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Matwaala’s Poetry Wall Comes To Irving, TX

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Christina M. Rau

Staff Writer

Christina M. Rau is the author of the sci-fi fem poetry collection, Liberating The Astronauts (Aqueduct Press, 2017), and the chapbooks WakeBreatheMove (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and For The Girls, I (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). In her non-writing life, she teaches yoga occasionally and line dances on other occasions.

I’ve written about Matwaala before—you remember, it’s a word in the language of Hindi that means someone who is drunk. It also refers to someone carefree. In a literary world, Matwaala is also that South Asian Disaspora Poets’ Collective. This group of diverse poets has an exciting festival every year.

This year, in collaboration with ThinkIndia Foundation for Smithsonian’s Beyond Bollywood Project, the collective has created a poetry wall. This wall is part of a larger two-month program India A La Art—A Cultural Collective.

Located at the newly opened Irving Museum and Archives in Irving, Texas, the wall features 24 voices from the Matwaala collective. Matwaala founder Usha Akella is an Austin-based poet whose work is included in this exhibit alongside the poem of Sara Garg, one of her high school students. The co-director of the annual festival, Pramila Venkateswaran, also has her work included in this exhibit.

And now let’s get to know more of these intriguing poets:

Zilka Joseph teaches creative writing in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sharp Blue Search of Flame is her latest poetry collection that dives into the duality of living in both Eastern and Western cultures.

Rohan Chhetri‘s poetry collections have won several awards. His forthcoming work from Tupelo Press in 2021, Lost  Hurt  Or in Transit Beautiful, is the winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize.

Ralph Nazareth serves as managing editor at Yuganta Press and runs a poetry group in Connecticut at Curley’s Diner. Along with his own poetry collections and his collaborative work with poet Duane Esposito, he has also published a Curley’s Poetry Anthology.

Sasha Parmasad‘s poetry won first place in the annual Poetry International competition, and her most recent full collection is entitled No Poem.

Amit Majmudar was the first poet laureate of Ohio in 2015. Dothead, his most recent poetry collection, explores the adolescent life of an Indian American teenager.

Kirun Kapur is the poetry editor for The Drum: A Literary Magazine for Your Ears. Women In The Waiting Room is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press.

Prageeta Sharma is the author of Grief Sequence and the Fence Modern Poets Prize winner Infamous Landscapes.

Monica Ferrell’s debut collection Beasts for the Chase was chosen by Jane Hirshfield for the Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize. Ferrell is also the recipient of the Discovery/Nation Prize.

Kalpna Singh-Chitnis is Editor-in-Chief of Life and Legends along with being a poet and filmmaker. Her collection Bare Soul by Kalpna Singh-Chitnis has been compared to the works of Whitman.

Other poets include Sophia Pandeya, Varsha Shah, Ravi Shankar (the poet!), Indran Amirthanayagam, Phinder Dulai, Saleem Peeradina, Vivek Sharma, Kazim Ali, Subhash Kak, Dilruba Ahmed, Sweta Vikram, and Subhashini Kaligotla.

To celebrate the opening of this poetry exhibit, co-directors Pramila Venkateswaran and Usha Akella featured at a poetry reading on February 29, 2020, at 4:00 PM. Following the reading was a conversation with ThinkIndia’s Ravi Srinivasan. They discussed the importance of poetry in the modern world, their own poetry, and the Matwaala Festival’s significance for the South Asian Diaspora and for the literary world. (Matwaala events were postponed this year due to the health emergency, but the festival is scheduled to land in Stonybrook, New York, in 2021).

Poems will be on display from February 29 through April 12, 2020, which means you can check them out during National Poetry Month. If you’re interested in being intoxicated by poetry, this exhibit and these poets will do the trick.

The Irving Archives and Museum is located at 801 W Irving Blvd, Irving, TX 75061.

For more on poetry in general, check out our archives.