The Lady Downstairs

 

Mr. Anand claimed that if the world grew quiet for even a single moment, we would hear the footsteps of the Great Mother. Ira, he called her. Ira Devi. But my thick New Yorker tongue, in all its nine years of inelegance, could never bring out the softened trill in ‘Ira’. We would try for hours to rediscover the sideways lilt and the softened vowels of his accent. But the voice that came so naturally to him made my warbling American throat a clothed imposter. So it was Mr. Anand, while trying desperately to keep a straight face, who suggested I call her The Lady Downstairs.

We spent those evenings on the stairwell that lead to the front door of our apartment complex, where redbrick met with the sun-stained streets of Jericho. My head rested against the seventh stair with my feet swinging off the ninth. There was some clarity in staring at a city that whistled by us, that arrogantly wrapped itself within the fiction of consciousness. But Mr. Anand and I knew that the streets, with all their oil stains and car crashes and racket, were sound asleep.

Listen,​ he said. And we would, until the clatter of a dangling world blurred into a dull roar. He would close his eyes, and I would too. For a second, I could feel every bone in my body, every eyelash pulsing with the ghost of some forgotten instinct. The winds ceased to dance. The sky would exhale. When I opened my eyes, I would murmur, ​someone was here. ​Mr. Anand smiled back.​ Yes, someone was here. The Lady Downstairs. A​n the sun would dissolve, as though on cue, behind the diner two blocks away.

It was with Mr. Anand that I tasted my first cup of real chai. My mother and father, who opted for the convenience of QuikTea, never bothered with spices and cane sugar. Mr. Anand, however, ground his own garam masala from fennel and bay leaves. After one taste, I knew that my tongue would never forgive the flavorless, sugary water that my parents preferred. Instant tea, like my Indian accent, was shakily unsure of what it was supposed to be. But a steaming cup of chai was so confident in its existence that the liquid sung as it gurgled down my throat. ​I make chai from the earth. From what she gives us, M​r. Anand explained. ​From The Lady Downstairs?

From The Lady Downstairs.

My parents treated the greying Indian man one apartment across with a cloaked unease. They were grateful for the hours we spent together before one of them came home from work. But the crimson toran hanging on Mr. Anand’s door was a silent red flag between them. My parents were ‘wallflower’ Indians who lost their accents to keep their jobs. Delhi was a photograph in my father’s wallet, a pair of earrings on my mother’s nightstand. They forced smiles during the offhand conversation, but I could see my mother’s eyes harden when Mr. Anand called her Parvati instead of some Anglicized distortion.

Autumn came. And as those summer evenings descended into the horizon, they took two towers with them. I remember the frantic phone calls, the wail of sirens crackling against our screen door. My mother sunk lifelessly into the sofa as the television blared.

Parv, m​y father murmured.​ You need to eat something.​ But she didn’t. Her eyes were fixed on the bodies ablaze, on the screams coiling into television static. I remember those hours we spent, a porcelain family, almost able to touch a splintering country through the telechrome. Mr. Anand had once told me something, and it burned in my brain. ​We live in the Kalyug, the Dark Age. T​hose words prickled in the television volume, an echo of those wounded faces. I would never forget those men who crawled out out of melted cars, carrying bloodied bodies on their backs. They had those hunted eyes — eyes in silent agreement that yes, this is the Kalyug, the Dark Age.

Mr. Anand was shot three weeks later. My father swept me into his arms as though it was I who had borne the bullet. It happened outside the grocery he used to frequent, where he would buy cinnamon and fresh ginger and tell the cashier to keep the change. The nearby 7/11 owned by the Guptas was burned to the ground, and all I could hear was Mr. Anand, over and over, reminding me that this was a Dark Age. Those words grew colder every time until I found myself sitting on that stairwell, staring at a hollow street. Mr. Anand’s relatives were moving his furniture into a white U-Haul. For a moment, I desperately hoped they would forget the red toran swaying against his front door. It could live a fragile life of its own, suspended only by a fraying string. But when I blinked, the toran was gone.

She’s awake now, I​ whispered. The city was alive, and so was I — the two of us momentarily silenced. And for the first time, I felt the footsteps of Ira Devi against the blackened earth, louder and louder until they swallowed the sun. ​The Lady Downstairs?

The Lady Downstairs.

Kanchan Naik is a junior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin and the Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton. When she’s not doodling or writing poetry, she is most likely untangling her earphones or looking for something that happens to be — much like herself — lost.

visual art by Holly Shelton 

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Barefoot

If India was a heart, pulsing and beating in my palm, then the National Highway 66 was a pounding capillary with traffic as steady as the flow of blood. Sixty metres of rugged ebony asphalt and mud-ridden intersections, the National Highway 66 guided everything, from taxi drivers with beetlejuice between their teeth to bickering couples across the western coast of India. The sun blazed like a copper coin in the limitless blue sky, beating down upon the well-worn stones of a tired road. Anyone, from the street children selling coconut water at the junctions to the farmers guiding oxen through the rice paddy fields could tell you where these roads could take you.

But few travel the old road that diverts from NH-66. Only a handful of those people would cross the bridge that connects to the monsoon-blessed Shambhavi River, its waters meandering into lazy, stagnant marshes. Hardly any would care to remember the name ‘Hejmadi’, the old village settled on Shambhavi’s northern banks.

But I remember. And my reason to remember has charcoal black eyes and silvery hair tied tightly in a knot at the back of her neck. Paper-thin wrinkles line the edges of her cheeks, crimping into little folds every time she laughs. The world calls her Radha. I call her Maomma, my grandmother. And for years, I was content with knowing her solely as the latter, while falling asleep in her arms as she sang ​Ranganayaka in her low, powdery voice. It was a holy song meant to awaken God from his heavy slumber. So, as God’s eyes opened to my grandmother’s words, mine slowly and drowsily closed.

As I grew older, Radha’s presence became more than a shadow, details that I had overlooked as a child now sharpening into focus. I pored over photographs that smelled lightly of mildew, struggling to weave her tale. ​Yet the more I learned, the more I realized that there was a whole other side to her.

Before Radha, there was Meera.

And she was a flurry of bare feet thudding against the grasses of rice paddy fields, the peal of her anklets following her like a shadow. It was the age of black and white ​— of an India that was free, but in bloodied pieces. Of post-Partition pressure tearing apart the Indian soil, but Hejmadi wrapped in its own cocoon, unperturbed.

It was amid this sea of contrasts that Meera grew up, a nine-year-old with a charcoal dot beneath her ear to ward off the evil eye. Seven children in all, the Shenoy family was virtually a village of its own, scurrying about the mud-walled courtyard in the midst of their boisterous games. Meera’s mother watched and smiled. Meera only had a few faint memories of her mother — a gentle caress, tender hands weaving her hair into braids, a chime of laughter. She would count the callouses on her mother’s palm as they walked hand in hand through their coconut groves. Bare feet muffled against the silence of the fertile earth, the ghosts of their footsteps erased by the wind. It was during the handful of years with her mother that Meera learned to befriend the stubborn coconut. How to burst it open against the ground with a single crack. How to scrape the last bits of flesh off its shell.

What Meera didn’t know is that some coconuts bear tiny, fine cracks beneath the surface. They shrivel slowly from the inside, the white flesh dissolving beneath the sun. She would soon see these thin, jagged cracks in her mother’s waning health. For months, her mother battled fevers and a hacking cough. But still, she roamed the leafy groves, dismissing the signs of her growing illness with the wave of her hand. ​Little did ​Meera know that her mother would never live to see another coconut season, never guide her through the dense arms of palm trees again.

The courtyard was silent as her mother lay on her charpoy. Those few fleeting hours before she died, she swallowed her finals sips of coconut water, the glass trembling in her hand. Soft sobs filled the night as Meera sang ​Ranganayaka for her mother. God arose from the distant horizon, welcoming an old friend.

~~~

Life without her mother was wounded and fragmented. Meera learned to tie her own braids, her stubby fingers fumbling with the ribbons. She ground coarse masala powder against a stone and swept debris off the courtyard floors with a broom. She carved the ground beyond her house with white rangoli and lit sticks of incense beneath the altars of the household gods. Ashy plumes of smoke clouded her vision. The temple was no different from what she had become, clouded by the obscurity of what was no longer there. In all her teenage years, Meera was a child struggling to fit in her mother’s skin. She rebelled, thrashing against the void she was expected to fill. In local paan stalls, she secretly smoked beedi cigarettes, the feeling of tobacco mixed with temburni leaves burning in her throat. Meera’s aunt speared her left nostril with a pointed stick, her eyes screwed shut through the agony. When the pain subsided, she threaded a glimmering crescent of a stud through the hole.

“You are a woman now, ” she said, beaming.

But at night, when the coconut trees whistled in the wind and her father sang Ranganayaka t​ o the sky, Meera was still a little girl wrapped in her mother’s shadow.

The years passed by slowly. Old scars learned to heal with the gentle fingers of time. The village was the same, with the medleys of grey-bellied cuckoos reverberating across the fields. It was Meera who had changed, with her hair longer and threaded into spiraling braids, her features the very image of her mother’s. The knee-length skirts and blouses were now replaced with half-sarees, the ends of the cotton fabric tucked into her ​kamarbandh​. Her nose ring was larger than the last, but gone was the stinging pain that had come with it. Gone was the anguish that marked her early childhood, the vision of her mother now blending like watercolors into the past.

Meera still roamed barefoot, the soles of her feet resilient against the Indian soil. But the ground where she had learned to walk had changed. The seamless rice-paddy acres, so enormous they could have swallowed her, were now but a faint horizon through the window. With time had come the overbearing verdicts of her conservative older brothers, imprisoning her within the confines of four walls. “A woman’s place is in her home”, they repeated, their words twisting into firm metal bars. But the stern gaze of her brothers only made Meera love the open air with reckless abandon. Heartfelt but headstrong, she refused to watch life slip between her fingers. Bare feet tiptoed across the courtyard as she slithered into the night, the village fair awaiting her. Her eyes grew wide as she watched larger-than-life actors prance across the stage, the bells of their costumes jangling in the distance. It was those nights when Meera tasted the stolen fruits of freedom.

As she grew older, her father and brothers descended into a whirlwind of preparation for her marriage. Meera’s father counted the acres and examined the cows of local landowners, his love demanding nothing but the best for his daughter. Marriage was a circle, a rhythm of brides leaving their homes to make new ones. The day a woman adorned her forehead with the vermilion dot of good fortune, she became a strand of an age-old fabric much larger than she was. But in between the threads of red and gold tradition, Meera saw the same pattern of captivity, the same narrow walls of domestic drudgery. She had no interest in walking in the footsteps of her mother and the mothers before her. Her brothers pleaded with her. “Why must you argue? Are you not happy?”

“Of course I am happy. I just want more.”

But what ​did s​he want? Frankly, Meera didn’t know what she wanted. All she knew was that sometimes when the village Ferris wheel ground into motion, her fingers grasping at the breeze, Meera felt irrationally but utterly complete. Bare feet fluttered against the sky as Meera’s Ferris wheel cart swung gently at the top. Her gaggle of friends waved to their companions below, but Meera looked nowhere but upward.

She wanted to spend the rest of her life reaching for the sky.

Meera was sprawled on the charpoy on the terrace, dreaming of the Ferris wheel when the stranger from Bombay arrived. Her sister grabbed her arm, whispering excitedly.

“Meera! There are visitors at the door! They are bringing a ​boy.​”

Meera rolled her eyes. “​Another ​suitor? The matchmaker had just brought in a boy two days ago.”

Her sister giggled. “This boy isn’t the same as the rest!​” She leaned closer, her smile only growing wider.“ He’s​ different. Y​ou know, these other boys come swaddled in their​ dhotis, looking like baby ducks crossing the pond. But not this one! He is wearing crisply ironed brown pants. ​”​

Meera’s eyes widened. “When will I get to see him?”

“No, you cannot see him. What would people think?”

“How can I marry him without seeing him? What if he’s short or plump or…” Meera struggled to find words, “…or ​ugly?”​

She darted across the courtyard, leaning against the walls in a desperate attempt to catch broken pieces of conversation. There were muffled words, the voices of her brothers too faint for her to discern. As the discussion continued, Meera stared at the chicken-wire window etched into the wall a few feet above her. Her eyes hardened into resolve, as she knotted the loose end of her half-sari to her waist.

Bare feet mounted the tiles that lined the courtyard walls. Her sister stared at Meera’s antics in silent horror, entirely prepared to flee in the case that she was caught.

When Meera stared through the spaces between the wire mesh of the window, she saw nothing at first. The faces of her family members were hidden behind a billowing cloth hung to dry. She cursed her fate under her breath, clutching the edge of the window sill for support. Then something flashed before her eyes, and she gasped.

Shoes.

Shoes were not for Hejmadi’s farmers or businessmen. They belonged to those who walked down bustling roads carved by slabs of concrete. The shiny black Indian loafers meant nothing to brothers who accounted for land and the aunts who prized the family name. But for Meera, shoes were the symbol of a world she had never seen, of the things that she never had. Every scuff mark brought a piece of the city’s crumbling sidewalks, every stain of shoe polish was the mark of city monsoons. No one in Hejmadi cared for those shoes because they had no interest in its whereabouts. For the earthen village soil, living barefoot was enough.

But not enough for Meera.

“Of course he’s ​different!​” Meera whispered to herself, recalling her sister’s words. “He’s from the ​city.”

In the midst of her joy, she lost her balance and fell to the ground with a thud. Bruised bare feet on the ground again, giddy and quivering. Her sister clucked like a mother hen, scolding her for being so foolish. But still, she smiled in a daze of some sorts, remembering nothing but the shoes. It was settled. Meera was to be wed.

~~~
Marriage in India was not simply the exchange of rings in front of a fire. It was a moment of change, when women left the final pieces of adolescence in their childhood homes. Meera stared at herself in the mirror, her hair coiled into a bun and slicked with coconut oil. Thin strokes of kajal lined her eyes. There was once a time when Meera wanted nothing more than to be a woman, to fit into her mother’s cotton sarees and carry her borrowed confidence. Yet as the moment had finally arrived, she wrestled with the fear that simmered beneath the surface. Meera remembered the moment before she had broken her first coconut. Gingerly, she had looked up at her mother asking,

“I don’t know if I can do it, am I ready?”

Her mother smiled. “You always were.”

The coconut cracked open that day, its fruit for the taking. Wordlessly, Meera draped the loose end of her saree over her shoulder and walked into the light.

They say when God chooses to awaken on Earth as a mortal again, his incarnation is given a new name. Meera had grown up chanting these names in the household temple, singing, “Hare Rama! Hare Krishna!” And now, wrapped in red and gold, she was gifted her own name. When women were married in Meera’s village, they were given their new identities, the shells of their previous lives unraveling into the​ mandap s​moke. As the vermillion dot of good fortune was painted on her forehead, she was christened Radha — the namesake of God’s beloved. It was a new name, one that did not conceal Meera but rather embraced her. That night, it was Radha and her husband, Govind, who left the village, promising to write letters home. Bare feet welcomed the new earth below it, regardless of what lay ahead.

~~~
It took another thirty years before the National Highway 66 was built by the Indian Government. Carefully, the changing times molded pieces of Southern Karnataka, constructing buildings where there were grasslands, factories where there were terra-cotta homes. But the banks of the Shambhavi River are the same. The golden stretch of land resists not the water, but accepts its tranquil ripples and currents. Coconut trees reach towards the sunlight, its fronds whispering in a language of its own. I stare at Maomma. Her nose ring glints beneath the sunlight and I am reminded of both her pain and her pride. Time has been both kind and cruel to her, but my grandmother is at peace with the waves that have molded her.

I begin making my way down the waterside, but she halts.

“You are forgetting something,” she tells me, her eyes twinkling.

“What?”

Silently, Maomma slips out of her sandals, beckoning for me to do the same. We cross the patchwork of sand and silt, the two of us barefoot and laughing. My feet sink into new soil. Grains of sand coil between my toes and suddenly the generations between us disappear. Gone are highways that divide us, the languages that separate us. With every growing step our footprints grow closer and closer, until the horizon melts into the water below and no longer can we tell them apart.

Kanchan Naik is a junior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin and the Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton. When she’s not doodling or writing poetry, she is most likely untangling her earphones or looking for something that happens to be — much like herself — lost.

Visual Art by Nahyun Sung 

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Om mani padme hum

What would Buddha be like if he were roaming the soil today?
Would he still wander India?
Or leave due to atrocious air quality and mass population?
These are things Siddhārtha never had to put up with

Would he still believe in putting up with everything?

The world is much too cynical, and we’d designate him as a cult leader
Or if he’s lucky, a trendsetter
Marketplace Buddhism seems to have consumed the West
At least the East remains pretty pious and punctilious
The West has just managed to pervert our daily meditation between Sunday brunch and our afternoon run
What would Buddha think of T.S. Eliot’s, Allen Ginsberg’s, and others’ flirtations with his doctrines?
Subverting them to their gyration and needs for transgression
(Though some engage with honesty)
America has seemed to distort Buddhism into chic leisure
If Siddhārtha was from America, he could’ve shown L. Ron Hubbard how to get the people clear without an E-meter
Buddhism could’ve been fantastic for capitalists if it was American
Would Buddha indeed remain so abstinent with all this hegemonic global marketing for intemperate gluttony?
A little leniency would’ve been helpful since there was no way he could have predicted what was to come
Would he have preferred the religious miscellany of Taiwan where temples amalgamate various beliefs, counting his developments?
Or favored the autonomous institutions of the West?

He’d have the intellect to discern the perpetual profit of unification

In our unified globalist world would he find bona fide social union?
Or technological excuses for minimal concrete interaction?
The traditional Buddhist wouldn’t bother with the strange portable hypnotic machine
But there’s the possibility that Buddha would shiver at the notion of it being away from him
Maybe we could’ve received texts of sutras personally from Gautama
His works on simplicity would align with Apple’s philosophy quite well
What would the political Buddha look like?
Would he lean left or right?
Or would he find it all to be in vain?
What would he have to say to the people of Myanmar who commit atrocities in his name?
What would he have to say to the tension-fueled relationship between the two Chinas?
Or about American carpet-bombing in the Middle East?
Would he find the will to keep on instructing in his ways?
The meditation to stay mindful in these mindless times
Or would he find it all hopeless
And see nothing human left
All that was left was humanity’s struggle to survive
And billions of zombies craving blue light and higher reception
Recording instead of listening to the monks in Taipei chanting the last of the meaningful matter

II

I’ve been set free
I’ve accepted the truth of suffering, and thus I’m free
I’ve rolled up to Buddha’s crib, and I’ve come out free
I’m unchained from the dead and the living
Free of the light and the dark
I’m free of linguistic oppression, and I now enumerate the beatitudes in Sanskrit
and chant mantras in Latin
I’ve fled to Taiwan only to find America
I’ve been working on a fifth noble truth; corporations
I’ve been lobbying Congress to send out presidential alerts for any metaphysical trembling
I’m set free of association, and I now use rosaries to recite the buddhavacana
I’ve never had so much spiritual rebellion and defiance
The rounds of suffering have left us tired and imprisoned to some fate
We’re only safe in the world we create

III

If you listen real close, you can hear the om
Just put your ear to the speakers of the universe, and it’ll resonate through you
The banging of the unseen echoing drum
The beat that we always go to
You don’t need to buy it on iTunes for $0.99
You don’t need to stream it either
Just listen to the flexing air void of suspense
And reach a little deeper

Gabriel T. Clément is a junior at Jersey City’s Saint Peter’s Preparatory. He was born in Montréal, Québec, and lives in Hoboken, New Jersey. His influences are mainly those from a Québécois background (Leonard Cohen, Émile Nelligan, Irving Layton) and others like Allen Ginsberg, T.S. Eliot, and Eliot Katz.

Visual Art by Sarah Little.

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The Art of Contraception with Susie Wild

[box] Susie Wild, a noted bohemian writer living in South Wales, as well as editor for the literary journal The Raconteur, has published an eclectic collection of stories that succeeds in captivating and entertaining its readers. Focusing on individuals who suffer from issues from the sexual to the familial, The Art of Contraception clings romantically to the reproductively unfortunate. [/box]

Beginning with the tragic story of Rob Evans, an obese sloth who takes vacations in the tub and dreams of an underage love interest, readers temporarily find their egos comfortably elevated. This throne of narcissism is swiftly brushed out from beneath their buttocks, however.  They realize how easily they could become like the poor creatures they laugh at when Archie appears – and sweeps them right back into reality. The perspective from which they see Archie’s desires is nearly opposite from where they see Rob’s – suddenly, they’re expected to sympathize:

“He pulls hard on his nicotine stick, feels the rain soaking through his open jacket, his black shirt. It washes away the wine from his freckled skin. He sticks out his tongue to catch raindrops, and feels a thirst long forgotten, a thirst for life.”

The lack of dialogue in Wild’s book serves us well in highlighting the emptiness of the characters’ lives through in-depth descriptions of every detail that surround their measly actions. Through this hyper-examination, we can be brought both to quiet sympathy and to raucous laughter.

The story of Tanja, a pregnant woman who suffers from “the overpowering need that would compel her to stop the car to consume handfuls of dirt grabbed greedily from the side of the road” is one that is both hilarious and unsettling. Readers of The Art of Contraception are sure to find themselves in uncontrollable fits of laughter as well as being emotionally touched.

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Susie about her book, while she was in Wales, getting ready to go to India. Corresponding through e-mail, we talked about her opinions of love, losers, upcoming projects, and performance.

 

Some of the characters in The Art of Contraception, most notably Rob Evans, show that the desire to reproduce can come out in any of a variety of interesting activities – such as taking vacations in a bathtub. What do you believe are the sources for romantic desires? Are they just biological urges, or is there more to it?

I don’t think that there is one simple answer in this case and I don’t think I am an expert. Certainly I feel that some of the feelings and developments of love come from biology – breeding and survival. Yet love is a very complex emotion and part of what I write is an attempt to describe and understand the good and the not so great aspects of this invisible entity that so dominates many lives and cultures. There are so many kinds of love, and few are the sweetened Disney kind of film fairy tales. Some people do get those firework moments, but others couple together because of loneliness, laziness or boredom.

 

In the case of Rob Evans, really he is just a man trying to understand the object of his affection in much the same way most young infatuations go. There are darker undertones of course, but in essence his is a tale of daydreams and an unrequited crush that goes very wrong for him.

 

Next to your satirical comedy, you also reveal some oddly depressing characters – such as Archie. Why should we care about the losers? What function do they play in our society?

 

I think, to an extent, we are all losers if only occasionally to ourselves, our parents or indeed our lovers. We all have fallibilities, insecurities and disappointments, even those at the top of their game. While I was studying for my various undergrad and postgrad courses I worked in a number of rough-around-the-edges bars and met a lot of people down on their luck. Some just had a tough week or month or year, others never found their way back to where they originally wanted to be. Even so, it didn’t always turn out terribly for them. For some, missing out on the things they had their heart set on meant they were free for unexpected opportunities that came their way soon after. Others tried to sit the bad times out and they never left. I am a great believer in going after what you want, and that persistence can change luck, but I’ve also learnt the hard way what an exhausting disheartening struggle it can be to get around those bends.

 

Then again we may only like to read about ‘loser’ characters because of good ole Schadenfreude or the joyous reassurance that someone, even someone fictional, is worse off than you… and, as life’s great philosopher Dolly Parton says, ‘if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.’

 

Are there any particular personal experiences that you have had with contraception that inspired you to write this book?

 

(If I had wanted to share them I’d have written non-fiction ; ) Having read the book you’ll also know that these stories hinge on all kinds of relationships from the sexual to the familial.)

After university I actually worked for a number of years as a journalist for a youth advice charity website that had very frank peer-to-peer discussion boards on all aspects of teenage and student life including sex, so I used to have interesting, sometimes hilarious, sometimes disturbing and often explicit discussions with my colleagues about the plights of our clients on the early shift, moderating their posts and chipping in advice and helpline numbers. My work is inspired as much by such anecdotes, news stories and snippets from the world around me as it is from my own personal experiences and imagination.

 

You nearly always mention your enjoyment of performing at dives and dance halls – what is it about these environments that contribute to the performing experience? Is it the people?

That’s just the kind of gal I am. I’d rather have a decent pint of real ale than champagne. Also performance poetry and live literature over here isn’t the most glamorous of games. You perform in cramped rooms upstairs from or at the back of Old Man pubs where sound systems don’t work and there is always some sort of weird and loud background noise and the stage is also probably the walkway to the toilets. Or you are in a marquee during a British “summer” in Wellies and a waterproof. Once in a while I get to read in a bookshop where they bring me tea and cake or a Private Members Club with good wine as part of the payment, but these are rare treats. Sometime it is the people, my favourites are the ones who buy books, I also especially like that couple arguing in the corner and her, there, vomiting on my new boots.

 

You casually mentioned that you’re going to India – I’m extremely jealous. What is it that draws you there, and have you got any exciting adventures planned?

As well as writing books and poems, I also work as a journalist and arts critic. As such, thanks to Wales Arts International, I am heading over to India to write about Hay Festival Kerala, but prior to that I have tacked on an extra week’s writing retreat on the South Indian coast, and I can’t wait to get out there! Usually I like adventurous exploration when I travel, but for the first week of this trip I am aiming to get some much needed R&R and selfish, sun-soaked writing, sleeping and reading time.

 

What’s your editorial vision for your new literary magazine The Raconteur? What are you looking for in submissions?

I joined as Associate Editor a few months ago and the first issue in the new paperback format, America, is out any day now with launch parties in Swansea and Cardiff when I get home from India. Dylan, Gary and I look for new writing with passion, skill and wit from both established and emerging writers. Our next issue will be themed Beauty and will launch in May 2012. We are accepting submissions now, but do visit our guidelines before briefly pitching considered ideas.

 

What have you been reading?

I’ve been stockpiling books of late. I have a stack of novels that I’m working my way through – I just finished Remainder by Tom McCarthy – but I’ve mainly been reading a lot of short and flash fiction including Lorrie Moore’s Collected Stories, Andrew Kaufman’s The Tiny Wife, and Nik Perring’s Not So Perfect. I have an ever-increasing pile of review books glaring at me, neglected, but in India I shall also be taking my Kindle (Murakami’s IQ84 is on there, and so is Ali Smith’s There But For The which I pre-ordered ages ago but then got side-tracked from). I’ve also got a soft spot for Nasty Little Press poetry pamphlets.

 

What inspires you?

 

Life, dreams, creative and intelligent others, watery locations, adventures, hangovers and pillow talk.

 

 

The Hay Festival in Kerala: http://www.hayfestival.com/kerala/en-index.aspx?skinid=20&currencysetting=GBP&localesetting=en-GB&resetfilters=true

To submit to The Raconteur, visit:  www.theraconteur.info

 

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