‘Indivisible’: Poetry to my Ears!

If you didn’t already know it, May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. And the best way to celebrate the increasingly warming temperatures of May, the chirping of the birds in the trees and the beauty that is Asia is a new anthology of South Asian American poetry, titled ‘Indivisible’. Published by the University of Arkansas Press, the book is making its way across the US, reaching high and currently holding the #1 spot in the category of U.S. Asian American literature, on Amazon. Momentous? I say that doesn’t even begin to describe it…

‘Indivisible’ is a collection featuring the work of 49 poets of South Asian heritage – originally from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal – and 11 of the poets participating are NYC-based. Among the names you might recognize are renowned journalist Amitava Kumar, writer Bushra Rehman, poet and essayist Vijay Seshadri and novelist Monica Ferrell. The anthology is edited by Neelanjana Banerjee, Summi Kaipa and Pireeni Sundaralingam, all three well-respected poets and writers in their own right. Of course, for all the details and full bios of the editors, go to the ‘Indivisible’ website, by clicking here.

Here at The Ajnabee, we always look at things from a personal prospective. And, personally, I know one of the poets featured in this wonderful anthology, the beautiful – inside and out – Purvi Shah, who was the inspiration for this piece. I met Shah during one of her last days at SAKHI in NYC – Sakhi is an organization created to help South Asian women who are the victims of domestic violence – a wonder onto itself, which you’ll have to read all about on the AVS blog

Shah’s debut book of poems, ‘Terrain Tracks’ (New Rivers Press, 2006) explored migration as potential and loss, won the Many Voices Project prize and was nominated for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop Members’ Choice Award in 2007. Shah, who holds an MA in American Literature from Rutgers University, is a former poetry editor of the Asian Pacific American Journal and the recipient of a Virginia Voss Poetry Award from the University of Michigan. Born in Ahmedabad, India, she lives in New York City.

About poetry and the anthology, Shah says: “Poetry resonates the heart’s yearning, the body’s place in time. In ‘Indivisible’ we indulge in the visions, voices, and dreams of our community — songs no longer at the edges of the map but canvassing the stretch of this land that we, in so many diverse ways, call and make home.”

The book has already won acclaims and accolades, and there have been group readings by some of the authors in San Francisco, Denver and Los Angeles. Former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins has said that ‘Indivisible’ “…Deserves a place among the best anthologies of poetry.” And if the below poem by Purvi Shah is any example, I suggest running not walking to your closest bookstore to purchase a copy. Not sure where your closest bookstore is? I am a bit disappointed but still, do not fret… Amazon.com is stocking ‘Indivisible’ right now.

If you are in the New York area this weekend, there will be a reading this Sunday at Unnameable Books in Brooklyn. Just think, you can make your copy extra special by having some of the contributing authors sign it. And having spent time around Amitava Kumar at this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival, I highly encourage you to attend and experience his deadpan expression and his insightful observations. You are guaranteed to be enriched by the experience. Check out the event’s info below.

SUNDAY, MAY 9, 2010, 5PM, FREE
Unnameable Books – 600 Vanderbilt Avenue – Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Indivisible Reading and Book Signing
Featured editors: Neelanjana Banerjee, Summi Kaipa, and Pireeni Sundaralingam
Featuring contributors: Mona Ali, Amitava Kumar, Bushra Rehman, and Vijay Seshadri.

Finally, I leave you with the magical words of Purvi Shah, who has shared one of her poems – featured in the ‘Indivisible’ anthology, as well as her debut book ‘Terrain Tracks’ – with The Ajnabee readers. N-joy and remember, poetry is the language of love: love for yourself, your earth, your fellow human beings and your universe! If you learn one thing this month, let it be to share and appreciate this love!

Made in India, Immigrant Song #3
(a note from a New York City streetwalker)

Some worker in the sweat
of Madras, some former weaver
from Kashmir, some hand in Ahmadabad’s dust,
has been pounding iron again.

The New York City streets swell with feet;
multihued tracks glide over the flat steel
disks which offer entry into the city’s interior
lairs. The writing seeps through our soles
though few fathom the signature, “Made
in India.” These alien

metal coins, transported
like my birth, mask
a labyrinth of tunnels
in a city where origin
and destination are confused.
Sometimes I wear the stamp
on myself; sometimes I feel
the wear of a surrounding world erase
the fine etchings. Here the imprint

of India is a traveler’s
mutation: the body’s chamber is made
hole, the skin not smooth, circular,
but cloaking a bumpy network
of channels, spirit mobile, expanding.

Cover image courtesy of The University of Arkansas Press

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