Saleem Peeradina, Vijay Seshadri, Meena Alexander, Rafiq Kathwari, Usha Akella, Pramilla 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

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.


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
Ravi Shankar
Saleem Peeradina

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 Kamini Parmasad (MFA, Columbia University), author of the poetry collection No Poem (2017), began professionally engaging the space of Consciousness & Culture at age six, performing songs and poetry on a national scale in Trinidad and in New Delhi, India. Parmasad’s childhood poetry was published in Equality (All India Democratic Women’s Association Journal), and she has received numerous national awards for her poetry, fiction, artwork, and performance since her early years, including, as an adult, third place in the First Words Literary Contest for South Asian Writers in Washington, D.C. for Ink and Sugar (novel), and first place in the annual Poetry International competition. Her writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including Why We Write: The Politics and Practice of Writing for Social Change and Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry. Parmasad has been giving public lectures since her teenage years to catalyze inner-outer transformation, and as a peace activist (Specialist Transcendental Meditation Teacher) with more than 20 years of meditation experience and a Director of the Women’s Initiative with the David Lynch Foundation since 2015, she has been able to make a significant difference, helping not only hundreds of persons in need but also persons in leadership positions in the five boroughs of New York City, in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and internationally.

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.

Lourdes Rodriguez-Tomlinson


Saleem Peeradina, Vijay Seshadri, Meena Alexander, Rafiq Kathwari, Usha Akella, Pramilla 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
Thursday, April 27, 2017
7:00 PM
Asian American Writers’ Workshop
112 West 27th Street, 6th Floor
New York New York 10001
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