PHOTO BY NEELANJANA BANERJEE
This week’s show features the poetry of Hari Alluri plus a musical playlist curated by the author himself.
Hari Alluri is the author of The Flayed City (Kaya) and the chapbook The Promise of Rust (Mouthfeel). An award-winning poet, educator, and teaching artist, he is a VONA/Voices and Las Dos Brujas alum who holds an MFA from San Diego State University. His work appears in anthologies, journals and online venues, including Split This Rock, Sundog Lit, and The Margins. Descended from South Asian and Philippine ancestry, Hari immigrated to Vancouver, Coast Salish territories, at age twelve and currently serves as an editor of pacific Review and a co-founding editor of Locked Horn Press in San Diego, Kumeyaay land.
ARTIST STATEMENT: Braided like water
A small personal note, much smaller than the conditions that make the declaration Water Is Life so urgent: I have known few sweeter aches than those in the muscles after swimming, from pushing against but feeling a part of that which holds me. And, when my emotional and physical body ache from the daily world, I have known few salves more profound than those of river and ocean. I am writing to you a stone’s throw from the Pacific—in a time of war, a time when Water Is Life has never been so urgent.
My name is Hari Alluri. I am grateful to be sharing work in solidarity with Water Protectors planet-wide. Because the declaration Water Is Life speaks to the experiences of those for whom the encroachment into and exploitation of water is most devastating, I feel it speaks from them to all of us and calls for a response. It speaks to me both politically and metaphysically, of relations. I believe the relations of poetry itself are always already collaborative, perhaps across different types of distance, perhaps across different types of time.
Because of all of the above, the first poem you will hear me read is called “Umbilical Cord,” which is written by Fawziyya Abu Khalid and translated by Seema Atalla. I love this poem. The cruciality of water and land are in it, as are distance, displacement, and ache. This poem helped me choose, excerpt, and arrange poems from The Flayed City and—by the lines of “Umbilical Cord” resurfacing between them in the reading—it becomes for me a spool and a thread that joins.
Of the metaphysics in the work of Yannis Ritsos’, Stephen Dobyns offers: “It suggests a series of sympathetic affinities and a sensitivity to these affinities.” So, too, I hope, with what I am sharing here. In solidarity. Thank you PhDJ and thank you for listening.
PLAYLIST, with introductions from the poet
- SONG: Femi Kuti, Macy Gray, and D’Angelo’s “Water No Get Enemy”: Fela Kuti is crucial to anyone who grew up in Nigeria to so many of those I have loved since immigration. Though I didn’t know it in these words then, “Water No Get Enemy” is the first song that taught me the political and metaphysical connection of us to water. This rendition by his son with two artists who changed soul and hip hop in my youth rang loud during my awakening to activism and poetry when it came out.
- SONG: A Tribe Called Red featuring Yasiin Bey, Narcy, and Black Bear’s “R.E.D.”: Indigenous. Black American. Iraqi Canadian. Hip Hop. Solidarity. Subversion. Power. A Tribe Called Red is among several groups transforming music for me right now. Yasiin Bey has been blowing my mind for almost 20 years. Narci is as ill as he is incisive and insightful. Together, wow.
- POEM: Hari Alluri reads “Umbilical Cord” by Fawziyya Abu Khalid and translated by Seema Atalla, and excerpts from his latest text The Flayed City
- SONG: From the film Shor, Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar’s “Paani Re Paani Tera Rang Kaisa”: This Bollywood throwback with its beautiful collaborative voices and shifting instrumentation: it shakes me. Somehow, instead of nostalgia, it offers a retroactive and complex imbuing of the past with what matters to me now, reminding me my identity is and will remain incomplete.
- SONG: ALuma Sound (Rupinder Sidhu and Anjali Appadurai)’s “Paani”: When I first heard this brilliant, urgent Water Is Life solidarity remix of the above song, I put it on immediate repeat and changed the whole playlist I had planned for It’s Lit. I’ve heard a few early version tracks from ALuma Sound and I can’t wait for them to drop more. The emcee & producer Rupinder Sidhu is a brother in activism, arts empowerment, music, poetry, and life. His lyrics and those of Anjali Appadurai here are exquisite and needed.