Last summer, a month before I was due to head to India for my wedding, Catriona Wright, Laboni Islam, and I, gathered in Kate Sutherland’s living room to discuss Tarfia Faizullah’s poetry collection, Seam (2014).
It was mad fun. We talked about a lot of things, like structure, word choice, voice of the speaker(s), and ethics of research that led to this book. I especially talked of the problem of co-option of voices of the survivors of 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War (the biranganas), and how Faizullah’s privilege as an American woman in academia (on a Fulbright scholarship, no less) allowed her to do so without repercussions.
And, we had a peek at Kate’s poetry collection, which is rather kickass.
You can follow Kate Sutherland on Instagram, where she posts her poetry reads.
You can listen to the podcast here.
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.
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:
*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.
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.
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.