Rajiv Mohabir Recommends...

“When I feel extra invisible in the world of American poetry I feel the need to write more. I look for vehicles able to carry my syncretic history. I take a line from Agha Shahid Ali and Kimiko Hahn and looking across the sea. Ali’s ghazal and Hahn’s zuihitsu are perfect examples of migrating a form into English and making it one’s own, kin to the original form but changed through their mediation of it. Valuable poetry does not only exist in English in the United States. I’m an immigrant and my experience is valuable. An entire universe of poetry thrums outside of this myopic country. I migrate a form into the United States based on the multilingual chutney music from the Caribbean. This music came with me, packed in my luggage. The themes and images of my poems echo their influences and take shape through the alchemy of the line.

Go ahead and try it. Make a form. Consider line length, rhythm, whether you’ll write in meter or use rhyme. How many lines will the poem have when it’s finished? Now for themes. Use what’s around you, what you have. Use the kitchen language that you’re told is not ‘proper.’ Write your broken tongue down on the page. You are not ‘broken.’ You are a wonder.”
—Rajiv Mohabir, author of The Cowherd’s Son (Tupelo Press, 2017)