Friday, November 30, 2007


I received a copy of the page proofs today. This Splintered Face has almost materialized. As l leaf through these poems, I think of my father, Guy Amirthanayagam, who gave me a great send-off as a poet, reading all of my first poems, encouraging them along with comments and suggestions during a wet Honolulu summer where poetry filled my lonely heart-ache, gave my life some purpose.

I continue, of course, to engage in the inevitable tussle between woman of flesh and blood, and the muse, this sweet absence, saree pulled through the ring in my friend Shahid’s “The Dacca Gauzes.”

My father wrote at times about woman and solitude. Here is


Exactitude is vital:
The pilot sounds precise enough
As he announces loud and clear
We are thirty thousand
Five hundred and forty feet
Above the ground.

The climb over affronted clouds
In a mood to mass together,
Shutting out of sight
Inhospitable desert mountains
Seems a true image, the only one
Of man’s ascent, till
A vision of a kind-looking
Hostess, like the serene, low
Lying cloud just appearing
In the right corner of my window
Floats past me with the question,
Do you need a drink?

Startled, I mumble under my breath;
My sub-vocal speech she does not hear
My ‘yes’ is neither firm nor clear.
She passes me by, as though
We were in a park on earth
Or a supermarket.
I do not need a drink.
But I could be comforted.

And the price of comfort is to have
Assertiveness to match my need:
Strong certitude in every deed.
Exactitude is vital.

--- Guy Amirthanayagam, New Verse, Paperback Edition, Ceylon Printers, 1990

Press Release for The Splintered Face Tsunami Poems

Hanging Loose Press
231 Wyckoff Street phone: 212 206-8465
Brooklyn, New York fax: 212 243-7499

For immediate release:


Brooklyn – Hanging Loose Press will publish The Splintered Face: Tsunami Poems the second English language collection by prize winning poet Indran Amirthanayagam on January 25, 2008.

Indran Amirthanayagam is a poet, essayist and translator in English, Spanish and French. His first book The Elephants of Reckoning won the 1994 Paterson Poetry Prize. The poem “Juarez” won the Juegos Florales of Guaymas, Sonora in 2006. Other books include El Infierno de los Pajaros, El Hombre que Recoge Nidos, and Ceylon R.I.P. Amirthanayagam has been a NYFA fellow in poetry as well as a grantee of the U.S./Mexico Fund for Culture for his translations. He was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He is a member of the United States Foreign Service. This is his second book to be published in the United States.

Praise for The Splintered Face: Tsunami Poems:
“These poems both about those who died in, and those who survived, the Tsunami of 2004 memorialize with anger and beauty one of the most devastating tragedies of our time. In its largeness of heart, bold artistry, and admirable desire to bear witness, Amirthanayagam’s consoling, life-affirming and triumphant volume reminds me of Neruda’s great Residence on Earth.”
—Jaime Manrique
“Indran Amirthanayagam’s densely woven Tsunami Poems display a perfect marriage of form and content. His rhythms, rhymes, and intricate consonantal endings as well as his precise images and mots justes ironically intensify the terror of the stories these poems tell—stories of real men, women, and children whose lives have been changed forever by a terrible natural disaster. This beautifully written and graphic sequence makes for fascinating reading.”—Marjorie Perloff

“Indran Amirthanayagam’s poems about tragedy and loss are woven with such fine irony. Each offers the poet’s consolation, challenging horror with the beautiful line.”—Richard Rodriguez

“In his powerful and vivid reenactment of the devastating 2004 tsunami and its aftermath, Indran Amirthanayagam rematerializes a composite but ‘splintered face,’ and conjures a myriad of voices, memorializing this incomprehensible tragedy. With plain-spoken eloquence and consummate skill, he presents a chorus of individual testimonials from survivors—including monologues by a Sri Lankan fisherman who lost his entire family, visiting tourists, a body builder, and a bereft but ever faithful priest—all who witnessed and survived ‘the shape of a giant wave’ rising to devour tens of thousands of lives.


“A deeply moving and wise book, The Splintered Face recognizes the great and small paradoxes inherent in the world, and among them: ‘the sea [as] father/ and mother,/ karma and dharma// and all other/ available terms,/ including fate.’ The poet understands how, while we still mourn for the lost and dead, we also engender ‘the ceremonies of innocence,’ and muster both hope and strength to carry on. Ultimately, Amirthanayagam’s poems celebrate the human spirit’s resilience, even when faced with unutterable loss.”—Maurya Simon

Hanging Loose Press, founded in 1966, publishes Hanging Loose magazine and individual collections of fiction and poetry. The press has received many awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Poetry, 104 pages For more information call:
paper, ISBN: 978-1-931236-82-9, $16.00 New York, Robert Hershon: 212 206-8465
cloth, ISBN: 978-1-931236-83-6, $26.00 Boston, Mark Pawlak: 617 491-6416

Please send tear sheets or two photocopies of any reviews.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


-- a L.D.

despierta al aleteo del picaflor,
arranca su auto
para cruzar el río seco;
y en Constitución
va en busca de un cachete.

En el camino susurra
que no soportará
la violación
del sentido comun,
que prefiere

a poetas que escriban
con pinceles, mujeres
que aceptan ser dibujadas
con pinceles, y las
que pintan autorretratos,

y las demás mujeres
por el consuelo
de ser abrazado, amado,
y esa musa que vive
en la calle Mina

quien le invita a casa
a comer tortillas y frijoles
y machacado con huevos
y lo corrige con gusto,
la Mexicana

quien le ha hecho
un lugar en su literatura
como chico del barrio,
hombre regio,
amigo imaginista.

-- Indran Amirthanayagam, el 28 de noviembre, derechos reservados 2008

Las Cruces

Cumpleaños, Las Cruces

El dia de mi cumpleaños, de mi cuarenta y séptimo año hacia el Cielo, llegué a la puerta de la casa del poeta en Las Cruces. Estaba abierta. Era la una de la tarde. Entré y me dirigí hacia la sala. Ahí lo encontré leyendo sentado en un sofá: a los 93 años, con un sombrero, a Nicanor Parra. Lo saludé y le pregunté si nos podíamos hablar, si mis amigos también podían entrar y charlar con el. Asintió y empezamos a charlar: de las fotografías (que roban el alma según los Mapuches), de un poema que le había enviado hace dos años: “Nicanor Butterfly,” “como puedo recordar si apenas me acuerdo de una de las primeras lineas de Hamlet: What hour is it?”

I found him in a hat
and sweater lazing
on the sofa with a book,
the front door open,
nobody about.

We had met
the maid who attends
to his lunch
by chance
on the street.

She told us she’d return
in a few minutes,
leaving him alone
with the sea
and his admirers.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I just returned from South America, journeys to Buenos Aires, Parana, Santiago, Valparaiso, Las Cruces, Zapallar. How to speak of journeys in mere prose? They lift you up and throw you flat on the ground, wide-eyed, astonished, perhaps even bemused by the banal stood up against the terrifying, the awesome canyon and the need to get a bit of bread or a wash.

My new manuscript in Spanish, Sol Camuflado, is in good hands in Chile, read and encouraged by Raul Zurita and other poets; it has begun its journey towards eventual publication in that country. Once I have firm news I will let you know here and everywhere.

Meanwhile, the Splintered Face: Tsunami Poems is occupying the attentions of the printers. Soon I will have the book in hand. These are indeed heady times for a poet.
but the domestic, full of its small joys and sadnesses, keeps me walking the line.

From Vancouver at Thanksgiving I send you my love.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

a new blog, a new life

New to blogs I am suddenly managing two of them. I wonder where this conversation will go. Here you will find poems, essays, photos as I begin a new adventure with a new book, to be published by year's end. The Splintered Face Tsunami Poems.

take care