Prerna Bakshi is a writer, poet and activist of Indian origin, currently based in Macao. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of the recently released full-length poetry collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love, long-listed for the 2015 Erbacce-Press Poetry Award in the UK and cited as one of the ‘9 Poetry Collections That Will Change The Way You See The World’ by Bustle in the US. Her work has been published widely, most recently in The Ofi Press, Red Wedge Magazine, TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism and Prachya Review: Literature & Art Without Borders, as well as anthologized in several collections, including America Is Not The World by Pankhearst. Website: http://prernabakshi.strikingly.com/
Who is your favorite female identifying written character and why?
My all-time favorite female writer is Amrita Pritam. Everything about her and her work consumes me. She literally paved the way for so many (women) writers, especially those from Punjab. As a Punjabi woman, I believe I owe so much to her; for all the incredible work that she did and for all those beautiful words she wrote. Her work speaks to me; it holds me. She wrote a great deal on Punjab, inter-ethnic relations and politics, experiences of women – all these topics concern me and something that I engage with/write about in my own work.
What literary work by a female identifying writer had the most effect on you as a writer and/or person?
Amrita Pritam’s poetry collection, Khamoshi Se Pehle and her auto-biography, Raseedi Ticket, had quite an effect on me, to such an extent that I began writing poems, after a long hiatus. Amrita Pritam, who was a prolific writer and poet, mentioned in Raseedi Ticket that when she was suffering from severe depression and as she went into therapy, she was encouraged by her therapist to write. This phenomena, though, as we know is not too uncommon, as Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath too, were told the same, when they found themselves in a similar position. Reading Amrita Pritam, whom I had always admired though, changed me in ways I cannot explain. I was going through some difficult times myself and still am (healing is a journey and never a fixed event) and it was precisely at this moment that I decided to write again. So, from that perspective, she’s been incredibly influential.
How did your work/works in Alyss come about?
“This morning” was dedicated to all the victims/survivors of domestic violence. It was written from a perspective of a person who finds themselves entrapped in a violent and abusive relationship and/or marriage. Even to this day, in several parts of the world, our society, for the most part, sees domestic violence as ‘normal’, something that women should put up with, for the sake of their relationship/marriage, for family’s honor etc. Even in cases where domestic violence is seen as a problem, I would argue, the society sees it in terms of a fixed event, something that women should ‘get over’ with, and must get on with their lives, performing their daily chores. Domestic violence is never fully seen as something that goes to on to effect women’s lives, for a long period of time, often in ways that cannot be easily measured.
What has been your greatest writing life moment so far?
My first full-length collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love (Les Éditions du Zaporogue, Denmark), just came out early this year. I made the long-list for this year’s Erbacce Press Poetry Award in the UK (as well as last year – that’s twice in a row!).Whittled down from about 8000 entries (a record entry) from across the world to just 100. To say that I was fairly pleased would be an understatement.
One of the most exciting things to have happened this year was when I learned that my book, Burnt Rotis, With Love, was cited as one of the ‘9 Poetry Collections That Will Change The Way You See The World’ by Bustle magazine in the US. To have my name next to the highly acclaimed and award-winning giants like Margaret Randall (who, incidentally, endorsed my book *still in awe*), Audre Lorde, Marge Piercy, Claudia Rankine and a whole heap of other talented and fine writers and poets (such as Heather Christle, Matt Rasmussen, Olena Kalytiak Davis, Gillian Conoley) was nothing short of a dream come true.
What is your favorite piece by another writer from a previous issue and why?
Date-Rape by Natalie N. Caro in Issue Deux. It was raw, powerful and beautiful.
What are you currently working on?
Nothing exciting, I’m afraid. Right now, I’m working towards my PhD and that’s taking up all my time.
Who/what is your favorite Alice/Alyss?