Torsha (5.2)

 Teesta Review: A Journal of Poetry, Volume 5, Number 2. November 2022. ISSN: 2581-7094

Flowing Together: facilitating po(i)etic dialogues between Indian and Australian writers 


This editorial was penned on Kaurna Yerta, the lands of the Kaurna People. As a non-Indigenous person living on stolen land, I pay my respect to Kaurna Elders, and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, whose sovereignty was never ceded. This always was, always will be Aboriginal Land.

‘Let us flow like the river’, I read frequently in the email signatures of my esteemed colleague and Editor-in-Chief of Teesta Journal, Jaydeep Sarangi. No matter how many times I see these words, I never tire of them, and never fail to feel myself smile as I read them. They evoke thought of the mighty Teesta River, which courses through such diverse terrains, feeding and connecting many otherwise very different people and cultures. The river as symbol says so much about what poetry at its best can be, and of the reasons why it matters. In multiple senses, poetry flows, and allows us to flow. It flows both from and towards – from experiences, emotions, thoughts, situations, responses, and often other poems; and towards new insights, connections, possibilities, and actions, including actions of inspiring or creating more poems.

I see this new special issue of Teesta as that kind of flowing from and towards. Taking a long view, I can reflect that my own impetus towards this kind of work flows from my 2008 travels to Kolkata, where I was fortunate to spend many long hours sharing coffee, poems, and adda with local writers, artists and philosophers. The astounding warmth and generosity with which I found myself welcomed and the ongoing email-based friendships we maintain to this day showed me how vital collaboration, conversation, and community are to literary practice – especially if that literary practice aims to engage socially and politically with issues of justice, health, and environmental responsibility (which is always the key aim, so far as I am concerned). In more immediate terms, this new special issue flows from a previous one that Jaydeep and I co-edited for TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Cultures (Sarangi & Walker 2020). The issue was an experiment in a methodology for cross-cultural creative research combining strategies of duoethnography (Norris, Sawyer & Lund 2012) with poetic inquiry (Prendergast, Leggo & Sameshima 2009): we paired twelve Indian poets with twelve Australian poets, inviting them to exchange poems, write new poems in response to one another, and then reflect on their learning through the process. The aim was to facilitate interliminal po(i)etic dialogues addressing global challenges of current times. ‘Interliminality’ is a concept borrowed from translation studies and here adapted to describe the special forms of discovery collaboration through poetry can spark. A limen is a border, threshold, or point of crossing-over, and ‘interliminality’ indicates a ‘complex dynamics that arise at points of overlap or contact between differing liminalities of language, culture, geography, and more (Sarangi & Walker 2020: 1). Through the term ‘po(i)etic’ we signal poetry’s connections with the Greek notion of poiesis (making) – in this case, poetry that makes something at the intersecting limens of culture, geography, society, knowledge, history and more.

For the TEXT special issue, we began pairing poets in late 2018, with most exchanges commencing in 2019 and continuing through to mid-2020. The global COVID-19 outbreaks of early 2020 thus became an unanticipated theme of many of the collaborations: it was moving to read, for instance, Ranu Uniyal’s account of ‘the role poetry can play as a mode of connection and a source of strength through difficult times’ (Uniyal 2020, p. 2). Alongside similar statements from other contributors to the issue, Ranu’s description of how collaborating with Australian poet Quinn Eades became ‘a source of poetic inspiration and strength despite anxiety and fear’ (Uniyal 2020, p. 2) convinced me of the especial value these sorts of transnational poetic dialogues bear in the present era especially. This enhanced the conviction I already held in transnational poetic collaboration as a means for furthering the deeply necessary ongoing critique and resistance of colonisation’s continuing effects – for India and Australia, though vastly different, culturally, and geographically, share common histories of British invasion/colonisation with its ongoing ramifications across social, cultural, spiritual, ecological, epistemic, and economic spheres. As a non-Indigenous and white-skinned person born and living on Kaurna Yerta, the lands of the Kaurna people, I recognise myself as implicated in the continuing violences of invasion, racism, and systemic injustice. In Australia, privileges are afforded to white people that we do not deserve, and at dire cost to the true owners of this land – not to mention the land itself. The need to decolonise is clear. The way towards decolonisation is not. But I do know that listening to First Nations Elders and community voices is essential. And I believe that facilitating conversations between transnational contexts affected in different-yet-related ways can illuminate possibilities we might not see if remaining simply siloed in our own spaces and scenarios. 

The factors I have so far described are among those that compelled me to pursue a follow-up to the TEXT special issue – namely, this new issue of Teesta, co-edited with Aden Burg, a recent Honours graduate and aspiring creative writer whose first co-authored scholarly publication (with Doris Pushpam) is among the six new poetic exchange articles this issue presents. The other five are by Adelle Sefton-Rowston writing with Sunil Sharma, Bishnupada Ray writing with Dominic Symes, Cameron Hindrum writing with DC Chambial, Sunil Sharma writing with Robert Maddox-Harle and Jaydeep Sarangi, and Arnis Silvia writing with Susheel Sharma. Additionally, there is a single-authored article by esteemed Professor and Former Head of the Calcutta University Dept of English Sanjukta Dasgupta – a reflective essay developed from the speech Sanjukta offered at the online launch of the TEXT special issue, in which she discusses her creative and scholarly engagements with Australian literature, her experiences of travelling to Australia, and the special personal as well as professional connections she has forged with Australian writers and cultural critics, spanning almost two decades, from 2004 to present times.

The articles form the first of two sections within this issue. The second section presents poetry by a rich mix of established and emerging Indian and Australian writers including Dominic Guerra, Jessika Spencer, Subhra Kanti Kar, Samantha Faulkner, Jeet Thayil, John Kinsella, Mags Webster, Ravi Shankar, Sagar Mal Gupta, Dan Disney, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Aidan Coleman, Emily Sun, Prabal Kumar Basu (with translator Armaan Singh), Barrina South, Grant Caldwell, Simon-Peter Telford, Animikh Patra (with translator Souradeep Roy), Judy Anderson, Gemma Parker, and Susheel Sharma. The Indian contributors represent diverse regions including Kolkata, New Delhi, Uttar-Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and diasporic communities in Malaysia, the US, the UK, Europe, and beyond. The Australian writers speak from First Nations Kaurna, Ngarrindjeri, Wiradjuri, Barkindji, and Torres Strait Islander as well as non-Indigenous perspectives including but not limited to Chinese-Australian, Muslim-Australian, Irish-Australian, Italian-Australian, and British-Australian poets grappling with the complexities of being on stolen land – or in some cases, leaving to travel and live elsewhere.

Altogether, the issue thereby articulates thirty-two distinct voices and sets of experiences. Recalling the metaphor of poetry as a river flowing from and towards, each one of these voices expands the range of sources further still – as with streams and tributaries that meet to flow together as a larger body of water, eddying with cross-currents, ripples, and surprise swells. Most exciting for me are the possibilities of where this can all next flow towards – in other words, of the new collaborations and dialogues that this bringing-together of voices might allow to emerge. It is my hope that this issue may prompt some of the writers published in section two to connect with one another and form new dialogic articles along the lines of those in section one, thus continuing the river of exchange and furthering the objective Sanjukta raises towards the end of her article – namely, actualising the potential value to be gained via increased awareness of Indian literatures in Australia, and vice versa, or in other words, increased ‘cultural two-way traffic’. 

I dedicate this issue to my late friend Achinta Gupta – journalist, activist, editor, and publisher. An esteemed figure in the literary community that welcomed me so warmly in Kolkata in 2008, Achinta passed away in December 2020 from COVID-19. Founder of the literary organisation Shatak Ekush and the literary magazine of the same name (Shatak Ekush 2010), Achinta worked tirelessly to create and sustain platforms for writers and artists to raise their voices and be heard – especially those speaking from marginalised backgrounds and/or about issues of political struggle. Achinta showed me how powerfully poetry and related art forms can assist people in overcoming false divides and establishing connections across borders of multiform kinds. While respecting differences, we can recognise commonalities and work together towards shared hopes. 

Let us flow, and flow forth, indeed.

Amelia Walker 

(Guest Editor)

Teesta Review: A Journal of Poetry


Works Cited

Norris, J, Sawyer, R & Lund, D 2012, Duoethnography: Dialogic Methods for Social, Health, and Educational Research, Routledge, London.

Prendergast, M, Leggo, C & Sameshima, P 2009, Poetic Inquiry: Vibrant Voices in the Social Sciences, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam.

Sarangi, J & Walker, A 2020, ‘Indian-Australian exchanges through collaborative poetic enquiry’, TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses, vol. 24, special issue no. 60, at:

Shatak Ekush 2010, Shatak Ekush on Blogspot,

Uniyal, R 2020, ‘Beyond the Bend’, TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses, vol. 24, special issue no. 60, at:


Interliminal Encounters: Indian and Australian writers in po(i)etic dialogue, eds Amelia Walker and Aden Burg