fly underground

Anonymous asked: hi yena!

hello anon! hope your evening is going well!


Met and read and laughed and cried and loved with these beautiful beautiful beautiful human beings last night! I am in love with all of you. (alonesomes, amanda-oaks, brandonspeck & fly-underground)

this was such a wonderful evening! i still so happy that we were all able to come together and have this event! so much tender, strong poetry, so many giggles and snarky jokes.  i’m very lucky to have met you all. LET’S DO THIS AGAIN, SOON.

if there was ever any doubt about my ‘poetic genius,’ i accidentally closed a file i was writing a poem in without saving it - and was able to re-type the entire thing from memory/intuition in under ten minutes 

five hundred and ninety five: VOICES

It is hard to live like you’re going to die.
   Is there another way?
      What is the other way?

Susanna Kayson clung onto the word ambivalent
and it changed her life. Remember that scene with Redgrave?
Ambivalent. Of course you do.
It’s how you learned that word. Years before SAT vocabulary.
You remember things as a series of harsh moments.
Is it strange that you think this way?

You are eleven the first time you call yourself lonely,
which sounds like a tiny thing, except
it’s 2003. It’s your username, so every time you login,
you know. Every time you post a comment, every time
you type out your web address.Lonely freak,
you call yourself. Like a curse. Like a prophecy.
This is your site for two years.
Five years after that, it is deleted permanently.
This sounds like a tiny thing.

It is a neighbor who tells you how beautiful you are
when you already believe it. What this means is,
it does not matter, not when you are five or six or seven.
But when you are seventeen, eighteen, nineteen,
it will start to mean something then.
You are beautiful, so life should be easy.
You are beautiful, so life should be better
than it is. It isn’t. So, you start
to believe different things, who you should have been,
what you should have done.
But you still trust your neighbor.
   You have to.
      It’s the truth.

At thirty five, you have become the lesser of two evils.
This is not a pleasant thing. You hate all the hard angles
of your heart. Your heart is not a fist. Relax. Open.
Stop clenching. Love without pinching.
If you spoke another language, maybe you’d be
different, better. I don’t know. Shhh.
Do you hear that? There is more to life than love.
Listen. This is your heart.
   Here is your heart.

I'm participating in the Inaugural Literary Festival of the Indian Subcontinent!

I am extremely excited and honored to announce that I have been invited to participate in the first annual Indo-American Arts Council’s Literary Festival!!! The festival, which spans the full weekend of November 7th through November 9th, is bound to be a wonderful experience of networking and listening to some of the finest South Asian authors of this time read and discuss their work. Is there a need to name drop? Should I just link the IAAC Literary Festival Schedule here? Both?


I am one of the featured authors for the event, Poetic License: Writing contemporary poetry!

There are tickets for all of these events, so if anyone is in New York City that weekend, consider spending some time with us at the festival! Definitely let me know if you’ll be coming, I would love to see you all!

It’s been nearly a year since Until I Learned What It Meant was published. I remember distinctly because I was writing a seminar paper and had to race off to the library to scan and email in my author’s contract. Even today, this all still feels surreal to me. I am so grateful for and humbled by everything that has happened in these past twelve months. So many people have read my work, by purchasing my book, or scrolling through my tumblr, or both. I appreciate every single one of you.  I can’t properly express how much this means to me. Thank you all.

Anonymous asked: HI YENA


vivian just asked why i think all enthusiastic anons are yuan, which is an excellent question. so, if this is some other person, i want to apologize for being so presumptuous. you could be anyone. i would like to amend my response to : HI ANON 

drunkoffmyemotions asked: Are you aware of the decision to sell the CRS Clinton and Red Hook campuses? Also the experience is being shortened to 4 weeks.

i just saw the news this evening. it is very heartbreaking, because i know many of us think about camp as a physical grounds. as if, we could always hop on a bus or a train or a plane and go back. but, here is a very real truth: we can’t go back. the first time i realized that, i was an alum. it was 2010 and it was the year after my second year. i had come back to visit alone, to lead a workshop in poetry. i was sitting around council and i felt like i could see ghosts everywhere. these were lovely girls and i could see bits of my camp sisters in them. it broke my heart. it wasn’t the same without those people. it wasn’t the same when camp was over. does it really matter if we keep that land? it is a beautiful place. i love rhinebeck for all its hills and sunsets. but it’s okay to start again. the new project is called new dawn. that sounds like it could be a reference to the twilight series. but jokes aside, with a lot of love from someone who misses so many pieces of her past: it isn’t the place, it is the people, it is always the people you really miss. call up your camp friends just to say hello. tell them what you’re really sad about. even if it is a small thing. here’s the other thing: love isn’t a small thing. so what if it is four weeks? remember that weekend i spent at camp as an alum? that was two days. those two days became two more and then two more - a total of six. and i love the girls i met that season. and i was lucky enough to be the counselor to some of them the following year, when they were second years. what’s my point here? camp is a world of magic. keep the faith. do the work. it’ll work out. 

five hundred and ninety four: I was a Guest at the United Nations!

Yesterday, I was very fortunate to be invited to attend the International Day of Non-violence Commemoration at the United Nations Trusteeship. October 2nd has been celebrated the International Day of Non-violence since 2007, making this its eighth year. October 2nd is also Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, making this the 145th year paid in homage to him and his legacy.

Am I a huge fan of Gandhi? I wouldn’t say that. There are politics everywhere and I would hate to stamp my approval on a man that is notorious for some bad things because he also did some good things. Do you know what I mean? I’m not the person to make that judgment call. I am still making up my own mind.

But the commemoration was about Gandhi in terms of his work with non-violence, not his life as an individual, someone who had an agenda and a perspective and a family. Gandhi and his non-violence. Non-violence because of Gandhi. And though the event was organized by Permanent Mission of India, this was an international event. Ambassadors from South Africa, Bhutan, the Netherlands, and Kazakhstan spoke, as did the Foreign Secretary to Bangladesh. and the UN Deputy Secretary-General. Their speeches, in strong, sometimes lilting accents, punctuated how big and small the world is. I love hearing people describe things like this: my country and then our world. I think it says something for how willing we are to share and simultaneously how necessary it is to describe the reality of our unique experience.  It happened to me, it happened to my country, please don’t forget me and my country. Even if it not unique at all. Especially if it is not unique at all.

Non-violence is not the same thing as peace. There is an international day of peace, which is celebrated September 21st. It is a call to have one day of international ceasefire. I think that is a beautiful thing. I sobbed the first time I watched the Peace One Day documentary. But I was also 18 then. And the world, to me at least, felt different then. For all intents and purposes, non-violence refers to weapon-based violence: guns and bombs and nuclear warfare. It does not refer to raging demonstrations. It does not refer to anger. While the halt in action on the international day of peace is in many ways a pause in the story of war, the international day of non-violence does not mean war has stopped. It is fighting in a different way: with attitudes and books and movements and people. And not one of the speakers, from any nation, even pretended that non-violence was the twin, or a sister, or even a cousin of peace.

Jeremiah Nyamane Kingsley Mamabolo, Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the UN said something to the effect that everyone in the world must sigh in relief when thinking that there must be other people in the world like Gandhi and Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Which is a beautiful thought, not only that there have been a few people in history who committed their life to human rights and activism, but there must be others. All those quiet heroes who are remembered by their city or their town or their village or just their family, for their soft voice and big heart and open, open mind. Today is a very different time, when even the quiet ones have the freedom and the opportunity to reach the world with their fingertips. Those young people who live in social media hubs, like tumblr and youtube and twitter and vine. Talk about affecting change. Talk about being the change.

When I was younger, I went to an international youth leadership camp for young women. And through that program, I have met some of the finest people I know. A total 23 weeks of my life, or three camp seasons, have been spent in learning about leadership, diversity, service, and education, which is both a short time and a long time. Yesterday as I looked around the giant Trusteeship room and saw so many representatives for many nations, wearing suits and skirts and saris, having a shawl around their shoulders with one of Gandhi’s quotes written across the bottom hem, I couldn’t help but think of all those young international leaders I have met, the young international leader I was recognized as. How many of us will end up sitting in this room, having this discussion or another like it? How many of us will have to think about our big world and our small countries? How many of us will become diplomats or national officers? I don’t know. Maybe we will only ever enter the United Nations building as invited guests, or maybe not. I think about our tiny, personal conflicts, someone’s passion for law, someone else’s love for children, the way one woman always says sorry like she apologizes what she did but not who she is, how one boy wants to see the whole world before he dies at the cost of anything, what it feels like when my mother tells me she taught someone else that school and office dress codes promote rape culture, the surging internet uproar for injustice across continents, and why oppressors everywhere are afraid for when the people become angry.  The people. The peoples. We the peoples.

There have to be others like Gandhi and Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. I know it. I believe it.

What’s that thing about cat fights? Claws into
tender flesh:
   Honey, your nails are ten canvases of fine art.
       I did them myself! I could do yours
      if you like.

Something about women, right? Or panthers?
What if something beautiful kills you? What if
it is sorry?

Yena Sharma Purmasir, excerpt from Other Women

Anonymous asked: Come back! :(

oh honey, i’m here. i’m still here. i am juggling lots of different things and made the very grown up decision not to post every poem on tumblr anymore. the latter is such a big deal: fly-underground was supposed to be the place i posted all my poems, polished or not, and that’s what is has been for five years.

but, now, as i think about what i want to do with my writing and think even more seriously about copywrite issues, this just makes sense. if this sounds at all like i am not still here to write, then i’m not representing myself well. what i mean is: i am here, i want to post my work here and i also want to be responsible to my goals.

so, i’ll make you a deal, anon: at least two pieces every month. i’m back. i promise i didn’t go anywhere.