The “Writer Identity” and Aimee Nezhukumatathil

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my “writer identity”. There are Michigan writers, which can be further classified into categories like Detroit writers, U.P. Writers, and nature writers. Then there are queer writers, mixed-race writers, minority writers, women writers, feminist writers, religious writers, and this is just to name a few. But what really is a “writer identity”? Once you have it are you stuck with it for good? Is a “writer identity” beneficial or detrimental? How does one live up to this sort of badge?

Meet Aimee Nezhukumatathil: a half Filipina, half South Indian poet and professor of creative writing and environmental literature at State University of New York at Fredonia. I fell in love with her work because of the contagious beauty of her voice. She flawlessly deals with issues of seemingly small scale to issues of much social gravity. But, furthermore, she has a “writer identity” as an Asian-American poet. Somehow she has struck a lovely balance of writing poems that lean on this identity and, simultaneously, bloom far beyond it. Read one of my favorites of hers, Two Moths, below.

P.S. It’s pronounced Neh-Zu-Ku-Ma-Tah-Till.

P.P.S If you are looking for more inspiring mixed-race identified writers, check out Aaron Samuels.

Two Moths

By Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Some girls        on the other side of this planet
                   will never know        the loveliness
       of   walking      in a crepe silk sari.      Instead,
they will spend        their days                          on their backs
   for a parade               of   men           who could be       their uncles
       in another life.         These girls memorize
                    each slight wobble                  of   fan blade as it cuts
       through the stale       tea air and auto-rickshaw
                     exhaust,        thick as egg curry.
Men         shove greasy rupees        at the door
                      for one hour         in a room
      with a twelve-year-old.                One hour —               One hour —
             One hour.            And if   she cries afterward,
   her older sister       will cover it up.         Will rim
              the waterline             of   her eyes                 with kohl pencil
                       until it looks like                        two silk moths
                                have stopped      to rest       on her exquisite     face.

 

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