Poetry Blog: Jaclyn Youhana Garver

Following is an interview conducted by Superstition Review‘s Poetry Editor, Erin Peters.

Jaclyn Youhana Garver is a freelance writer in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She writes fiction and poetry, and she has been featured in Narrow Road, Poets Reading the News, and Prometheus Dreaming (forthcoming). Her work has also been chosen by the Wick Poetry Center as a Traveling Stanza selection.  


Jaclyn’s Poem:

A COLLEGE GIRL MAKES WARDROBE DECISIONS BASED ON THE POSSIBILITY OF A RANDOM TSA SCREENING

    1964

White kid gloves / cinched waist / her perched hat the 
precise plum match to her two-piece suit / a corsage

    (seriously, a goddamned corsage)

/ a Cherries in the Snow pout / a blushing visage 
coral or rose / a fur, perhaps, in beaver or lamb.

    2004

Pajama pants, peppered in cartoons / flip flops 
with jewels that stud the thongs / pigtails 

    (seriously, goddamn pigtails)

/ a gray T-shirt that boasts, 
“Journalists do it daily.”

Don’t look at me, Terry, standing in line. I know 
you’ve a quota to meet, so many at random

searches to complete to assure you don’t permit on 
the plane any drugs, bombs or hydrogen dioxide. 

    (Water, Terry, I’m talking about water.)

It doesn’t matter, though. You’ll search me nonetheless, 
just like that agent last time and the agent who’ll be next.

And anyways, I’ll stick with PJs and pigtails, my sandwich 
board to shout I’m threatening like sidewalk chalk, an eagle 

scout, freckles, and winks, but apparently, the extra melanin 
in my skin, a gift from my father, means you must pull me

from the line, away from my friends—none of whom you
also select at random, I see, goddamn it, Terry—so you 

run the backs of your Caucasian hands along my Persian arms, 
my cartooned inseam, my Assyrian torso. Then you make me move 

my Iranian pigtails from my Middle Eastern shoulders. 
You look so bored, Terry, and I wonder if you notice: 

We’re quite the chatty portrait of our country tis of thee.

Interview With Jaclyn:

The setting of your poem is very specific and relatable for people who have travelled in American airports. What inspired you to write about the experience of a TSA screening?

This summer, I found a photo of myself at an airport in 2004, with two college friends, on the way to a Society of Professional Journalists conference in NYC. For the three or so years after 9/11, I began to be “randomly” searched on every flight I boarded. Seriously. Every flight. I thought it would help if I dressed in an unintimidating way. I remember I did this each time I flew, but it was wild to see photographic proof, especially compared to two other young adults who were dressed in, you know, normal airplane-appropriate clothing. Finding the photo, seeing how 21-year-old me felt like she had to dress, seriously pissed me off.

You’ve spent an impressive amount of time working for daily newspapers during your professional career. How do you feel this writing experience impacted you creatively? 

I can’t even imagine writing creatively without my journalism experience. Writing for a daily newspaper made me completely deadline-focused. If a journalist doesn’t finish her story on time, there could an actual hole in the newspaper. Plus, the piece needs to be done well and accurately, often in hours or less—journalists don’t have days and days to perfect a piece of writing. 

I adore the saying Done is better than perfect. Writers, especially creative writers, can get stuck in this I can’t show this to anyone because it’s not perfect hole. Then nothing ever gets finished. Writing for a daily newspaper was a wonderful way to keep from being too precious about my words. What I write matters, and it’s important to me, but once I turn in a story, it’s on to the next thing.

Writing for daily publication also gave me tough skin. I adore editor feedback and love seeing how subsequent drafts improve. Similarly, I also trust my gut. Writing is a wonderful mixture of both subjectivity and objectivity, even in poetry. My newspaper experience gave me an almost scientific approach to being creative.

What audience do you hope to reach through your poetry? Why is this audience meaningful to you?

As a reader, the best feeling is “Oh my goodness, you too? I thought I was the only one.” As a writer, then, that’s who I want to reach—anyone who has felt like me, to help them feel less alone. Strangely, the opposite is true, too: It’s such a rush to be told “I never thought of it in that way before.” 

Those audiences are meaningful to me because it means we have a shared experience. Especially in 2020, feeling a connection—to anyone, even some writer you’ve never met—is vital. 

How has the global pandemic impacted your creative process?

The pandemic hasn’t impacted my creative process so much as it’s impacted my creative output. I’ve written poetry since I was about 12 and I had a writing minor in college, so writing creatively has always been a part of my life. However, the pandemic made me itch to do more. I answered that by enrolling in a poetry class. The instructor helped me figure out what was missing from my poetry unlike any writing teacher I’ve had before. After the class, I asked where she was teaching next, and I signed up for that class, too. She helped me see where and how my work could be improved, which simultaneously showed me how to edit my own work.

This year has been hard, and there are a few things I can point to and say “That, specifically, made things a little easier.” Writing poetry is one of those things.

What is the most important piece of advice you have received as a writer?

In college, a journalism professor taught us to let the other person have the last say. When someone reaches out to a reporter to complain about something they wrote, the caller or emailer doesn’t actually care what the writer has to say about it. They just want to be heard (and maybe to be nasty). That knowledge, that someone who has something mean to say isn’t looking for a response, is incredibly freeing.

What are your upcoming projects?

I have a number of manuscripts in the works, but two are currently taking up the most of my time—a poetry book and a women’s fiction novel, which I will be pitching to agents early next year. I also write horror short stories. I love bouncing between genres and working on projects of varying lengths.

Contributor Update, Patricia Ann McNair

Join Superstition Review in congratulating past contributor Patricia Ann McNair on her forthcoming book Responsible Adults by Cornerstone Press, which will be released on December 4th. The book was selected for Cornerstone Press’ Legacy Series and takes a look at the Midwestern human experience and makes the reader wonder ” What happens when responsible adults are anything but responsible people? When they are at best, irresponsible, and at worst, dangerous?”

With startling honesty, precise observation, and a deep faith in the beauty of language, Patricia Ann McNair creates a world where the so-called adults in the room abandon, lie, cheat, steal. They’re familiar, these faults, you think as McNair traces the delicate cracks and gaping chasms of the human condition, her gaze unflinching, unnerving, watching as opposing forces collide, unleash catastrophe. Especially then. Who, she seems to ask, is left behind and why turn away? In this remarkable collection, McNair hits her writerly stride with a sureness that is nothing less than breathtaking. – Christine Rice, author of Swarm Theory

Click here to see Cornerstone Press’ announcement for the launch of Responsible Adults. Be sure to also check out Patricia’s website and Twitter, as well as her piece featured in Issue 3.

Contributor Update, Darrin Doyle

Join Superstition Review in congratulating past contributor, Darrin Doyle, on his upcoming release. Darrin will be releasing a new short story collection called “The Big Baby Crime Spree and Other Delusions.” It is part of Wolfson Press’s American Storyteller’s series and it’s scheduled to release in March 2021. Darrin Doyle teaches at Central Michigan University. The Big Baby Crime Spree and Other Delusions is his fifth book of fiction. He’s the author of the story collections Scoundrels Among Us and The Dark Will End the Dark (Tortoise Books) and the novels The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo (St. Martin’s Press) and Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet:A Love Story (LSU Press). He lives in Mount Pleasant, Michigan with three other humans and a cat.

“The stories in Darrin Doyle’s new collection are full of rich, complicated characters and unique, unusual situations. The dark humor and pathos in these highly imaginative stories reminded me of the brilliant films of David Lynch. If Lynch wrote short fiction, it would doubtless lurk in the same neighborhood as Darrin Doyle’s.” – Christine Sneed, author of The Virginity of Famous Men and Little Known Facts

Check out Darrin’s interview with Wolfson Press here, as well as what Goodreads has to say about Darrin’s upcoming book here. To see what else Darrin is up to, take a look at his Twitter. See also his fiction featured in Issue 16.

Poetry Blog: Paul Chuks

Following is an interview conducted by Superstition Review‘s Poetry Editor, Erin Peters.

Paul Chuks is an emerging Nigerian poet, writer and song writer, studying philosophy at the University of Benin, Edo state, Nigeria. He has appeared or is forthcoming in StreetCake Magazine, Kalahari Review, Neurological Magazine, Afritondo, The Remnant Archive and was recently shortlisted for The 49th Street‘s top ten poets in Nigeria. When Paul is not reading or writing songs, he’s critiquing the hiphop game or mimicking Michael Jackson.


Paul’s Poem:

To the Man Standing at the corner lifting the placard that said “All Lives Matter” as a protest against Black Lives Matter.

Your ancestors have apparelled in seem like bruteness in the past

But in this one, you are standing in a corner watching black lives evanesce like lights beholding a murky sky. 

                 You think about justice, but your soul is

                 a leaky faucet, expelling your empathy 

                 into an abysmal pit.

My ancestors’ tears are the ghosts of this poem/appearing as metaphors/telling you to drop that placard, go home & shut your mouth like Trump’s border[s]/because you are slow-dancing with the injustice of their history. 

                  You are sipping our pain into a black-

                  hole/& our cries go out like a bird’s 

                  tweet against a horrendous wind-

                  storm. 

This poem is a scar tissue/like the body of a slave/telling the world/that blacks wouldn’t clamour for their lives to matter if there was fairness/as the world wouldn’t know dryness if there were no tongues.


Interview with Paul:

What motivated you to write your poem as a direct address? What impact do you hope this form will have on your audience?

I wrote the poem as a direct address, because many have allowed themselves to elude the important message of the movement, that is: take black lives seriously as you take others. When George Floyd’s sad situation happened, & the BLM movement kicked off to an almost untamable situation, many on the internet, sewed threads that ran counter to the BLM movement, with the prevalent theme: ALL LIVES MATTER. It irked me because they have not recognized that ALL LIVES MATTER remains a superstition, if a black boy can be shot at, because he reached into his car for his hair-brush, but the officer mistook it for a gun. And the jury acquits the officer on account that he tried to clamp down a druggie. ALL LIVES MATTER is a remark of the ignorant, or the devil, who enjoys the maltreatment of black people.

What has inspired you to write about the Black Lives Matter movement?

I think my biggest inspiration to write about the BLM movement, is the fact that I’m black. I have an ambition of taking a Masters course in America. The moment I get there, I’ll wear the profile of a black boy. I also write about them, because I can feel & perceive their pain. The Injustice makes all of us bleed from sealed places. 

What audience do you hope to reach through your poetry? Why is this audience meaningful to you?

My poetry is intended to be variegated with everything possible to make a subject of, so i want the whole world to listen to me, while i play the game of painting pictures with words & inkling of my feeling(s). B: the audience is meaningful because without them, my tag as a poet is a facade. My pets can’t read, neither can the birds that perch on the trees behind my house.

How has the global pandemic impacted your creative process?

The pandemic has not affected my creative process, so far. Rather, my academic life. It has cancelled an academic year, pushing my future farther..all in this transient life. 

What is the most important piece of advice you have received as a writer?

My best advice as a writer was gotten from another awesome writer I admire: Nome Patrick. He said: Paul, read more than you write. It was an interesting discussion on the essence of reading and the miracle it does to one’s repertoire. It has worked so far.

What are your upcoming projects?

More & more poetry. In fact, a chapbook is in sight. But for now, more poetry.

Contributor Update, Muriel Nelson

Join Superstition Review in celebrating the release of past contributor, Muriel Nelson’s forthcoming chapbook! It is called Please Hold and won the Encircle Publications prize and will come out in April.  “Hold Sway,” a poem published in Superstition Review, will be in the chapbook. Please Hold is a pandemic collection, or more accurately a collection with Covid as its “underlying condition.” Stay tuned for updates concerning the chapbook from Encircle Publications.

Muriel Nelson has two collections of poems: Part Song, winner of the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Book Prize (Bear Star Press), and Most Wanted, winner of the ByLine Chapbook Award (ByLine Press). Nominated five times for the Pushcart Prize, her work has appeared in The New RepublicPloughsharesBeloit Poetry JournalThe Massachusetts ReviewNorthwest Review, and several anthologies, and on Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. She holds master’s degrees from the Warren Wilson M.F.A. Program for Writers and the University of Illinois School of Music and lives near Seattle, Washington.

Congratulations, Muriel!

Check out Muriel’s book Part Song from Bear Star Press and her poems featured in Issue 13 and 15.

Early Registration for The Desert Nights, Rising Stars Virtual Writers Conference

Early Registration Ends December 31st!

Join the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing in their annual Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writing Conference! Here is their message about the event:

“With COVID cases rising across the country, we’re moving this year’s conference from our house to yours. The Desert Nights, Rising Stars Virtual Writers Conference is February 18 – 20, 2021 on Zoom. Advance your craft, meet other writers, and produce new work with your choice of over 60 sessions in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, memoir, fantasy, romance, science fiction, screenwriting, publishing, and more. Writers of all experience levels and backgrounds are welcome. Advanced workshops and pitch sessions with agents and editors are available, too. This year’s keynotes are Linda Hogan and Beverly Jenkins. Other faculty include Mahogany L. Browne, Matt Bell, Alan Dean Foster, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, Cynthia Pelayo, Evan Winter, and Erika T. Wurth. Early registration is only $225 before December 31. Meet our faculty, view the schedule, and learn more today here.”

To learn more about the Virgina G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, click here.

Contributor Update, Dmitry Borshch

Join Superstition Review in congratulating past contributor, Dmitry Borshch, on some exciting news! Since being featured in Superstition Review Issue 12 in 2013, Dmitry has had some amazing art exhibitions in his home state of New York. Here are just a few:

Disasters of War in East Ukraine, an exhibition about the continuing war in Donbass. Check out full details of this exhibition on Actipedia.

“When I mentioned to a friend employed by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York that I am preparing a series on the war in East Ukraine, which involves traveling there, he encouraged me and even gave the number of two employees of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. One of them, a monitor with its Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, provided me with valuable security information as I traveled to Donetsk, Poltava, Kiev, Mariupol, and other places from Dnepropetrovsk, my place of birth. There in 2015 I began to research ‘Disasters’ through interviews with ‘переселенцы’, persons resettled from ATO, the zone of Ukrainian government’s ‘anti-terrorist operation'”, Borshch explains, adding “I wanted the series, whose title obviously refers to Goya’s ‘Los desastres de la Guerra’, to be first exhibited in cities afflicted by the war.”

From Disasters of War in East Ukraine art exhibit by Dmitry Borshch
Turkish past, Ottoman present and Spengler in Turkey. Check out full details of this exhibition on Actipeida.

Two weeks after Erdoğan ascended to the presidency Borshch organized an exhibition in Istanbul, “Turkey’s New Sultan”, for which, the artist explains, “[he] had to revive the Soviet practice of apartment exhibitions. No gallery in Turkey that we contacted would agree to mount it, fearful of being prosecuted on charges of “insulting Turkishness” – Article 301, Turkish Penal Code. So, as in eighty-nine when I and other nonconformists mounted exhibitions in Dnepropetrovsk apartments because galleries could only exhibit Soviet (meaning Socialist Realist) works, the curator of this exhibition found an apartment in south Istanbul where we showed fifteen drawings on the prime ministership of Erdoğan and invited sympathetic locals to visit; about seventy visited during the exhibition’s almost three weeks, many of them artists. “Turkish past, Ottoman present” is an outgrowth of “Turkey’s New Sultan”. All fifteen collages in it depict Erdoğan and members of his sultanic, neo-ottoman court, such as Binali Yıldırım, Ahmet Davutoğlu, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.”

Denial of Family Values, Gay and Anti-gay Propaganda in Russia. Check out full details of this exhibition on Actipedia.

“This exhibition was created in America but premiered in Russia a year after the passage of what many know as “gay propaganda law”, the bill unanimously approved by the State Duma (with one abstention) and signed into law by President Putin in June, 2013. We contacted five galleries and several cultural centers, not just in Moscow, but none of them agreed to mount our exhibition because of the new law and broad anti-gay, anti-trans sentiment in the country. As thirty years ago in Dnepropetrovsk when I organized apartment exhibitions because only Socialist Realist art could be officially exhibited, we rented a three-bedroom apartment on Moscow’s Budyonny Prospekt, mounted the exhibition, and invited only those who were sympathetic to or could tolerate our views on gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans rights, would not report us to the police who could impose a fine for an unsanctioned exhibition or – this has happened with some exhibitions in Russia deemed “offensive” to religious or national feelings – damage the pictures,” explains Borshch, adding, “There was another apartment exhibition in Moscow, on Tverskaya Street, followed by one more in Saint Petersburg’s Kalininsky District, both lasting a month in early 2016”. Figurative drawings like “The Making of Brothers” are displayed in our exhibition alongside excerpts from speeches on homosexuality and its “evils” by Russian public figures, which are rendered calligraphically on white, yellow, and pink sheets.

“This was the first of two apartment exhibitions mounted by the artist in 2014. Less than three months after it, reacting to the presidential campaign victory of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Borshch had the other apartment exhibition in Istanbul. As some nonconformists did in the Soviet Union, he continues to employ this tactic of apartment exhibitions in Putin’s Russia, Erdoğan’s Turkey, and elsewhere,” writes Dr. Khidekel in the introduction to “Denial of Family Values, Gay and Anti-gay Propaganda in Russia”, which she curated. It is happening on the sixth anniversary of anti-gay legislation’s passage, and during the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month in America.”

Soviet Lives of Uncle Tom. Check out full details of this exhibition on ArtRabbit.
Dmitry Borshch

“Having read one of many Soviet children’s editions of the book as a child and later becoming impressed by its global success, I have never attempted to illustrate it traditionally, in the manner of Hammatt Billings, its first illustrator, and those who followed him,” says Dmitry. “In this exhibition I illustrate the handling of the book by Russian censors, editors, preface and afterword writers, publishers. Although it was published in Russia about three years before statutory abolition of serfdom, and already then manipulated for the Russian government’s benefit, I focus in the exhibition on Soviet manipulations of the classic, performed by those who were living in Soviet bondage upon a novel about bondage in America. Excerpts from their prefaces to the book, afterwords, and translations are rendered calligraphically: Stowe’s English and translators’ Russian passages are organized into parallel columns on the same pink sheets, which helps the viewer to notice politicized manipulations of the translators and their censor-editors. All these pictures were made recently but are informed by thirty-five-year-old memories: like you [the exhibition’s curator] I still remember the late Soviet treatment of this novel, when it was employed widely for anti-capitalist, anti-American propaganda, extolment of USSR as the righteous opposite of USA, advancement of Soviet hegemonic goals,” concludes the artist.”

The Second October Revolution, about 1993 constitutional crisis in Russia. Check out full details of this exhibition on ArtRabbit.

“25 years ago, while staying with relatives in Moscow, I observed what was a genuine possibility of restoration of the Soviet Union, meaning the imposition of Soviet rule and governance on all the former republics of USSR. I heard megaphone speeches by parliamentarians at their White House, promising exactly this and lamenting the Union’s dissolution. That was on September 26; on October 4 I was able to hear from New Arbat (then Kalinin Prospekt) tanks shelling the parliament building. My show is a dramatization of that and other actions ordered by Boris Yeltsin which effectively ended attempts to restore the Union. Blackened stories of the White House I saw on October 8, a week before leaving Moscow, announced this end,” says Borshch.

Congratulations, Dmitry!

Mozartean, Guest Post by Timothy Reilly

“Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.”–W.H. Auden

For Jo-Anne

Mozart statue on Mozart Square (Mozartplatz) located at Salzburg, Austria

In late autumn of 1972, when I was twenty-two-years-old, I visited Mozarts Geburtshaus (Mozart’s Birth House), in Salzburg, Austria. I was one of only a handful of pilgrims climbing the narrow stairs to the cramped, former living quarters. Looking into a display case containing some of Mozart’s personal effects, I became transfixed by a lock of the composer’s hair. I recalled a familiar passage from Michael Kelly’s Reminiscences: “[Mozart] was a remarkably small man, very thin and pale, with a profusion of fine fair hair, of which he was rather vain.” And there it was: a lock of that same “fine fair hair”—exactly as described by one of Mozart’s personal friends. I was in a dream-like state, until a tall, uniformed man, in his late-sixties or early-seventies, tapped my shoulder and motioned for me to follow him. I didn’t think I had done anything wrong—so I followed without complaint, and was led to a small, eighteenth-century clavichord. The curator’s stern face suddenly gave way to a benevolent smile, as he pulled back a plexiglass covering from the clavichord’s keyboard: granting me permission to play. A placard identified the instrument as the one used by Mozart while composing his opera The Magic Flute. I was a tubist; not a pianist. But thanks to a former college piano proficiency class, I was able to plunk out the opening measures from Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11. My fingers were touching the very keys Mozart touched.

It’s not my intention to present the above memory as a travel-log boast—or a “Bucket List” notch (the Bucket List craze was not around in 1972; and at my current stage of life, I consider that practice an empty pursuit, and more than a little macabre). Mozart was—and remains to this day—my absolute favorite composer. My experience in Salzburg freed the composer from his plaster-of-Paris bust and helped me to see him as a fellow human being, with whom I could have shared bread and wine and enjoyable conversation. And for reasons I can’t explain, my newfound “long-distance” friendship enhanced my awe of the inscrutable genius of this “remarkably small” man’s remarkably profound music.

Around 1980, my professional music career was cut short by a non-life-threatening condition called “Embouchure Dystonia.”A few years later, I was able to lose my self-pity,and turn my creative energies to writing short stories. Good friend that he is, Mozart stuck around; and his music has continued to be a balm for my soul, and an influence on my writing. Which brings me to the Mozartean.

For most of my years writing short stories, I have considered the Mozarteana touchstone. My use of the term refers not to musicological analysis, but rather the emotional and spiritual elements Mozart’s music lends to deep expressions of the human condition. The fact is, I’ma bit rusty on my music theory. And even if I were able to outline an analysis of, say, the finale movement of the “Jupiter Symphony,” it wouldn’t explain the workings of Mozart’s imagination. Genius and the imagination cannot be deconstructed,distilled, or tacked upon a Periodic Table. The best we can do is attempt informed and thoughtful descriptions of the mystery.

In 1956 (the bi-centennial of Mozart’s birth),theologian Karl Barth wrote: “What occurs in Mozart is rather a glorious upsetting of balance, a turning in which the light rises and the shadows fall, though without disappearing . . .”That same year Frank O’Connor (a patron saint of the Mozartean short story) describes the Mozartean way of seeing things as “half way between
tragedy and comedy, [representing] a human norm.”

Cross-pollination in the arts is nothing new. Ernest Hemingway, on more than one occasion, said that he wanted to write the way Cézanne painted. In a 1958 interview for the Paris Review, Hemingway was asked to name his “literary forebears.” He responded with a long list of great writers, painters, and two composers: Bach and Mozart. He said: “I should think what one learns from composers and from the study of harmony and counterpoint would be obvious.”

The actual study of harmony and counterpoint would be a stretch for most people these days (or even in 1958). There are, of course, less severe approaches for the layperson. One approach would be to find Leonard Bernstein’s Young Person’s Concerts on YouTube. These incredible concert/lectures were broadcast on CBS (network television!), from 1958 to 1972.

A certain amount of spadework is necessary for all levels of art appreciation. We become better readers if we are able to see, hear and explain the differences between free verse and a Shakespearian sonnet. We become better listeners if we are able to hear and explain the differences between a Gregorian Chant and a Bach Cantata. Great art does not reveal its deepest treasures to a passive audience. It won’t happen by osmosis or pharmaceuticals.

But at the risk of sounding contradictory, I think it would be perfectly reasonable to begin the Mozartean quest simply by listening to some of Mozart’s compositions. I highly recommend beginning with two very short pieces: The Clarinet Concerto, and Ave Verum Corpus. Both of these pieces were written in the last year of Mozart’s short life; and both are exemplary of music in which the light rises and the shadows fall, though without disappearing.

Poetry Blog: Usha Kishore

Following is an interview conducted by Superstition Review‘s Poetry Editor, Erin Peters.

Usha Kishore is an Indian born British poet, and translator, resident on the Isle of Man, UK. Usha is currently a Research Scholar in Postcolonial Poetry at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. She has been anthologised by Macmillan, Hodder Wayland, Oxford University Press and Harper Collins among others. Her work has appeared in international journals like Asia Literary Review, Index on Censorship, Indian Literature, Pirene’s Fountain, Poetry Salzburg Review, South Asian Ensemble, South Asian Review, The Stinging Fly and The Warwick Review.

Usha’s poetry has won prizes in UK competitions, is part of international projects and features in the British Primary and Secondary syllabi and Indian Middle School and Undergraduate syllabi. Winner of an Isle of Man Arts Council Award and two Culture Vannin Awards, she is the author of three poetry collections and a book of translation from the Sanskrit. Her latest collection, ‘Immigrant’ was published in 2018 by Eyewear Publishing London.


“Drug Mule” by Usha Kishore:

She embroiders time under an alien sky:

chikankari on handkerchiefs, kutchi work

on cushion covers, kashmiri couching

on bedspreads.  Draping a pristine white sari

over her wasted life, she clicks crochet needles

in the hollowed air of betrayal.  Her seventy-five

years, spanning the length and breadth of India,

now cocooned in an English prison. 

Here, she is everybody’s Ma – mother,

the word means the same in any culture. 

She does not want to learn the sahib’s tongue;

she is content to live in the silence

of another language that mutters apologies   

for her predicament.  She has no visitors. 

she is a drug mule, carrying a toxic crime;

a contraband for an air-ticket to see

her beloved grandchild.  She shows me

smudged photographs of her great grandchildren

she has never seen, chanting their names

as if in a litany.  Her frail voice wraps me

in dialect Hindi, as she searches my face

with faded kajal eyes.  It is all His will,

she points to some sovereign of the skies,

summoned in reluctant cloud that peers

through the watery eye of the ceiling.

She does not dream of redemption, she does

not envisage freedom.  She has nowhere to go. 


Every morning, she mumbles a wounded prayer

to the miniature Ganesh, poised on a makeshift altar

in the corner of her cell.  She measures her days

with skeins of crewel threads, snipping them

at pre-destined length, with tiny sewing scissors. 

She sieves afternoon light in grams of flour,

translating it into her recipe of onion bhajis. 

Counting the stars trapped in a weathered rosary

of tulsi beads, she falls back into her reverie:

cross stitch, chain stitch, smyrna, herringbone;                              

each stitch knotting an unheaved sigh. 


Interview With Usha:

In a previous exchange, you had mentioned that this piece is particularly close to your heart. Could you speak more to that statement? 

‘Drug Mule’ is based on drug trafficking and the use of women as drug carriers.  The poem is close to my heart as I am committed to gender equality and I feel that the vulnerability of women is being exploited.  According to BBC statistics (2005), 18% of the UK’s female prison population are foreigners and are imprisoned for drug related offences. It is also a painful fact that older South Asian women are being used as drug mules. It makes you wonder if these women are criminals or victims.  

How do you incorporate social justice in your poetry?

Many of my poems are themed on social justice, especially on race and gender equality.  As a member of an ethnic minority community in the UK, I am very much aware of differences and my poems highlight the need for more integration.    My third collection, Immigrant (Eyewear Publishing, London, 2018) highlights the politics of being an immigrant professional interacting with discrimination and reflects on the binary perspectives of assimilation and marginalisation. 

My second collection, Night Sky Between the Stars (Cyberwit India, 2015) reflects my pre-occupation with Indian womanhood and articulates concerns of a marginalised gendered identity.  The poems in this collection draw heavily from Indian myth, rendering voices to female mythical characters and projects Indian womanhood in a different light.  

You have written three books of poetry as well as a book of translation from Sanskrit. How has your work in translation influenced your more personal writing projects?

My translations from the Sanskrit certainly influence my poetry in the form of thematic concerns and uniquely Sanskrit literary devices such as vyatireka (comparative excellence), dṛṣṭānta (a figurative device that can be described as ‘simile-like’ or parallel) and vakrokti (creative twist). 

How has the global pandemic affected your writing process?  

I am an English teacher in a secondary school on the Isle of Man, where thankfully, the effect of the pandemic has not been that severe.  So, the schools are open and functioning (we were only briefly shut in Spring. We re-opened in Summer).  I usually have to find time to write, amidst a busy schedule.  I am currently a PhD scholar in Postcolonial Poetry with Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland.  So, in the last two years, my writing has been put on the back burner. 

The global pandemic has brought a creative surge, especially in poetry, signifying that the human spirit rises above global challenges.  At this difficult time, a considerable number of poetry anthologies, themed issues of journals and discussions on poetry have all come to the forefront.   Poetry is a healer!  

Some editor friends have been keeping my work alive by soliciting submissions and giving me opportunities to participate in poetry webinars.  Coincidentally, a friend of mine alerted me to your call for submissions on Social Justice.  My writing has certainly picked up again.  

What is the most important piece of advice you have received as a writer?

 It’s not over yet!

It was a real struggle to get my first collection into print, despite being published internationally.  I was about to quit.   The above advice, ‘it’s not over yet,’ was given to me by the founder-member of the Isle of Man Poetry Society, the late Jeff Garland.  Soon after this conversation with Jeff, I received Arts Council and Culture Vannin grants and my first collection, On Manannan’s Isle was published on island in 2014.  I have not looked back hence.  

What are your upcoming projects?

As mentioned earlier, currently my research takes priority.   

However – Translation wise, I have completed the translation of the Sanskrit epyllion, Ṛtusaṃhāram by the legendary Kalidasa.  I am seeking a publisher for this project.  

I am also translating Jaisankar Prasad’s Hindi epic, Kamayani (1936) that falls under the Chhayavaadi school of Hindi Poetry.  Chhayavaad has been interpreted as Neo-Romanticism, I would call it Romantic mysticism.  Kamayani addresses human emotions in pathetic fallacy, personification, and mythological metaphors.  This has been a slow process as I would like to do justice to this epic, amidst time constraints.   I have found this translation extremely challenging, but highly inspiring and enlightening. 

The poetry goes on! I don’t think I am ready for another collection yet. But recently, I have started submitting to journals like Superstition Review!  Thank you very much for accepting my work for your blog on social justice.