The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Mani Rao


By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Mani Rao PixLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Do I write? When bees communicate it looks like a dance but they are not dancing.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

Did you know, in his own days, Kalidasa was known as an “adhunik” or modern playwright? His craft is intricate but not pedantic, the language is expressive, suggestive, evocative, he brings fantasy alive with realistic detail, he exposes the roadside romeo in King Dushyanta… My most recent new work is Kalidasa for the 21st Century.Describe your writing aesthetic.

Experience, Accuracy. Suggestiveness, Lightness, Play. Not everything should be said, the syncopation draws in the right reader. Sound design is key, but the purpose of design is really for illumination. If you’re seriously interested, there’s an essay on my poetics in Dukool: https://www.du-kool.com/writing-an-ars-poetica-mani-rao/

Who are your favorite authors?

I tend to lose the writer after I read something – I don’t mean that disrespectfully, I just do not pursue the writer as a wholesome personality or recognizable voice any more. In the past I have favorited J. M. Coetzee, Peter Handke, Clarice Lispector, Haldor Laxness, Robert Creeley, Lorine Niedecker, Paul Valery, I could think of many more.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

I don’t understand the question, writing is not a sport, competition or display. I only want to write what I can.

What’s your idea of bliss?

On a drip tarantic heart red rosary

Love soft and deli (cloud blossom) it stipulates lite rolling pads of fingers lips

Ripe pomegranate seeds in stainless peristalsis

Milking the erect nipples of god for a glass of fully-flown gold-rose light

What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?

I cannot tell you that.

What book would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?

A handbook of mantras to memorize.

Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?

My body.

Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.

Love makes the world go around.

Author Biography:

Mani Rao (b. 1965, India) is the author of eight poetry books including New & Selected Poems (Poetrywala) and two books in translation – of the Bhagavad Gita as a poem, and Kalidasa for the 21st Century Reader. Her poems and essays are in numerous journals and anthologies. See manirao.com for a full list and links. Mani has an MFA in Creative Writing.