Hear what others are saying about Matwaala!
"I remember my first call with Usha after I saw the 2015 Matwaala fest poster. I was new in town, not an artist by profession but a lifelong reader, writer, literature and poetry enthusiast. Usha was immediately warm, kind, giving and I found myself, a nobody, instantly embraced and welcomed into this amazing community of stalwarts into the literary world that is Matwaala. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to be a part of that wonderful experience at the first Matwaala fest! And for the opportunity to read my poems which led to my first poem being published. It’s an honor to meet the incredibly humble and infinitely talented creatives of this amazing group. It has encouraged me to continue keeping the writing, reading side of me alive. I’m looking forward to great things for this incredible collective!"
"A Fest is a lightning rod. You want to write more and more people want to write. I was at the first Matwaala at Austin Texas and seldom have I felt so exhilarated. As it is poetry is marginalized. And if you are a South Asian writing verse in America, you are off the page, your ass on the roadside. This was great fun, (not the ass hitting the roadside!) reading to each other and to the Texans, and having a laugh... Thanks to the untiring efforts of Usha Akella and all the poets."
~Keki N. Daruwalla
"In 2015 a participating visual artist/poet from San Marcos, Debangana Banerjee, called me wondering if I was planning to go to this festival. I wasn’t aware of the fest but she had read one of my poems online, liked it and we had communicated before. That was the springboard to jump on the first Matwaala wagon to Austin. After talking to Usha, I simply took a leap of faith in the diaspora spirit and camaraderie. It was a Texan embrace, Matwaala style by Usha’s enormous heart and by all the fest folks. The brain child of two brilliant poets and individuals: Usha & Pramila. Their enormous labor of love which took countless hours of preparations was intoxicating for me, deep enough to partake of the fest in New York, twice.
The 2017 readings and panel discussions were Pramila Venkateswaran’s masterly project. Her home became the poets’ residence. Everyone pitched in to the best they could; her untiring love, work, and leadership along with Usha’s to energize everyone to contribute are worthy of many accolades. 2018 fest brought in two amazing poets, Zilka Joseph and Vivek Sharma. We all parted with hearts full of poetic dialogues and creative bond. Personally I am grateful and thrilled for the opportunities that continue to evolve for us, Matwaalas."
"I attended the first Matwaala Festival in Austin of 2015. It was one of the most exciting moments in my life as a poet. I met fabulous poets and scholars from South Asia, including Keki Daruwalla and Saleem Peeradina. The lectures at the event were revitalizing and inspiring. I recorded the entire final day of the festival and put it on my Youtube channel. Unveiling founder Usha Akella's first American publication The Rosary of Latitudes was challenging and boundary-breaking for me as her publisher. I am proud to have been a part of that original festival and wish it continued success. This is an event that is culturally and poetically significant-- if you enjoy the arts and like to learn more of different cultures, Matwaala is the place to be!"
~Dustin Pickering, founder of Transcendent Zero Press
"There is Writing -- the pure word that exists, the soul as a poem, perchance -- and then there is the industry of Writing, that creation conscious of itself within, and governed in part by, the larger context of the Writing industry. The writer/poet/storyteller stretched and swinging between these two realities must navigate her inner and outer life as truth seer, social commentator, oracle and messenger. Oftentimes, the spirit of writing is sacrificed to the industry with its agendas, political and economic interests. However, there are collectives like Matwaala that work to bring the two into balance, recognizing that the body of poetry without the breath of spirit is a mere corpse. Recognizing, more than this, that we find ourselves in each other’s hearts, and that when we speak with one voice we can call a new tomorrow out of the void."
~Sasha Kamini Parmasad
When I was in graduate school in New York City, I was one of two people in color in my writing program, and unsure where to find my community. I felt so alone. In time I would discover organizations like the Asian American Writers Workshop, and others like Kundiman came into existence, but the Matwaala collective is unique because it is inclusive. Any South Asian poet, regardless of aesthetic school or publication history, can find a home here and much of the kinds of posturing and distributed inequality of prize culture does not exist with this group; rather there is an amazing group of like-minded individuals, many of whom have toiled alone or with little previous guidance, who actually care - about literature, about one another, about supporting and nurturing the growth of an alternative poetics in the homogenous literary world. All of the gatherings have been like family reunions, even if it is the first time folks have attended. When I have gone through a dark period, the poets from Matwaala have helped support and uplift me, and that kind of non-judgmental and compassionate regard is so different than that of so many other kinds of literary gatherings. I feel challenged and supported by the amazing and diverse poets of this collective and in my experience, that kind of camaraderie is the rarest of gifts. In Tamil Nadu, where my family comes from, you offer a passing guest the same love that you offer God by you opening your home, even to strangers. Matwaala is the incarnation of that spirit made manifest and I'm so thankful for it.
~Ravi Shankar, poet.