7 PM, on 7th April, at Hearken cafe, a lovely space run by hearing impaired folks in Shahpur Jat. Come for the poems, stay for the food, and don't forget to say hello afterwards
There is no charge, but we will be putting out a donation box to support Hearken. More details can be found at the Facebook event here
Just to let you all know that my poet self and my social entrepreneur self will be meeting each other on Friday, 9th November, at the Anandini Tea Room in Shahpur Jat for a panel entitled "Culture Creators of Change." According to the organisers, Bitgiving and Ashoka Fellowship, "the conversation will be structured around how various mediums of popular culture - art, books, movies, spoken word, storytelling, music, theatre, art, etc. - can be/are really effective tools for shifting mindsets, changing behaviours, and even influencing policy towards the greater good."
If that sounds like something you'd be interested in, here is a link to the Facebook event!
The Hindu Businessline just did a lovely piece on contemporary Indian English poetry, and I'm honoured that my work finds space in it:
What is most impressive about The Fingers Remember is that it never confuses sentimentality with true-blue emotion. Rao is a seasoned traveller who knows that wide-eyed, unfettered dreamscapes hit home all the better when balanced with strategic infusions of hard-nosed pragmatism. At the end of the poem ‘Not being a man, I bleed like this’, she says,
“On the highway, sitting ghoda-taang on the motorcycle/ behind the man I love — no one to notice. Closer/ to the village, side saddle. A woman you can trust/ to educate your daughters. I will live in between.”
On the eve of the book’s release, Rao’s publisher, Arpita Das (founder of Yoda Press), described the discovery of this rising star: “Aditi sent us her manuscript early in 2013. I remember I was on the verge of taking that final decision about closing Yodakin (my bookstore) and was down in the dumps, and happened to unwrap this magical manuscript, which lifted my spirits immediately. Her poetry is haunting, imbued by such a deep sense of loss and anguish (and you just know that she has felt every bit of it) — and yet so reassuring, just to know that such anguish is felt by others and can be so exquisitely expressed.”
Read the full article here
"I read these poems at home, at work, on the metro, even on various DTC buses in the relentless May heat (the subject of a very short poem in this collection, incidentally). Not once did the poet allow my concentration to wander. It feels a little weird to call this a debut book. One reason is that it includes poems that I read for the first time years ago. But the other, more important reason is this: rarely do you come across a debut that is so assured in its style that you think you're reading someone with 20-odd books under their belt." So. A Facebook message I hadn't noticed in my "others" folder just brought this lovely review of the Fingers Remember to my notice. From the Sunday Guardian. From May 2015. Umm. Clearly, I need to get more on top of following my little book's journey into the big wide world!
Here it is now, though.
PS: Just to put it out there, I am the kind of poet who would _love_ to have a random person in a bookstore come up to talk about my work. Really. If you've done it, you know this. If you haven't, you should know it.
It's finally out and official: "The winner of the Muse India - Satish Verma Young Writer Award 2015 for poetry is Aditi Rao (for The Fingers Remember) for 'the range and variety of her poems, her innovative craft, the solidity of her images and the unflinching fortitude of her unique voice.'" Big thanks to Arpita Das for giving the book a home in the big, wide world. And a special shoutout to Akhil Katyal, my little book's favourite uncle, and my favourite person and poet to share a shortlist with!
A little more on the award below, from the press release:
"Muse India Young Writer Awards are given to recognise and encourage outstanding literary talent. The awards are given in the categories of poetry and fiction. Instituted by Muse India, the literary eJournal, the awards are given during the Hyderabad Literary Festival. A panel of senior professors, besides editors of Muse India, evaluated the entries to short-list books for the final round judged by nationally reputed writers. The panel included eminent poets and critics K Satchidanandan, Ranjit Hoskote, Meena Kandasamy, Sukrita Paul Kumar and GJV Prasad among others."
Here's the full, official announcement
A few months ago, I recorded a few of my poems for a podcast on South Asian Feminisms, curated by Electric Kulture, in conversation with the authors of The Two Brown Girls blog. The podcast has recently gone live; you can have a listen here
So, while I was doing my morning chanting on this independence day, I had a thought: What would happen if we chose to celebrate this as "interdependence day"? No, really, it isn't just a play on words. What would happen if Pakistan, Kashmir, and India decided to commemorate interdependence over the 14th and 15th of August (because let's face it, none of us can fully know peace, security, or freedom until we all do -- that's just the reality of our history and our present)? What would that celebration even look like? It seems like such a faraway possibility, and yet, it seems so necessary, so urgent.
Therefore commemorating this day by sharing an article I wrote for the "Common Threads" blog, recently started by the SGI quarterly, my favourite peace, culture, and education magazine. This was definitely among the most interesting pieces for me to write, not only because it helped me bring together many different experiences (all of them simultaneously personal, professional, and political), but also because it gave me a chance to talk about so many people very dear to me.
I look forward to the day when changing the names in the story won't feel like a necessary precaution for the individuals concerned, but for now, here are the stories: The Threads the Connect Us
So, as many of you know, in my non-poet life, I also work with young people, exploring how to use the arts as a vehicle for social-justice education. Last November, I started Tasawwur, a collective of artists and educators, working towards this end, and we're just finishing up our first program cycle. Next week, we proudly present our first every show, "Walk!" -- a collaborative production inspired by the stories, struggles, dreams and hopes of a motley group of teenagers. The show is born out of a 4 month intensive arts-for-social-change curriculum, in which 12 teenagers, cutting across barriers of caste, class, gender, religion, and nationality, came together to teach each other about the social issues that affect them most deeply as well as the changes they dream of. “Walk!" is based on the lives and stories of the cast members; while no one plays their own part, the stories are all true. Facilitated by Tasawwur, a collective of artists and educators, this show brings together song, choreography, tableaus, and stories to take the audience through the world these young people inhabit and the more inclusive world that they dream of.
Walk! is open to the public, but seating is limited, so the audience is requested to arrive early. While there is no charge for the tickets, we welcome donations to cover our costs. Proceeds raised at the event will be divided between Studio Safdar and Tasawwur.
When: 22nd and 23rd May, 7 PM Where: Studio Safdar (Near Shadipur Metro Station)
See you there?
If you'd like to know more about Tasawwur, here is a brief description, or visit our website here, or our Facebook page here. We are always looking for volunteers, donors, and participants, so do get in touch if this excites you :)
And in more poem-y news, here it is, the link to the full text of my sestina, "Befriending the Dead," which won a "Highly Recommended" place in a recent poetry competition organised by the Hongkong-based literary journal, Cha