Thursday, 13 August 2015

Word Masala Award winners: Meena Alexander -Issue 8 2015

Director: Yogesh Patel
Suite 6, Riverside House, 196 Wandle Road, Morden, Surrey SM4 6AU, England

Vol 1/Issue8/2015

  A printed copy is available at
The Poetry Library
Level 5, Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 8XX
T: 02079210896

To download the PDF version of this issue please click this link

To download a Kindle edition please  click this link

or write to

Previous award winners can be found at
They are:
Dr Debjani Chatterjee, MBE
Dr Shanta Acharya
Usha Akella
Reginald Massey
Daljit Nagra
Saleem Peeradina
Usha Kishore


1.   Editorial
2.   A Review Group
3.   Audio Archive
4.   A poem in honour of the Poet-of-the-Month
5.   Poet-of-the-Month: Meena Alexander
6.   Books by the Poet-of-the-Month
7.   Contact Poet-of-the-Month for readings, interviews, etc.
8.   Required Reading This Period
9.   Events listing
10. Contests without fee
11. Unsolicited Submission Requests
12. Marketing your Book
13. Help this NON-PROFIT project?


A Poem in Honour of our Poet-of-the-Month

Kabir in Manhattan
(Dedicated to Meena Alexander)
Mine was a one-way ticket to home
While the rough seas cradled you back and forth
Blanketed by the canvas of nothingness
To enjoy, discover the reflection of Blues
Finally in Harlem, where Sita sinks in a manhole
Waving at you: Goodbye? Help?
Lost handkerchief of values? Tears?
You don’t answer, and disappear at the banks
Of Thousand Rivers, in the cracks of bowery
Where you cut and couple*
Your images with Phillis Wheatley
Yet again to discover the blue:
‘Your skin blue, ablaze
In a place where you have nothing left to lose.’
They won’t give you a Pulitzer
But I am glad, still, your
Kabir Sings
In a City of Burning Towers**

© Yogesh Patel

** A poem that was read quite a lot in the USA after 9/11. It is from poet's, Raw Silk (TriQuarterly Books/ Northwestern University Press, 2004)

Note: Many images in the poem above are from the Poet’s new collection, Atmospheric Embroidery.


Meena Alexander’s poems in ‘Atmospheric Embroidery’ yet again present Meena to us as a poet about whom one cannot be ignorant. The intellect can be a handicap for many academics when it comes to cutting through the dryness to touch the sensitivity in their ambiance as a poet, and rescuing it from the doldrums of any mechanics of life. These poems have no such inhibition; instead they are also loyal and honest to their ‘Atmospheric Embroidery’. The poet in her childhood made yearly journeys between Sudan and Britain. Therefore, there is a selection in the book, ‘Indian Ocean Blues’. These journeys, enveloped in an endless pallav of mother’s blue sari, remain always in the background as a serene or challenging fabric of solitude cherished as an observer with a transcendental vision. This allows her fiercely to be an Indian and an American coaxially, juxtaposed. That’s why ‘Inwood Sita’ was another poem of my choice: Sita disappearing in a manhole mid-Manhattan.The blue of the Indian Ocean also translates into Blues music.  Kabir was equally critical of Hindus and Muslims. So, in the 9/11 tragedy, with the sari balled to protect the narrator from the flying shards of shattered humanity by misguided religious blindness, Kabir appropriately surfaces with:
'Kabir the weaver sings:

O men and dogs
in times of grief
our rolling earth
grows small.'

Meena thus manages these two beings, an Indian and an American, in a kind of ‘Univocity’. This is the poet who borrows the same oneness from Boetti’s embroidery; ‘Thousand Rivers’ or the collage of the flags. It is all for the sake of reassembling her and the reader’s broken ambiences which exist as pieces or shards. She hopes, drawing on Celan, her kaleidoscopic message in a bottle in the sea, which has been with her all along, reaches to us as a poem. Obviously, as in her poem, ’
Fragment, In Praise of the Book’ the poet’s obligation is very clear: ‘Book of alphabets burnt so the truth can be told.’ God, the alphabet, the beginning, must be removed, to understand the truth.

The poem chosen here represents a poignant historical poking into our psyche pertaining to the journey we have made, and it has no end; with a continuous migratory question raised by our paraphernalia even after our demise: ‘Why have you brought us here?’ This is the life echoing the same question. Perhaps confronting the soul. Reconciliation comes at the end with this line: ‘Already in the trees finches are warbling, calling my name.’ A familiarity precipitating, and thereby sealing the journey’s end.

I have thoroughly enjoyed Alexander’s work, and I hope you all will too. So it is appropriate that we honour Meena Alexander with Word Masala's Award.


A Voice of the NRI - Diasporic Poets

Editor: Yogesh Patel
Consulting Editor: Dr Debjani Chatterjee, MBE
 Please note, where possible, we recommend poets featured for various awards

                                                Meena Alexander
Photograph: Marion Ettlinger
Bright Passage

Grandmother’s sari, freckles of gold poured into silk,
Koil’s cry, scrap of khadi grandfather spun,
I pluck all this from my suitcase – its buckles dented, zipper torn.
  Also pictures pressed into an album:
Parents by a rosebush,
Ancestors startled in sepia, eyes wide open,
Why have you brought us here?

Mist soars on the river, my door splits free of its hinges:
My children’s children, and those I will never see – Generations
   swarm in me,
Born to North American soil, dreamers in a new world.
I must pass through that rocking doorway,
Figure out words, clean minted, untranslatable –
Already in the trees finches are warbling, calling my name.

© Meena Alexander 2015
From 'Atmospheric Embroidery' (Hachette India, 2015).  © All rights reserved. Published with permission of the author.

This poem was composed for the exhibit Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation, Smithsonian, Washington DC, 2014-2015. The first stanza of the poem appears on the wall of the exhibit on the left, just as you enter, above a trunk filled with various articles that a migrant might have brought with her.

Meena Alexander
Meena Alexander's  eighth book of poetry Atmospheric Embroidery has just been published in India (New Delhi, Hachette India, 2015). Her works include the PEN Award winning book of poems Illiterate Heart,  and Birthplace with Buried Stones (published by TriQuarterly Books/ Northwestern University Press). She is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Fault Lines (one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year.  She has also published  two novels ; two books of essays on poetics and two academic studies. She is the editor of  Indian Love Poems (Knopf/ Everyman’s Library). Her poems have been widely translated and set to music, most recently by the Swedish composer Jan Sandstrom, performed in Stockholm by the Serikon Music Ensemble and the Swedish Radio Choir. Her awards include those from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, Arts Council of England and the Rockefeller Foundation for a residency at Bellagio. In  2014 she was named a National Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. She is Distinguished Professor of English, Graduate Center/ Hunter College, CUNY.
Poet's corner:

Meena Alexander writes for this ezine....
Poetry, Landscape, History

      There are questions that have haunted me. And though they are not questions that permit ready answers, they do seem worth asking. How does poetry bear witness to ordinary experience? How does the real as we call it, emerge in the poem?  What relation does poetry bear to history?
The hope is that in asking these questions we might muse in however provisional a fashion on the precarious nature of truth as it appears in the poem, the making and unmaking of landscapes, and how poetry and history are bound together even as they split apart.

     Landscape permits the present to irradiate what we feel of the past, so that elements of our lives start to clarify and take shape within the symbolic space of the poem. Making a poem in this way has to do with allowing one to exist in the present, freed but not shorn of the burden of a past -- lacking which the self could not in fact exist.
              And perhaps this is the paradox on which the poem turns, acts of attention, acts of love creating a counter-world, momentarily freed of time.
But what of our shared life?  The Italian poet Eugenio Montale speaks of `the second life of art’-- a life that goes beyond form into shared memory, even if what is shared is just with one other person. He speaks of this as the poem’s `obscure pilgrimage through the conscience and memory of man.’


It seems to me that the lyric poem is a form of extreme silence, which is protected from the world. To make a lyric poem one has to enter into a dream state. But at the same time, almost by virtue of that disconnect, it allows one an intense space to reflect on the world.

To read the rest, please visit our website at

Books by the Poet-of-the-Month

To order please click on the name below:
Atmospheric Embroidery

'In Atmospheric Embroidery, Meena Alexander’s eighth book of poems, she continues this journey as witness and cartographer, drawing from Christian, Hindu and other mythologies, revisiting the beginnings of her dislocation and assimilation into different lands. Among other things, Alexander, who has lived in India, Sudan, England and the U.S., explores Mappa, a series of embroidered maps of the world, created by Italian conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti, from which the title of the book is likely inspired.'
From Jaggery

-Shikha Malaviya


To order, please click on the name below:

Birthplace with Buried Stones
With their intense lyricism, Meena Alexander’s poems convey the fragmented experience of the traveler, for whom home is both nowhere and everywhere. The landscapes she evokes, whether reading Bashō in the Himalayas, or walking a city street, hold echoes of otherness. Place becomes a palimpsest, composed of layer upon layer of memory, dream, and desire. There are poems of love and poems of war—we see the rippling effects of violence and dislocation, of love and its aftermath.
`Acqua Alta’
Meena Alexander’s Poem “Acqua Alta” Performed by Serikon Music Ensemble and the Swedish Radio Choir
A list of Meena Alexander's work and collaborations can be found at

The WM poetry audio archive at our website

If you are a poet from the diaspora, and writing in English, please send us the audio file of your best poetry, read by you. We are building up an archive that will eventually be transferred to one of the UK's prestigious institutions. For now at

Please benefit from our review group

To be fair to all small presses struggling everywhere, bluntly,
if you can't spare time for other poets, why should they over you?
Word Masala has set up a review group. We want to build up this group. A practical position in the publishing world is that if you are not prepared to review books by other poets and authors, it will be wrong to expect others to review your books. It takes time and effort.
If everyone thinks it is a waste of time, then we will have a continued problem. If you are not pro-active in creating helpful conditions, then more and more publishers will ignore our diaspora writers. Quite frankly why shouldn't they? 
After all, they need to make profit, if for nothing else, to support their next publication.
So let us actively feed their marketing with what we can do. Please write to me to participate in this group.
I am spending as much time as I can to contact and find the magazines that will give us space for articles on our poets and writers, as well as reviews of their work. So please talk to your sources and contact me to atake it further.
And once again, may I request readers to go out of their way to encourage our diaspora poets by acquiring their books from the links provided? Even suggesting to libraries the books recently published by the poets featured in earlier issues is a help.
To libraries: Do you want a discount? LET us know.
we understand the cuts. WM is ready to work with you.
These poets are commendable and unselfish in helping this review group:
Debjani Chatterjee, Shanta Acharya, Usha Akella,  Reginald Massey, Saleem Peeradina, Usha Kishore. They are great and they are humble. Join them.
Please contact the editor to join the group and offer discounts on your books.

If you are able to encourage fellow writers in any way, then  please do so.
For example, why not contact a featured poet above for an interview,
poetry reading, or a review?
Contact Meena Alexander at
If you do something to encourage our poets featured, at your library, radio or TV station, or an organization, or a magazine, please DO NOT FORGET to let us know, so that we can tell others how you helped our poets here. Add a brief note on yourself and your project or activity too.

Required reading this period

Waterstone:The Bestseller Formula
Los Angeles Review of Books 
Should Ethnicity Limit What a Fiction Writer Can Write? by Susan Barker
Frances’ first immigration museum
Founded as the first museum of immigration and diversity in Europe, 19 Princelet Street attracts visitors from around the globe to discover stories of the centuries of newcomers who have shaped Spitalfields, London and Britain. 
‘…reflects our past and raises questions about our future’
Monica Ali


This project unequivocally supports Matwaala initiative

Congratulations to the first Matwaala Diaspora Festival
for writers and poets in the USA

This is what our past winner, Saleem Peeradina, has to say:

I have returned from an extraordinary journey -- a weekend of poetry, singing, food, laughter, and fellowship in Austin, Texas, organized and hosted by Usha Akella. If we needed further evidence that the universal language of poetry and song creates an instant rapport between people, we got ample proof. There were tears at the moment of parting. Returning  to the civilian world seems kind of drab.
Usha's hospitality was exemplary. The music and dance performances were spectacular. Matwaala got off to a dizzying start.
We already want to plan the next one! The venue will move to another location. Will see what else comes out of it. We want to put together a collection of the poetry presented by the participants. We want to set up a modest publication venture for South Asian American poets.
The books I came home with to review will keep me occupied for months. Made lots of new friends and contacts. People were unreserved in showing their enjoyment of the poetry. Two among the young ones touched my feet. I was deeply moved. I am not used to such adulation.
Well, get in touch with Saleem, Pramila, and Usha now to participate in the next Festival.
Here is another multilingual festival that WM supports
Mushaira at Ilkley Literature Festival
 Sunday 4 October 2015

Once again we are delighted to invite you to our annual Mushaira here at Ilkley Literature Festival in October which is always a very special occasion.
The Mushaira will take place from: 1pm– 4.30pm on Sunday 4 October 2015 at Ilkley Playhouse, Weston Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8DW (Ilkley is half an hour from Leeds or Bradford and can be reached by road or rail. The railway station is five minutes from the venue)
Yours Sincerely,
Rachel Feldberg
Director, Ilkley Literature Festival
Need some help with your writing?
Quickly put your ego aside and contact the Poetry Library
10 October 2015, 11:00am - 18:00pm
Get a slice of feedback from Karen McCarthy Woolf, one of Poetry Butchers, during an individual fifteen-minute session. Not for the faint-hearted, The event Butchers cut straight to the heart of your poem with their razor-sharp critical experience. Only one poem should be brought along on the day, which should be no longer than one page of A4.
The Saison Poetry Library Foyer at Royal Festival Hall
11am – 6pm
Please note, this free event requires a ticket. To book your fifteen-minute session,
please email

Contests without fee

Each week, Cultured Vultures will be holding a poetry competition which is open to all comers. The winning poem will be published every Monday and will be listed here for the annals.
There’s no entrance fee, which means that there will be no prize for the winner – at least for the time being. If successful, your poem will be seen by an attentive audience of thousands. Second and third place finishers will also be published. There aren’t many better places to have your poetic voice heard.

2. Please BE QUICK on this one
The Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets 2015
The Wordsworth Trust and the British Library, with the generous support of the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, present The Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets 2015, in association with the TLS.
The Michael Marks Publishers’ Award recognises an outstanding UK publisher of poetry in pamphlet form, based on their publishing programme between July 2014 and June 2015. The winning publisher will receive a cheque for £5,000.
The Michael Marks Illustration Award will recognise outstanding illustration of a poetry pamphlet published between July 2014 and June 2015. The winning illustrator will receive a cheque for £500.00.
The Awards will be celebrated at a special dinner in the British Library, on Tuesday 24thth November 2014, featuring the shortlisted poets and publishers and the winning illustrator.
Deadline for submissions – 4.00pm Friday 28th August 2015
Entry forms, rules and further information from
United press
Sep end 2015: My Secret Wish. Poems can be no longer than 25 lines (including blank lines) and 160 words each.
Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America will award a $10,000 book contract.
Fees: $0.
Rules for the 2016 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition
The Competition is open to any writer, regardless of nationality, aged 18 or older, who has never been the author of any Published Novel (in any genre), as defined by the guidelines below, (except that authors of self-published works only may enter, as long as the manuscript submitted is not the self-published work) and is not under contract with a publisher for publication of a novel. Employees, and members of their immediate families living in the same household, of Minotaur Books or Mystery Writers of America (or a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of either of them) are not eligible to enter. Only one manuscript entry (the “Manuscript”) is permitted per writer. Void where prohibited or restricted by law
The Prompt
Describe a moment on the job, real or imagined, when you realized you made a mistake. A terrible, terrible mistake.
Midnight PST on August 15, 2015
The Prize
$200 for the winner, to be announced on August 22, 2015. The winning entry, and perhaps some other entries, will be published here on Work Stew.

 Submissions Requests - Without Representation by an Agent


Six years after being made redundant from Granta magazine, Rosalind Porter has returned as deputy editor.  

Publishers -Unsolicited submissions
Alma Books
Please send your propsals by post.

Alma Books Ltd
Hogarth House
32-34 Paradise Road
Richmond TW9 1SE

If you would like to send us an email, please address it to "info", followed by the "@" sign, followed by "".

Submission Guidelines - Please note they do not accept submissions from outside of the UK, and will not respond if these are submitted.

Marketing your book

Create iBook fro Apple free:
So many small presses have no PayPal button. WHY? Publishers and authors, do you want to know how to create it on your webbpage? If so, please CONTACT YOGESH.
Royalty Free Photos for your books & Projects
Be EXTREMELY careful in using any web photos. What may look on the surface as royalty free, quite often has restrictions.
SO WORD MASALA will help the poets in avoiding possible legal problems.
Want a general royalty free photo for your book cover and the mug? 
No problem. will help
if arranged through us.
Contact Yogesh at Skylark & WM.

Can you help this project? WHY not?

Start with supporting us
by ordering a mug or a t-shirt with a poem:
We also have a mug available with a poem by Dr Debjani Chatterjee, MBE and another by Saleem Peeradina. If as poet you can donate a poem for this (your rights reserved), please contact us. They have to be for an occasion.

Do you want it for other poets? No problem.

Ah, so you want your own poem on it! What is stopping you? Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, or any other world languages? To order contact me direct with your PDF of a poem in the language you want.

Want a general royalty free photo for your book cover and the mug?
No problem. will help if arranged through us. Contact Yogesh.

As this project is for all us and a non-profit venture in nature, with its constant evolution, Word Masala welcomes local poets and authors to join hands in making it a meaningful stop for all our creative talents worldwide. We are especially keen to see the poetry film genre taking on a new and exciting poetical direction. Please email Yogesh if you can spare some help. Remote help or suggestions are welcome too.
Good luck,

Yogesh Patel

Thank you once again to those who wrote back, appreciating this thankless non-revenue initiative. Please add us to your contacts and address book.
Should you think this is not a worthy endeavour, then please unsubscribe by sending a polite email indicating which email address we have used. Please note Word Masala and Skylark have no monetary interests in any of the suggestions here, and do not take any liability for any action taken by you. You must research any suggestions contained herein, and assure yourself accordingly.
(c) Word Masala & Skylark Publications UK
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