Earlier this week, a crowd filled in the Center for American War Letters Archives on the lower level of the Leatherby Libraries, ready for a Monday evening of poetry. Part of both Tabula Poetica, Chapman University’s Center for Poetry, and La Frontera – The Border: An Interdisciplinary Examination, the event was a reading by poet Vandana Khanna, author of Train to Agra and Afternoon Masala. Khanna began the reading with a poem from Train to Agra, but quickly moved onto her more recent poetry, part of a genre called the persona poem, in which the poet takes on the voice of a speaker who is not the author. In this genre, Khanna read several poems from a project about Hindu goddesses, with each poem from the perspective of one of the goddesses. Her poems gave voice to Sita, a goddess she remembers reading about in childhood, but being disappointed to find often silent, and spoken about, rather than speaking herself. Turning to another persona poem project, Khanna read several poems from the point of view of Penelope, Odysseus’ long-suffering wife in the Odyssey. Speaking in Penelope’s voice, Khanna read several poems, including two that she refers to as the “Dear O” (for Odysseus) poems.

After concluding her reading, Khanna took questions from the audience, which contained a substantial number of Creative Writing MFA students. She spoke about representing her Indian heritage in her poems, as well as the process of publishing poems, and finding the best fit of journals and platforms to publish in. It seemed that many of the people in the audience were inspired by Khanna’s poetry to write some of their own, including this blog writer!

Keep an eye out for the next reading in this series, when Shauna Barbosa comes to speak, giving a poetry talk at 2:30 PM in the Fish Interfaith Center, and a reading in the Center for American War Letters Archives at 7 PM on Monday, November 4th.