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Lucy alumna curates a display of 24 poems by 24 South Asian Diaspora poets
Usha Akella, Lucy Alumna (MSt Creative Writing, 2016), co-director of Matwaala Southern Asian Poets Festival and Poetry editor of Lucy Writers, has created a wall of 24 poems by 24 South Asian Diaspora poets at the Irving Museum and Archives (Dallas, TX) in collaboration with ThinkIndia Foundation for Smithsonian's Beyond Bollywood Project. Usha Akella and Pramila Venkateswaran (co-director of Matwaala) curated the poems from poets across the USA. The wall is a beautiful testimony to Usha's excellent work and communal vision.
Maatwala directors, Usha and Pramila, say: “For us, the poetry wall is a testimonial to the range of talent in diaspora poetry. Gustatory delights, environment, nature, music, art, travel and poetry itself become instances for self-reflection, identity and self-affirmation. This spread of twenty four poems on a wall spanning the map of the US is a landmark exhibit in museum history. And that it is within the larger thematic herald of 'Beyond Bollywood' the Smithosnian project, is perfect. Diaspora poets are forging, tuning and channeling words in poetic idiom true to their inter-cultural experiences. The poetry wall will always be one of our most relevant projects in addition to our festivals promoting visibility for South Asian talent that is inclusive not just of India but its neighboring countries. In a world becoming more divisive, there are some walls that need to be erected such as these bringing in its wake not boundaries but their collapse.”
24 poems by South Asian diaspora poets will be on display. Usha Akella launched the first South Asian Poetry Festival in the US in 2015. The goal is to increase the visibility of the diaspora poets in the country. She conceived the poetry wall to reflect the immense talent in the community and perhaps, this is the first time such a display has happened in any museum. The well-known poets are as follows and include one high-schooler:
Pramila Venkateswaran, Zilka Joseph, Indran Amirthanayagam, Sophia Naz, Varsha Shah, Ravi Shankar, Rohan chhetri, Usha Akella, Sara Garg (high school student), Ralph Nazareth, Phinder Dulai, Saleem Peeradina, Sasha Parmasad, Vivek Sharma, Amit Majmudar, Kirun Kapur, Prageeta Sharma, Kazim Ali, Subhash Kak, Dilruba Ahmed, Monica Ferrell, Sweta Srivastava Vikram, Kalpna Singh Chitnis, Subhashini Kaligotla.
About Usha Akella
Usha earned an MSt in Creative Writing at Cambridge University, UK in 2018. She has authored four books of poetry, one chapbook, and scripted/produced one musical drama. Her most recent poetry book The Waiting was published by Sahitya Akademi (India’s highest Literary authority) in 2019, and translated into Spanish by Elsa Cross and released by Mantis Editores Press, Mexico. She is the founder of ‘Matwaala’ the first South Asian Diaspora Poets Festival in the US. She also writes creative non-fiction pieces which have appeared in various newspapers and journals She was selected as a Cultural Ambassador for the City of Austin for 2015 and 2019.
She read with a group of eminent South Asian Diaspora poets at the House of Lords in June 2016. Her work has been included in the Harper Collins Anthology of Indian English Poets. She is published widely and invited to international poetry festivals such as in Romania, Trois Riviere, Romania, Slovakia, Nicaragua, Macedonia, Colombia, Slovenia, India etc. She has won literary prizes and enjoys interviewing poets and artists.
She is the founder of the Poetry Caravan in New York and Austin which has offered several hundreds of poetry readings to the disadvantaged in women’s shelters, senior homes, hospitals. The City of Austin proclaimed January 7th as Poetry Caravan Day.
Matwaala, the South Asian Diaspora Poets’ Collective, is a community of poets whose origins go back to South Asia. Its aim is to promote South Asian poetry and collaborate with other arts in North America. The mission of its initiative is to encourage solidarity, promote members’ work, and increase awareness of South Asian poetry in the mainstream American Literary landscape. Maatwaala welcomes poets of the South Asian diaspora across borders (India/ Pakistan/ Bangladesh/ Sri Lanka/ Nepal/ Bhutan/ Maldives/ Burma/ Afghanistan).