It should be an exchange of ideas, of inspiration, of contentment, of stimulating conversations.

Passion and Peace. Coexisting.

That is how I envision love.

Although, in my opinion, any healthy relationship should follow this model. Otherwise, what is the point?

My poem, “Wildlings,” is in The Nervous Breakdown (which is also one of the publications from my Top 30 list!). You can read it here.

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When Poems come to Roost

venn

I rarely write poetry nowadays.

The last time I wrote a poem, it was for a boy I had just met. He was leaving, I wanted him to have something of me to remember by etc. You know how that story goes. Especially if you are a poet, then you have definitely been in that boat at some point.

Most of my poems are personal. Some of them are political. While others are healing.

And then, there are those that are all three, like that sweet spot in a beautiful Venn diagram.

Two of my poems, “Badaun Sisters” and “Origa-me,” are in The Feminist Wire. You can read them here.

Also(!), The Feminist Wire happens to be one of the publications on my Top 30 list!

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Shinjini’s Hazaar Songs

jigsaw

Like some names that linger on your tongue, her name became my albatross. Always synonymous with mine, I knew it as intimately as I knew her.

My own. My beloved. My sister.

So, I tugged and pulled. Broke it into pieces. Put it back together like a puzzle I knew by heart.

And so, she became mine. And, mine alone.

My poem, “Shinjini’s Hazaar Songs,” modeled after my sister’s name (Shinjini) is now in Toasted Cheese Literary Journal’s December issue. It was also workshopped in Carolyn Smart’s class in March earlier this year. You can read it here.

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When a Poem Expires

chickenlonelycoupon

There was – well, is. It still exists. – a poem that I wrote a little over two years ago. It was a reactionary poem to an event that sort of tilted my world at the time. Tilted it beyond a rose coloured view. It was a poem that made my insides squirm whenever I read it. It made me uncomfortable as it recalled the event in minute detail. Yes, it was a very uncomfortable poem and an extremely personal one.

The poem found a home in a magazine I admired. After four rejections at other places, this magazine agreed to take it in. I felt as if a poor lost puppy roaming around in the rain had suddenly been offered a home by kind patrons. It warmed my heart. The world would hear my pain.

The magazine sat on it. They sat and sat, and warmed their behinds on it. Other poems were published, but my accepted poem did not see the light of day.

The immediacy of my pain began to fade, as the poem slowly rotted.

I got over that two year old moment and started viewing the world through my kind of negotiated happiness. And even as I personally grew, the poem itself didn’t. It had been stalled before its unveiling. An aging debutante.

I sent several polite inquiries. Se-ve-ral. They were met with silence.

No white noise. No static. Just an unrelenting silence. A void, if you please.

And now, after all this time, the aging puppy has passed away, its memory a stranger.

I should just bury it and move on.

markanderson

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The Chapbook that never was

Final product.

Final product.

Chapbooks are not easy to make.

And, my final project for Carolyn Smart’s poetry workshop class was just that. A chapbook.

I knew what I wanted. My barenaked face, sans makeup (except mascara), as the cover.

The title would be “For Sale” borrowed from the first line of the first poem.

And, my name.

And, it would be fancy, a 4X6 in hardcover, bound in red cloth.

Hah. Impossible. For a 12 page chapbook, it was très impossible.

Credit: Chloe Sobel Photography.

Credit: Chloe Sobel Photography.

For the photo, I hunted down the fantastic Chloe Sobel from my creative writing class last term. Her expertise lay in feminist retellings of fairytales. And, portraiture.

After scheduling and rescheduling, we managed to meet outside in the windy cold (there was snow on the ground, and her reflector almost flew away, twice), get my clothes partially off for the barenaked feel, and clicked a few for my cover.

Next, the layout.

I begged my fantastic sister to help out with her artsy skills, and although she tried, due to time crunch (on my part), it was just not what I had pictured in my head.

So, I visited the printing services on campus with my ideas. They shot it down. We don’t do the kind of binding you want, they said. It just cannot be done.

I went to Staples next, but with similar results.

And just when I thought all was lost, and I would probably have to print those pages out myself, and staple them together in a shoddy manner (sewing and glue guns were out of question. Mostly, due to lack of a single artistic bone in my body.), I thought why not. Let me see if there are any binding services in Kingston.

The nearest to my location was DigiGraphics, and so I called them. The kind Elizabeth Clark there suggested, very gently, that perhaps I should reconsider the binding. Saddle binding could work you know, she said. It wouldn’t be fancy, but we could work with it.

So, I let them.

Final cover, courtesy of DigiGraphics, Kingston.

Final cover, courtesy of DigiGraphics, Kingston.

And voila. I had my chapbook.

It was slightly different from what I had initially imagined. But it was a real thing.

And, it was all mine.

The chapbook contains seven of my poems (four of which have been workshopped in the poetry class and some of which have been published online) and only exists as a single copy. It was, as I mentioned, made only for the purpose of my final creative writing project. At the moment, I do not have any plans of having any more copies published.

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