Nisha Ramayya’s pamphlets Notes on Sanskrit (2015) and Correspondences (2016) are published by Oystercatcher Press. Her work can be found in Ambit, Datableed, Jungftak: A Journal for Prose-Poetry, Lighthouse: A Journal of New Writing, Litmus, No Money, Quaderna: A Multilingual and Transdisciplinary Journal, Visual Verse, and Zarf. She teaches English and Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of Kent, and is a member of the Race & Poetry & Poetics in the UK research group.
What do you suggest people might read in advance of hearing you?
From ‘States of the Body Produced by Love’ (2016): http://de-arrest.me/2016/11/dossier-3-no-money-5/
Where can we find one critical (or other) response to your work that you have found provocative, interesting, insightful or generative?
Review of Correspondences by David Caddy (2016): https://tearsinthefence.com/2016/08/02/correspondences-by-nisha-ramayya-oystercatcher-press/
Point us towards some examples of work in other media (art/cinema/music etc) that inflect upon your work, in any way at all:
Ella Fitzgerald, ‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter’ (1957): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEgr0Wh-73w
Maa Shakti (‘a mega TV serial’ about Hindu goddesses) (2013): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTuIMb2b8J4
Lavender Diamond, ‘Moment of Laughter’ (2013): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPAAUlm6X4E
What readings or performances most shook you up, and why?
On Tuesday 8th December 2015, I had what I felt to be the experience of falling in love while reading poetry. The poem in question is ‘fortrd.fortrn’ from The Little Edges (2015) by Fred Moten. I write about the experience in the presentation ‘Falling, Breaking, Blackness: Fred Moten and a Poetics of Love’ (2016), excerpted below:
Halfway down the second page, I pause after reading the following lines:
exhaustion makes life ever lasting.
when I dance with
you I am the moved mover.
baby, you’re a solid sender. (2015: 4)
This pause may be imagined as a break before falling.
Exhaustion makes; exhaustion makes life; exhaustion makes life ever. Exhaustion is a drawing out or forth of air, of essence. Exhaustion suggests the study of multiple possibilities, the arrival at a single conclusion. This is a study that consumes, a conclusion that empties. The arrival may be weary, the conclusion weak, but it ‘makes life ever’ nonetheless. ‘Ever’ anticipates ‘ever-lasting’, ‘ever-lasting’ anticipates love.
‘when I dance with’, the space between me and you, subject and object, increases between us. We turn away from each other, we run side by side. To be both moved and mover suggests an affective correspondence, a rhythm that may be understood in terms of distance and dynamic: the transforming space between us, our changing positions. To be both solid and sender suggests direction, destination, and promise, although not necessarily the promise of return.
Between lovers, exhaustion and solidity may signify the inevitability of tiring of each other, the perpetuation of trust in each other. While exhaustion and solidity are comparable in terms of constancy, they differ in terms of consistency – air and matter, essence and substance, breath and body – which suggests a certain equivalence and reciprocity of distance and dynamic. To be both ‘moved mover’ and ‘solid sender’ is to make life ever-changing, to agree that positionality is ever-making.
On Monday 14th December 2015, I heard Moten read at the ‘Double Change’ series in Paris: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgxEFn5AySA
Everything that I have thought, read, and written since then has been informed in one way or another by that initial experience. As my conceptualisations of poetry, of identity, of correspondence, of love, of brokenness continue to change, I continue to feel myself to be falling.
What/who do you wish people read more of? What do you wish you read more of yourself?
I completed my education in Scotland and my higher education in England, and I can count the number of writers of colour that I studied with my nose. This year, I was offered the opportunity to design a module on ‘Vernacular Writing’ at Royal Holloway, by means of which I am able to answer both of these questions with a curriculum! The module includes weeks on the Harlem Renaissance, the Windrush Generation, the Black Arts Movement, the Caribbean Arts Movement, Harryette Mullen, Warsan Shire, Gloria Anzaldúa, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Maud Sulter, Dorothy Wang, Frantz Fanon… (Plus an accompanying ever-expanding playlist!)
What is your writing for? And what is it against?
I feel very uncertain about those terms – for and against – and, as my feelings about what to affirm and what to resist and what to destroy become stronger and stronger, I feel correspondingly incapable to set the terms of the argument.
Ask yourself a question you’d like to answer:
Regarding the previous question: why can’t you answer? Why can’t you set the terms?