Van Gogh’s Bed. 17 April, 2020, The Ekphrastic Review. The Ekphrastic Review is an online journal devoted entirely to writing inspired by visual art.
Van Gogh’s Bed
Saint-Paul Asylum, Saint-Rémy
The irises have gone.
Blue petals ripped by the mistral.
Swept over the vineyards.
The golden blur of the rolling fields.
The lavender is also gone.
Dry stalks like origami, the shade of Parker ink.
Inside your room the tourists pause,
mobiles in hand.
This is no time for selfies or dinner plans.
They circle your bed, saucer-eyed in disbelief.
‘To think his paintings go for a million bucks!’
The stage whispers are loud.
Don’t let them disturb your sleep.
Your bed is a pauper’s bed-sagging mattress.
Rusty metal frame, too narrow and small
for your thrashing limbs.
And your big head – a honeycomb of bones and headaches and visions too.
Swirly trees, shooting stars, the purple mole
on a young woman’s clavicle.
You prefer to keep them to yourself.
You lay this head down each night,
turning towards the square window
through which flutters
the cobalt handkerchief of the sky.
Some photos from the book launch of A Dinner Party in the Home Counties held at Rhode Island Coffee in Altrincham and the Poetry Cafe in London.
Wonderful to have such warm support and turnout and honoured to read alongside such acclaimed poets as Mimi Khalvati, Todd Swift, Rishi Dastidar and Yogesh Patel.
Reviews & interviews
“Witty, energetic and uncompromising, Reshma Ruia’s latest collection challenges contemporary social, racial and cultural divides. In this collection, the poet takes the reader on a vivid, multicultural journey filled with intriguing encounters and enigmatic characters.”
Jennifer Wong, Asian Review of Books. Read the full review here.
An interesting discussion with the novelist Elaine Chiew about how gender, age and ethnicity can define and oversimplify the narrative.
“Sharply observed mini stories that don’t always lead you where you expect.”
Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone. Read the full review here.
“Ruia’s poems cover all these different themes of diaspora life but not with half the brazenness of prose. Instead, her delicate, precise, subdued and muted observations of the everyday unravels exactly how alienation, even assimilation takes place through a series of poetic, resonating and striking images.”
Jaggery: A DesiLit Arts and Literature Journal. Issue 15: Spring 2020. Read the full review here.
“A rich feast that conveys a wonderful variety of voices and ideas.”
Featured book in Desi Reads. Read the full review here.
“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.”
Joy Francis, Executive Director, Words of Colour Productions. Read the full review here.
“The themes throughout maintain a timeless relevance and Reshma’s fresh new perspective delivers important messages with simplicity, yet with purpose.”
Mita Mistry, Eastern Eye Newspaper, 13 March. Read the full review here.
“Using poetic verse to paint vivid pictures of modern life: Reshma Ruia on inspirations, experiences and emotions that helped colour her new book”. EasternEye, 2 April. Read the full interview with Mita Mistry here.
‘’Being a writer of fiction, Ruia brings in the efficient precision of observation of prose, while not losing the rhythm of poetry. Without undue sentimentality, the poetic voice remains true.”
Mona Dash, Confluence February 2020 issue. Read the full review here.
“This collection was a joy from start to finish.”
Tracy Fell, The Literary Pig. Read Tracy’s wonderful blog post about my poetry collection.
The Manchester University’s Centre for New Writing review of A Dinner Party in the Home Counties.
“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! “
– Lemn Sissay, MBE, Winner of the Pinter Prize for poetry, 2019 and author of ‘My Name Is Why.’
“It is highly unusual, and therefore incredibly exciting, to read post-colonial poetry that can best be described as quirky, even playful. In this strange, provocative and often powerful collection, form, content and style create difference and otherness, they don’t just explore it thematically. Every time you think you’re reading yet another poem about identity or the shape of current Britain, you realise you’re simultaneously in the presence of a witty, clever and original writing-mind. I found myself wanting to simply say, despite the humour, important messages, and striking imagery, I really like this – because it’s the exact opposite of whatever stale, obvious, is.”
– Todd Swift
“Reshma Ruia has an enviable knack of finding the telling detail in the scenes she so vividly portrays: the overheard fragment of conversation, the image creeping into the eye line, the interaction that lasts a moment and yet a lifetime too. In deceptively simple language, Ruia’s poems remind us how often we are strangers to others – and ourselves as well.”
– Rishi Dastidar
“There’s a fierce energy in Reshma Ruia’s poetry. Her incantatory and conversational tone belies her social and human concerns. Her rhythmic control is amazing, sustained in her assertive voice and language. This debut collection everyone should read—the sooner the better. Captivating!”
– Cyril Dabydeen
“I have been fond of Reshma Ruia’s short stories for a while now and so was delighted to learn that she has recently published her debut book of poetry, ‘A Dinner Party In The Home Counties’. The poems in this book are based on the theme of belonging and/or displacement. Most poems, I could relate to and others I could empathise with.
The poems are categorised into ‘Beginnings’ , ‘The Space Between’ and ‘Endings’. However, this doesn’t stop the reader in mentally changing these categories or doing away with them altogether. This perceived freedom is a result of Reshma’s writing where the words lucidly flow through the pages and quietly capture one’s imagination. A few lines across poems are so poignantly expressed that I had to re read them in order for them to sink into my consciousness e.g. From the poem ‘An Empty Milk Bottle’ – ‘The children grown up and gone, feathering their own nests’, and ‘…..can’t quite understand how and why a life crammed so full of living and loving became so stripped. So bereft of meaning. An empty milk bottle, idling on the doorstep’.
Some poems moved me to such an extent that I found it difficult to articulate this impact. I believe it was the clarity of language that did this – ‘put it out there’, so to speak. Take for e.g. this verse from the poem Pomology “…..You still have your fruit. But it’s no longer the season.”. The poem Brexit Blues in its entirety is so well written, the last verse especially so. It made me reflect even further on Britain’s current political situation which maybe best described as grim.
A few other poems made me question the status quo that we sometimes learn to accept as beings in our adopted land e.g. accepting certain behaviour from people only because we need a particular job or want to be accepted into the cultural mainstream as much as possible e.g. the poem, ‘Inside Edward Hopper’s Diner’. I believe that the poem ‘A Dinner Party In The Home Counties’ rightly deserves its place as the title of this collection as it dares to challenge the many stereotypes associated with diversity.
Overall, this is a cleverly crafted collection of poems. I am certain that every time I re read these poems, their meaning will change shape in accordance with my life circumstances at that given moment and this, is the beauty of expression that Reshma Ruia has masterfully achieved in her debut collection.
A Dinner Party in the Home Counties has been chosen as a notable poetry collection by the Huffington Post.
When This Is Over. 3 April, 2020, A Garden Among Fires
When this is over
You will remember
How the world was emptied of sound
Silence strolled the streets
In hush-hush slippers
In the garden the first butterflies of spring
Cartwheeling. Their smoked paprika wings
Tremble against the bottle green and blue dazzle of light
And you. Holding a cup of tea
Fingertips warm against the china
Watching and waiting for the world
To spin around
Covid-19 Colours. 28 March, 2020, PENDEMIC
In Bombay the hawker stands
in the green gloom of the Thespesia tree
To his left stretches the indigo bay
of the Arabian Sea
The white Hanuman temple crouches to his right
Empty but for an old woman in a mud coloured sari
moaning in pain
The afternoon is yellow like an over ripe banana
Black crows sit dazed on the temple steps
pecking their own feathered skin
‘Covid-19?’ The hawker repeats
eyes round in confusion
‘Yes I heard about it on the radio’
His forehead wrinkles Mouth droops down
He points to the mustard straw basket at his feet
There are plantains pineapples A papaya or two
‘Who will buy these? I have kids to feed’
He looks up and down the empty streets
‘Is it better to die of hunger or Covid-19?’
My poem Crossing the Black Waters was performed live by actors on 21 December as part of an international Solstice Shorts festival on one day in seven port town including Oeiras in Portugal, Greenwich, Clydebank, Hastings.
Reshma Ruia: Overheard at The National Portrait Gallery – Funny Pearls, 15 August 2019.
The bold lip that sneers. The curled eyelash. The body gift wrapped in feather and flounce, demanding your gaze. Cindy Sherman hangs on the walls, bouncing from Beverly Hills to Cape Cod donning disguises that titillate the senses. Madonna, Monroe, cocktail waitress and bored housewife. She’s been them all. She is a chronicler of a gilded age. But, you’re not listening. You wear sensible flat sandals and short grey hair. Your mouth has not kissed a lipstick in a hundred years.
You’re talking. Loud, urgent. Fish words swim out of your mouth, gasping for oxygen. The museum guard raises an eyebrow, buries a yawn. Shifts one buttock cheek, then the other on the folding metal stool. You are two kind ladies of late middle age. He won’t disturb you. He’ll let it pass.
This is what you have to say:
‘Brother Richard is still being a dick. He forgot to ring mother on Mother’s Day. Sister Margaret has hit the bottle again. What about your allotment? Did you catch the thieves? Who would’ve thought courgettes were so prized. Not courgettes? Sorry did you say runner beans? My hearing is not what it used to be. You got the smear test back. Yes, my knees are playing up again. That homeopathy woman you suggested. I think she’s a quack. Three pounds fifty they charged for a measly cup of coffee in the café upstairs. What did I tell you? Greggs would’ve been better. I worry about Paul most days. The other day he left the crossword unfinished. Again. Most unlike him and yes, did you visit the grave? Can’t believe he’s been ten years gone? And the kids? Mark’s planning on emigrating to Australia. You mean immigrating. No, I meant emigrating. It’s what rich folks do when they set up home in another country. This country is going to the dogs. Just look at that guard, lazy sod, not doing his job.’
A Mrs. Dalloway Kind of Day published in Lost Balloon, 24 April 2019.
Nose buried in a bouquet of flowers. She strides through the park. The distant hum of traffic. A bee’s snore in her ear. Easy enough to be happy. Toss a coin. Swipe a card. Buy the dress. The shoes. The jewels. Clap away spider web shadows. Lurking in the rooms. The hurt. The bruise. The dripping faucet of an eye. They belonged to another day. If only she could run back to her ten-year-old self. Chasing butterflies on the village green. Cheeks freckled with sunshine not age. A heart somersaulting in joy. Limbs dripping youth.
Recipient of the 2019 First Collection Award by the Word Masala Foundation and SkyLark Publications.
A Love Story published in The Good Journal Issue 3 edited by Courttia Newland.
The Good Journal is a quarterly literary journal showcasing the very best writers of colour in the UK. It was founded by Nikesh Shukla and Julia Kingsford.
He wakes up next morning in a black and grey world.
Reduced to a matchstick figure in a Lowry painting.
Sucked clean of breath and bone, he feels
Entirely made up of memories. Of her. Of them.
The empty pillow by his side carries the weight
Of her absent head. She has stayed and been gone
A few hours but he has already
Built a lifetime with her. The wedding altar.
The kids. The summer holidays on the beach.
It is a mistake he will keep repeating.
With every one-night stand he picks up.
‘You have a homesick heart,’ they tell him.
Cupping his baldhead in their hands. Stroking his cheek
And his face where the wrinkles run deep
With absent minded fingers and upset voices
‘This is a business transaction Mister, please, don’t anchor your heart in us.’
His heart. He sees it like a balloon-untethered, unmoored, flying aimless.
And him running after it, outstretched arms and weeping skin.
That was it – the dream that startled him awake.
Him skipping and tripping
And falling as he chased his heart; it floated out of view.
The alarm clock shrills into life.
He checks his watch, and dresses in a hurry.
And reports for work
Where he spends his days filing returns for sad-eyed divorcees
And gas utility companies.
Asia Literary Review Poetry – No. 32, Winter 2016, Southall Blues
Asia Literary Review Poetry – In Memory of Flight MH-370
The cockpit dashboard blinks
A thousand eyes
Each dial a finger
Spinning him somewhere
Far beyond the star-rimmed sky
His head in a twist
Which way should he turn?
The continents whirl a dervish dance
The roar of the engine becomes
A soft insect bite on his ear
He slips a hand inside his pocket
And pulls out a feather
Tender like an early-morning kiss
He presses the feather against his cheek
And the day comes back
The wounded bird
From a long-ago childhood
He’d knelt by the roadside
Knees powdered in dust
Deaf to his mother’s impatient tugging hand
Carefully he’d plucked the single drooping feather
His stare never leaving the bird’s stone-hard eye
That even then foretold his death
Saudade. A Quarterly magazine of modern and contemporary poetry. Issue 2. 2016.
Still-Life in a Room
There are lives and lives
Circling out of reach
Dervishes dancing away
Leaving empty rooms behind
My body throws its arms
Around every friendly voice it meets
This ache to be understood
This ache to belong
Will someone step forward
And fill with sound
The silence growling in my ear
Will someone step forward
And smash the hands
Of the clock scratching
The graffiti marks of time
On my face.
Anthology in Italy. 210 Giovani poeti in 9 lingue.