An Introduction to Vandana Khanna by Seth Brady Tucker

Vandana Khanna’s poems have long inspired me to think more deeply about spirituality, ritual, and tradition in my own poems, and her attention to the goddess here accomplishes something that few contemporary poets seem able to manage without bathos: her heroes have true inner lives functioning within the small space of the poem. Khanna herself has said that her poems often launch inquiries into situations where “young women get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time,” yet still manage to rise above their fate, to “show their humanity” even as they learn to “handle the world they live in (love, loss, betrayal), and ultimately deepen their divinity.”

During a recent discussion, Khanna spoke of how these particular poems appearing in Tupelo Quarterly Review “take on the ideas of betrayal on all different levels—of one’s self, of one’s beliefs, of one’s love. I wanted to push beyond the traditional depictions of these goddesses as ‘self-less’ models of womanhood, perfect mothers, wives and daughters, to a more relatable and realistic woman. These goddesses have anger issues. They have resentments and aren’t afraid to air them. They fall in love with the ‘right’ person only to get disappointed by their choices.”

I love this, and it speaks to how I see her poetry working on so many levels: prayer, ode, lament, political call to action, song.  Khanna also described her process, and how she tries not to talk too much about what she is writing “because too much talk deflates the magic of it, the impulse that brought me to the page in the first place. It’s like faith—if I examine it too directly (seeing it for all it’s good and bad), I might not believe in it anymore. I do think, though, that as a writer, you must absolutely love one moment, image or word on every page you write. Ultimately, you have to do it for yourself—for the feeling that writing gives to you when no one is looking. What drives me to keep coming back to the page—is pursuing something without knowing what it is. That idea of discovery.”

Khanna’s poems work on many levels, but for me that ‘discovery’ she mentions is also something we readers get to experience too. We ‘live’ it as we listen to the multifaceted voices working in these poems: the goddess as human, the goddess as poet, the goddess as reader. Each of these poems threaten to “let you cut your teeth on [her] heart.”

Read “The Goddess as Jilted Lover” by Vandana Khanna >>


Read “The Goddess Shows Up Late to the End of the World Party” by Vandana Khanna >>