I am a poet, scholar, and literary editor working at the intersection of creative and critical practice in the humanities. As a writer of South Asian descent, my creative work falls within a broad paradigm of Asian American, diasporic, and transnational poetics. In addition to teaching in the Department of English and the Program in Creative Writing, I also serve as Series Editor of the Phoenix Poets book series at the University of Chicago Press.
My most recent book of poetry, Underworld Lit (Wave Books, 2020), is a long narrative poem cast in the form of lecture notes for an imaginary course in the humanities—incorporating 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. My work on this project has been supported by fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Creative Capital Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Underworld Lit was a finalist for the Griffin International Poetry Prize, the Poetry Society of America's Four Quartets Prize, and a TLS Book of the Year for 2020.
My previous book of poetry, Voyager (University of California Press, 2011), is a work of literary erasure in which I selectively delete words 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 expose the multiverse of subtexts concealed within any totalizing dream of identity. Voyager was named one of the best books of poetry in 2011 by The New Yorker, The Believer, and National Public Radio.
My first collection, Facts for Visitors (University of California Press, 2004), investigates questions of displacement and unbelonging—frequently in a South Asian context—through a variety of lyric forms, from terza rima and the villanelle to free verse and prose poetry. Facts for Visitors received the 2005 Asian American Literary Award for Poetry. My poetry, criticism, and translations have appeared in Harper’s, The Guardian, The New York Times, Lana Turner, and Poetry, among numerous other venues.
My critical study, Changing Subjects: Digressions in Modern American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2012), 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. In Fall 2015, I delivered the Bagley Wright Lectures in Poetry at various venues across the United States, including The Library of Congress, Yale University, Princeton University, and UC-Berkeley; these lectures, on poetry as an “affective technology” within a variety of historical periods and cultural traditions, will be published by Wave Books in 2023.
Work with Students
I regularly advise undergraduate and MAPH theses in poetry writing. Additionally, I teach a variety of courses in literary studies and creative writing, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary crossings between the arts and humanities. 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.
- Fundamentals of Creative Writing: Parody
- Advanced Poetry Workshop: Letters to Young Poets
- Poetry and the Human: Arts Core
- Picturing Words/Writing Images
- The Poetics of Erasure
- Asian American Poetry
- Stein and Wittgenstein
- The Cinematic Lyric
- Underworld Lit (Wave Books, 2020)
- Changing Subjects: Digressions in Twentieth-Century American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2012)
- Voyager (University of California Press, 2011)
- Facts for Visitors: Poems (University of California Press, 2004)