Perched on the literary bridge for hyphenated identities

Perched on the literary bridge for hyphenated identities

In recent years there has been an explosion of feminist poetry. Poets like Pramila Venkateswaran are exemplary. Poetry depicts the affairs of one’s inscape, sometimes directly, sometimes subtly. It often wants to say, but shouts too. The poets that handle themes with sensitivity and appoint the language to extract the delight of its sounds, rhythms and concertos for the images make a point that stays longer. Megha Sood‘s poetry offers us her conviction, sincerity and message rolled into her emphatic feminist passions. In this outing of our series on diaspora poets, we discover she is not shy of her cause.

She is an award-winning Indian American Poet, Editor, and Literary Activist from New Jersey, USA, and recipient of the 2021 Poet Fellowship from MVICW (Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creating Writing) and National Level Winner for the 2020 Poetry Matters Project. More about Megha Sood: Poetry Editor Literary Journals Mookychick (UK), Life and Legends (USA), and Literary Partner with ‘Life in Quarantine’, Stanford University; author of Chapbook ‘My Body is Not an Apology’ (Finishing Line Press 2021), and full length ‘My Body Lives Like a Threat’ (FlowerSongPress 2022).

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Perched on the literary bridge for hyphenated identities
The ever-shifting lines between belonging and not belonging
Q

Most titles of the poems, including ‘False Ownership’, ‘Unappreciated’, ‘Hashtag’, and ‘Games sum’, in your latest poetry collection ‘My Body Is Not An Apology’, seem to create a manifesto of feminism. Ending up with ‘My Body Lives Like a Threat’. Can you summarise your issues and what the threat you see is about?

A

The various poems in my chapbook, ‘My Body Is Not An Apology’, are a true reflection of the feminist soul that I carry. My poems are a profound exposition of gender-based discrimination given to sexual and reproductive rights violations that reference my experience emanating from gender bias with the proliferation of hate speech against women.

Through various poems, I have tried to show – not just how oppressive – but also how ridiculous it is to rule and punish by gender division. The collection of poems reflects how body politics never remains at an individual level but morphs into social monster birthing problems like human rights violation, immigration, gun violence, and racial discrimination.

The body of a woman (sexism), a body of an immigrant (hate crime/xenophobia), a body of a refugee (migration/displacement), and a body of a coloured person (systemic oppression/police brutality) are often seen as a threat. It strongly underlines that body politics for a woman remains at the intersection of these issues and affects them strongly and deeply. The final poem, ‘My Body Lives Like a Threat’, is thus a culmination of the fact that the body is so central, yet it remains invisible and still acts as a threat.

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Perched on the literary bridge for hyphenated identities
Celebrating the life and vibrancy of India in its crowds
Q

Most poets try to create a theme when they put a collection together. So that one doesn’t perceive you only as a feminist poet, what has Megha Sood addressed in her other poems? Do you have any plans for a theme for your future poetry collection? Where will it take us?

A

In addition to politics and body shaming issues, I have also strongly addressed the plethora of problems ranging from gun violence, police brutality, and broken prison system to systemic oppression of people of colour in the United States and worldwide. These issues have been highlighted through various other poems in my collection.

As a woman of colour and a first-generation immigrant in this country, I have also addressed migration, including displacement issues laced with xenophobia and bigotry that are deeply seeded in this country and often lead to hate crimes against immigrants and minorities. Through my poems ‘Are you Listening, World?’, ‘Does Hurt Have Gender?’ I have tried to chalk out the pain faced by a first-generation immigrant and a person of colour.

This emotion carries forward in my full-length collection, ‘My Body Lives Like a Threat’. I’m also working on finalising the manuscript of my forthcoming poetry collection that focuses in-depth on issues faced as an immigrant and a person of colour. It highlights the fear of future generations losing their mother tongue.

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Perched on the literary bridge for hyphenated identities
The Rapids: An innovative jazz of poetry
Q

As a poet and a literary activist, what is your view of the emerging Indo-American Poetry by the Indian diaspora poets? Where is it now? Where does it need to go?

A

I’m tremendously honoured to know the ambitious and path-breaking works of Indian diaspora poets such as Pramila Venkateswaran, Usha Akella, Dr Anita Nahal, Mona Dash, Dr Meenakshi Mohan, Lopa Banerjee, to name a few. Ranging from their poetry and their respective contributions to English literature, these poets have taken the crucial responsibility of acting as a literary bridge with their hyphenated identities. They bring immense wealth to the literature in English through their experience as a dual cultural heritage.

Foundations like Matwaala, Silent River Literary Society etc have successfully spread the brilliance of literary talent transcending boundaries. Through their different creative endeavours like immersive poetry panels, diverse poetry festivals, and foundations, they have successfully created a platform for promoting diaspora poets giving them much deserving acclaim in the literary world. In addition to influencing the world literary scenes, they have also inspired the next generation of Indian origin writers.

I am convinced that the Indian diasporic writers have the unique ability and will continue to present the Indian experience, immigration, displacement, nostalgia, alienation, mixed cultural identity, ethnicity history, myth, and the joys and challenges of living in a multicultural world through their lens of hyphenated identity.

Yogesh Patel MBE runs Skylark Publications UK as well as the non-profit Word Masala project to promote South Asian diaspora literature. Also honoured with the Freedom of the City of London, he is a recipient of many awards and has read his work at important venues like the House of Lords and the National Poetry Library. Published in numerous journals and anthologies; and with films and LPs under his belt, his collection of poems, The Rapids, is just published by ‘The London Magazine’. By profession, he is a qualified optometrist and an accountant. In this regular series for ‘iGlobal’, he profiles Global Indian poets from around the world.

*Info: Megha Sood

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