South Asian Women Read Poetry
As part of the Rasa festival, three women of South Asian heritage read their poetry at the Literati Bookstore in Downtown Ann Arbor.
Poet, editor, and educator Tarfia Faizullah was born in 1980 in Brooklyn, NY and raised in West Texas. She received an MFA in poetry from Virginia Commonwealth University and is the author of Seam (SIU 2014), which US poet laureate Natasha Trethewey calls “beautiful and necessary,” as well as register of eliminated villages, (forthcoming from Graywolf 2017).
In reviewing Seam for Slate Magazine, Jonathan Farmer observes “There is poetry here: our living language pulled into shape by hunger and intelligence.” Focused around a long sequence “Interview with a Birangona,” the book explores the ethics of interviewing as well as the history of the birangona, Bangladeshi women raped by Pakistani soldiers during the Liberation War of 1971. Tarfia received a Fulbright award to travel to Bangladesh and interview the birangona. Of her book, Tarfia has said, “I don’t believe that there is an art that can ever render something as unreasonable and as violent as human suffering. I tried to write a book that acknowledges the limitations of that rendering as much as it is helpless before those ‘images of the atrocious’ and the ways in which those images are forgotten even as they continue to haunt us.”
Seam is the recipient of the 2015 Great Lake College Association New Writers Awards, the 2015 VIDA Award in Poetry, and the 2015 Binghamton University Milton Kessler Poetry Book Award. Her other honors include a Pushcart Prize, a Fulbright Fellowship, a Ploughshares Cohen Award, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, as well as scholarships and fellowships from Kundiman, Bread Loaf, Kenyon Review, Sewanee, and Vermont Studio Center. Her poems appear in Poetry Magazine, Poetry Daily, Oxford American, Ploughshares, jubilat, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and elsewhere. Poems have also been anthologized in Best New Poets 2013 (Meridian), The Book of Scented Things (Rose O’Neill Literary House Press), Please Excuse this Poem: 100 Poems for the Next Generation (Viking/Penguin), and Hard Lines: Rough South Poetry (University of Southern Carolina Press).
Tarfia has collaborated with photographer Elizabeth Herman, emcee and producer Brooklyn Shanti, and composer Jacob Cooper, and serves as a contributing editor for the offing. She is the Nicholas Delbanco visiting professor of poetry in the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. She co-directs the organic weapon arts chapbook press and video series with Jamaal May, and lives in Detroit.
Ashwini Bhasi is from Kerala, India and lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She writes poems to make sense of the mind-body connection of trauma and chronic pain, and the duality of her experiences as a genomic data analyst and poet. Her poems have appeared in Room Magazine, Rogue Agent, Bear River Review, Yellow Chair Review, The Feminist Wire, and Driftwood Press among others. She was nominated for a Pushcart prize for a poem she wrote about the 2016 presidential election.
Ambalila Hemsell is a writer, educator, and musician from Colorado. She holds an MFA from the Helen Zell Wrtiers’ Program at the University of Michigan, where she is currently a Zell Fellow. She was a 2015/2016 Writer-in-Residence at InsideOut Literary Arts in Detroit. Her poetry can be found in Riprap and is forthcoming in The American Literary Review.