Tag Archives: live literature

Online Now: My Reading at One World Cafe

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I’m very happy to share that a specially-commissioned recording of twelve poems from my forthcoming book, Witchcraft, is up at Her Circle‘s One World Cafe Reading Series, as a feature for the month of April. Her Circle is an international website focusing on arts and activism by women. Do check out the whole website and archives — there’s some awesome work there.

I’m absolutely thrilled that it is up, with an introduction by the poet Kimberly L. Becker that’s going to have me smile to myself for the next couple of days. You can take a listen here.

Special thanks to Misty Ericson of Her Circle, and of course, my friend the sound engineer, Anand Krishnamoorthi of Prasad Studios.

Ameen Merchant’s The Silent Raga

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Anything that combines the powerhouses that are the Madras Book Club (supposed to have a membership of 800) and the Prakriti FoundatioAmeen Merchant & Sharanya Manivannann equals, at the very least, fantastic turnout. I calculated between 150-200 people at the Taj Connemara last night, at the launch of Ameen Merchant’s The Silent Raga. Reading from the novel were Madras Players’ Yamuna and Deesh Mariwala, classical singer Subhashri Ramachandran and yours truly, as well as the author of course.

The Silent Raga was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and is published in Canada by Douglas & MacIntyre and in paperback (Rs 395) in India by HarperCollins. A couple of interviews with the author are here and here.

With Ameen at the post-launch gathering at Amethyst

“The Second Coming”: The Reincarnated Poem Open Mic

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After the success of the reading at Thalankuppam just over a week ago, we decided to hold something a little more mainstream, just to spread the word that poetry, open-mic style, has come to Chennai.

“The Second Coming” (all puns and cleverness intended) is going to be a mix of two formats. Original poetry, and poetry in translation. The idea is to not only encourage people to get a feel of performing their own writing, but to also hone poetry appreciation and performance poetry in itself, by sharing some of the best verses through the ages. Because March 21 is World Poetry Day we celebrate translation in particular, the gift it gives to the world at large. Basically, in addition to any poetry of your own, bring along a poem that was not originally in English. Think Octavio Paz, Rabindranath Tagore, Anna Akhmatova (for examples) and you’ll see what we’re trying to do.

Friday is a public holiday, and Mocha in the mornings is a lovely setting. This reading will be held on the upper floor, with special permission from the management. All are welcome.

Please click on the flyer below for details. It’s a little cluttered but they’re there. Really. ;)

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At Thalankuppam

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Some very friendly boys and their dog, on Thalankuppam beach. All photos above are by me. Larger sizes and black and white versions are on my Flickr page.

Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan and I came up with the idea of holding a poetry reading at Thalankuppam, north of the city of Chennai, while talking about coasts. Like many artists, we are both obsessed with them to some extent. When I told him about my own favourite beach, which is widely regarded as a crappy excuse for one but stirs me still, he told me about Thalankuppam. He had discovered it by accident, while riding without any particular destination in mind, leaving the city behind. By this time, we and a few others had been having a lot of discussions about the necessity and opportunity present to create a community, one which not just writes and reveres the written word, but takes joy in the spoken.

Thalankuppam made sense on several levels — gorgeous yet discreet, it has an interesting story which few know. We wanted a small event, something in the indie spirit. No sponsors, no pish-poshness. We also wanted something that had the ethos of the city in it — an ethos which we hope to shape, in our own small ways. As I have written and said elsewhere before, I feel blessed to be at this point again for the second time in my life. The right place at the right time, just as I was six or seven years ago in KL. Chennai is pulsing with something which, if harnessed, will set the city alight. Trust me on this one. I’ve seen it once and am certain I’m about to witness it again. Or the city will, in any case, with or without me.

On the afternoon of March 9th, a small group set forth from Madras University, hugging the beach northwards for under an hour until we reached the area of Thalankuppam. We entered a settlement area, and the further into it we drove the more I realised that truly, this was the kind of beach that could only be stumbled upon. When we finally parked to walk, near a delta, we were confronted by a small hill of sand. Human-made, from sediment that clogged the factory-bordered river otherwise.

Beyond this hill was the beach. And jutting from this beach was the abandoned pier. Chandroo’s camera will say things best, so please go ahead and harass him to post his photos up.

We settled on the beach to start the reading, which was pleasantly delayed by the far from camera-shy boys above. Matthew played sacrificial lamb, reading a poem which Sivakami, who had had to leave once we reached Thalankuppam, had left with him. He delivered her homage to the masculine and feminine properties of the sea beautifully. Chandroo read three poems, one of which was a translation of Subramania Bharathy. Katia, Matilda, Sarah and Jenny — the unsuspecting newspaper interns we whisked off to this deserted, untouristy part of greater Chennai — most impressively shared some of their favourite poems by others from memory. Katia read some musings from her journal. I read a few pieces, including one about a dream I had about a sea that was startlingly similar to the view mid-way on the pier. Julian did not read, but lent his quiet support.

We had held off from actually getting on the pier and walking to its end because Chandroo, whose 25th or thereabouts trip this was, had recommended we wait until closer to sundown, when the colours of our surroundings would take on different properties. He was right — it was worth it.

Walking the pier itself was probably the most incredible experience of an altogether brilliant evening. The good kind of scary, like a rollercoaster, only more dangerous, because the only safety devices we had were each others’ sweaty hands and our own intrepid footsteps. You can’t tell from the picture we used on the flyer, but that is no bridge. It’s like a horizontal ladder. Lose your step and you plummet into the water.

It was like walking on waves, the ocean surging around us. Absolutely stunning.

At the end of the pier was a wonderful little sheltered platform. I tried to imagine watching a thunderstorm from there, the terrible thrill it must be like. We were joined by two latecomers, who hadn’t carpooled and had gotten lost hence. Here, I read two more poems before we headed back, beating the dusk.

Thank you all — who were interested but could not make it, who came, who will come to future events. We had a wonderful time and will keep you posted about the next event. Suggestions, ideas — let us know. Sivakami Velliangiri left a poem responding to the event in the comments section of the announcement post; do check it out.