Verses of home and away

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  • Published 18.05.08

From memories of a neighbourhood cobbler “skinny and sunburned as Gandhi” to the first experience of setting up home in a foreign land — all find their way to Zilka Joseph’s poetry.

Lands I Live In, a collection of poems by Zilka, was launched at Oxford Bookstore on Monday by Prof Amiya Deb who was her teacher years ago.

“My first poem was published in The Telegraph’s Sunday magazine. I remember going to class the next day and my professor saying ‘did you know that we have a poet among us?’” smiled Joseph, who was born in Mumbai, raised in Calcutta and is now based in Michigan. She teaches at Oakland Community College and conducts a poetry workshop for Springfield Arts-Metro Detroit Writers.

In Lands I Live In, Joseph writes about her homeland and the “diasporic” experience — of feeling like an outsider in a book club meeting, of being “terrified of dropping crumbs/or spilling my wine”.

“I was inspired to write after attending a book-reading of Toni Morrison. I had stopped writing once I started working. Then I went abroad with my husband on a baggage visa, which means I wasn’t allowed to work there. That made me more introspective and I rediscovered writing,” said Zilka.