August 23, 2014

On Kim Hyesoon's Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream

I wrote this short piece for a feature on Kim Hyesoon being brought out by Action Books/Asian American Writers' Workshop - The Margins:

Kim Hyesoon's Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream is a companion for grief. It startles the wounds out of your own soul and you find yourself rubbing your collarbone in a spot a white bird has appeared. And rain.

The poet/translator/text/reader takes into her own body the wounds of the world or shoves her feet into the wound, small ribs break off, yet she continues to walk. The small pieces of cloth that make up the garbage quilt of this poem are never quite enough to cover us, and they are. "Are you vacant? I'm vacant." These "dirty writings" hold the urgency of shadow, cold sweep of desolation, broken glass. How many are brave enough to stay in this room of loss outside modernity's schedule, getting licked all night long? How many are brave enough to let these things enter them?

Hyesoon brought to us via Don Mee Choi is willing to take the ice, the media of seeing into her mouth, and this lending of herself is what makes rain, water, sea, salt, so necessary to cry, this barking water that holds both our past and our future.

While you were typing
I couldn't stop the rain

As Sobonfu Some puts it, grieving is a matter of life and death. Open to grieving and read Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream.

August 22, 2014

From Trauma to Catharsis: Performing the Asian Avant Garde

The symposium, hosted by the MFA program at CIIS, begins today!

I perform tonight and present on Sunday.

Also in attendance:

Bhanu Kapil
Cheena Marie Lo
Ching-In Chen
D'Loco Kid
Geneva Chao
Jai Arun Ravine
Jason Magabo Perez
MG Roberts
Margaret Rhee
Ronaldo Wilson
Pireeni Sundaralingam
Sean Labrador y Manzano
Soham Patel
Truong Tran

& YOU?

The full schedule is here!

July 21, 2014

Growing up in the Sea of Stories, that is India

When Craig Chalquist asked me to write a few words about myth and story in India to share with his students at CIIS taking the Archetypal Mythology course, I wrote this in January, not knowing that in just over two weeks, Penguin will withdraw Wendy Doniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History, and we will once again find ourselves at the perplexity of a present bullied by cultural vigilantism or the threat of it in the name of purity of the past.   

The sweetness of my childhood was contained in tales told, retold, unraveled, re-dressed in books. In lieu of grandparents, I had storybooks, and magazines—Nandan, Champak, Parag, Chandamama, Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, and Bal Hans, to name only a few. Through them, I encountered myths, folktales, fables, legends, and history—with them, I lived in a continuum of realities and temporal structures. Imagine a world where the moment that is cohabits with the moment that has always been, or never was. Imagine when a moment, swallowed, reappears in another story, even as that story spits out other, stranger moments. 
In the imaginal world of my childhood, differences, though not equal, were possible: a polymorphism bid by the range of linguistic, regional, religious, caste-based, gender-based traditions of mythology that had, over time, evolved in India. Further, tales from other parts of the world (especially, at the time, from Britain and Russia) were never far from the emotional, intellectual, and fantastical matrix of this postcolonial, ever-swirling navel of the world. 
It was jarring, then, to find myself growing up in a modern India where fundamentalist forces demanded a single unified Hinduism tethered to a monolithic mythology. Myth, I learnt, can be the terrain of cultural wars. To stake your claim over culture, your cultural practice, you have to tell your stories. Ultimately, mythology is about place and belonging. 
Those living at the brink of the mainstream Indian imagination, those interested in bringing social/narrative justice into mainstream Indian imagination, are today trying to give voice to indigenous, dalit, women’s, non-brahminical, nontextual, local storytelling traditions though publications, performances, film, and other media. Storytelling in India also always raises the question, “In which language?” With cultural globalization, the diversity of worlds and worldviews signified/created in each language has shrunk, but the intricate streams of mythologies that flow into and are the “sea of stories” that is India may be both too old, and ever-renewing, to disappear.

April 24, 2014

On NPM Daily: Living with Language

Let’s say nature is sentient & alive, & that everything in nature is also sentient & alive. 
Stone River Genome Abrasion
Flight path L&fill Stigmata OS
Laughter Erhu Dreams Fibula
Sun Lozenge Radiation Terror 
Animists would also say: 

Let’s say all parts of the natural world are interrelated—that we are kindred. 

Language, then? 

Is language alive & sentient?
Is language kin to us?

Read the rest here on NPM Daily. 

Review of Kala Pani on Rain Taxi

The gracious Elizabeth Robinson wrote a wonderful review of Kala Pani on Rain Taxi!
Every moment of this book is a testament to resourcefulness and insubordination. The detours and proliferations of Kala Pani, along with its embrace of absurdity, become a means of survival that jumps over the limitations of the rational. There’s a sense of suspension, of process—“cursor in internal disorder”—that beguiles the intrepid reader to follow chaos into constellations that make order as we know it irrelevant.
Thank you, ER! 

April 16, 2014

Three poems in VAYAVYA

Am so pleased to be in the current issue of VAYAVYA, a lovely journal edited by Mihir Vatsa!

Read "Red," "Myth of Knowing," and "Myth of Light" here.   

April 02, 2014

"you'll think I's a slut"

"you'll think I's a slut" is in Abraham Lincoln #8 thanks to Kasey Mohammad's recall superpowers! Get your copy here and/or send me one of your poems at monica dot mody at gmail dot com, and in fair exchange I will email the poem for you to read!


March 18, 2014

Ritual for the Waters - Saturday, March 22

This Ritual for the Waters has been inspired by the Dagara tradition of Burkina Faso as taught by Malidoma Somé, and is being hosted on World Water Day, March 22. Meet at noon at the fire rings on Ocean Beach (between stairs 15-20, opposite The Beach Chalet).

Why This Ritual, and Why now?

In recent months, we have felt ourselves concerned by the pollution and the radiation flowing into the "blue heart of the planet"; by its exploitation and declining health; by the disappearing plant and algae, fungi, microbial, animal species; by the collapsing marine ecosystems. We have felt ourselves angry and indifferent and confused and despairing and heartbroken.

In the Dagara cosmology, actions we take in this world are reinforced and energized when taken in right relationship with the other worlds -- when the other worlds are on our side.

This ritual intends to recall and regenerate our relationship with the other worlds, as also with the waters. Through this ritual for the waters, we seek to offer those ones the depth of our emotions -- our waters -- in this moment of planetary crisis; we seek to bring forth the clarity of heart and vision that will enable us -- as children of this planet, as interdependent and interexisting living beings -- to ask that the ocean bring forth healing.

Through this ritual, we ask that love may undergird every interaction we have with the waters on this planet.

Join Us

We invite those who resonate with this intention to join us, in person or wherever you are (tuning in via a body of water, a bowl of water), and we ask you to invite others who may also feel called to join.

We will connect our intentions with other healers, eco-activists, and elders who are also on this day, in these times, asking for the healing of our relationship to the waters of the planet -- outside and within us.


Please bring sound/rhythm instruments and prayers; your grief and complex of emotions; pictures or images of ancestors; red cloth.

Zayin Cabot and Monica Mody are your point people to contact and to look for at the ritual.

Please write to Zayin at or Monica at if you have any questions.

March 04, 2014

Call for Poems - 2014 CIIS Founders Symposium

Attn. CIIS Community!

I am curating & moderating Spanning Inside and Outside: Poetry as Integral Speech, a two-hour poetry session at the 2014 CIIS Founders Symposium (with Hope Casareno).

Poetry is the language through which blood of life, waters of the planet, self-remembering of consciousness, and revelation of mystery flow. In the critical space of poetry, we can imagine, inquire, become, inhabit other ways of knowing, participate in the world, sustain possibility, and seed change.

And thus, honoring the generous liminality of poetic consciousness, we invite the poet that is you to respond to a symposium theme this year.

The invitation is to submit poems that in deepest awe and from the "felt senseness" of our unique human embodiment witness, evoke, or animate personal and planetary healing, integration, and wholeness: the confluence and the conjunction.

Poems can be submitted in the form of text, sound, film, or image. Please do not send in work that is more than 5-6 minutes in length (when read or performed).

Send your submissions by 5pm, March 18, 2014 to with "Poetry Session at the Founders Symposium" in the title. If selected, you would be invited to participate in and share your work during the poetry session at the Founders Symposium, to be held on April 18, 2014.

February 26, 2014

AWP Offsite Readings

Hi all, please join me Thursday at Cafe Racer (7-9pm) or Saturday at Sole Repair Shop (6-10pm) as I read with some of my literary favorites, heroines et heroes at AWP Seattle offsites!

February 25, 2014

Critical narratives of hope amongst the indigenous peoples of Jharkhand

It is almost summer, almost time to visit home—India, Jharkhand, Ranchi—again. And so here is a brief description of the project for which I received the Social Justice Research and Community Service Award from the CIIS Student Alliance:

Through this ongoing project, I want to draw attention to and help extend openings to critical moments and narratives of hope amongst the indigenous peoples (adivasis) of Jharkhand, India. These communities are engaged in struggles against state-promoted neocolonial and corporate capitalist forces to protect their forests, sacred places, and indigenous knowledges and ways of being. Parallel to and implicated in these struggles for rights, resources, and knowledge are the struggles of indigenous women, whose vulnerability has often made them easy targets for witchcraft accusations, torturing, and murder. Highlighting hope can highlight its potential to play a strategic, subversive, and transformative role in social justice movements; narratives of hope are radical in themselves in a time when the dominant narratives are those of despair and cynicism. As agents of change, the adivasis can (and do) themselves generate their own analysis and solutions; as someone implicated in the story of Jharkhand by virtue of being born there, I see this as a small contribution—offering—on my part.

February 19, 2014