Share your lyric voice at Matwaala, an annual South Asian Diaspora Poetry Festival. Joining us will be Matwaala’s Poet of Honor Saleem Peeradina, editor of Contemporary Indian Poetry in English (Macmillan, 1972), one of the earliest and most widely used texts in courses on South Asian literature. Explore the poetic heart with Pulitzer Prize winner Vijay Seshadri, and cross borders with Guggenheim Fellow Meena Alexander and Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award recipient Rafiq Kathwari. Foster community and sign up to read with over half a dozen featured poets such as Usha Akella, Pramila Venkateswaran, Ravi Shankar, Varsha Saraiya Shah, Sasha Parmasad, Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Yuyutsu Sharma, Vikas Menon, Rohan Chhetri, Nandini Dhar, Tim Tomlinson, and Lourdes Rodriguez Tomlinson.
RESERVE A SEAT!
$5 SUGGESTED DONATION | OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
DOORS OPEN AT 6PM
Matwaala is a South Asian Diaspora Poetry Festival first launched in Austin in 2015. This is the second edition of the festival. The mission of the festival is to promote, foster and support South Asian Diaspora Poetry.
Meet the Organizers:
Pramila Venkateswaran,Director, Matwaala 2017
Usha Akella, Director, Matwaala 2016
Pramila Venkateswaran is a poet laureate of Suffolk County, Long Island (2013-15), and author of Thirtha (Yuganta Press, 2002) Behind Dark Waters (Plain View Press, 2008), Draw Me Inmost (Stockport Flats, 2009), Trace (Finishing Line Press, 2011), Thirteen Days to Let Go (Aldrich Press, 2015), and Slow Ripening (Local Gems, 2016). An award winning poet who teaches English and Women’s Studies at Nassau Community College, New York. Author of numerous essays on poetics as well as creative non-fiction, she is also the 2011 Walt Whitman Birthplace Association Long Island Poet of the Year.
Usha Akella is the founder of The Poetry Caravan in Austin TX and Greenburg, NY. The Caravan offers readings and workshops to the disadvantaged in women's shelters, senior homes and hospitals. Usha has read at international poetry festivals and reputed organizations such as the Omega Institute, Sahitya Academy, and Rothko Chapel. A recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize and the Maryland Poetry Review's Egan Memorial Contest, her work has appeared in the Harper Collins Anthology of Poets and has both appeared and is upcoming in many US and Indian based journals.
Ravi Shankar grew up in Virginia, earning a BA from the University of Virginia and an MFA from Columbia University. His collections of poetry include Instrumentality (2004), a finalist for the 2005 Connecticut Book Awards; the collaborative chapbook Wanton Textiles (2006), with Reb Livingston; and Deepening Groove (2011), winner of the National Poetry Review Prize.Shankar has received numerous honors and awards for his work, including a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. Chairman of the Connecticut Young Writers Trust, Shankar is associate professor at Central Connecticut State College and a faculty member of the first international MFA program at City University of Hong Kong.
Saleem Peeradina is the editor of Contemporary Indian Poetry in English (Macmillan, 1972), one of the earliest and most widely used texts in courses on South Asian literature. Additional publications include First Offence (Newground, 1980), Group Portrait (OUP, 1992), Meditations on Desire (Ridgeway Press, 2003), Slow Dance (Ridgeway Press, 2010), and The Ocean in My Yard (Penguin Books 2005), a prose memoir of growing up in Bombay. A new collection of poetry, Final Cut, is forthcoming. Peeradina has completed residencies at American College in Madurai, Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina, and at The Chelsea Public Library in Michigan where Peeradina is currently the Professor Emeritus at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan.
Vijay Seshadri was born in India and came to the United States at the age of five. Poet, essayist, and critic—-he earned a BA from Oberlin College and an MFA from Columbia University. Seshadri is the author of Wild Kingdom (1996); The Long Meadow (2003), and 3 Sections (2013), which won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. The Pulitzer committee described the book as “a compelling collection of poems that examine human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless.”Seshadri has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the NEA, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has worked as an editor at the New Yorker and has taught at Bennington College and Sarah Lawrence College, where he currently directs the graduate non-fiction writing program.
Meena Alexander was born in Allahabad, India. She lives and works in New York City where she is a Distinguished Professor of English at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. She has been featured in The New Yorker, Harvard Review, and Kenyon Review to name a few. Her volumes of poetry include Illiterate Heart (winner of the PEN Open Book Award), Quickly Changing River and the forthcoming Birthplace with Buried Stones. Her honors and awards include those from the John Simon Guggenheim, Fulbright and Rockefeller foundations, the Arts Council of England, and the American Council of Learned Societies to name a few. She has received the PEN Open Book Award and the Glenna Luschei Prarie Schooner Award.
Varsha Saraiya-Shah is a first-generation Indian American poet and financial professional who lives and works in Houston, Texas. Her work has appeared in Borderlands, Texas Observer, Mutabilis Press anthologies including Five Inprint Poets, Convergence, and elsewhere. She reads her new work regularly among multi-genre writers at Archway Gallery and ekphrastic poetry at Rice Gallery, invited and inspired by new installations. She has studied with poets in various summer and fall workshops including Houston's Inprint House, New York's Sarah Lawrence College, Squaw Valley Community of Writers in California and Reed College, Oregon.
Sasha Parmasad is a graduate of Columbia University, where she obtained a MFA in Creative Writing. She is a screenwriter and transcendental meditation teacher. She has released one novel and most recently, a collection of poems titled No Poem: A Divine Rising (2015).
Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and Hawai‘i. She has worked in philosophy, anthropology, international development, nonprofits, small business start-ups, and ethnic new media. She is a contributor and essayist for NBC News Asian America. She has also written for AAPIVoices, NewAmericaMedia, ChicagoIsTheWorld, JACL’s PacificCitizen, and InCultureParent. She has published three chapbooks of prose poetry, been included in several anthologies and art exhibitions, and created a multimedia artwork with Jyoti Omi Chowdhury for Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. She teaches Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies at University of Michigan.
Rafiq Kathwari is the first non-Irish recipient of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, in the forty four-year history of the award.
He lives in Ballyoonan (Baile Uí Mhaonáin), County Louth, but has lived most of his adult like in New York. Born, as he puts it, "a Scorpio at midnight" in the disputed Kashmir Valley, Rafiq has translated from the original Urdu selected poems of Sir Mohammed Iqbal, one of the handful of great South Asian poets of the 20th century writing in Urdu. Rafiq obtained an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University and a Masters in Political and Social Science from the New School University. He divides his time between New York City, Ireland and Kashmir. In Another Country is his debut collection.
Yuyutsu Ram Dass Sharma is a widely traveled Nepali-Indian writer who has read his works at several prestigious places in the world. He moved to Nepal at an early age and now writes in English and Nepali. Half the year, he travels and reads all over the world to read from his works and conducts creative writing workshop at various universities in the United States and Europe but goes trekking in the Himalayas when back home.
Vikas K. Menon is a poet, playwright and songwriter. He was a 2015 Emerging Poets Fellow at Poets’ House and his poems have been featured in numerous publications, including Indivisible: An Anthology of South Asian American Poetry and The Harper Collins Book of English Poetry. He was co-writer of the augmented reality comic book, Priya’s Shakti, an innovative social impact multimedia project that helps illuminate attitudes towards gender-based violence (GBV). The project has gone viral with over 400 news stories and the character of Priya was designated a “Gender Equality Champion” by U.N. Women. He was also a co-writer of the shadowplay “Feathers if Fire” which premiered at BAM in February 2016 and is currently touring the country. His other plays have received readings at or been produced by Pratidhwani Theatre, Ruffled Feathers Theater Company, Ingenue Theatre and the Classical Theatre of Harlem. He is an Advisory Board Member of Kundiman, which is dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian American literature. He received his M.F.A (Poetry) from Brooklyn College and his M.A. in Literature from St. Louis University.
Rohan Chhetri is a Nepali-Indian poet. His first book of poems, Slow Startle (Winner of the “Emerging Poets Prize”) was published recently by The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective. His poems have been appeared in or are forthcoming in Fulcrum, Prelude, Rattle and EVENT, among others. He was a 2016 Norman Mailer Poetry Fellow.
Nandini Dhar was born in Kolkata, India. She earned her PhD in Comparative Literature from The University of Texas at Austin, and now teaches postcolonial literature and women’s and gender studies in Miami, Florida. Kolkata forms the default setting of many of her writings. She has published poetry in Bluestem, Tahoma Literary Review, and The Los Angeles Review, among others, and has released one chapbook, Lullabies Are Barbed Wire Nations (Two of Cups Press, 2015).
Tim Tomlinson was born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island, where he was educated by jukeboxes and juvenile delinquents. He is a co-founder of New York Writers Workshop, and co-author of its popular text, The Portable MFA in Creative Writing. He is the author of the chapbook Yolanda: An Oral History in Verse, the poetry collection Requiem for the Tree Fort I Set on Fire, and the forthcoming collection of short fiction, This Is Not Happening to You (due late summer, 2017). He is a Professor of Writing at New York University’s Global Liberal Studies Program. He quit high school in 1971 and began a life of purposeless wandering that led to purpose.
Join us for a special evening featuring three Arab American writers exploring the boundaries between personal and political: novelist/poet Hala Alyan and poets Hayan Charara and Marwa Helal. From the Six-Day War and the invasion of Iraq to explosive poetic experimentations, these writers explore what it means to have a private self, a family space, and a home in the conditions of war, displacement, and migration. They’ll speak with novelist and former AAWW Open City Fellow Tanwi Nandini Islam.
RESERVE A SEAT!
$5 SUGGESTED DONATION | OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
In Hala Alyan’s novel Salt Houses (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2017), a six-decade-spanning multigenerational Palestinian novel, Salma reads her soon-to-be-married daughter Alia’s future in a cup of coffee grounds. She sees their family’s future: being uprooted in the Six-Day War of 1967, leaving their home in Nablus, and Alia moving to Kuwait, which is soon invaded by Saddam Hussein in 1990. As Alia and her family lose their home, the novel spans Beirut, Paris, and Boston and tells a lyrical story of refugee displacement, assimilation, and migration. (Alyan has named Jhumpa Lahiri and Amy Tan as influences.) Novelist Ru Freeman writes: “Salt Houses is a piercingly elegant novel that registers Palestine with deep resonance for what it is: a once beloved home, known, lost, and re-imagined into life. A place where families decide between security and happiness, religion and heritage, where war is constant, yet peace is found. In the exquisite prose of a poet, Hala Alyan shows how we carry our origins in our hearts wherever we may roam, and how that history is calibrated by the places we choose to put down roots. This is a book with the power to both break and mend your heart.” Alyan also wrote three poetry collections: Atrium (Three Rooms Press 2012), an Arab American Book Award winner; Four Cities (Black Lawrence Press 2015), an exploration of global spaces like Gaza, Ramallah, Haifa, Beirut, Tripoli, Baghdad, Detroit, Paris, and Brooklyn; and the Crab Orchard-winning Hijra (Southern Illinois University Press August 2016)--the latter two of which we celebrated in our space. Read her poems in AAWW’s The Margins here.
Poet and journalist Marwa Helal is working on a project that incorporates writing, photographs and dreams to explore the failed US immigration system through human stories of immigrants who have struggled to gain citizenship. She is the author of I AM MADE TO LEAVE I AM MADE TO RETURN (No,Dear/Small Anchor Press, 2017) and Invasive species (Nightboat Books, 2019). Born in Al Mansurah, Egypt, she is the recipient of fellowships from Poets House, Brooklyn Poets, and Cave Canem. As Bhanu Kapil wrote, when judging Marwa the winner of Bomb’s poetry contest, “Displacement, trauma, and the desire for cultural and institutional revenge happen simultaneously in these poems. Helal has given us poems that speak, obey something beyond the page, and scream. In these visceral and deeply political poems, she is dreaming a radical modernity, marking the raw bits of love, community and loss when and as they come.” Read her poems “The Middle East is Missing” and “Poem to be Read from Right to Left.”
Hayan Charara’s tragic, loving new poetry collection Something Sinister (Carnegie Mellon 2016) explores the conflict between the personal and political, cultural and aesthetic--from domestic violence to the war in Iraq, from losing one’s parent to the rupture on language borne by the War on Terror. Praising the book’s “fearless love” and “expansively tender vision,” Fady Joudah lauded Something Sinister for the way it connected “the deeply private in American poetry” to “the immensely public at the world stage.” And as one reviewer writes of the book’s opening poem, “Being Muslim”: “The title would seem to embrace the role of speaking on behalf of a collective identity, a role that contemporary politics thrusts upon someone who is, for example, a Muslim and Arab and American in the age of the “forever wars” or the “war on terror,” terms that have served to mask the racism of the violence they name. Yet having assumed the mantle of collective identity, the poem offers the personal, the intimately known.” Born in Detroit to Arab immigrants, Hayan is the author of The Sadness of Others (Carnegie Mellon 2006), and The Alchemist’s Diary (Hanging Loose 2001). His New Voices Award-winning children’s book The Three Lucys (Lee & Low 2016) explores his family’s experience of war in Lebanon. An NEA Fellow, he edited Inclined to Speak (University of Arkansas Press 2008), an anthology of contemporary Arab American poetry.
Tanwi Nandini Islam is the author of Bright Lines (Penguin 2015), the story of the Bangladeshi Saleem family and their return to Bangladesh, where they must confront the demons of their past alongside the ones of the present. The book was a finalist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. She is the founder of Hi Wildflower Botanica and served as an Open City Fellow for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, where she wrote about a South Asian women’s coop and interviewed novelist Nayomi Munaweera.
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Come hear two crucial novelists who’re narrating the colonial and postcolonial nation. Stay to chomp on free Burmese food. We’re celebrating the new novel by author-actress Charmaine Craig: the semi-autobiographical epic, Miss Burma. Pulitzer Finalist Laila Lalami calls the book “a sweeping novel of Burma and its complicated history, told from the perspective of people whose voices have been systematically erased from the official record.” Charmaine will talk with Maaza Mengiste, whose novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze tells the last days of Ethiopian ruler Haile Selassie and the 1970s Ethiopian Civil War. If you loved Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Chaitali Sen’s The Pathless Sky, don’t miss this thrilling discussion of late colonial violence, mass revolt, postcolonial malaise, and the personal stories that comprise history from below.
RESERVE A SEAT!
$5 SUGGESTED DONATION | OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Charmaine Craig’s Miss Burma (Grove Atlantic 2017) tells the story of Myanmar from British colonial rule to the assassination of Aung San and the student protests of 1962. The focal point are two characters loosely based on Craig’s grandparents: Benny and Khin, a member of the persecuted Karen minority, who both go into hiding during the Japanese occupation during World War II―a journey that will have historical ramifications. The novel follows Aung San’s ascension and assassination and the country’s subsequent civil war, a brutal conflict through which the state viciously targeted the Karen minority. Miss Burma also follows Benny and Khin’s eldest child, Louisa, who becomes the country’s first beauty queen but must reckon with her family’s past, the West’s ongoing covert dealings in her country, and her own loyalty to the Karen cause. A rich, subtextually layered novel that’s stylistically reminiscent of Sara Suleri’s Meatless Days and John Berger’s G, Miss Burma is―in the words of Aminatta Forna―a book that explores “how we are all actors in our histories and the histories of our nations.” A professor at UC Riverside, Charmaine Craig wrote the novel The Good Men (Riverhead), a national bestseller translated into six languages. She previously worked as an actor in film and television.
Addis Ababa-born Maaza Mengiste’s debut novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze (Norton 2011) narrates the Ethiopian civil war through dual characters: Emperor Haile Selassie, depicted in his last days before revolution, and Hailu, a respected doctor who must protect his family from violence and is also asked by the regime to treat a tortured political prisoner. Named one of the 10 best contemporary African books by The Guardian, the novel led the New York Times to state that “Mengiste joins a group of other young Africans writing in English [like Chris Abani and Chimamanda Adichie] whose subject is the continent’s postcolonial civil wars. They are unafraid of depicting the vicious violence Frantz Fanon’s ‘wretched of the earth’ are capable of and showing how Fanon’s colonially oppressed grew into master oppressors themselves.” A contributor to the New Yorker and Granta and named a new literary idol by New York magazine, Mengiste served as a writer for the social-activist documentary film GIRL RISING, which features the voices of actors such as Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, and Cate Blanchett.
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Photo Credit: Roy Zipstein..