For the last few years, I've celebrated my Earth birth day as a time for ritual and Earth reconnection in community. ⠀
In 2013, I hosted a grief ritual in the Golden Gate Park: "to the indigenous mind, celebrating and grieving are not so separate; death and (re)birth follow each other; we can celebrate because we have mourned; we shed tears and what has ended/is ending, and into that lightness other beginnings can move in."⠀
In 2014, I hosted a "tipsy" divination party - "just as the playful and the sacred are constantly tipping into each other." ⠀
In 2015, I organized a cleanup of the Golden Gate Park. ⠀
In 2017, I invited people to join me in making an Earth mandala in the Golden Gate Park. ⠀
In 2018, I hosted Jasmine Fuego's Emergence House Concert - a stunning evening of music and ritual!⠀
In 2019, I was in India, on the land of my blood ancestors. ⠀
This year is different. We are moving through times of consequence. I am noticing, in my various communities, how the smallest incident becomes an instigation, a conflagration, burning up what needs to be cleansed. ⠀
On my solar return tomorrow - and the rest of this week - would you join me in making offerings to the Earth? Offerings: as a way to pray, to harmonize ourselves with Earth energies, to acknowledge and return ourselves into relationship with the nonhuman and more-than-human worlds, to feed the portals of our belonging and empowerment. ⠀
Ideas for offerings: milk, water, spirits or other ritual fluids, flowers, herbs, seeds, stones, shells, feathers, other offerings or materials gleaned with love from nature that can be returned to nature. Perhaps your offerings will take the form of a mandala, rangoli, alpana, kolam. ⠀
If you would like to share photos of your offerings, I'll be posting a link to a Wordpress site I'm still building, where we can record and archive our collective prayers. Here is to regenerating our relationships with the Earth and the nonhuman realms with our love. ⠀
Poetry does nothing. Poetry does everything.
I am very proud and honored to be in the Monsoon issue of Almost Island, which feels both of the times and timeless.
With Anne Waldman, Adil Jussawala, Jennifer Robertson, and Medha Singh in the poetry section, and prose selections from Mantra Mukim, Ashis Nandy, Allan Sealy, and David Albahari.
Thank you to Souradeep Roy and the editors of Almost Island for this sparkling issue.
Here is the beginning poem from Evie Shockley's semiautomatic, a collection that uses formally innovative strategies and tradition (including the blues) with glee and ferocity to lift up black experience and give testimony to the violence against black lives and black bodies.
In her book of criticism Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry, Shockley writes, "I propose that we think of not a black aesthetic' or the Black Aesthetic, but of "black aesthetics," plural: a multifarious, contingent, nondelimited complex of strategies that African American writers may use to negotiate gaps or conflicts between their artistic goals and the operation of race in the production, dissemination, and reception of their writing."
I am so glad to have a Process Profile on the Lantern Review Blog for the poem "Nani's Letter." I admire LR so - its vision, its aesthetic, its editors, and the tremendous work they do in extending the zones for APA poetry. I am glad to have known LR for the ten years it has been around!
The poem, which was part of my dissertation, had appeared earlier this year in Kajal Magazine. In writing it, the inquiry I was holding was about how to write at/from the borderlands about the motherline and grandmothers, de/colonization, and stories that came through or did not during the Partition of India. Read the Process Profile here.
You can now watch Elizabeth Robinson, Mia Ayumi Malhotra, Randy Prunty, Susanne Dyckman, and me read. We recorded this video as part of the New Orleans (Virtual) Poetry Festival, in lieu of the poetry reading that would have been part of the New Orleans Poetry Festival.
In but a moment's time, our lives have become hyperlocalized. Sheltering in place, we become intensely aware of where we are, and with whom. Bringing together poets in the neighborhood is one way to reimagine place, belonging, and how we make these. The map of poetry often allows us to lose restrictions of time and space. In another way, place seeps through all that we do—all that we are.
Here, then. Presenting the Shelter in Sunset Reading Series, edition one, all the way from the Sunset District in Yelamu (San Francisco).
Russell Reza-Khaliq Gonzaga
Organized and hosted by Monica Mody
Date And Time:
Sat, May 16, 2020, 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM PDT
You will be sent the details of the video conference 90 minutes before the reading.
(This event will not be recorded.)
My poems, essays and translations have appeared in a number of lit-journals, anthologies, small press volumes and chapbooks. From 2009 through 2012, I was a twice yearly contributor to, the Los Angeles poetry magazine, Rattle‘s, since discontinued, e-issues with a series of essays on translating poetry under the byline The Impertinent Duet.
Monica Mody is the author of Kala Pani (1913 Press) and two cross-genre chapbooks. Her poetry also appears in Poetry International, Boston Review, Indian Quarterly, Eleven Eleven, and Immanence Journal, among other places. She holds a PhD in East West Psychology and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her awards include the Kore Award for Best Dissertation in Women and Mythology for her multi-genre dissertation, the Nicholas Sparks Postgraduate Writer-in-Residence Prize from the University of Notre Dame, Naropa's Zora Neale Hurston Award, and the Toto Funds the Arts Award for Creative Writing. Monica was born in Ranchi, India and lives by the ocean without a cat. More at drmonicamody.com.
Pireeni Sundaralingam’s poems have appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review and Ploughshares, and been translated into five languages. She has held national fellowships in poetry, including the PEN USA Rosenthal Fellowship, and co-edited “Indivisible” the first anthology of South Asian American poetry, winner of the Northern California Book Award and the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award.
RUSSELL REZA-KHALIQ GONZAGA
Russell Reza-Khaliq Gonzaga has hosted and organized events and workshops including the Sierra Poetry Festival, the Center Camp Spoken Word Stage at Burning Man, and the weekly ELYSEUM Writers Workshops at Harbin Hot Springs. Russell is Poet Laureate Emeritus of Lake County and has represented San Francisco for 3 years at the National Poetry Slam and served as Reno's first Poetry Slam Master to bring a team to Nationals. As an Arts Educator he has worked with several organizations including YouthSpeaks and WritersCorps. He is also recipient of the Certificate of Honor from San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors and a declaration of Russell Gonzaga Day. Russell has recently returned to San Francisco after a firestorm destroyed his home, business, and property at Harbin Hot Springs. He is the current Poetry Editor for The Fabulist literary website and has been working at the Sunset Andronico's market during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Sarah Heady is a poet and essayist interested in place, history, and the built environment. She is the author of Corduroy Road (dancing girl press, forthcoming 2020), Niagara Transnational (Fourteen Hills), winner of the 2013 Michael Rubin Book Award, and Tatted Insertion, a limited edition letterpress chapbook with artist Leah Virsik. Sarah is a co-editor of Drop Leaf Press, a small women-run poetry collective. She is also the librettist of Halcyon, a new opera about the death and life of a women’s college, currently in development with composer Joshua Groffman and producer Vital Opera. Her manuscript “Comfort” was a finalist for the 2019 Ahsahta Press Sawtooth Poetry Prize and the 2017 National Poetry Series. More at sarahheady.com.
On this Earth Day, here as a small offering is a poem I wrote in apprenticeship to the Earth and her craft and ways, The Witch on My Grandmother's Mountain.
Mama Earth, you astound me! You bewitch me. Your teachings never cease to remember me to life. May every path I walk be guided by your honoring.
The poem was first published in Wyrd & Wyse #4 (2018). Read or download it below.
I spoke to Chantal Noa Forbes about my doctoral research, covering topics such as decolonial and postcolonial frameworks in the context of South Asia, feminist spirituality, writing from the body and writing for the earth, multi-genres, relational modes of knowledge production, and being indigenous at the borderlands/as a transnational person.
You can listen to the podcast on Soundcloud.
My article, "Serpent, Earth, Healing, Initiation," appears in The Land Remembers Us: Women, Myth, Nature--Proceedings of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology Volume III, edited by Mary Jo Neitz and Sid Reger. More information about the volume, along with purchase links, can be found on the ASWM website here. You can also read/download the article at academia.edu, or download a PDF below.
This drawing by Rita Hillman beautifully depicts Nagadevi, who started me on this serpentine journey!
In short, the article proposes reconnecting with and decolonizing earth/snake energies as a way for the borderlands feminine to heal her pasts, presents, and futures. Serpents are our co-dwellers in an ecological real. Priestessing Nagadevi at a small temple in Bangalore and visiting a renowned serpent temple in Kerala presented me with two distinct models of relating with sacred serpent energies. I conjecture that the access to psychic borderlands once enjoyed by serpent priestesses is now controlled and patrolled by patriarchal authority. Still, serpents come from a part of us/the world that is wild and untamable. These ancient energies can be unlocked by transforming the trauma and stress stored in our bodies, spine, and nervous systems. Remantling the serpent liberates a new arc of the possible for the body, intimacy, and futurities. We shed old identities, agreements, and codes, and renew ourselves into wholeness. Neuroscience research has shown memory too to be serpentine—what and how we remember changes the possibilities for the future encoded in the past. Thus, feminists at the borderlands can use memory as a resource for liberation and for reconnection with the ancestresses. Being initiated by the serpent comes with the responsibility to change the movements of energy in our own lives.
The article weaves in multiple genres—including critical prose, personal reflection, and poetry—so as to make space for epistemologies from multiple centers of consciousness. Poetry—as ars mysteria—can open access to the layers that may otherwise be hidden to or subvert ordinary consciousness. A synergistic counterplay of genres allows for a non-assimilationist, border-crossing hermeneutics.
Here is my talk at the 2020 Conference of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology right before the pandemic upcurve.
I will slowly be uploading earlier presentations and talks on SoundCloud as well.