How would you describe your teaching style?

I used to be a brand manager in a previous life, before I moved to the US from Mumbai to study creative writing. Because I came to writing much later in life than a lot of my classmates, and hadn’t taken a more conventional route of studying creative writing in college, I wanted to find a way to pass on what I’d learned to those who didn’t have direct access to an arts/writing education. So, I started teaching in spaces where folks don’t have resources—for example, to get an expensive MFA—and also to folks for whom writing isn’t necessarily a career, but a way to express their stories, even if only for themselves. I try to design my teaching as much as possible to debunk the mentality of “It’s too late for me to be a writer.”

Your upcoming Writing Salon class is “Let the Body Sing: A Poetry Class.” When it comes to designing and creating classes, where do you get your inspiration? What in particular moved you to create this class?

Last summer, I read Leila Chatti’s book of poems titled Deluge in which Chatti writes about a painful medical condition in which she started bleeding and did not stop. Physicians defined this bleeding as “flooding.” In the Bible, the Flood was sent as punishment. The book’s deep dive into the intersections of shame, illness, grief and gender really resonated with me. Growing up, I was never allowed to openly speak about my body, even to my mother. In fact, we had coded names to refer to our genitals. Today, I live with chronic rheumatoid arthritis and often catch myself under-stating how much pain I am in. In poetry, the way we can unabashedly sing about and hold the body that endures so much, led me to building this generative workshop. Desire, sex, sexuality, trauma: how do we hold these in a world where not all bodies are considered equal is what I hope folks will write into through these sessions.

What’s the energy or atmosphere you are hoping to establish in the classroom? What takeaways do you want your students to have upon completing a class with you?

An atmosphere of care and generosity. Writing our bodies means being vulnerable, so I want to create a space where we uphold and celebrate our diverse selves. The key takeaway is that of possibility: at the end of three sessions I want folks to be able to have multiple new ways to start a poem rooted in the body. Lots of messy first drafts that are waiting to be carved and polished. I am bringing in lots of contemporary, new poets as examples and hope that folks take away at least one new poet they’re excited to read more of. Through the materials we read, the exercises we do, I want folks to be able to realize that they have permission to write into something they otherwise thought was forbidden, or not-quite-okay.

You’re heading into your first writing residency! What are your intentions for this time away?

I am excited to see what this spatial change, especially after a year of working from home, will do to my practice. I’ve always lived in busy cities, so I am really looking forward to a slowdown, and the extended hours of silence– that’s always precious.

Preeti Vangani is a poet and personal essayist. Born and raised in Mumbai, she is the author of Mother Tongue Apologize (RLFPA Editions), her first book of poems (selected as the winner of RL India Poetry Prize.) Her work has been published in BOAAT, Gulf Coast, Threepenny Review, among other journals. She is the Assistant Poetry Editor for Glass Journal, a Poet Mentor at Youth Speaks, and holds an MFA (Writing) from University of San Francisco.

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