Jaipur Literary Festival

by Michelle


It was a thrill to participate in the Jaipur Literary Festival at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival held in Federation Square, Melbourne.
My thanks to Jasmeet Sahi and Lisa Dempster.

I spoke on the following panels on Sunday 12 at Federation Square:

Weaving Women’s Narratives:  with Namita Gokhale and Rakhshanda Jalil , convened by Natalie Kon-yu. This was an interesting discussion that touched on the stories of women’s bodies as an erotic space and a space of resistance. The role of translations in bringing local and regional writers to wider reading communities was discussed. I spoke about the need to expand canonical narratives to include theoretical narratives. I spoke about Kiran Desai, Jhumpa Lahiri and Meena Kandasamy. Two seminal theoretical writers whose work I discussed included  Gayatri C Spivak, a diasporic feminist who with little knowledge of philosophy or French language, translated Derrida’s Of Grammatology into English, bringing deconstructionism to a global audience and into conversation with post-colonialism. I also talked about Chandra Mohanty’s ‘Under Western Eyes’ and how it challenges the essentialised and tokenising category of the global South woman whereby Western feminists conflate the differences in geography, history and culture. One radically important essay by a theorist may be as significant to progressive culture as a string of Booker prize-winning novels. I think this was a discussion tbc.

Reading Salon:  I read from Letter to Pessoa with Sudeep Chakravrti, Rakhshanda Jalil, Roanna Gonsalves. As I had spoken in the morning about the need for theoretical narratives to be considered when we think about seminal or canonical stories, I read my ‘Letter to Derrida’ a love letter with a philosophical twist. I talked about Derrida the Algerian French immigrant, Derrida the outcast and academic non-conformist, Derrida the Jewish exile, writing in the shadow of the Holocaust and how lyrical fiction is analogous to music in the meta-language of its meanings.

Body as text: Performing poetry:  dancer, choreographer and feminist theorist, Priya Srinivasan interpreted some of my poems from Vishvarupa and The Herring Lass. This is a multi-vocal dance performance, with singer Uthra Vijay and flautist Sridhar Chari followed by a 20-25 min conversation and a Q&A.  Priya is the author of an award winning book, Sweating Saris: Indian Dance as Transnational Labour. Her work covers the fields of feminist theory, migration, labour, decolonisation, postcoloniality, hybridity and performance art.

So thrilled to have collaborated on this with her. The performance was videographed by Daniel Farmer. I was a little nervous, and made a mistake in one of the poems, but overall it was sacred work. It was lovely to have so many Melbourne poets attend.