RR: New York Writers Workshop

April 04, 2019
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

For Thursday, April 4, we have Matwaala: South Asian Diaspora Poets’ Collective, featuring Usha Akella, Pramila Venkateswaran, Ravi Shankar, Yuyutsu Sharma, and others. The name Matwaala evokes bonding and bonhomie, fun and funk, creative adventure and freedom, artistic assertiveness and non-conformity. A Hindi/Urdu word, it was the name of a radical literary magazine edited by the poet Nirala from Kolkata a century ago. Matwaala is used for someone who is drunk, but the word is used more often in a transferred sense, for someone who is a free spirit. Concerned about the visibility of South Asian poets in the American poetry scene, university reading series, and representation in anthologies and syllabi, we were inspired to initiate a collective. Though the core mission may be perceived as idealistic or even somber, Matwaala, materialized in a weirdly magical way in Austin. The idea of a poetry festival emerged after an editorial project we co-edited for www.museindia.com.  The issue focused on a project involving Diaspora artists and poets that generated the idea for sustained collaboration and initiatives. A festival was its magnification, and appeared, erected on a shoestring budget propelled by enthusiasm and faith in 2015. The first festival/collective drew to its fold a group of poets, Saleem Peeradina, Pramila Venkateswaran, Ravi Shankar, Sasha Parmasad and Varsha Saraiya Shah. Joie de vivre, friendship and a sense of community have become the hallmark of the festival that seeks to establish a paradigm based not on hierarchies but on solidarity, offering readings by established and emerging poets, youth forums, papers and panel discussions. In 2019 Matwaala launched its website, branding, and e-anthology, hosted readings in NYU, Hunter College and NCC. It received sponsorship from Poets & Writers and hosted South Asian diaspora poets from the UK.

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