Ravi Shankar’s just-published book The Many Uses of Mint presents new and selected poems from twenty years of his writing, including from the Norton anthology he co-edited Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond. The poet Lisa Pegram and I recently sat down with Ravi over video chat to talk about the book, as part of our preparation for a collaborative review we’re writing about it. (Stay tuned for that review as well as for Lisa’s and my planned conversation about her collection Cracked Calabash!) Our conversation with Ravi spans the global range of his travels and his poems (India, the US, Cyprus, and many other places appear in the book), his use of form and of food, his spiritual sensibilities, how his parents wanted him to be a scientist rather than a poet, and the way that the book deals with such concerns as colonialism, empire, and white supremacy. Regarding that last topic, Ravi shares how studying postcolonialism (with Edward Said) helped him understand himself. During the conversation, Ravi also discusses a number of specific poems, including his striking “Breast Feeding at the Blue Mosque” and my favorite pair of poems in the book, “Home Together” and “Misty Blue,” which he also reads aloud for us.
You can watch our conversation here: