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Literature & Fiction - Poetry

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The Migrant States

ISBN: 9781934909638
Binding: Paperback
Author: Indran Amirtanayagam
Pages: 96
Trim: 6 x 9 inches
Published: 07/15/2020

These poems engendered by "Heart and Memory," are hellos and goodbyes, obituaries, salutations, and celebrations addressed to his children, his friends and heroes, his lovers, Walt Whitman, and any other fortunate reader who strays into his orbit."—Terence Winch

"In 'Recalling Sundays,' Indran begins, 'I have fought the blues on so many Sundays...'. It locates him immediately: his ear for the language, the jazz of these 'migrant states', and his emotional condition, as one of so many in exile. In powerful poems that testify to the will to live, he intersperses verses he wrote to celebrate Walt Whitman, the keeper of the American Ideal. Indran is of like mind, believing that in the monastery of poetry, in the fields of the imagination, 'the dragon of reality might follow, to be slain'. In "Beating," he writes, ' . . . when this poem goes off the road/spins wheels in the mud. . . . ' It is with such gifted lines, such joy in the performance of duty, that this poet allows the metaphor its chance to create a Heaven, that reminds the migrant states of the promise they once held, that poetry still holds in its ability to combat the blues." —Mervyn Taylor


Indran Amirthanayagam is a parolier, a "speaker of poems," who in addition to his prolific body of poetry, also maintains close connection with dance and music, and has recorded two albums with Haitian musicians. With his poems, he has, in his words, "laid offerings at the altar of the Muse" in Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and English. The wide recognition of his work includes his winning of the Paterson Poetry Prize, for his book The Elephants of Reckoning (also from Hanging Loose); and the Guaymas, Mexico Juegos Florales ("Floral Games") award for his poem "Juarez." He has received grants and fellowships from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, and the US/Mexico Fund for Culture.

Born in Ceylon in 1960, a country that, as he says, "no longer exists" (it is now Sri Lanka) Amirthanayagam lives in Maryland, where he edits the Beltway Poetry Quarterly, co-directs the translators association DC-ALT, and produces Poetry at the Port, a monthly spoken word series. A.K. Ramanujan called Amirthanayagam's poems "a welcome addition to the poetry of migration."


"Indran Amirthanayagam was born in Sri Lanka but he's certainly American-made. When ideals are shattered, poetry saves; and this book conveys truth from a master storyteller representing the high tradition of poetry with dignity and conviction throughout this powerful collection; and there are no better poems of Walt Whitman than are found here. Amirthanayagam's voice is a sword of light. 'Speak to me. We have/ little time. Though the sun/ will explode long after/ we've disappeared.'" - Grace Cavalieri

"An activist poet is rooted in revolutionary change as opposed to a 'literary' poet who, like Auden, believes that a poem 'does nothing.' It just survives. Sri Lankan-born Indran Amirthanayagam, who writes poetry in 5 languages (Haitian, Spanish, French, Portuguese and most of all in American-English), is one of the truly great activist poets in these United States. Read this book and I've no doubt you'll agree with me." - Jack Hirschman

"Migrant States is a book where passion and memory meet, a book that calls for open borders of the mind, it is a book that knows that everyone and no one is a foreigner on this planet and that the country of the poets has no customs. With Whitman as his interlocutor, Indran Amirthanayagam takes us on the journey with no return, where our ticket is a moving and beautiful song." - Ilya Kaminsky