Friday, November 7, 2008
Featured Poet: MAYA KHOSLA
Right: At work, looking for salamanders.
Maya Khosla was raised in India, England, Algeria, Burma, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. Those cultures as well as her background in biology strongly shaped her writing. Her first full-length poetry manuscript Keel Bone won the 2004 Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize. While working for the National Park Service, she completed Web of Water, a creative nonfiction manuscript which was accepted for publication by the Golden Gate National Park Association Press in 1997. Poetry remains her favorite genre. She has been published in Americas Review, Poetry Flash and Seneca Review and was an artist-in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts in 1998.
Q: Name one collection of poetry that you wish you had written and why?
A: If it’s already been done, I’d rather be working on something different. I’m certainly influenced by what I’ve recently read and re-read (S. Bagchee, J. Harjo, T. Doshi, P. Levine, P. Rogers, R. Stone, J. Thayil). I’m just hoping my voice sounds more mine than anyone else’s.
Q: Describe the place/physical location where you write most regularly
A: My studio isn’t much of a red oak desk in a small room with bamboo
blinds, but it seems to be exactly what I need—now. Luckily, a walnut
tree and a loose assemblage of birds are associated with this setting,
which I’ve been working in for the last couple of years. There’s a
highly territorial Anna’s hummingbird, the regular, and a scattering of
visitors including white-crowned sparrows, mockingbirds, northern
flickers and a rare Cooper’s hawk. That’s the south-facing backdrop to
my rolltop desk.
Most writers say that it’s consistency that brings at least some amount of magic to the writing practice—consistent times, even consistent hours
of the day. I’m throwing geography in with that mix. It’s good to know that my studio’s location is so predictable that I can walk to it half
asleep, should the need arise. Or maybe what works is consistency in the degree of disorder. I have been reasonably productive within my own
mess. This may also have something to do with knowing my environs, the fact that thesaurus and dictionary are within reach, that a lot of the nonfiction, poetry and maps I need is on the floor or three steps to my right and that the fiction is downstairs.
I could also take the easy way out and blame my parents for a lot of these habits. My father begins writing at approximately the same timeeach morning and for the same number of hours each day, surrounded by the stacks and volumes that look so much like his favorite habitat that
when he’s outside it, he seems a little lost. Add messy clay and stained glaze notebooks to the picture and about the same was true of my mother,when she was alive. Good, I’m not the only one.
Q: What South Asian themes are you interested in exploring in your work?
A: Following naturalists around the Western Ghats and around the Indian Himalaya. Writing down everything they say. I’m including scientific experts, villagers, photographers—anyone who might be inclined to spend an evening with a just-emerged purple frog, a flame-backed woodpecker or a forest leopard—at a safe distance.