There's an adage that journalism is the first draft of history, but for the flesh-and-blood truth of lived experience, the "news that stays news" has always been poetry. And perhaps no poet is better situated to write of the tumultuous events of the recent past than Indran Amirthanayagam, a true global citizen. In TEN THOUSAND STEPS AGAINST THE TYRAN, he encapsulates the full range of emotion surrounding the 2020 U.S. presidential election and subsequent insurrection, taking place against the backdrop of a deadly global pandemic, from terror and outrage to euphoria and hope for "Joe and Kamala," as he refers to the newly elected president and vice president, this familiarity itself a desire for a return to decency and simple human dignity. There are poems here that treat of politics and lofty affairs of state, a world the poet has experienced as an international diplomat, and of living through pandemic; but for the heart of the collection, look to his tender poem for his mother, and his desire to keep her safe, to hold her forever—"Decline and death are prohibited." This same love is extended to all mankind throughout these poems. They are a celebration, but also a warning of the fragility of our tenuous step back from the brink of tyranny. And if the first bloom of hope for the Biden administration is already wilting a bit in the harsh glare of reality, that's all the more reason to persevere. "We need to hear / the songs of your migrant heart," he declares in his opening poem. We need to keep singing. We need to be prepared to take the next step, beyond the 10,000 steps it has taken to reach this point, ready for the moment "the world wakes up from / this pandemic dream alive and ready to move, / to make, to fill, and to rename the void."
Indran Amirthanayagam writes in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole. He has published over twenty books of poetry, including BLUE WINDOW (translated by Jennifer Rathbun), THE MIGRANT STATES, Coconuts on Mars, THE ELEPHANTS OF RECKONING (winner 1994 Paterson Poetry Prize), UNCIVIL WAR, and THE SPLINTERED FACE: TSUNAMI POEMS. In music, he recorded Rankont Dout. He edits the Beltway Poetry Quarterly; curates www.ablucionistas.com; co-directs Poets & Writers Studio International; writes a weekly poem for Haiti en Marche and El Acento; and hosts The Poetry Channel. He has received fellowships from the Foundation for the Contemporary Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, The US/Mexico Fund for Culture, and the Macdowell Colony. He is a 2021 Emergent Seed grant winner.Author City: LIMA PER