The Missing Slate interviewed me at some length about my experience representing Malaysia at Southbank Centre’s Poetry Parnassus, page vs. stage poems and my fantasy dinner guest (and what the menu would be). They have also published a poem, “Poem For Clothes Left In Another Country”. The magazine is in pdf format, so you can view it here.
I talked to Isahitya (October 2012) about vulnerability, mysticism and the book I’m concentrating on now.
And to Doodleblue (August 2012) about my old column, “The Venus Flytrap”, and what I dislike about India.
And to The New Indian Express from London (July 2012) about participating in Poetry Parnassus.
In which I talk (mostly) about my Siamese twins.
Read it here.
I’m in the December 2010 issue of Chennai’s Ritz magazine, as part of a feature which also includes Kuttirevathi, K. Ramesh and Tishani Doshi.
Click the image below to check out the article (it becomes legible once you double click). I should note that the name of my novel in progress is wrong (why do many journalists get it wrong? It’s not Stars, it’s not Czars, it’s not SARS. It is Scars.) But you already knew that. :)
There’s a nice write-up in NXG, The Hindu today about last weekend’s queer poetry reading. You can read it here.
I like how the writer begins the article by noting how the reading seemed to be a safe space – the same thought occurred to me while I was there, and in the days since I have also pondered over whether to write about it too. It was more than just the fact that I know the organizers and the Pride movement in Chennai well — the vast majority of the audience were new faces. Still, there was a good underlying energy, a welcoming one, that I rarely sense at readings here.
Perhaps I should explain my context. Somewhere early in my publishing career, I got stuck with the tag of being a writer of “erotic” poetry, a label I view with discomfort. Now, I have nothing against erotica. I love it. I have nothing against sex either. What I do have a problem with is reductionism. Erotica by its nature is intended to titillate. My work, by and large, isn’t. Anyone with a little sensitivity who looks over my body of supposedly erotic work should see neuroses, longing, loss. If they see a horny woman poking at her keyboard with sticky fingers, that’s their own oversight. A woman can be horny, complicated, desireless, wounded, surrendering, conquering in different lights. So can a man. If you choose only to see her in one light, then you’re missing out on a whole lot.
What this has come to mean is that I have become defensive (as you may have gathered from the paragraph above, even). In India, or at least in Chennai, I limit what I share at readings. Look, I don’t mean to come off like a snob, but we’re an awfully perverted bunch, don’t you think? So, so as to avoid various unpleasantries, I limit what I share. It frustrates me. I like to have fun at readings. I like to feel free, to play with the audience, to laugh. I like, above all, to be honest.
In this sense, Mozhiudal was one of the safest spaces I’ve read at in Chennai. To me, the very notion of a queer reading is based on the acceptance that sexuality is complex and varied, and is vital to our experience of the world – exactly the sort of basis that removes all need for apologies and excuses. Remember this: sexuality as opposed to sex alone. I opened with what I think of as my lightest piece, and without question the most beloved among my fans, “Poem”, and moved on to more risque work, pieces like “Possession” and “Holding The Man”. Reading the last one in particular, I was struck by how its motifs of arrest and secrecy were, perhaps, rather reminiscent of the queer experience, even though the people in my poem are a heterosexual couple. And also my explicitly queer work – “Hibiscus”, “Linea Negra” – and then looping back to my other much-misconstrued crowd-pleaser, “How To Eat A Wolf”. Not once did I feel like I had gone too far, or become too vulnerable. The last poem I shared, in two voices with Aniruddhan Vasudevan, was my translation of Subramanya Bharati’s “Suttum Vizhi”. How was this a queer work, or a sexual one? Maybe because Bharati would certainly have been no homophobe; in death he certainly has lent his voice to the Pride movement. Maybe because from the tongue and pen of another woman, my transcreated lines – “woman precious as the eye, my love fills me with turbulence” – turn vaguely subversive. Or maybe because this is what it comes down to in the end — love, loss and longing. The human heart. The body and its blood.
Versions of this article ran back in March in three of Times of India‘s Chennai supplements. They weren’t available online, and I’m not very good when it comes to collecting or archiving press clippings, but I was given a copy at some point, and I’ve only just managed to scan it up. Here’s the version that ran on the front page of Times of T Nagar. To read, please click to enlarge.
In today’s Times of India Chennai edition anniversary supplement — here.
This was a surprise (and my name is misspelt!!); am told it’s a condensed version of an interview that ran a few weeks ago, which I haven’t seen yet.
I woke up the morning after the launch with some badass blues. Readings normally leave me feeling exhilarated, but I was so sad that morning that it was over. Good readings are rare in Chennai. Very rare. That I stressed out over it, instead of just savouring it, left me regretful.
That being said, it went well. I think about 50 people came. If I didn’t say hi to a familiar face and give you a hug, I apologise. There were just so many people and so much to do and the press to speak to immediately before and after.
Speaking of press — big thanks to Niladri Bose of Hello FM, who ran a pre-recorded interview with me on his weekend shows. And to Sonali of Chennai FM, who recorded something just before the launch. Also to Ponnu Elizabeth Mathew of The New Indian Express for putting me on the cover of Monday’s Expresso. And to Shonali Muthalaly of The Hindu for this article in Metroplus. As tends to happen in print journalism, there are discrepancies — for instance I have never lived in Canada and do not consider myself a Sri Lankan refugee as to do so is to undermine the plight of people far less privileged than me (I’m assuming these two things were gleaned from an extremely literal reading of a certain poem in my book), and I’d probably said witches were persecuted, not castrated (!). I know that The Times of India ran an interview in three of its neighbourhood supplements but haven’t seen it yet. I’m also interviewed in this month’s Verve magazine, which is on the stands now.
But none of those made me quite as happy as Orange Jammies’ post here.
I’m deeply grateful to Ranvir and Devika of the Prakriti Foundation. I’ve known them for years professionally but only recently have gotten to know them on a more personal level. Both of them are inspirations to me in their own ways.
I’m also especially grateful to Salma, Vivek Narayanan, Tishani Doshi and Rumjhum Biswas, who all came to the launch. The support of other poets is so important.
And if anybody cares what I wore, I wore a ridiculous copper sulphate blue dress. :)
Finally, an event I read at makes it to Minnie Menon’s society column.
Abhimanyu Singh interviewed me recently on my thoughts on Elizabeth Alexander’s inauguration poem for President Obama for The Hindu (Metroplus – Hyderabad). I thought his questions were good, and it’s always a relief to be interviewed intelligently, so I’m glad he’s posted up the original transcript here.
Read it here.
The Hindu has a write-up today on Sangam House’s recent event in Chennai. It’s a good article, but I wish my name was spelt correctly. Read it here.