November 20, 2016

Karthik Purushothaman


shakycam isn’t cinematic
the fighter jet growls

aren’t computer generated
beneath the breathmasks

the children aren’t pretending
to heave nor did their father

swallow a penny to simulate
the right amount of retching

the lights didn’t go out on cue
the extras didn’t get paid

to shriek in Arabic the women
wearing hijabs aren’t masking

American accents even though
there is a reporter nobody

is interested in interviews
when the babies in incubators

resemble rotini before
the water comes to a boil

two nurses share a moment
they’d rather the babies died

in their arms than in the air
-strike on an open ground

unceilinged babies in blankets
are lined up one of them will

grow up to enter the United
States Muslim Registry live

the exiled Jew’s life in
the twenty forties, the twenty

first century foxes would
option this story summon

someone from the hurt locker
to direct this motion picture

deemed fifty-seven percent
fresh says the review

aggregator shocking beautiful
-ly shot and moving at times

Aleppo like Baghdad
like Tripoli like Kabul feels

a tad too rehearsed to be real.

Poets Respond
November 20, 2016

[download audio]


Karthik Purushothaman: “Wary as I am of its extended metaphor, I write this poem in reaction to a disturbing video posted yesterday morning by Al Jazeera, filmed during an airstrike taking place at a children’s hospital in Eastern Aleppo. Owing to Hollywood’s long-time lifelike depiction of loss of lives and trauma in conflict areas, I find myself immensely desensitized to the realities of such violence. Al Jazeera’s frontline video, however, wrenched me out of my numbness, and I shed tears for news on destruction for the first time in many years.” (website)

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October 23, 2016

Karthik Purushothaman


after the announcement of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature

Last week, a voice won
because it was heard.
Can you have claimed any
other victory to be yours?

Didn’t the voice, mellow
rattle your walls without
need to bellow? Unplugged
plugged in, from Desolation

to Duquesne, don’t you still
hear the voice blowing,
as constant as a bullfrog’s croak
in the world’s rainiest place?

For real, now the eastern state
of Meghalaya, India, is no more
eastern than Woodstock was
white. So while you complain

from your golf carts, I pray
one day that the Prize also be
handed to the black man who
played the guitar with his teeth

because that to me is poetry.

Poets Respond
October 23, 2016

[download audio]


Karthik Purushothaman: “This is my straightest response to the Nobel Committee’s decision to award Bob Dylan the prize, though Dylan himself has yet to respond. As a writer from the Indian subcontinent, I’m ecstatic. Even though Dylan is white, and the last Indian to have earned the prize won it a hundred years ago, the Committee’s decision still speaks for me and my fellow young poets from India, who would cite the likes of Dylan, Leonard Cohen, or Joan Baez as the reason they took up writing poetry. For as long as the prize continues to be awarded, there is no doubt it will remain Eurocentric. Therefore, every decision the committee makes outside the list of ‘usual suspects,’ I consider a victory for the many forms in which literature exists and continues to thrive, in the present day.” (website)

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