A new anthology of poems, featuring the work of British and Indian poets, was published at the BBC Contains Strong Language festival in as part of the British Council’s India-UK Together: Season of Culture.
In a rare international collaboration, which paired three queer British poets with three queer Indian poets, the poems examine what it means to be queer in the two countries and ask how language can better reflect queer identities and experiences. ‘Language is a Queer Thing’ by VERVE Press, the result of extensive writing workshops and collaborative work, will next be showcased at Mumbai’s Tata Live Lit festival in November.
Skinder Hundal, Global Director of at the British Council, said: “We were delighted to host talented poets from India in the UK, and witness their performances as they enthralled an international audience in Birmingham with their experiences of growing up queer.
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“We’re also looking forward to presenting this unique collaboration between the poets in India later this year.”
The poems in the anthology were composed by Amani Saeed (UK) and Megha Harish (India), Ifẹ Grillo (UK) and Anil Pradhan (India), Sanah Ahsan (UK) and Garfield D'souza (India).
Megha Harish used studies of nature, personal reflections and stories from the ocean to write about themes of discovery, coming out, and love. Describing the anthology as “ground-breaking”, the poet said there has not been a collection of this kind which exclusively features queer poets of colour and offers fresh perspectives on the lives of queer people in the two countries.
“These poets have scripted one of the finest poetic extravaganzas that celebrates queerness to the hilt,” said Garfield D’Souza, one of the other poets behind the anthology.
Sue Roberts, Director of the BBC Contains Strong Language festival, said: "The ‘Language is a Queer Thing’ project opened an important space for the voices of these poets to be heard. I am proud to have been able to provide a platform for their work to be heard.
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“The legacy from this will continue through the poetry that emerged from the project and also the strong bonds that grew between those who took part.”
This project falls under the umbrella of British Council's India-UK Together: A Season of Culture, which runs until March 2023 as a celebration of the through a vibrant programme of events across music, theatre, cinema, literature, fashion and visual arts.