Poetry: Vidyan Ravinthiran
Vidyan Ravinthiran was born in Leeds in 1984, to Sri Lankan Tamil parents; he studied at Oxford and Cambridge before returning up north. He is the author of Grun-tu-molani (Bloodaxe, 2014), shortlisted for a number of first collection prizes, including the Forward; also Elizabeth Bishop’s Prosaic (Bucknell, 2015), winner of both the Warren-Brooks Award for Literary Criticism and the University English Prize. He writes verse, literary criticism, and fiction, and is represented by The Wylie Agency; alongside Sarah Howe and Dai George, he edits the online magazine of poetry and poetics, Prac Crit. He has written for the TLS, The London Review of Books, and Poetry (Chicago), among other publications; and is currently working on a novel, and also his second book of verse, The Million-Petalled Flower of Being Here. This is a book of sonnets – some have appeared in PN Review – written for his wife, the novelist Jenny Holden. It concerns the texture of an interracial relationship (the small awkwardnesses, the mind-enlarging discoveries) and touches on Brexit, experiences of discrimination, the Sri Lankan civil war, mental health, the work-life balance; tribalism, in multiple arenas; the relationship between sex and personhood – and the ways in which we emerge from family histories that are themselves shaped by the big global forces. The Million-Petalled Flower of Being Here is sceptical of a crude identity politics – insists that people can, and must, imagine their way into the mental life of others, and that class is of as much importance as race and gender – and pushes back against snobbish views of the North that have proliferated following the referendum vote. It makes connections – the courage shown, for example, by trans people, as well as by Northern towns in a different kind of ‘transition’ – in an effort to get people talking across cultural divisions.