I am a poet and scholar working at the intersection of creative and critical practice in the humanities. In addition to teaching in the Department of English and the Program in Creative Writing, I also work closely with the university's Program in Poetry and Poetics--an interdisciplinary collective of scholars, poets, and translators who work on poetry across a diversity of regions, historical periods, and theoretical approaches. If you are interested in learning more about Poetry and Poetics at Chicago—including our new curricular option within the university’s MAPH program—please visit the program’s website at poetics.uchicago.edu.
As a writer of South Asian descent, my creative work falls within a broad paradigm of Asian American, diasporic, and transnational poetics. My first collection, Facts for Visitors, investigates questions of displacement and unbelonging through an engagement with a variety of literary forms, from terza rima and the villanelle to free verse and prose poetry. In my second book, Voyager, I adopt the experimental method of literary erasure, deleting language from the English-language memoir of Kurt Waldheim—a former intelligence officer in Hitler’s Wehrmacht who went on, many years later, to serve as Secretary General of the United Nations—in order to unearth the plurality of subtexts concealed within any totalizing dream of identity. Presently, I am working on a book-length poem titled Readings in World Literature. This extended sequence is cast in the form of fragmentary lecture notes for an imaginary course in the humanities, weaving together elements of academic satire, a survivor’s memoir, translations from obscure works of world literature, and a Borgesian journey through the underworlds of various cultures. The Creative Capital Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts have awarded me grants to support work on this project in the coming years.
My research interests include modern American poetry, literature and visual art, theories of global and transnational literature, the poetics of geography, and contemporary Asian American writing. My critical study, Changing Subjects: Digressions in Modern American Poetry, foregrounds a constellation of American writers from Walt Whitman to John Ashbery who cultivate a poetics of digression in order to negotiate formations of knowledge, narration, and identity under the curious conditions of modernity. My next scholarly project will examine the geographical imagination of modern American writers—including Gertrude Stein, Charles Olson, and Elizabeth Bishop—who construct literary cartographies that revise the traditional view of poetry as an art of interiority by emphasizing the radical exteriority of poetic making. In the autumn of 2015, I will deliver the Bagley Wright Lectures on Poetry. This series of talks will consider a range of questions concerning poetry and poetics, including theories of likeness, ekphrasis, technology, and wonder.
At the university I teach a variety of courses in literary studies and creative writing, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary crossings between the arts and humanities. Recently, I co-taught an arts studio course titled “Picturing Words/Writing Images” with the sculptor Jessica Stockholder in the Department of Visual Art. In this course, students investigated the cognitive, phenomenological, social, and aesthetic ramifications of viewing language as image and image as text through creative practice. In the coming years, I hope to offer more courses that test the boundaries of critical and creative work at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
2017-2018 Courses: Autumn 2017, Poetics (graduate)
Graduate: Writing Images/Picturing Words; Transnational Poetics, The Poetics of Erasure, Asian American Poetry, The Cantos of Ezra Pound, Stein and Wittgenstein
Undergraduate: Picturing Words/Writing Images, Writing Practices, Letters to Young Poets, Philosophical Perspectives, Readings in World Literature
- Conversities, with Daniel Beachy-Quick (1913 Press, 2012)
- Changing Subjects: Digressions in Twentieth-Century American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2012)
- Readings in World Literature (chapbook, Omnidawn Books, 2011)
- Voyager (University of California Press, 2011)
- Facts for Visitors: Poems (University of California Press, 2004)
Ph.D., Harvard University, 2008. M.F.A., University of Iowa, 2000. Teaching at Chicago since 2003.