#DesiReads: Dipika Mukherjee reads from her poetry collection, Dialect of Distant Harbors

Desi Books Ep 86 w/ Dipika Mukherjee Desi Books


(available at Anchor.fm, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Breaker, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Overcast)

Hello and welcome to Episode 86 of Desi Books—news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt. Thank you for tuning in.

Today, in the #DesiReads segment, we have Dipika Mukherjee reading from her poetry collection, Dialect of Distant Harbors.

#DESIREADS WITH DIPIKA MUKHERJEEINTRODUCTION

Dipika Mukherjee is the author of the novels Shambala Junction and Ode to Broken Things, and the story collection, Rules of Desire. Her work is included in The Best Small Fictions 2019 and appears in World Literature Today, Asia Literary Review, Del Sol Review, Chicago Quarterly ReviewNewsweek, Los Angeles Review of Books, Hemispheres, Orion, Scroll, The Edge, and more. Her third poetry collection, Dialect of Distant Harbors, was published by CavanKerry Press in October 2022 and a collection of travel essays, Writers Postcards, has been accepted for publication by Penguin Random House (SEA) for 2023. She teaches at StoryStudio Chicago and the Graham School at the University of Chicago. She holds a Ph.D. in English (Sociolinguistics) from Texas A&M University.

“A grievous vastness to this world,” writes Dipika Mukherjee, “beyond human experience.” With wonder and empathy, and even rage, Dialect of Distant Harbors summons a shared humanity to examine issues of illness and family in the home, as well as redefine belonging and migration in a misogynistic and racist world. As that world recovers from a global pandemic and the failure of modern government, these meditations are incantations to our connections to the human family—whether in Asia, Europe, or the United States—and focus on what is most resilient in ourselves and our communities.

On a personal note, I want to share a serendipitous connection that Dipika and I have with a place called McLeod Ganj in northern India though we have never met or even discussed our journeys. I have yet to write about what my September 2015 journey did for me and my writing. Dipika has written a couple of essays about some of her experiences and I’m linking to one of those here. Unlike Dipika, I did not set out to meet the Dalai Lama and never did. But I believe that, although I’m not a religious person, I experienced some of the same magic as she did. She wrote about finally meeting the Dalai Lama on September 4th, 2015. Interestingly, I was in that town at that same time. We may even have passed each other without knowing. Such is this life.

And now, here’s Dipika Mukherjee. A transcript of some of the excerpts is also up on the Desi Books website.

Dialect of Distant Harbors, a poetry collection by Dipika Mukherjee, summons a shared humanity to examine issues of illness and family in the home, as well as redefine belonging and migration. #DesiReads @DesiBooks


#DESIREADS WITH DIPIKA MUKHERJEE

[Excerpted with permission from Dialect of Distant Harbors by Dipika Mukherjee. Copyright © 2022 Dipika Mukherjee.]

Going back to where I’m from

is to return to women who are goddesses,
incense smoke, and drumbeats & women
who bury infant girls in the ground, into
milk vats to drink until they drown;

to many-armed goddesses who slay
demons, and darkness, and scarcity
of thought & women who are womb
and vagina, never brain or mouth;
to stargazers who send probes to Mars,
mathematicians of cosmic poetry & women
raped in temples, strung from trees,
disemboweled in a dark-tinted moving bus;

to Bengal and Indus Valley and Chittaranjan Park
& Texas and Ohio and State Street in Chicago; 

“…I, of east-west, modern-ancient,
wanted to glide
like flying squirrels, from areca to date frond, certain
I caused trees to sway, not the wind…”
~Dipika Mukherjee, Dialect of Distant Harbors #DesiReads @DesiBooks

Aphorisms from the Malay Archipelago

In the fifth decade of life mothers are grandmothers, matriarch
of clans. Men unshackle, like hermits seeking caves,
detach to higher

calling. As quietly as the sweet potato burgeons so quietly
does the iron rust. I, of east-west, modern-ancient,
wanted to glide

like flying squirrels, from areca to date frond, certain
I caused trees to sway, not the wind. Moored
now, a pea

expelled from shell with no husk to shelter under –what
is gravy if it doesn’t fall on rice? — even the sunbird
touches ground…

“Bengali is the seventh most spoken language of our world.
It will not disappear by my neglect, nor Bengali poets writing in English.”
~Dipika Mukherjee, Dialect of Distant Harbors #DesiReads @DesiBooks

The Dialect of Distant Harbors

Bengali is the seventh most spoken language of our world.

It will not disappear by my neglect, nor Bengali poets writing in English.

It is impervious to our mad dashes and enjambments, our stutters in severed

tongues. Yet I fear the absences from the vocabulary of my children;

Seventh most spoken language of the world, but its majesty unfelt

in this foreign tongue I continue to write in, to reach you…

                                                                                                            …to reach you.


Dialect of Distant Harbors, a poetry collection by Dipika Mukherjee, summons a shared humanity to examine issues of illness and family in the home, as well as redefine belonging and migration. #DesiReads @DesiBooks


You’ve been listening to episode 86 of Desi Books—news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt. Thank you for tuning in. Today, in the #DesiReads segment, we had Dipika Mukherjee reading from her poetry collection, Dialect of Distant Harbors.

Episode 87 will be up shortly. Follow on Twitter @desibooks, Instagram @desi.books, Facebook @desibooksfb. Tag the accounts if you have requests or suggestions. Please go to the website, desibooks.co, if you’d like to sign up for the free, weekly newsletter. And please share this via social media to support the poet and help raise the tide of South Asian literature. Thank you.

Stay healthy, keep reading, and write well.

Join the Conversation

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.™
Share your appreciation. Sign up for the free, weekly newsletter.