Pavana Reddy, Los Angeles based Fijian/ Indian writer. First book, Rangoli, available worldwide now through amazon.
Photo Credits : Paula Placido
Poetry has a soul but then with your poetry, it is the poetry of images- we grow forests in our bones / so our memories can't find us. Scrolling through your feed a run in through the rain forests of mystical beasts and blossoming flowers.
I've always been a fan of imagery. I grew up on fantasy novels and poetry by Sarojini Naidu, a writer whose words drip with beauty, and her style of writing has stuck with me since. I'd like to think of my soul as the moon, both ancient and young at the same time, always growing and learning; and I do my best to express that through my words.
In between - there is a sense of longing for a country - a sense of displacement in your words. How has this feeling contributed to your writing?
This feeling of longing has many, many layers. Growing up, my parents didn't speak the same language - in fact, both of them did their best to get rid of their respective accents in order to be taken seriously as they searched for work in new countries. Growing up in a home that didn't really understand its place outside of what is familiar, but still rose to the occasion every morning, helped shape my writing immensely. When I write about the feeling of displacement, I'm not just talking about myself, but the struggles I watched my family go through my entire childhood. In most ways, I use my poetry to answer the questions I've always carried with me.
Photo Credit : Anna Sterling
' You are Shiva dancing on a dyingatheist's bed '. I am still reading to figure out this line; the aesthetics of it and how easily this poem entwines in sensuality and godliness. Tell us about the reader responses that had awed you - on them reading and realizing this vivid images.
This is one of my favorite poems, and you're the first to ask me what that line means! In the Hindu religion, Shiva is known as the god of destruction. This poem is about not believing in love anymore - in essence, it's about the falling out of love itself - a feeling most of us have felt at some point in our lives. "You are Shiva dancing on a dying atheist's bed" is a line I used to describe the destruction of that disbelief, followed by the rebirth of believing. Whether it's in the form of another person, or simply the returning home to oneself, we all deserve to believe in love again, even if it kills us.
The women in your poems have a very strong presence. How do you reckon with this in your real life. How easily do they take a shape in your poetry.
I don't even think about the presence of femininity in my words, it's been there all along. My mom is a huge influence in my life, as her mother was in hers; both of us were raised in matriarchal households - my mother lost her father when she was a baby, and my parents separated when I was 12 - so the importance of women has been a huge part of my ancestry for generations. I was raised on poetry written by women, and that's how I've always viewed poetry, as a very soft yet strong feminine way of expression.
Photo Credit: Danny Bullocks
Tell us about you about your biggest inspiration in life, your writing guru, your all time favorite poem and book? This magical poem by Sarojini Naidu is the poem that made me start writing, it's called "Village Song"
Honey, child, honey, child, whither are you going? Would you cast your jewels all to the breezes blowing? Would you leave the mother who on golden grain has fed you? Would you grieve the lover who is riding forth to wed you? Mother mine, to the wild forest I am going. Where upon the champa boughs the champa buds are blowing; To the köil-haunted river-isles where lotus lilies glisten. The voices of the fairy-folk are calling me: O listen! Honey, child, honey, child, the world is full of pleasure, Of bridal-songs and cradle-songs and sandal-scented leisure. Your bridal robes are in the loom, silver and saffron glowing, Your bridal cakes are on the hearth: O whither are you going? The bridal-songs and cradle-songs have cadences of sorrow, The laughter of the sun to-day, the wind of death to-morrow. Far sweeter sound the forest-notes where forest-streams are falling; O mother mine, I cannot stay, the fairy-folk are calling.
As for my favorite book ever, (this is a really tough question to answer, I have so many favorites), it wold have to be "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth! It's a massive book, but I read it at least once a year.
Image Credit: @mazadohta - Twitter
Delighted to hear about your new book - Rangoli. Would love to hear from you about your new book!
Yes, Rangoli! This is my first collection of poetry, and it's filled with work I have been collecting for the past 6 years. To give some background, rangoli is an Indian artform of symmetrical designs traditionally made with colorful sand. In India, the drawing of rangoli is used to celebrate special occasions like the entering of a new home - and essentially, that is what this book is - it's a welcome into a home I spent years building for myself. It's a story about loss, the kind that leaves you with no language.
The poet Jeremy Radin said it best when he wrote, "Meet me here/ I am so lonely/ I learned a second language."
Rangoli is that second language.
When I was a kid, I watched my older sister crumble under the bullying she received for not only being one of the very few brown girls in school, but also for being considered too dark within our own community. I lost her to suicide a week before my 11th birthday, and not a single day has gone by where I don't think about her. I wrote Rangoli not only to heal from the pain of her loss, but also to shed light on the struggles of being brown within the brown community, as well as outside of it.
The designs in Rangoli are all hand drawn by my mother, an expert in rangoli designs. Growing up in Tirupati, she was known in her village as being the most creative with her designs, and she'd be asked to draw them for any auspicious events, so I feel extremely fortunate to have her offer her art for my most personal story ever.
Rangoli has been brewing inside of me for a long, long time, and I am so happy to say that I am finally ready to share it with the world.