reason: here is your longed-for horizon,
let all eat all, let my backside face
the sky, head follow
the zagging river’s course:
I shall give my throne away.
from Life and Times of Mr S
One thing I’ve come to realise about some of the best poets out in the world is that they are well-read and well-travelled. Having lived in more that one country, they have so much more experience to sample from. Vivek Narayanan, is one such poet.
He has lived in Zambia, South Africa, India and the United States of America. Vivek studied cultural anthropology and creative writing in the USA at the University of Kwazulu Nat and is currently a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
While many of us have become comfortable with the obvious, the easy and the recognisable, Vivek experiments with form and language all the time and his next book of poems will demonstrate that spectacularly.
I met Vivek, at the 17th Poetry Africa where he read some of his poetry and also performed as part of Insurrections, a muso-poetic collaboration of South African and Indian poets and musicians and includes poets such as Malika Ndlovu, Ari Sitas and musicians such as Neo Muyanga and Pritam Ghoshal. Between sharing great poetry, launching our previous edition and dancing to local Hip Hop and Reggae at Cool Runnings, I found that Vivek, like most of the poets on this year’s Poetry Africa, was a very cool cat.
At first he appears reserved but that’s just really because he’s a thoughtful man. Doesn’t need to be the centre of attention or the loudest. When we sat down talk, I didn’t know what to expect and below is a what transpired.
Poetry Potion: How has living in four different countries, which, though English-speaking, have very different cultures, textures and ways of being English affected your poetry?
Vivek Narayanan: I think what it probably did is make me a bit of a chameleon; in the sense that I’m code-switching all the time. I’ve learnt to do that more naturally. And so I think that it made these different strands in my poetry because I’ve been influenced by poetry from these different traditions.
I don’t feel [as if I] belong to…
read the rest of this article in the fourth print quarterly, The Language Issue available in pdf and print from Book Lover’s Market.