Caravan Writers of India Festival Video

I only just saw this video of our readings in Paris last September. Such a lovely memory, and so glad some of these performances are recorded for the future.

I come on around minute 52, Karthika Nair right before, Akhil Katyal right after. But really, watch the whole thing when you have an hour -- everyone was incredible.

That said, if you watch nothing else about this video, watch Jeet's beautiful performance of his poem "To Baudelaire" accompanied by piano music at 1:09. What a close to what an evening.

[vimeo 111680529 w=500 h=281]

In the News, for Different Reasons

As some of you might know, I have recently launched an arts-for-social-change program for teenagers in Delhi, under the fellowship. Happy to see the initiative being recognised -- we have only taken our first baby steps yet, but here's to hoping this grows as serendipitously and magically as the rest :) (apologies to folks with low vision or others who use screen readers. I tried, but failed, to get a copy of this text that I could upload as background text, and this photo isn't great either. I wish you could all read this, but I'm running up against the internet here :( )

Also: typo in the headline! But maybe yes, this time round, chance rather than change -- agli baari se change hoga, pakka! ;) 10648429_882584578430576_8960341097686619110_o

City of Flowers

I've been moved over the past week to see my ghazal "City of Flowers," written as the only way I could speak about the recent killings in Peshawar, find its way around Facebook, shared by some friends and many strangers. I'm never more grateful for having words than when I find them resonating with others at difficult moments.

Today, a pleasant surprise to discover that it made it into a newspaper in Pakistan. Usually, I'd do some writerly cribbing about the way the formatting was completely messed up (poets spend a lot of timethinking through stanza breaks, alignment, italics, and things like that, people!), but in this case, I'm just grateful these words found their way to some of the strangers for whom they were written.

To the many whoevers who made that happen (and the ones who got the photograph to me!), thank you. Click here for the full text from the Aman ki Asha website, or read the photograph or full text of my poem (correctly formatted!) below.

city of flowers poem

City of Flowers  For Peshawar, 16 December 2014

My temples pound with laughters that died today. Fences collapse. No this side that side today.

I made a hundred thirty two paper dolls, drew neckties, burned them one by one, then finally cried today.

A bloodied pencil. A broken ruler. The impossibility of measurement. No desks under which to hide today.

A teacher who saved two hundred lives, cries when called a hero. A heart too tight for pride today.

Mine is not the grey silence of the unmoved. The matted hair has left me tongue-tied today.

And the dead, listening to the wails of those who remain: do you, at least, have someone in whom to confide today?

To leave the city’s famed flowers blooming, or to lay them all at gravesides — who should decide today?

Your cliches do not warm them, Aditi. If you say more, you will have lied today.

Reading at Poetry with Prakriti

Happy to announce that I will be reading from my new book at the inaugural event of "Poetry with Prakriti" (associated with The Hindu's "Lit for Life" festival), along with 10 other poets, this Wednesday, 3rd December, at 7 PM in Alliance Francaise in Chennai. I'll also be doing a longer reading at Kalakshetra at 2 PM, also on the 3rd.

Do come to one or both if you're in Chennai, or direct some of your friends over if you aren't :)

Poetry with Prakriti Invitation

Book Launch: 21st November, 6-7 PM, Max Mueller Bhavan

It's here! It's happening! And I'd love to see you there! :) Yoda Press is launching my first full length collection of poetry, The Fingers Remember, next Friday, 21st November, 6:00- 7:00 PM, at the Max Mueller Bhavan in Delhi. I'd love for for you to join in the celebrations!

The book will be available online and in stores soon. More on that as it happens.

book launch invite

Launch Date for "The Fingers Remember"!

And more good news: we finally have a launch date for my first full-length collection of poetry! The Fingers Remember will be released on 21st November, at the Max Mueller Bhavan in Delhi, as part of a mega-event to commemorate 10 years of Yoda Press. The launch will be around 6/ 6:30, more details on all of it soon, but start saving that date, please! And for those of you not in Delhi/ India, worry not -- the book will be available worldwide within a few weeks of its launch, more details on all that as the time nears.

I kind of wanted to do an extract with this post, but at this moment, the only fitting extract would be the acknowledgments page because this moment is all about gratitude, so here we go! Of course, there are so many, many, many more people I'm thankful for; this is just the beginning in terms of the folks without whom this book wouldn't have been this book.

"They say it takes a village to raise a child. A book is a kind of child. This book was raised by a village that spans continents. This page cannot do justice to continents.

But I must, still, say thank you:

To Suzanne Gardinier, for challenging me to find my voice and tell my truths. To Kate Johnson for insisting that The Fingers Remember was a book. To Ken Saragosa for nudging me back towards my words when I was walking away.

To Jeremy Kamps for ensuring the writing process is never a lonely one. ToJessica Ankeny for feedback on early drafts and for speaking my kind of strange.

To Saurabh Kumar, Christopher Ornelas, Neha Shah, and Kevin Devaney for patiently listening to my stories and my silences as I worked through the upheavals this book entailed.

To the Srinivas Rayaprol Trust and to Toto Funds the Arts for their confidence in my words.

To Sangam House for the time and space to work on this manuscript. Particularly to Arshia Sattar, Rahul Soni, Jeremy Tiang, Mario Kaiser, and Karthika Nair Seeking Rumi) for the conversations and the community within which this book took shape.

To Arpita Das and Yoda Press for their warmth and enthusiasm.

The Fingers Remember_coverTo Jericha Senyak for the gift of a beautiful cover and the even more beautiful collaborative process that went into creating it.

To my students, past and present, for keeping me alive to the joy of words.

To my family, and to the incredible community of friends and teachers I am blessed with, for loving and supporting my poetry, but more importantly, for loving and supporting me regardless of my poetry.

To all the people, friends and strangers, dead and alive, who have inspired the poems in this collection. Ultimately, this is your book."

Writers of India Festival competition

Happy to share some wonderful news. I will be going to Paris to attend the Writers of India festival this September, along with four other unpublished writers from India. Some of you may know that my friend Masako, who passed away 3 1/2 hers ago and to whom my first book will be dedicated, lived and died in Paris, so it's particularly special to me that that's the first place these pomes are taking me. I promise to tell you more on the other side of this trip! Here's the official announcement from the Caravan's Facebook page

The Caravan and Writers of India festival team thanks all its readers, participants and cheerleaders for a thrilling response to the competition for emerging Indian writers held last month. We received over seven hundred entries over a period of little over two weeks from some of India's best, hitherto unpublished novelists and poets.

The sheer volume and quality of entries made evaluating the entries a challenge as well as a pleasure. Following several rounds of close reading by editorial staff at the Caravan and organisers of the Writers of India festival, Paris, we are happy to announce the results of a very close-run competition. The five finalists are:

Dharini Bhaskar Akhil Katyal Nandini Krishnan Amrita Mahale Aditi Rao

The finalists will attend the Writers of India festival in Paris, taking place between 18–21 September 2014. These writers will be matched up with five students of Columbia University’s MFA in creative writing program, to allow for exchanges between their worlds and their work, and hopefully to form personal and professional bonds which will nourish their writing, both now and in future.

(for those asking, just to clarify that by "unpublished," the competition meant those who haven't yet published their first volume of poetry or fiction -- in the age of the internet, "unpublished anywhere at all at any time" becomes a complicated definition!)