Writing with Poets of the South Asian Diaspora
South Asian and the broader South Asian diaspora have a diverse and vibrant poetry culture, yet most writers in the US never encounter many of its brightest lights. That diaspora has longstanding historic traditions of work written in both English and in translation from other South Asian languages. This one-day class aims to spark your writing by showcasing and examining some of the best South Asian contemporary poetry, and generating new work alongside it.
July 13, 2019: Hugo House (one day class), Saturday, 1-5 PM. Sign up link available soon!
I’m teaching a one-day class at Hugo House in both the spring and the summer quarters. For spring, the class happens on May 18th from 1-5 PM. Qawwalis are an incredible form -- Sufi devotional music whose purpose is to evoke oneness with the divine. Qawwali is a syncretic art where many different languages, moods, and tones make their way in, leading to ecstatic engagement. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the Sabri Brothers, and others were acclaimed exponents.
May 18, 2019: Hugo House (one day class), Saturday, 1-5 PM. Sign up here.
In Russian fairytales, the world is literally a fantastic place where anything can happen. Venal tsars, card-playing dragons, man-eating cats, dancing geese, and all manner of fools, princesses, phoenixes, devils, and witches populate this space. Fatalism, feasting, trickery, and violence abound. As it turns out, this lively mix also makes for great inspiration for writing! In this generative class, we’ll look at classic Russian fairytales such as “Go I Know Not Where,” “Fetch I Know Not What,” “Fenist the Falcon,” “Vasilisa the Beautiful,” and others, and riff off them to create our own fiery pieces. Come ready to write!
October 6 - October 7, 2018: Hugo House (two day class), Sat and Sun, 1-4 PM. Sign up here.
Swami Achuthananda wrote that “[i]f Hinduism is the all-accepting religion, then English is the all-accepting language.” Each syncretic creature has much to offer the other. Hinduism is much more a way of being, a set of practices, an ethos, and a mythology than a religion. In this workshop, we’ll walk through some of Hinduism’s seminal concepts, such as dharma, maya, kalpa, and brahman, as well as excerpts from key texts such as the Vedas, Upanishads, and the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. We’ll discuss how those concepts might be applied to a writing practice and do deep reads of poems in which modern South Asian writers in America have created their own interpretations of the Hindu cosmology. Throughout, we’ll put these concepts into practice by writing! Beginners and experienced practitioners alike are welcome.
Ghazals in South Asia are one of the most popular forms of poetry anywhere. While there has been much analysis of the ghazal's evolution in English, how the ghazal works as popular art is less accessible to western writers. This class aims to give participants a flavor of that space -- we'll listen to versions of ghazals in Urdu, read translations, consider what makes a good ghazal work, and create our own new works. Come ready to write!
July 29, 2018: Hugo House, 1-5 PM. Watch this space for the sign-up link!
Can you feel the wave coming? Invisible to most of us, quantum advancements in technology are challenging our society’s most basic foundations. Data about us, and the algorithms that feed on those data, already empower some and disempower others, determining our status. We’ll talk about what this revolution means, and examine its language by closely reading technical writing, essays, and poetry. Most of all, we’ll write, riffing off those materials to create our own mini-tsunamis to share and discuss.
I would be happy to help you with your writing. I love to teach (see my teaching philosophy below) and have worked with students at the University of Washington, Litfuse, Hugo House, and Seattle Public Library, among others. Our work together will be directed by your goals -- my aim will be for you to achieve the strongest possible version of your own, authentic voice. I am also empathetic to the challenges writers of color and others face, and would like to coach you as you work through those challenges. Rates depend on project. Please get in touch with your proposal!
As a teacher, I aim to create a courageous, open, mutually engaging, and joyful space that connects with each student as a complete human being and helps move them towards finding and strengthening their true voice. I combine the following key elements:
I believe in creating a space in which students will feel empowered to engage with the subject matter and produce their best writing.
I aim to teach my classes in a structured but flexible way that strikes a balance between following a preset curriculum and allowing opportunities for new ideas to open up channels of learning.
Learning, for me, always goes both ways, and I continue to be humbled by how much I learn in every class I teach. I prefer engagement and discussion at as many points as possible, and build in plenty of in-class writing as well as courageous sharing. Finally, I try as much as possible to ensure students vocalize their questions or other needs, and give them responses and options based on those needs.
Writing classes should be fun! I aim to work in humor and levity, particularly to balance somber subject matter. I often work with subject matter that brings out strong emotions, which I try to recognize and create appropriate space to work through.
I believe teaching without connection is impossible. So I try to get to know and understand my students as complete human beings in the context of their writing goals, and to encourage them to know, understand, and learn from one another. Writers need other writers, and I see the project of strengthening the mutual bond between writers as being every bit as important as imparting knowledge of a particular subject matter.
In the end, I aim to impact the lives of my students by helping them find and strengthen their voices and achieve their own writing goals, whatever those may be.
claiming space -- support and voice for writers of color
I'm grateful to 4Culture for supporting the Claiming Space project. This year, the stakes have gone up for all people of color—immigrants and refugee communities, religious minorities, and others are being targeted verbally and physically. At the same time, the very right to speak freely, to create, and to criticize the government is in question. Writers of color must now operate at the difficult intersection of those challenges, and as we have seen in past times of repression, need particular support to lift their voices. Spaces specifically for writers of color have existed sporadically in Seattle, but those efforts have rarely been consistent or supported monetarily. The Claiming Space project aims to create consistent, supportive spaces where writers of color can engage with these difficult issues, discuss what it means to create in this environment, and produce this necessary work.
If you are a writer of color with ideas for how to create such supportive spaces, including salons, readings, workshops, classes, or anything else, I would love to hear from you. Get in touch here!
I'm honored to be Kundiman's Northwest regional co-chair, along with Jordan Alam and Neil Aitken. Kundiman creates an affirming and rigorous space where Asian American writers can explore, through art, the unique challenges that face the new and ever changing diaspora. We see the arts as a tool of empowerment, of education and liberation, of addressing proactively the legacy we will leave for future generations.
As Northwest regional co-chair, I aim to create a supportive environment for Asian-American writers in the Northwest and to connect emerging Asian-American writers with new opportunities. If you're an Asian-American writer in the Pacific Northwest and want to connect with us, please drop me a line!