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.