I'm super excited to have not one, but two poems appearing in Legacy, Issue 32 of the Indian journal, Teetsa Review. It's the first time my poetry has left these shores (if you don't count the copy of my first book, Defenestration which is at my Uncle's house in Panadura, Sri Lanka) and I'm over the moon.
When I was first writing poetry, it was to make sense of the intense emotions I was experiencing as a teen and then later, a twenty year old. My writing was very much focussed on the present moment. I still write largely about my own personal experience, however, these days I often find myself writing about the past and in particular my identity.
It marks a shift in my work from being about creativity and motherhood to unpicking the legacy of my mixed race heritage. Writing about my background was something I resisted for a long time as there is an expectation that writers of colour write about their difference. I wasn't interested in doing that - I wanted to write poetry about universal themes that tie us all together, rather than write about all the ways I can be separated and pulled apart.
And yet, Never Seen, the first poem I had accepted by a poetry journal was about race. The theme for that particular issue of Cordite was Brownface so I had to write about race if I wanted to submit. At the time there was a poem that was hovering around me, waiting to be written. It seemed to fit the theme so I wrote about race for the first time.
When that particular poem was accepted by a journal I had conflicted feelings. Huge excitement for the recognition of my ability but great discomfort about having to write about race to be published. I'm still unpicking the implications of that poem and its publication. One of the poem's legacies, however, is that I am now writing about my heritage. And those poems are being published.
I am wondering why these poems of mine are being accepted by journals. Is there an authenticity there that is lacking in my other poetry? Or is it their difference and unique voice that is appealing? It's hard for me to know the answers to these questions. And I don't know if those answers are important. Perhaps it's enough to hold those questions for a while and feel their weight.
If you are interested you can read two of my poems about my heritage in the latest issue of Teesta Review.