Gaea and Other Poems – A Poetry Debut

One of my goals before I turned twenty-five was to publish a book. It’s a silly goal to have, an egoistic one. Yet, one year late, I have a book under my belt. Gaea and Other Poems is now available for sale.

Published by Writer’s Workshop, Kolkata in their hallmark recycled silk saree cover, the book is precious to me for two reasons. Firstly, it is, of course my poetry debut. I feel happy and honored to be part of the poetry community, now that I have some experience in writing and publishing. Secondly, the Foreword is written by an old professor of mine, KNC, who is not only an expert in literary studies, but an inspirational, towering figure and a kind soul. I still think his words far outshine anything I wrote.

I thought a lot about whether this blog post should be promotional or not. But I settled on it being an account of how it feels to be a published poet. Honestly, it does not feel very different. Sure, there were a couple of Instagram Lives that made me feel slightly popular, but apart from that, its been quiet. But I think the day I received my author’s copy, Sept 24th 2020, a date I won’t forget anytime soon, was one of the happiest days of my life. It felt great to finally hold the book, a product of so much back-and-forth, to look through the edits that were made, to ruffle through the final versions of those ever-changing genies called poems.

I am thankful to a lot of people in life for making me a poet, most essentially to that one teacher who told me my writing is too negative. To a high school student, that comment could have been hurtful enough to make me stop writing. It almost did. I remember walking back from school and not mentioning the comment to anyone for two days. When I finally told my mother, and my best friend about it, they scoffed and backed me. What would she know about what you can do, they asked. What does she know about poetry anyway?

I am also thankful to many who have critically commented on my work, not lavishing praise but telling me exactly what worked and what didn’t. Two particular comments come to mind: I was told once that I write like I breathe. I was also told that I make something very tough appear effortless. Its nice to remember compliments about one’s writing.

Gaea and Other Poems is “an exercise in lyric discipline” as the Foreword puts it, and contains many unseen bits of poetry from my journals. It felt weird to release those into the world, and I felt somewhat protective of my privacy. After all, much of it was written from my personal life, about love, desire, mental health, loss and something akin to ennui. All these feature in varying degrees, like a buffet of images served on pages. I have not received a review of the book yet, and probably won’t, but I like to think that it has moments that tender souls can relate to.

Meanwhile, the excitement of publishing my first book also got me thinking seriously of being a writer. I realized that I need to dedicate a lot more time to my craft that I was doing. I decided to indulge in poetry for two-three hours everyday, whether that meant reading William Carlos Williams or writing poetry inspired by Dickinson, or commenting on appropriation in the poetry of Indian American Savarna writers when they write about race or caste. I have been doing this for the past four days, and I should say, that I have written more poetry recently than in the past four months.

It is also important to write notes about writing poetry, and that is what I intend to do with this blog henceforth. It will be my little poetry learning updates space, where I jot down what I did for the day, reflect on my learnings, learn about how my readings influence my writing. It’s going to be exciting!

Gaea and Other Poems is now available at select bookstores across the country. Buy your copy here: http://www.tbsbook.com/product/gaea-and-other-poems/

Published by

Athira Unni

ATHIRA UNNI writes, among other things, such as pursuing the perfect amount of sugar to put in her tea. . Her poetry has been published by NAME, Generation Magazine, Brev Spread, Madras Courier, The Sunflower Collective, The Little Rose Magazine, Sheila-Na-Gig Under 30 and Delhi Poetry Slam.

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