Intensely autobiographical poems that explore the foreign and the familiar; Alexander's poetry emerges as a consciousness moving between two worlds, between memory and present-day experience, and lit by multiple languages. Her experience of exile is translated into the intimate exploration of her connections to both India and America. In one instance the thirteenth century Persian poet Rumi visits with her while she speaks on the phone in her New York apartment, and then in another poem she evokes Allen Ginsberg in the India she herself has left behind. Drawing on the fascinating images and languages that her dual life has given her, Alexander deftly joins together contradictory geographies, thoughts, and feelings. Her wanderings between her adult life and the territory of her childhood are unusual in that they offer a fresh approach to the autobiographical lyric that is so popular in contemporary American poetry. Alexander's migratory memory is unceasingly inventive - she looks back upon the landscapes, languages, and events of her childhood and then weaves them together with her experiences of present-day life using the fierce, beautiful music of her verse. From out of what could easily become a chaos of memory, she creates poems that are powerful in both their grief and their celebration, and in which speech and silence are given equal weight as she searches for a clear view of the past and the present.
Meena Alexander was born in Allahabad, India. She has published numerous books, including two novels, Manhattan Music (Mercury House, 1997) and Nampally Road (Mercury House, 1991) and a book of poems and prose pieces. The Shock of Arrival: Reflections on Postcolonial Experience (Southend Press, 1996). Her most recent book of poems is River and Bridge (Toronto South Asian Review Press, 1996). Her memoir, Fault Lines (Feminist Press, 1993), received critical acclaim and was chosen as one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books 1993. Alexander's work has been translated into German, Italian, Swedish, Spanish, French, Arabic, Malayalam, Urdu, and Hindi and has appeared in many journals in the U.S. and abread. She currently lives in New York City where she is a Distinguished Professor of English at Hunter College and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.