Tag Archives: events

NXG on Mozhiudal

Standard

There’s a nice write-up in NXG, The Hindu today about last weekend’s queer poetry reading. You can read it here.

I like how the writer begins the article by noting how the reading seemed to be a safe space – the same thought occurred to me while I was there, and in the days since I have also pondered over whether to write about it too. It was more than just the fact that I know the organizers and the Pride movement in Chennai well — the vast majority of the audience were new faces. Still, there was a good underlying energy, a welcoming one, that I rarely sense at readings here.

Perhaps I should explain my context. Somewhere early in my publishing career, I got stuck with the tag of being a writer of “erotic” poetry, a label I view with discomfort. Now, I have nothing against erotica. I love it. I have nothing against sex either. What I do have a problem with is reductionism. Erotica by its nature is intended to titillate. My work, by and large, isn’t. Anyone with a little sensitivity who looks over my body of supposedly erotic work should see neuroses, longing, loss. If they see  a horny woman poking at her keyboard with sticky fingers, that’s their own oversight. A woman can be horny, complicated, desireless, wounded, surrendering, conquering in different lights.  So can a man. If you choose only to see her in one light, then you’re missing out on a whole lot.

What this has come to mean is that I have become defensive (as you may have gathered from the paragraph above, even). In India, or at least in Chennai, I limit what I share at readings. Look, I don’t mean to come off like a snob, but we’re an awfully perverted bunch, don’t you think? So, so as to avoid various unpleasantries, I limit what I share. It frustrates me. I like to have fun at readings. I like to feel free, to play with the audience, to laugh. I like, above all, to be honest.

In this sense, Mozhiudal was one of the safest spaces I’ve read at in Chennai. To me, the very notion of a queer reading is based on the acceptance that sexuality is complex and varied, and is vital to our experience of the world – exactly the sort of basis that removes all need for apologies and excuses. Remember this: sexuality as opposed to sex alone. I opened with what I think of as my lightest piece,  and without question the most beloved among my fans, “Poem”, and moved on to more risque work, pieces like “Possession” and “Holding The Man”. Reading the last one in particular, I was struck by how its motifs of arrest and secrecy were, perhaps, rather reminiscent of the queer experience, even though the people in my poem are a heterosexual couple. And also my explicitly queer work – “Hibiscus”, “Linea Negra” – and then looping back to my other much-misconstrued crowd-pleaser, “How To Eat A Wolf”. Not once did I feel like I had gone too far, or become too vulnerable. The last poem I shared, in two voices with Aniruddhan Vasudevan, was my translation of Subramanya Bharati’s “Suttum Vizhi”. How was this a queer work, or a sexual one? Maybe because Bharati would certainly have been no homophobe; in death he certainly has lent his voice to the Pride movement. Maybe because from the tongue and pen of another woman, my transcreated lines – “woman precious as the eye, my love fills me with turbulence” – turn vaguely subversive. Or maybe because this is what it comes down to in the end — love, loss and longing. The human heart. The body and its blood.

Mozhiudal: Queer Poetry Reading

Standard

Pride month is well underway, and you can see a full list of events happening in Chennai through June here.

Among them is “Mozhiudal”, a poetry reading and open mic at Madras Terrace House on June 12, featuring Salma and myself. All are welcome – you can share either your original poetry, or poetry that you love which fits the theme. More about “Mozhiudal”  is on the flyer below (click to enlarge).

Readings in Singapore

Standard

Because I’m just a genius that way, I went and practically double-booked myself for two readings on Friday May 21, genuinely thinking (until I pulled the two confirming emails up side by side) that one was on Friday and the other on Saturday. Some apologetic phone calls later, I managed to buy myself a half hour to dash to the other end of town, or rather, country. This should be interesting!

I had a wonderful time in Darwin at the Wordstorm Festival of Australasian Writing, and am taking a few days’ transit in my favourite city – Singapore. So, for the first time since December 2007, when I was here for the Singapore Writers’ Festival, I’ve got a couple of events scheduled for May 21:

4pm (sharp!) – A reading at FOST Gallery, 65 Kim Yam Road. RSVP Clarissa Cortes at clarissa@fostgallery.com or on 6836 2661.
5.30pm – A reading and discussion with Heartlands Book Club at Bukit Batok Public Library, West Mall. RSVP Kweh Soon Huat at soon_huat_KWEH@nlb.gov.sg.

Please note that RSVPs are required for both events. I will have copies of Witchcraft and lipstick, and at least for the Library event, an even breathier voice than usual thanks to all that running between venues!

The Madras-Chennai Local (December 2009 Edition)

Standard

And now, this is what I’ve been busy with.

All of 2008, I organised readings and open mics in Chennai, and then got fed up with it and stopped. A year has passed since, and in this time I have come to understand why certain formats work here better than others, and have also been fortunate enough to meet the amazing Sajani Gm, who revived my optimism in an open-hearted, indie-minded arts subculture. At the time I met her, I had been intending to start a new performance series called The Madras Sessions (I know, I know, way too sophisticated for this town. I cut my teeth reading underage in jazz bars, okay?). She, meanwhile, had been meaning to start a new performance series called The Chennai Local. We met in the middle, and like a suburban train, The Madras-Chennai Local was born.

We envision this as an ongoing series. We are open to all forms of expressions, as long as the content is original, and welcome both local artists and national and international artists passing through. The first show will have performance poetry, music, movement theatre and visual art.

The inaugural edition is on December 22nd at 7pm at Chandra Mandapa, Spaces, 1 Elliots Beach Road, Besant Nagar; and it features the talents of: Ng Yi-Sheng, Sid & Krish, Srijith Sundaram, Shireen Thomas, Sajani Ganapathy Murugan, Sharanya Manivannan and photographers from David H. Wells’ “Light, Shadow, Twilight and Night in India” workshop.

Check out full details, with artist bios, on the Facebook event page. You can also become a fan of TMCL, and stay updated about any future events, on the fanpage. Please do spread the word.

Special Video For Doppelganger KL Christmas Gig

Standard

Jasmine Low, who has run the gig series Doppelganger KL since 2002, asked me recently if I would take part in their Christmas gig on December 13. Of course, there was only one way to do it – and thanks to technology, I did.

So here it is – shot on webcam and gloriously amateurish, but as I am wont to do, I put a big flower on my head to make it all better. :)

My Friend Sancho And Amit Varma In Chennai

Standard

I’ll be in conversation with Amit Varma about his debut novel, My Friend Sancho, on Monday evening. My Friend Sancho was longlisted for the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize. Amit Varma is a winner of the Bastiat Prize, was named one of Business Week’s 50 Most Powerful People In India, and publishes India Uncut.

Details about the event:

May 18, 6.30 to 9pm

Landmark Bookstore, Nungambakkam, Chennai

It’s My Party And I’ll Wear Copper Sulphate Blue If I Want To…

Standard

Pictorial evidence, as requested in the last post’s comments:

Chennai, March 13 2009

Chennai, March 13 2009

Pix: Dilip Muralidaran.

Also, I wanted to add that Eric Miller pulled a surprise that ended the event with a twist, (thankfully – in lieu of a q+a session) by reading a poem written during the launch. Here it is, reproduced with permission:

“Poem for Sharanya”

On the occasion of her reading from, and launch of, her collection of poems, Witchcraft, at the Park Hotel, Chennai, 13 March 2009.

Goddess priestess, witch, poet.
What is this public persona you are weaving?
Will you shake the city?
Will you melt it?
All the world disappears
and is reborn
in the words,
sounds,
dreams,
hopes,
daydreams,
fantasies,
meditations,
colors,
shapes,
smells,
the ideas
you inspire.
Yes, bring down the moon,
and let us all discover where to put it.

After The Chennai Launch

Standard

I woke up the morning after the launch with some badass blues. Readings normally leave me feeling exhilarated, but I was so sad that morning that it was over. Good readings are rare in Chennai. Very rare. That I stressed out over it, instead of just savouring it, left me regretful.

That being said, it went well. I think about 50 people came. If I didn’t say hi to a familiar face and give you a hug, I apologise. There were just so many people and so much to do and the press to speak to immediately before and after.

Speaking of press — big thanks to Niladri Bose of Hello FM, who ran a pre-recorded interview with me on his weekend shows. And to Sonali of Chennai FM, who recorded something just before the launch. Also to Ponnu Elizabeth Mathew of The New Indian Express for putting me on the cover of Monday’s Expresso. And to Shonali Muthalaly of The Hindu for this article in Metroplus. As tends to happen in print journalism, there are discrepancies — for instance I have never lived in Canada and do not consider myself a Sri Lankan refugee as to do so is to undermine the plight of people far less privileged than me (I’m assuming these two things were gleaned from an extremely literal reading of a certain poem in my book), and I’d probably said witches were persecuted, not castrated (!). I know that The Times of India ran an interview in three of its neighbourhood supplements but haven’t seen it yet. I’m also interviewed in this month’s Verve magazine, which is on the stands now.

But none of those made me quite as happy as Orange Jammies’ post here.

I’m deeply grateful to Ranvir and Devika of the Prakriti Foundation. I’ve known them for years professionally but only recently have gotten to know them on a more personal level. Both of them are inspirations to me in their own ways.

I’m also especially grateful to Salma, Vivek Narayanan, Tishani Doshi and Rumjhum Biswas, who all came to the launch. The support of other poets is so important.

And if anybody cares what I wore, I wore a ridiculous copper sulphate blue dress. :)

Prakriti Foundation and The Park Present… Witchcraft

Standard

Prakriti Foundation in association with The Park is delighted to invite you

for the launch of Witchcraft, a book of poems by Sharanya Manivannan

on Friday, March 13 2009 at 6 p.m.

Venue: Leather Bar, The Park, Anna Salai, Chennai – 600 006

Dress code: Black

Praise for the book:

“Sensuous and spiritual, delicate and dangerous and as full as the moon reflected in a knife,” Ng Yi-Sheng, winner of the 2008 Singapore Literature Prize

‘Bloody, sexy, beguiling as in a dance with veils,” from the foreword by Indran Amirthanayagam, winner of the 1994 Paterson Prize and 2006 Juegos Florales

[Update: ABOUT THE DRESS CODE
I've been getting enquiries about the dress code. Why have one? Because we're poking fun at the "Witchcraft" connotations. That's why Friday the 13th and black outfits. Please remember that it's *black* and not *black tie*, so wear a tee shirt by all means. It's fine. :) ]

Sangam House Reading On The 29th

Standard

Aren’t you lucky — one more Sangam House reading for this season, and this time with an exhibition too.

I will be reading from new work, from the collection of poems I began while at Sangam House.

Metroplus Chennai On The Sangam House Reading

Standard

The Hindu has a write-up today on Sangam House’s recent event in Chennai. It’s a good article, but I wish my name was spelt correctly. Read it here.