Letter to the Reader

For over two years now, long before The Shoreline Review became something, anything—a website, a business card, an interview, I’ve been trying to talk it into actualization. “Yes,” I’d tell my friends, my foes, anyone who’d listen, “This is a space for South Asian poets.” Which kind of was the truth because that space already existed and has existed long before I or anyone else had anything to do with it. South Asian poetry is flourishing, like it always has. South Asian poets are doing marvelous work on and off the page.

What then is TSR’s mission? What is it we do and how can we contribute to ensuring poetry continues to flourish? My responsibility lies in decentering (or trying to at least) any one country/state/nation, as the only representative of South Asian poetry.  This meant acknowledging South Asian poetry itself includes a varied range of poets and poems—both diasporic and residing in South Asia. As an Indian, I cannot, must not conflate India with South Asia. As an Indian in America, I must consider who the term “international” is used for and if it helps or hinders. Second, we are also determined to publish communities that are excluded from mainstream literary communities, whose stories are often not allowed to cross borders and oceans for years, for decades, forever. Simply put, at TSR, there is no “now more than ever”, or rather no “more than,” only “now” and only “ever” and only our eternal past and present of chaos. Finally, TSR’s commitment is to the reader. We want to offer you what you’ve thirsted for, what the world of poetry has to offer and be a platform that highlights this offering.

Like I said before, TSR took almost two years to begin. This wouldn’t have been possible without so many people in the poetry community and the South Asian community. Organizations like Kashmir Lit, Kundiman, and AAWW that paved the way for me to recognize I too could contribute. Editors who helped me out and recommended places and people to start building with. Poets who taught me how to overcome digital challenges and make that line break happen online already. Poets who believed and shared my excitement for this project.

TSR brings to you its inaugural issue with twelve breathtaking poets who highlight what excites us and what we’re thinking of. Ather Zia writes “August in Kashmir/ is a siege on steroids” and we think of South Asian as landscape—emotional, political and physical. Sumayya Firdous writes of home “always unraveling over my shoulder” and we think of South Asian as mobility and displacement and the difference between the two. Priyadarshini Gogoi writes “I loved you/ only yesterday” and we think of intimate violence. I asked Fatimah Asghar and Sumita Chakraborty about the poet’s responsibility, as Nadia Q. Ahmad writes “How do we remember those who first showed us poetry?” and responsibility becomes community and solidarity and tradition and emergent. Poets in this issue imagine and reimagine the south Asian identity as something to be applauded as well as questioned and that is important.

And of course, Vqueeram Aditya Sahai writes about how some of us in our youth wistfully believe that “to live till 80 is a matter we choose” and we remember our inspiration, Audre Lorde’s A Litany for Survival: “it is better to speak/remembering/we were never meant to survive.”

Thank you for reading this, and staying with us for this thrilling ride. I hope you’ll find what you’re looking for and more within this issue and enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it all together.

with love,

Sreshtha Sen