“A Dinner Party in the Counties” with Reshma Ruia

Today’s feature on the Sunday Tribune is a short interview with the wonderful Reshma Ruia talking about her debut poetry collection “A Dinner Party in the Counties”

Lemn Sissay MBE, poet, playwright, author of ‘My Name is Why, winner of the 2019 PEN Pinter prize said of the collection: “You will be pleased at discovering award winning poet Reshma Ruia. Her voice is intimate and confident. Her poetry shines bright. Reshma lures the reader into her world through a vivid imagination. From the empty bed of an accountant to the code of 1947, Reshma’s skill is in how she paints pictures with words, which become whole landscapes and scenes in one’s imagination. She ignites the reader. I feel I am reading someone whom everyone will be reading in future. Read her now!

Joy Francis, Executive Director, Words of Colour Productions has also said “Ruia’s collection is richly textured, political and timely. There is an edginess to many of her poems, with the odd sprinkle of tenderness, all filtered through a candid lens and well-crafted verse…

In the wake of a divisive Brexit referendum, ushering us out of the EU and saddling us with a government that barely disguises its disregard for people of colour, this collection is a poetic ode to the undervalued people who keep this country running.”

Andy N:

First of all, can you tell us all a little about the background of your poetry collection ‘A Dinner Party in the Counties” where did this come from etc?

Reshma:

Hi Andy, I have been writing poetry for most of my life but digressed into fiction whilst doing my Masters and PhD in Creative Writing at Manchester University. After having written two novels, I felt the old familiar tug of poetry and went back to it. My book came out in Dec 2019 but like most of us was affected by the Pandemic.

Andy N:

I know the book covers a lot of ground, can you tell us a little bit more about the various themes that you cover in this book?

Reshma:

This poetry collection explores the diasporic experience of leading a translated life, yearning to belong to a past that one no longer owns and a future that is murky and unclear. There is a sense of melancholic nostalgia in these poems but also a fierce kind of determination to embark on a new beginning and make the best of one’s circumstances. The poems are particularly relevant to our times when there is a growing sense of parochialism and hostility towards ‘the outsider.’ They will resonate with all those who have portable roots and are at home everywhere and nowhere.

This poetry collection explores the diasporic experience of leading a translated life, yearning to belong to a past that one no longer owns and a future that is murky and unclear. There is a sense of melancholic nostalgia in these poems but also a fierce kind of determination to embark on a new beginning and make the best of one’s circumstances. The poems are particularly relevant to our times when there is a growing sense of parochialism and hostility towards ‘the outsider.’ They will resonate with all those who have portable roots and are at home everywhere and nowhere.

The poems also portray the emotive minefield of relationships, questioning the ambiguity behind maternal or filial love. Society conditions us to love our parent or child or partner but my poems challenge this by describing the tug of war between a woman’s sense of self and the roles she is expected to play.

There is an undercurrent of mortality running through some of the poems. A sense of an ending and a reflection on what the passage of time can do to one’s dreams and aspirations.

Andy N:

I know you have lived a varied background looking at your website – India, Italy, France and Britain alone. How has this varied background influenced this collection?

Reshma:

I think having portable roots a state of non-belonging can be a privilege for a writer. In a sense, all writers are rootless, we anchor ourselves in our imagination. My nomadic life has given me a sense of empathy towards those who don’t reflect me. A lot of poems in this collection reflect on the inequality and exploitation of those who are marginalised by society.

Andy N:

The poem Mrs Basu leaves town” I notice has got chosen  to be part of the British Secondary English Lit Syllabus. Can you tell us all a little bit more about this?

Reshma:  

‘Mrs Basu Leaves Town’ was selected to promote new, diverse voices in poetry- to broaden the curriculum to reflect multicultural Britain, to include not just Wordsworths’s daffodils or Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner but also figures such as Mrs Basu who reflect the world we live in today. It was chosen along with poems by other diaspora poets to encourage debate among the students regarding the contemporary themes of migration and identity.   The Edexcel Board felt that the poem is topical and universally relevant with its overarching narrative of displacement and fear of the ‘other.’ The Board also liked the fact that Mrs Basu subverts the stereotype of a ‘helpless migrant’.  There is a tone of defiance and new beginnings as she tells herself that she is ‘going home.’

Andy N:

Your “Portrait of a family” is also a really striking poem. Can you tell us a little bit about the background of this poem?

Reshma:

I often think of the famous opening line from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina– “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”

Families are a rich source material  for writing comedy or tragedy.  After all it is where our first social and emotional interactions are formed. I have always been interested in family dynamics , particularly the role played by fathers and mothers in shaping one’s own narrative. I feel a mother’s love can at times engulf a child’s entire being-not always in a good way. Similarly a fathers detachment can create a void and absence that one tries to fill in subsequent relationships. I’m also fascinated by how little one actually knows about a parent. Their past, their fears and dreams remain for a large part a foreign territory that a child never enters.

You can read more about Reshma at her website is: https://reshmaruia.com/

Her poetry collection ‘A Dinner Party in the Home Counties” can be purchased through Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dinner-Party-Home-Counties/dp/0956084060/

Or Skylark Publications https://www.skylarkpublications.co.uk/bookshop.html

Among many other places.

Andy N is the author of four full length poetry collections - the most recent being the Streets were all we could see. He is also the host / creator of 'Spoken Label' - a author / writer chat series as well as Podcast series such as Reading in Bed, Comics Unity, Wrestle-Up and the Koll, Andy N and Amanda show. He also ambient music under the name of Ocean in a Bottle. His official blog is onewriterandhispc.blogspot.com Occasionally he does sleep.