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The World That Belongs To Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from South Asia

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‘A bold and necessary correction to the subcontinent’s poetry canon.’ —Jeet Thayil This first-of-its-kind anthology brings together the best of contemporary queer poetry from South Asia, both from the subcontinent and its many diasporas.The anthology features well-known voices like Hoshang Merchant, Ruth Vanita, Suniti Namjoshi, Kazim Ali, Rajiv Mohabir as well as a host o ‘A bold and necessary correction to the subcontinent’s poetry canon.’ —Jeet Thayil This first-of-its-kind anthology brings together the best of contemporary queer poetry from South Asia, both from the subcontinent and its many diasporas.The anthology features well-known voices like Hoshang Merchant, Ruth Vanita, Suniti Namjoshi, Kazim Ali, Rajiv Mohabir as well as a host of new poets. The themes range from desire and loneliness, sexual intimacy and struggles, caste and language, activism both on the streets and in the homes, the role of family both given and chosen, and heartbreaks and heartjoins. Writing from Bangalore, Baroda, Benares, Boston, Chennai, Colombo, Dhaka, Delhi, Dublin, Karachi, Kathmandu, Lahore, London, New York City, and writing in languages including Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Urdu, Manipuri, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and, of course, English, the result is an urgent, imaginative and beautiful testament to the diversity, politics, aesthetics and ethics of queer life in South Asia today.


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‘A bold and necessary correction to the subcontinent’s poetry canon.’ —Jeet Thayil This first-of-its-kind anthology brings together the best of contemporary queer poetry from South Asia, both from the subcontinent and its many diasporas.The anthology features well-known voices like Hoshang Merchant, Ruth Vanita, Suniti Namjoshi, Kazim Ali, Rajiv Mohabir as well as a host o ‘A bold and necessary correction to the subcontinent’s poetry canon.’ —Jeet Thayil This first-of-its-kind anthology brings together the best of contemporary queer poetry from South Asia, both from the subcontinent and its many diasporas.The anthology features well-known voices like Hoshang Merchant, Ruth Vanita, Suniti Namjoshi, Kazim Ali, Rajiv Mohabir as well as a host of new poets. The themes range from desire and loneliness, sexual intimacy and struggles, caste and language, activism both on the streets and in the homes, the role of family both given and chosen, and heartbreaks and heartjoins. Writing from Bangalore, Baroda, Benares, Boston, Chennai, Colombo, Dhaka, Delhi, Dublin, Karachi, Kathmandu, Lahore, London, New York City, and writing in languages including Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Urdu, Manipuri, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and, of course, English, the result is an urgent, imaginative and beautiful testament to the diversity, politics, aesthetics and ethics of queer life in South Asia today.

30 review for The World That Belongs To Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from South Asia

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sookie

    Buy this. Read this. Its a gorgeous collection. Below are lines from every poem in this collection. I am so happy this exists. Thank you for bringing these poems to life. It is the impossibility of queer love, the scholars say. For whom the only future carved out is death. -- Asad Alvi Take me by the clear light of the sun Let us forget, again, to lock the door. -- Ruth Vanita Till the hugs and the holding and the inevitable story telling made us feel you were still smoking amongst us. -- Shals Mahajan Buy this. Read this. Its a gorgeous collection. Below are lines from every poem in this collection. I am so happy this exists. Thank you for bringing these poems to life. It is the impossibility of queer love, the scholars say. For whom the only future carved out is death. -- Asad Alvi Take me by the clear light of the sun Let us forget, again, to lock the door. -- Ruth Vanita Till the hugs and the holding and the inevitable story telling made us feel you were still smoking amongst us. -- Shals Mahajan Some for two nights or one, And some for all their years. -- Vikram Seth crooning at 52 Hz, the only of his kind who can sing his poetry to you in Hindi? -- Rajiv Mohabir A Russian gay man who has never travelled beyond his village, watches a Wong Kar Wai film. His tears in the shower become the Iguazu falls. Does loneliness have no borders? -- Gee Semmalar My sister, she hangs by our slender thread that cannot snap Because the long long time of waiting is never dead -- Hoshang Merchant Open your eyes, friend. Give up the green pretending.  Let’s live only in the kaleidoscope of our communal dreams. -- Minal Hajratwala Fuck your order. Fuck your time. I realigned the cosmos. -- Fatimah Asghar as I wonder about the sound of the ocean your arm encircles me and you pull yourself -- Anahita Sarabhai like it  so … hetero but not? -- Sreshtha And the voice of bygone days pulls us back, besides. The beauteous eye continues to feed the flame of life, -- Firaq Gorakhpuri I have forgotten / I was marooned once / I have learned to respond to the word mehfil/ / like I do to a bird call / riding the waves, / my body becomes the sound. -- Karuna Chandrashekhar Teach your students trans petals and poetics, just not all death. -- Aqdas Aftab You’ve always been so gentle with your tools. Tougher, bolder at times. -- Joshua Muyiwa trace the of your navel, dip concave, disappearing, and imagine lower in. -- Rushati Mukherjee I haven’t even gotten to page 2 of my life and I’m probably more than halfway through, who knows what kind of creature I will become. -- Kazim Ali I stood paintbrush in hand all the colours of the rainbow close at heart rebuilding the immigrant dream one muddy artwork at a time -- Unity Yamazaki some homes look like deceit, turn into mirrors, into mines, into sunken boats, into teeth, into train tickets, into ballot boxes. -- Chithira Vijayakumar I can only hope that your skin, dyed congenitally with anger and too much strength, does not sink into your own bones. -- Orooj-E-Zafar People say ‘I love you’ all the time. -- Smita V Two make a pair, but love is between two halves that aren’t about fitting. Instead, filling out space because the other can take it. -- Alishya Almeida cab is still unavailable, घर जाउं कैसे? -- Shakti Milan Sharma I push my arms outwards Attempting to be a waterproof butterfly -- Sneha Khaund It is said that a son is the true successor Of his father’s blood and race. I therefore often ask myself, If I am like you in every other way, Why are my sexual desires So different from yours? -- Iftikhar Nasim I’d grown up swallowing Yash Chopra movies and Mani Ratnam romances, waiting with my whole body for a man’s hand to tug me gently onto the footboard of a moving train, driving into a blazing forever -- Nikita Deshpande should I say his name should I say each of their names -- Dhiren Borisa I gave you timelessness You taught me the unpredictability of green chillies. -- Trishna Senapaty Queer as in fuck you,  queer as in secret. -- Riddhi Dastidar Take your non-verbal cruising, give it words, make it resistance, make every conversation into an insinuation of revolution, every wink, a portal into a new world order. -- Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Bad brown girls always cluster in a bush sucking fire and blowing smoke at the moon, -- Leah Piepzna-Samarasinha Come near me, I want to hold you captive, draw a line around you with the salt of my desire. -- Vimal Bhai sigh! these hetero people find each other by what chance or is it sheer numbers? --Vqueeram Aditya Sahai What Does It Take to Belong? Dear brother from Kashmir You’re not the only Pakistani in Hindustan. --Raqeeb Raza You are epiphany running in my veins. -- Hadi Hussain Once when I had tried to woo a cuckoo, imitating its plaintive search, you had stopped me, saying that I was deluding the lovers. -- Sudhentu Chattopadhyaya Growing up is like the ache of the attic floor which squeaks at the slightest touch and dissolves into a wallflower to apologize for its insolence. -- Abhyuday Gupta You can’t talk about poverty/poetry, you can only live it. -- Chanchal Gupta We drape but Darkness with a little make up -- Abhisikta Dasgupta and I won’t blame the kids entirely but for years after them I told people my sexual orientation was tired. -- Mary Ann MohanRaj being odor-tested for the scent of the other. -- Chandramohan S In that kohl-like night  I had collected a windowful of stars. -- Shikhar Goel Give me something of yours to take, you took off your sari to wrap me in, before you could let me go. -- Anannya Dasgupta just like these, one day, you and I will be lost – to be lost is written in our stars, to be lost is our Dhamma. -- Kushagra Adwaita He calls up to ask: You, sir, are an activist? Means you are active? -- R Raj Rao My loneliness and I  often ask each other: If you were gay, what would’ve been? If you were gay, what could’ve been. --Annika Body, even when you feel like a suffocating amount of too much I am too afraid to mark you wrong for the fear of being lost -- Fatema Bhaiji This is also how a plus symbol may appear -- Sumita Beethi look at how he sees a whole city  in a home, -- Nishant Singh Thakur With a love so piercing, it’s a painkiller. It drowns my dysphoria. -- Minahil Abideen You will smile back, A small cry of laughter in your eyes, Underneath the hair that loves disguise -- Sultan Padamsee The horn-type mustache-walah asks: ‘Is that man or woman?’ The one sat next to him, strokes his beard:  ‘Will know when dead.’ -- Vijayarajamallika One day , finally you were able to free me. We felt so much pride that day , both of us. -- Rahul Kumar Rai In another time, in another life, they would call those embers, eyes -- Barnali Ray Shukla and tho’ sometimes you say you are there ‘brightness falls from the air’ like my hair -- Iravi Sometimes I think I could have been Axomiya. -- Shruti Sareen And when you finally decide to pass through the purgatory of this moment, does your mouth not clench at the dried up sweat that has by now chalked its mark on you? -- Ammar Hammad Khan I’ve made rice. Da’ling, come. Let me order a pair of chopsticks. -- Agam Balooni You take off the silver bangles, and hear their absent clinking when you lower to tie your shoes. -- I. Sayed I swear I hear the strains of reggaeton my hips swivel into the different rhythms of all our ancestors whispering ‘our stars in heaven hallowed be your names’ -- Amal Rana I arch my back for you you put me in your lap like something to feast on and savour me -- Pooja and Teenasai I am dreaming of you but we were not perfect almost never a calling just an enchantment like a leaf is to a tree wearing warning signs of an upcoming storm. -- Warm Me All of a sudden I am not my mother’s daughter But my father’s son --Sam(ira) Obeid So we built a relationship on the road, between a restaurant and a hostel, in a car. At midnight. -- Dibyajyoti Sarma This is the fight of your prison Don’t make this a thing about my soul. -- Sherish Rashid I am the most beautiful of the lot – Gorgeous. Striking. Invincible. Idolized by all. -- Santa Khurai The trees of lineage have heavy branches; blood is thick. For instance, my eyes, and face, and mouth will all be a Striking Resemblance. -- Ash Sal When I revolt against this construction of gender  I will keep my head held high I will fly -- Arina Alam Some call it disaster. Some call it ecstasy. -- Ruhail Andrabi They say This world isn't for you Why was I born into it, if it wasn't for me. -- Phurbu Tashi when her voice breaks like a wishbone he will stay. -- Akhil Katyal Do you want to get to know me Or the person whose body I wear? -- Sahar Riaz Even socks, and a jacket that kept me warm, a jewellery box and the red camera. All that I could, I gave back. --- Priyadarshini Ohol the boy I kissed in high school the girl I’d named stars after in return of a kiss -- Shruti Sonal My first real monsoon washes away the earth. They sit in the open. The ground is littered with dead stalks and thorns. -- Shaan Mukherjee Ghosh I’m guilty of a crime no matter what I do when I try to forget I remember you -- Moksh You’d quote me, my poems and I’d court you, more poems. -- Aditi Angiras Queer is the galaxy of endless possibilities situated just behind those prisons of the binaries Amma, Queer is me I am Queer, Amma. -- Chand Few months after him, he caught himself putting the phone in the shirt pocket. The familiar reprimand was nowhere close. Out of spite, he let the phone be. The heart was anyway b r o k e n. -- Gowthaman Ranganathan ‘that foolish girl jumped down the terrace and committed suicide girl-girl affair it seems’ -- Rumi Harish This is a nation of selective amnesia. -- Rajorshi Das For it is so well understood ‘society must be defended’ knowledge must stay sacred the body must be bound. -- Dia B ‘Aren’t you a bit too old/overqualified/womanly for slumber parties with best friends?’ -- Tanni Everyone says this dupatta cannot be mine, then why does it shine so beautiful on my shoulder? -- Snehashish Das My poems are not supposed to make you feel good because I know love as revolt and not fantasised romance. -- Riya Ghosh Ray I am not a mausoleum, what do I need these tiny pebbles for? -- Simple Rajrah You wanted nothing more than to feel the cold water on your bare skin. You couldn’t. -- Dia M Yonzon A dream swings like tenacity like the promise of a weaver bird -- Pitambar Naik I feel I have the right to sleep on your tummy. I still think it’s a constellation of stars. -- Bhaskar Majumdar I feel like I am a prostitute from the street. But it’s better than being chaste. -- Shaikh Md. Mominul Islam somewhere in me faith still burns, survives -- Kiran Toliya Preeti in love I say Ja re … they shun me away -- Chandini He has built for himself – for what remains of his life – a grave as beautiful as epiphanies, he calls it rooms to sleep in. -- Ramachandra Srinivasa Siras

  2. 5 out of 5

    Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)

    "Will it stretch that far? Will it go round three Continents or four, three hearts or more, And still slide through a ring? Worn and unravelled night and day without A break, past two time zones, retain Its sleek, original shape? How many machines can we put it through, How many phones, planes, taped voices And still find it wearable? Is our love elastic, or some finer, clinging, skinlike, inward-breathing weave To make all this bearable?" Garment // Ruth Vanita RATING: 3.75/5 I remember the call for submissi "Will it stretch that far? Will it go round three Continents or four, three hearts or more, And still slide through a ring? Worn and unravelled night and day without A break, past two time zones, retain Its sleek, original shape? How many machines can we put it through, How many phones, planes, taped voices And still find it wearable? Is our love elastic, or some finer, clinging, skinlike, inward-breathing weave To make all this bearable?" Garment // Ruth Vanita RATING: 3.75/5 I remember the call for submissions being put for this anthology in 2018. Akhil Katyal is a pretty well-known queer poet based in Delhi so I had been to a lot of his readings. I briefly toyed with the idea of sending my stuff but I didn't really have anything written, and I did not think I could write something was good enough to be submitted in time. Anyways, getting to the book, it was a solid collection. I appreciated the diversity in terms of location and language of the poets. I did find some of the poems subpar, but then there were other exceptional ones that made up for it. Many poets have been published for the first time. There are also selected works from the oeuvre of established poets. A few loved ones: Sreshtha, Chandrashekhar, Siras, Mohabir, Muyiwa, Vijaykumar, Orooj-e-Zafar. A lot of these poems play with language in interesting ways. Hopefully, this is just the beginning and we can get more queer writing across genres in the mainstream.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Praneeth Kruthiventi

    Heartwarming at times and painfully brutal at times, overall very beautiful!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aaditya Pandey

    This was my first anthology that I have read after I got to know about it from two people I have grown to be fond of, on social media. I have always read poetry collections of a single poet and so, I was accustomed to reading poems in a similar tone, style and theme. But this book got me curious about what I'd find in an anthology. And in no ways, I was disappointed after reading this. The World That Belongs To Us is a one-of-its-kind anthology that has featured contemporary queer poetry of Sout This was my first anthology that I have read after I got to know about it from two people I have grown to be fond of, on social media. I have always read poetry collections of a single poet and so, I was accustomed to reading poems in a similar tone, style and theme. But this book got me curious about what I'd find in an anthology. And in no ways, I was disappointed after reading this. The World That Belongs To Us is a one-of-its-kind anthology that has featured contemporary queer poetry of South Asia from not only well-known and celebrated authors and poets. But also, those who are lesser known and published before online or in print, and those are unknown and not published before. One of the most striking feature is that, it includes the translations of poetry from various regional poets of the subcontinent. The intersectionality of themes varies across many categories and they evoke a range of emotions in its readers. The inclusivity of many marginalized voices in queer circles of South Asian Diaspora in this book, has reconstructed what it means to be queer and get their impeccable voices heard that requires urgent hearing. Reading the poems, that are at times deeply personal and at others, very political, you feel like there is an intimate conversation happening between you and the poets through their imaginatively powerful poems. It will also make you search and yearn for further readings of various poets it celebrates with all their quirkiness. Just like I'm going to devour poems of Kazim Ali. This is not the first anthology of queer poetry in South Asia but because of the various layered contexts and the question that "What is a 'Queer poem'?" makes it an essential reading for all the poetry lovers and those who want to have an essence of South Asian contemporary poetry.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eduardo Bello

    Such a necessary and brave anthology.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mari Lewis

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tesni

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julia

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tiny

  10. 4 out of 5

    areeka

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rachna

  12. 5 out of 5

    Domiziana

  13. 4 out of 5

    tara

  14. 4 out of 5

    Efad

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kim Fernandes

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anushka

  17. 4 out of 5

    Swadha

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vipin Sirigiri

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carl Colaco

  20. 4 out of 5

    Abhyuday Gupta

  21. 4 out of 5

    A. Soumya Rao

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bedbyas Datta

  23. 5 out of 5

    Karin

  24. 4 out of 5

    kapil

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lavanya Arora

  26. 5 out of 5

    Milantropio

  27. 4 out of 5

    Abhinav Bhardwaj

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kora Schultz-Dzbinski

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sunaina Patnaik

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kavya

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