"Conjugating the Line"

introduction for a reading by poet Prageeta Sharma

Tom Devaney, Program Coordinator at the Kelly Writers House
February 18, 2002

Prageeta Sharma's poetry shows us the art of relation. She writes, "Arguments/ do arouse this poem which oscillates in the same, trying space as arguments."

"Trying space as arguments" is a mode to show relation between people, language, culture, to name a few. Prageeta's poetry shows us relation as art, as necessity, survival. She writes, "the terrible light needs graceful navigators./The crossroads near the parkways are too far."

Between the India of her parents and her own America an artist as keen and sharp as Prageeta has little choice, but to explore daily disjunctions cultural and otherwise.

You would think that a poet committed to exploring relations would have a strong stance on "drawing the line" in a this-is-me this-is-not-me kind of way, but Prageeta's poetry does not "draw the line" in the traditional sense. Instead, I would say that her poetry conjugates the line.

The movement of her poems feel that they are going artfully through the present, past, future, and all their perfect tenses in search of something that will work, something that will make more sense. This advanced conjugation takes the form of testing, negotiating, graduating, proliferating possibilities against lines already drawn—the lines drawn by others. She writes, "I soak underwear with my head out to dry,// I am happy to be organized with my problems." Half in and half out, but completely in she writes again that she wants to "test this fragile circumstance by pressing it under water or underclothes." This permanent negotiating is not a poetry that "calls new worlds into existence," per se, but instead perpetually is calling those worlds, old and new, on their abundant crap. Notions of grace and bliss are counterbalanced against the mushy, creepy and dumb contemporary. She writes, "My will is to create a history between immediate us so we can mark."

The poetry has a fierce common sense. It's rhapsodic and lovingly punk rock and eats its own tail before you can. Prageeta's approach by necessity is various, full-on and urgent. It is poetry compelled by an urge that things do not have to be the way they are that "this can't be all there is." Still, there is a great and redeeming grace. She writes, "No dear, it is not hopeless, it was just a feeling dangling again, unattached, unfinished."