Textual Boundaries and Vinyasa

by Michelle

Tegan is in Jindabyne for her year eleven school camp. I’ve been wrapped up in the nervous energies of beginning an essay on Bloomsbury and China, part of a chapter in my exegesis. It’s exciting and challenging in equal measure, with so much fascinating history and criticism to absorb.

Watching Q&A last night about the #metoo movement seemed to compound sadness; embodying grief and the discovery that a male editor commissioned an unfavorable review replete with erroneous statements, misquotes and malevolent generalizations. Why? Just because. (I must have smiled too freely.) Misogyny is so exhausting.

But I’m thinking about writing a blog piece for the  Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association on how a few critics (invariably white and male) have repeatedly tried to mangle and to author my work. These kinds of derogatory opinions and reductive evaluations have been described in archival sources: diaries, journals, letters, publications for well over a century and one scholar who has described this well is Lionel Caplan. He says:
‘These discourses targeted women because the latter also threatened the boundary between ruler and ruled in a very immediate way: through their ‘enticement’ of European men.’

It is not to be spiteful but to expose how insidious artistic practice can be in terms of inhabiting or inhibiting spaces for cultural justice to minority writers. It is the soul of the writer that these discourses mangle, something that makes a narrative mediation necessary. I feel that I need to be brave and motivated to train my body and my mind to be focussed when it comes to narrating the Anglo-Indian story across the barriers of textual and cultural boundaries. So I’ve been going to yoga classes, a heated Vinyasa flow. In the past I’ve had the best results in well being from Ashtanga, and I started out with Iyengar, but my body is beginning to accept this practice.

Some good news is that the work I did on my interview about Vishvarupa with Prithvi Varatharajan has paid off. It felt like real work, hard work, (transforming from poet to self-discursive critic,) to be thinking and conceptualizing that book again after some years. And it was also a non-Anglo, non-missionary spiritual practice, but how can it fail to be political? We should leave the affirmed transcendental to those in a privileged tradition that has colonised and appropriated Asia and the global South; in a canon that speaks for Asia but is gradually losing its autonomy in the transaction of words. So of course there is fragility on both sides. Does the noble rider obey their rivals out of love, or do they keep a respectful distance and challenge the prevailing limitations? Let’s have a little compassion for each other to overcome cultural fragility as this conversation ensues. Here is my interview with Prithvi.

And another exciting project has come to fruition: the Vagabond deciBels3 series which I’ve edited. It is a series of ten chapbooks by culturally diverse Australian writers, including three South Asian poets: Misbah Khokhar, Anupama Pilbrow and Sumudu Samarawickrama. Also included are three Filipino Australian poets, Ramon Loyola, Angela Serrano, Eleanor Jackson, and Jessie Tu, Anna Jacobson and Dimitra Harvey, who kindly helped to edit. I’m truly proud of this achievement; it’s a breakthrough really – that with vision and determination and mindfulness we can overcome the might of established agency. I look forward to celebrating with all the poets when the books are launched. More about that soon.


Lionel Caplan, ‘Iconographies of Anglo-Indian Women: Gender Constructs and Contrasts in a Changing Society’ Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Oct., 2000), pp. 863-892