Priya Sarukkai Chabria

Priya Sarukkai Chabria

Priya Sarukkai Chabria is a poet, writer and translator. Her publications include Dialogues and Other Poems (2005) reprint (2006) and Not Springtime Yet (2008) about which Dennis Nurkse writes, “… her work is absolutely extraordinary … She has an amazing ability to handle historical and mythic material in ways that make them completely new” and novels The Other Garden (1995) and Generation 14 ( 2008) of which Sruthi Khanna writes, “ great poetic power and beauty … creates imaginative space for compassion in the midst of all the grotesquery”.

Sarukkai-Chabria edits the website Talking Poetry and edited the anthology 50 Poets 50 Poems. Recipient of Senior Fellowship to Outstanding Artists from the Indian government, she has worked with the Rasa Theory of Aesthetics, co-founded a film society Friends of the Archive and collaborated with classical dancer Malavika Sarukkai.

She has been invited to The Writer’s Center, UK; ‘Alphabet City’, Canada; Frankfurt Book Fair etc. and many literary festivals in India. Her work is published in numerous international journals and websites, and anthologized. She is translating works of eighth century Tamil mystic poet Aandaal; writing a travelogue and a story collection; all three books are to be published in 2011.

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Fallen isles of sky and washed sapphire stories churned from my first myth
of Mediterranean like “The Churning”* –never shall dim your myth!

Match me in longing: Be Zeus, be Krishna, potent gods who ravage.
Storm me, my love. Flood my body’s reality: I’m not embalmed myth!

Second skin this whimpering for luster: Shall I, huntress-on-the-hoof
turn tree immobile through pursuit? Is this to be my pursuing myth?

I pray. Turn umber to gold, turn echo to blast: may my mother speak
to claim me with our pasts intact from this curdled underworld of myth.

Hector, I am at your side in your flight, I pause with you as you pause.
But as you face death, lone hero, your clammy body slides into myth.

Slaughter rams, offer libations of wine, ewe’s milk, rain tears abundant.
Now sacrifice grief on poetry’s battleground as nothing but myth.

O sun soaked vines and sleek dolphins, your zest cinders in these dazzling tombs!
Each month I’m doomed to roam the city’s carcasses — for mall isn’t myth.

I rise on the glinting eyes of skyscrapers, my lofty vision aurous
for the seven million slum dwellers sweeping this city’s feet are myth.

‘Hey man, don’t trust feeds or YouTube clips. Nor media or history.’
‘Trust nothing?’ ‘No! Trust what survives: Gods, joy, tragedies. In a word: myth.’

(Is this how we die as we live? Each a keepsake, not real whilst we exist?
Are we merely strangers’ tattered reflections or temporary myth? )

What spangled shores, honeyed homes, cobalt seas riffing sunlight do we hunt?
From where have we emerged that we wander thus? Where lies the end of myth?

Orphaned pup scrambling across emerald greens to me, what have you done?
For your mangy skin, hungry yelp I forsake art; give up making myth.

More beloved than truth, than skin on skin, this patina of glimmer
that hoods us, peeling open our blinded eyes: The enchantment of myth.

Was it you, Aphrodite, or you Sappho? Who said: I will pierce you
from mouth to spine as a steel tongue destroying speech, devouring myth.

Hymns soar up walls maroon and white in a Spanish cathedral, once mosque.
Or is this Hindu temple? On my knees I ask: what’s sacred, what’s myth?

I Priya, surname Chabria, answer to the name of a general
from Alexandra’s legions abandoned in Sind? Surely this is myth!

*from the Markandeya Purana: Before Time began, gods and demons churned from the primal cosmic ocean treasures that the gods won through guile and beauty. In Hindu mythology this is referred to as ‘The Churning’.

Poetry in this post: © Priya Sarukkai Chabria
Published with the permission of Priya Sarukkai Chabria