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Pooja Mittal Biswas, The Maker of Garlands

Pooja Mittal Biswas’s voice achieves musicality. While strong themes lend coherence to the whole, the language cascades and moves forward with an inner force. Mani Rao

The Maker of Garlands is Pooja Mittal Biswas’s fifth collection of poetry. An Indian-Australian born in Nigeria and raised all over the world, Biswas has long grappled with issues of identity and belonging, culminating in a complex, hybrid, multihued series of experiences woven by Biswas into the ‘garland’ that is her latest book. In Hinduism, garlands are often reserved for gods or for those who are celebrated and respected; Biswas, an errant Hindu still deeply passionate about her origins, here assembles a garland of abject humanity and otherness, celebrating instead those who are without power. In The Maker of Garlands, creation and destruction are inextricably bound, inseparable as they are in the continual, metaphysical process of rebirth, here metaphorised by the cultural, sexual and psychological rebirths experienced by the author through the joint displacements of immigration, colonialism, madness and racial, religious and intimate violence. Biswas explores ‘the slow intimacy of murders’ that is finding belonging at the cost of authenticity, be it through overtly enforced or more subtly hegemonic forms of cultural assimilation, conformity and the policing or commodification of gender and sexuality—the constant battle to retain, recover and reassert one’s humanity in the face of pressure, prejudice and privilege. The intersectional stigmatisation of certain embodiments or representations of race, ethnicity, sex, mental illness and socioeconomic status in Australia result in the poet necessarily having to speak from the sidelines, looking from the outside in, though she also finds, in inhabiting the liminal, a precarious stability in that relatively unchanging alienation. Australian identity is explored in this book as being perpetually precarious for those who are deemed non-normative, or those who come upon that identity from the outside, constantly having to contend that they, too, are an integral part of the Australian narrative and of the Australian voice. Raw, fearless and confronting, Biswas offers a ferociously uncensored exploration of the personal and cultural, yet there are gleaming, pearlesque moments of togetherness, of healing, of finding that not all of one’s identities have been torn out at the roots, and that there still remain possibilities for renewal and rediscovery.

Who is Pooja Mittal Biswas? Who is Pooja Mittal Biswas? Her poetry is viscera and steel. Ferocity and intellect. Here in these pages are poems exquisitely tender, exquisitely lyrical. Here in these pages are poems that will shred the soft flesh from your body just to make sure there's a heart still beating. In the age of untruth and the superficially correct, deeply empty language of the feed, of political correctness, and trigger-free prose, Biswas makes language simmer and boil over with rediscovered potency. Michelle Hamadache

Born in Nigeria to Indian parents, Pooja Mittal Biswas grew up around the world before settling in Australia. She is the author of ten books of fiction, poetry and non-fiction. She has been reviewed and interviewed in The Age, The Australian and ABC Radio National’s The Book Show, and has been anthologised in both The Best Australian Poems and The Best Australian Poetry, and widely published in literary journals such as Meanjin, Overland, Cordite, TEXT, Hecate and Jacket. Biswas was awarded the Stanley Sinclair Bequest Scholarship for poetry, the Highlights Foundation Scholarship, and longlisted for the British Science Fiction Association’s Best Non-Fiction Book Award, and invited to the Emerging Writers’ Festival and the National Young Writers’ Festival.

Pooja Mittal Biswas, The Maker of Garlands
2024. 148mm x 210mm. 80pp.
ISBN 978-1-925735-61-1

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through Creative Australia, its principal arts investment and advisory body.

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