The Red Alder – Anannya Uberoi

As part of Red Alder Review’s Open Mic series – Q&A and poem from Anannya Uberoi.


How do you normally connect to the poetry/literary community? 

When I was a university student in Delhi, my poetry teacher introduced me to The Poets’ Collective, a group that met every Sunday at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art to exchange poetry. Readings in both Hindustani and English widened my outlook and made known to me linguistically diverse literary forms. 

In Madrid, my connection to the writing community has primarily been an online one. I actively connect with contemporary writers on Twitter and the Poets & Writers directory. I also organize and attend weekly workshops and peer feedback sessions. The most recent workshop I went to was hosted by Shelley Wong on the theme of spatial grounding in poetry, organized by the BreakBread Literacy Project.

What is the most memorable poetry event or Open Mic you attended in-person? 

The most memorable literary event I attended was “Tales of the Night,” a collaboration between Francoise Lassere, the Vocal Academy of India, and The Majolly Music Trust Choir of India, with pianist Justin McCarthy on the keys. Arranged at the Lotus Temple, New Delhi, the two-part evening had pieces of German Romantic music interspersed with readings of Vikram Seth’s poems. “All You Who Sleep Tonight” and excerpts from “Arion and the Dolphin” remain to be my favorites. I also got a chance to meet Mr. Seth and have my booklet signed by him!

 Who are the poets who most influence you? 

My admirations are many and wide. I am always reading. As Poetry Editor at The Bookends Review, I am intrigued by new voices, especially from upcoming or underrepresented writers. These days I am revisiting Louise Glück, and have picked up Penelope Shuttle, John Hazard, and Stanley Kunitz.

 Whose work are you most excited about reading in the months to come? 

Marc Alan Di Martino. His poems tie the sentiments of Italy and America seamlessly in the same thread. I enjoyed “Unburial,” and look forward to his second collection.

 How has the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic affected your writing practice? 

The pandemic affected most spheres of my life, but my writing has been more or less consistent. Writing has always been a personal act for me, which implies it can get lonely at times. I found “poetry sprints,” such as National Poetry Month and a three-week-long journaling commitment help me get in the habit of writing regularly.

Nevertheless, the pandemic in Madrid has been rather harsh, and I found myself running out of inspiration often. Through short hikes and walks in the park, an interconnected circle of family and friends, and the act of consuming more art, be it through museum visits or reading local writers, I try to stay true to my attempts at poetry.

What are you working on right now? 

Currently, I am revising my poems written over the fall and reviewing the feedback I have been getting on my work. The latest piece of detailed feedback I received was by Maria Isakova Bennett on three recent poems. 

I can hardly say I’m working on my first collection because it is in its early days.

 Do you have any new work forthcoming (in journals, chapbooks, collections, anthologies, etc.)?

I have new poems forthcoming in Poetry Salzburg Review at the University of Salzburg, Wild Court at King’s College London, and New York Public Library Magazine.

The Red Alder

The red alder burns the sky but my heart
does not.

Had the stasis come to pass long ago, the age of trees
would have remembered. 

It is so recent, though
that their bracts have yet not picked it up.

One of these aster-eyes would know
what it is like to have a bird fall

mid-air like an incongruous feather.
I had my best griefs

culled out and worn on my brow.
I am old.

This is my study
against the wise counsel of august canopy

that has gained the rich overgrowth
of roots and bean vines,

that has, summer-long, established a lush nest of
fiber-joy, that dictates to me

a sun I cannot see.
I am not your lake-swan, anymore.

This is her shattered caw,
a buckthorn stuck in my craw,

this is my loss. I shall compare it
to no other.

Anannya Uberoi reads her poem ‘The Red Alder.’

Anannya Uberoi is a full-time software engineer and part-time tea connoisseur based in Madrid. She is poetry editor at The Bookends Review, the winner of the 6th Singapore Poetry Contest, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work appears in The Birmingham Arts Journal, The Bangalore Review, and The Madras, Twitter: @AnannyaUberoi