poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

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 [I want to make a dark mirror out of writing]

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 surface of a mercury globe. I pour the mercury into a shallow box to see it: my father's right leg, linear and hard as the bone it contains, and silver. There are scooped out places where the flesh is missing, shiny, as they would be regardless of race. A scar is memory. Memory is wrong. The wrong face appears in the wrong memory. A face, for example, condenses on the surface of the mirror in the bathroom when I stop writing to wash my face. Hands on the basin, I look up, and see it: the distinct image of an owlgirl. Her eyes protrude, her tongue is sticking out, and she has horns, wings and feet. Talons. I look into her eyes and see his. Writing makes a mirror between the two children who perceive each other. In a physical world, the mirror is a slice of dark space. How do you break a space? No. Tell me a story set in a different time, in a different place. Because I'm scared. I'm scared of the child I'm making.

48. They dragged her from a dark room and put her in a sheet. They broke her legs then re-set them. Both children, the wolfgirls, were given a fine yellow powder to clean their kidneys but their bodies, having adapted to animal ways of excreting meat, could not cope with this technology. Red worms came out of their bodies and the younger girl died. Kamala mourned the death of her sister with, as Joseph wrote, "an affection." There, in a dark room deep in the Home. Many rooms are dark in India to kill the sun. In Midnapure, I stood in that room, and blinked. When my vision adjusted, I saw a picture of Jesus above a bed, positioned yet dusty on a faded turquoise wall. Many walls in India are turquoise, which is a color the human soul soaks up in an architecture not even knowing it was thirsty. I was thirsty and a girl of about eight, Joseph's great-granddaughter, brought me tea. I sat on the edge of the bed and tried to focus upon the memory available to me in the room, but there was no experience. When I opened my eyes, I observed Jesus once again, the blood pouring from his open chest, the heart, and onto, it seemed, the floor, in drips.

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
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
poem

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