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Arundhathi Subramaniam

Arundhathi Subramaniam

Arundhathi Subramaniam

(India, 1967)
This text was written in connection with the collaborative art project between the Rietveld Academy and PIW, in which short films based on the theme of \'place\' in Indian poems, including work by Arundhati Subramaniam, were produced for the 39th Poetry International Festival.

Arundhathi Subramaniam is a poet and writer based in Mumbai. She has published two collections of poetry: On Cleaning Bookshelves (Allied, 2001) and Where I Live (Allied, 2005), is the author of a prose study, The Book of Buddha (Penguin, 2005), and was co-editor of Confronting Love (Penguin, 2005), an anthology of contemporary Indian love poetry in English. Translated into Hindi, Tamil, Italian and Spanish, her poetry has been widely anthologised. She was awarded the Charles Wallace Fellowship at the University of Stirling in 2003. In 2006 she toured the UK for a series of poetry readings on a Visiting Arts fellowship, organised by the Poetry Society, during which she often had occasion to illuminate the audience on her (often embattled) position as an Indian poet who writes in English. She has participated in several international poetry festivals and conferences in India and Europe.

Subramaniam is India’s country editor for the Poetry International Web and has run Chauraha, an interactive arts forum at Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, for several years. As an arts critic, she writes on literature and dance for various leading newspapers and publications.

Her own work leaps between taking a dynamically philosophical view on immediate daily experiences to skillfully etching cultural or geographical references as compass points to a sweeping emotional landscape. Few poets capture contradictory impulses so convincingly. This unexpected range is what makes Subramaniam’s work such a pleasure to read. You never know what country, mood, streetscape, or relationship you’ll be plunged into but the ferociously intelligent attention to detail ensures that you are given every opportunity to engage with the pure energy of the poem:

and the taste of coffee one day in Lucca
suddenly awakening an old prescription –
Peabury, Plantation A
and fifty grams of chicory
from the fragrant shop near the Kapaleeshwara temple.

As Keki Daruwalla (Kavya Bharati, 2006) says “Subramaniam’s poetry is one of illumination. She flashes a pencil-torchlight on a subject, and suddenly you feel you are the richer for it . . .  Even more than precision, what defines her verse is its subtlety and the angle of vision from which she sees life.”

. . . the musky torsos
of football stars, ancient Egypt and Jacques Cousteau’s
lurching empires of the sea, bazaars
in Mughal India, the sacred plunge
into a Cadbury’s Five Star bar, Kanchenjanga,. . .

© Jules Mann, Poetry Society, UK


Where I Live, Allied, Mumbai, 2005; ISBN: 81-7764-738-5
On Cleaning Bookshelves, Allied, Mumbai, 2001; ISBN: 81-7764-176-X

(Co-editor) Confronting Love, Penguin India, Delhi, 2005, ISBN: 0-14-303264-X, an anthology of contemporary Indian love poetry in English.

The Book of Buddha, Penguin India (Viking), Delhi, 2005, ISBN: 9780670058358


Poetry International Web: Arundhathi Subramaniam talks to Jules Mann about poetry, habitat, threshold politics, grace and a city that’s a part of her DNA.
Poetry International Web: Hear Arundhathi read her poem, ‘To The Welsh Critic who Doesn\'t Find me Identifiably Indian’
Open Space India: Seven poems by Arundhathi Subramaniam.    
Kavitayan: Two poems by Arundhathi Subramaniam.
Culturebase: Profile of Arundhathi Subramaniam by Miriam Gamble.
The Hindu: Arundhathi Subramaniam on “The question of Indianness”
Sawnet: Arundhathi Subramaniam on “Why on earth would an Indian choose to write English poetry?”
Life Positive: Arundhathi Subramaniam talks to Chintan Girish Modi on her mutually enriching relationship with feminism, spirituality and poetry.
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Lira fonds
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère