Monday, November 24, 2008
We're delighted to hear that "Memory of Sugarcane-Worker Off Duty", Sasha Parmasad's poem from our anthology, is the winner of Poetry International's 2008 competition. The poem will be published in the next issue of the Poetry International journal.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Roll out the red carpet, yaar! It's that time of year when Third I showcases films from the South Asian diaspora. As usual, the lineup includes everything from engaging documentaries to the as-campy-as-they-come Bollywood numbers. I've got my (third) eye on the 1929 Bollywood classic, A Throw of Dice; Lakshmi and Me (a documentary of "gender, class, and the ethics of representation"); Maqbool (a recasting of Macbeth featuring Irffan Khan); and Slumdog Millionaire (the rise of an Indian slumdweller to a TV game show millionaire).
The Festival runs from Thursday, November 13, 2008 through Sunday, November 16, 2008. Venues include the Brava Theater and the Castro Theater.
For details on this year's lineup of films, check out:
Also, here's an article I wrote about Third I in 2004. Obviously, the films are different, but it gives you a sense of how the film festival has emerged.
Friday, November 7, 2008
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.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
I had to miss out on the exciting Writing the Lines Litquake event on October 11th because I was tucked away in my cabin at Hedgebrook, a writing residency for women on Whidbey Island in Washington's Puget Sound.
Founded by Nancy Nordoff in 1988 on 48 acres of land, the whole idea behind Hedgebrook is inspired by Virginia Woolf's "belief that giving a writer a room of her own is the greatest gift of confidence in her voice."
I spent my four weeks there walking in the woods, reading endlessly (Salman Rushdie, Annie Dillard, Italo Calvino, Andre Dubus, Joan Didion, Carolyn Forche, Ruth Forman, Suheir Hammad -- who was in residence at Hedgebrook in the week before mine), eating delicious homegrown meals, conversing with the other writers and rejuvenating.
I went to Hedgebrook to revise a collection of short stories that was my MFA thesis from San Francisco State University and found that the long afternoons were exactly what I needed to have the courage to really, really revise my work properly. I thought of it as dropping my work off of a cliff and then slowly walking down to the valley below and discovering what I was really trying to say. But like other writers, I found myself engaged in all kinds of creative work besides the "goal" of my residency. I scribbled poetry in my journal about the shadows the fir trees drew across the writing desk, took obsessive pictures of the green banana slugs that slimed their way across the cedar wood chip paths, I edited video footage from my last trip to Kolkata, I prepared for my Bollywood Benshi performance, and made raging fires in my little woodstove.
I read David Lynch's treatise on transcendental meditation, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, every night. In his chapter called "The Art Life," he quotes an artist he knew as a child who said: "If you want to get one good hour of painting in, you have to have four hours of uninterrupted time." Word.
But beyond the time and space, the community I found at Hedgebrook was one of my favorite parts of the month. I met bad-ass poets and memoirists and journalists and novelists and prodigies and comedians and performers and ... the list goes on and on.
Even the women I didn't meet kept me company. In each of the cabins were twenty years of journal entries by former residents. In my cabin, I was drawn to a journal entry by a woman named Bishakha Datta who wrote about coming to Hedgebrook from India. Later, I found a documentary film in the Hedgebrook library called In the Flesh by Datta, which profiles three different people who work in the sex industry in Kolkata. It was an amazing film - done with so much love and humanity. It was a truly inspiring moment in my time there.
Writing the Lines contributors Minal Hajratwala and Maya Khosla were also former residents of Hedgebrook, and I would often pick up Khosla's award-winning book Keel Bone in the farmhouse library while waiting dinner. (It was exciting to think how Writing the Lines of Our Hands will one day be in the illustrious library as well.)
All in all, it was an amazing experience. I was even attacked by a territorial barred owl one night! The deadline for application is every September. But I got some tips about other residencies and these were highly recommended: MaDowell, Sacatar, Jentel and the Headlands Center for the Arts (where Writing the Lines contributor Bushra Rehman is currently in residence).
But being back at home (and work), my goal is to find that uninterrupted four hours at least once a week, if not more. Here's to all of you doing the same!