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This interview is taken from PN Review 213, Volume 40 Number 1, September - October 2013.

In Conversation with Sujata Bhatt Helen Tookey
helen tookey: From your first book onwards (Brunizem, 1988), you have built your mother tongue, Gujarati (and sometimes other Indian languages), into your otherwise English poems, so that although there's a persistent theme of exile and reminiscence, the poems are never merely nostalgic but always enact the kinds of betweenness and 'foreignness' you want to talk about. Did you start with a conscious decision to use Indian languages in this way in your writing? It also means that for readers or listeners who don't know those Indian languages, the poems take on visual and auditory dimensions beyond ordinary 'understanding'.

sujata bhatt: Yes, ideally I would like the non-Gujarati-speaking readers or listeners of such multilingual poems to experience the in-betweenness and 'foreignness' of what I experience. I would like those readers and listeners to accept the Indian languages in a positive way, as an experience beyond understanding, as you phrase it. It is not my intention to alienate or to exclude any of my readers or listeners. To some extent, what I am presenting in my work is indeed an enactment of my thought processes. These multilingual poems grew out of my desire to voice and share some of my deepest thought patterns.

I had started using Gujarati words and lines in some of my otherwise English poems and stories when I was a child, around eight, in India. I had learned English in New Orleans at the age of five, soon ...


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