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About this poet

Bhanu Kapil was born in England in 1968 to Indian parents, and she grew up in a South Asian, working-class community in London. She developed a childhood interest in writing and cites Salman Rushdie as an early influence. She earned a BA from England’s Loughborough University and, after moving to the United States in 1990, an MA in English Literature from SUNY Brockport.

She is the author of Ban en Banlieue (Nightboat Books, 2015), Schizophrene (Nightboat Books, 2011), humanimal [a project for future children] (Kelsey Street Press, 2009), Incubation: a Space for Monsters (Leon Works, 2006), and The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey Street Press, 2001). 

Kapil’s books, often referred to as “prose/poetry,” tend to be hybrid forms integrating narrative, prose, and verse in different combinations. They also deal with strange, mythological plots—humaninal, for instance, tells the story of two girls in Bengal who were supposedly raised by wolves, and Incubation follows the journey of a cyborg girl across America. According to the poet Jenny Zhang, “Bhanu has a way of speaking to those of us who move through life feeling at once alien and recognizable, she speaks to us—the cyborgs, the aliens, the displaced, the feral, the untamed.”

She teaches in the Department of Writing and Poetics at Naropa University and in the low-residency MFA program at Goddard College, and she lives in Boulder, Colorado.



Selected Bibliography

Ban en Banlieue (Nightboat Books, 2015)
Schizophrene (Nightboat Books, 2011)
humanimal [a project for future children] (Kelsey Street Press, 2009)
Incubation: a Space for Monsters (Leon Works, 2006)
The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey Street Press, 2001)

 

Humanimal [Feral children are fatty]

4. Feral children are fatty, complex and rigid. When you captured the two children, you had to brush the knots out of their hair then scrape the comb free of hard butter. Descent and serration. No. I don't want to ask primal questions.

5. Kamala slips over the garden wall with her sister and runs, on all fours, towards the complex horizon between Midnapure and its surrounding belt of sal. The humanimal mode is one of pure anxiety attached to the presence of the body. Two panicked children strain against the gelatin envelope of the township, producing, through distension, a frightening shape. The animals see an opaque, milky membrane bulging with life and retreat, as you would, to the inner world. I am speaking for you in January. It is raining. Amniotic, compelled to emerge, the girls are nevertheless re-absorbed. I imagine them back in their cots illuminated by kerosene lanterns. I illuminate them in the colony—the cluster of residences, including the Home—around St. John's. No. Though I've been there, it’s impossible for me to visualize retrieval. Chronologies only record the bad days, the attempted escapes.

d. I was almost to the gate. I was almost to the gate when a hand reached out and pulled me backwards by my hair, opening my mouth to an O. The next day, I woke up with a raw throat. The cook gave me salt in warm water. I waited until she was gone and then I bit it. I bit my own arm and ate it. Here is my belly, frosted with meat. Here are my eyes, bobbling in a tin.

6. It's Palm Sunday and Kamala, with the other orphans in a dark, glittery crocodile, walks from Home to church. Her two arms extend stiffly from her body to train them, to extend. Unbound, her elbows and wrists would flex then supinate like two peeled claws. Wrapped, she is a swerve, a crooked yet regulated mark. This is corrective therapy; the fascia hardening over a lifetime then split in order to re-set it, educate the nerves.

e. The cook fed us meats of many kinds. I joined my belly to the belly of the next girl. It was pink and we opened our beaks for meat. It was wet and we licked the dictionary off each other's faces.

7. Is this the humanimal question? No, it’s a disc, transferring light from corner to corner of the girl's eye. Like an animal tapetum. The way at night an animal. Animal eyes, glinting, in the room where he kept her, his girl, deep in the Home.

From Humanimal by Bhanu Kapil. Copyright © 2008 by Bhanu Kapil. Used by permission of Kelsey Street Press. All rights reserved.

From Humanimal by Bhanu Kapil. Copyright © 2008 by Bhanu Kapil. Used by permission of Kelsey Street Press. All rights reserved.

Bhanu Kapil

Bhanu Kapil, born in England in 1968 to Indian parents, is the author of Ban en Banlieue (Nightboat Books, 2015) and humanimal [a project for future children] (Kelsey Street Press, 2009).

by this poet

poem

47. I want to make a dark mirror out of writing: one child facing the other, like Dora and little Hans. I want to write, for example, about the violence done to my father's body as a child. In this re-telling, India is blue, green, black and yellow like the actual, reflective

poem
53.

Red Canna, I see you. Edge of. What I saw: a flower blossoming, in slow motion. 
Not specific enough. Okay. No. Cannot. Red Canna, I veer into you. I am not in 
one straight line. Red Canna, I see you. 1904. The University of Arizona Museum 
of Art. Opening in slow motion: are you okay? Are