April 2017: Devanshi Khetarpal
Devanshi Khetarpal lives in Bhopal, India. She is the editor-in-chief of Inklette Magazine, a poetry reader for The Blueshift Journal and a co-managing editor for Sprout, and previously served as a poetry editor for Moledro Magazine and Phosphene Literary Journal. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Indian Literature, Vayavya, TRACK//FOUR, Drunk In A Midnight Choir, and Souvenir among others. Khetarpal is an alumna of the Iowa Young Writers' Studio 2015 and the UVA Young Writers Workshop 2016. Her work has been recognized by Hollins University and Columbia College Chicago. This summer, Devanshi will be a participant of the nonfiction workshop at the AAL Writers' Retreat in Siglufjörður, Iceland. She will start college at New York University this fall.
the light veined you like
a noise caught in the dark
moment to moment skin
brushing into strokes of
snow its rustle thinned
to welling sound the
body like an echo once
plunging light melting
its feet with a slow fever
your toe on the ground
like a fish biting the water
(Previously published in Drunk In A Midnight Choir)
A Conversation with Devanshi Khetarpal
Richa: Hi Devanshi! Could you tell us more about the nonfiction workshop in Iceland you've been selected to attend?
Devanshi: Sure! I have been selected to attend a writing retreat in Siglufjörður, Iceland this May. Authors At Large (AAL), which is an absolutely wonderful organisation started by Xu Xi and Robin Hemley, organise these writing retreats in fabulous international locations. I came to know about it through the Iowa Summer Writing Festival's website.
Travelling to Iceland has been on my bucket list for quite some time now. And since I was looking for some writing retreat to participate in during the summer, the AAL retreat couldn't have come at a better time. And Siglufjörður, which is a fishing village in the north of Iceland, seems to be such a perfect and charming location for a writing retreat, in my opinion.
I haven't written nonfiction for quite a while, but I have always enjoyed writing and reading it. I find it rather intriguing. And I took a chance, I guess, by submitting my less-than-decent essay for acceptance to AAL but surprisingly, I was chosen for the nonfiction workshop that's going to be led by Brenda Miller.
I am incredibly excited. I've read some great work by Icelandic writers in the past few months and have read a lot about Iceland, in general, but travelling to another country and experiencing it first-hand is always such an adventure and a blessing, I should add.
Richa: If you could be taught by any poet or writer, dead or alive, who would it be? Why?
Devanshi: Hmm, I don't think I can single out one poet or writer I'd like to learn from. My writing or my opinions about writing have been informed by several writers, by several pieces of writing, and by several experiences over time. it's the combined wisdom that comes from reading all these works and writers, or experiencing everything I have that has affected me and my work the most. I would love to sit down and talk to my favourite writers like Munshi Premchand, Rabindranath Tagore, Virginia Woolf, Raymond Carver, Amrita Pritam, Vladimir Nabokov or Milan Kundera. They've all given me so much. But at the same time, my self is inseparable from my writing. I do believe that it's the people who surround me, and my experiences that have taught me more about myself, the world and my writing than anything else.
Having said that, however, I've been extremely fortunate to have had great teachers along the way. Mr. David Benedictus was the first creative writing teacher I ever had and I think it's right to say that he gave me my life. Michael Sofranko and Jeffrey Mackowiak have given me some of the best advice when it comes to my poetry. Dan Rosenberg and my workshop group at Iowa Young Writers' Studio helped me cultivate faith in myself and my poems. Derrick Weston Brown exposed me to so many forms and writers I would otherwise not have stumbled upon, and helped me unshroud my poems. Trivarna Hariharan has given me everything.
Richa: Congratulations on getting into NYU! What do you plan on majoring in? What are your long-term goals as a writer?
Devanshi: Thank you so much! I can't believe I made it to NYU. I am pretty sure they made a mistake by accepting me, but I am not going to be so stupid as to bring it to their notice. I've been admitted to the Core Program in Liberal Studies which is a two-year liberal arts foundation program. And in my junior year, I get to declare a major and transition to one of NYU's schools or programs to earn my degree. I am going to major in Comparative Literature and minor in Creative Writing.
I don't have any specific long-term goals as a writer. But I definitely want to be able to take out time for writing every day and come back to India once I am done with my education. I feel both the need and desire now to work for people, especially children, belonging to the underprivileged and marginalised communities in India. I hope I am able to figure out (soon enough) ways in which writing and storytelling can help me do that, directly or indirectly.