Monday, May 19, 2008

The Brooklyn Optimist Interviews Park Slope Poet Lynn Chandhok

When the New York Observer weighed in with its top 100 Brooklyn writers a few weeks ago, one of its most glaring omissions was Park Slope poet Lynn Aarti Chandhok. Chandhok is not just one of my favorite Brooklyn poets, she ranks among the most gifted poets of contemporary American literature.

Perhaps it is presumptuous to make such a grandiose appraisal of a poet's work with only one book of verse under her belt, The View From Zero Bridge (Anhinga Press), but as is the case with my beloved Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska, who has only 250 or so published poems to her credit, it is quality that defines a writer's opus, not quantity.

Despite the Observer's myopia, the quality of Chandhok's poetry has not gone overlooked. The View From Zero Bridge was awarded the 2006 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and, perhaps more impressively in this lyric-less age, it even found a readership, ranking #8 on The New York Times' best-selling, small-press poetry books this past January.

Staged in a noetic realm spanning her ancestral land of Kashmir, India and her home in Park Slope, Chandhok spins lush, tactile tapestries at once traditional and wholly her own. It is her ability to draw us into her silken saffron-hued memories, so carefully observed and imagined, and then to illuminate the universality of her personal reverie that makes Chandhok's poetry justly important. I need only glimpse Zero Bridge for its most vibrant images to reawaken in my mind - fields of marigolds, singed scraps, a leaping magnet - as if they were recollections of times I myself had lived or dreamt.

It is my great pleasure to share this humble interview Lynn was kind enough to grant me. After the video has played, please take a moment to watch the clips above of Chandhok reading her poems "Long Meadow" and "Confetti, Ticker-tape". I requested that she read these two poems, both set in Brooklyn, because I was particularly moved by them. I believe that you will be as well.

Last, but not least, I would like to thank Catherine Bohne profusely for granting me the use of the Park Slope Community Bookstore for this interview. If you have not lost yourself in the cozy confines of the Community Bookstore you have been adrift in Brooklyn.

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