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Publishers for the Diaspora writers and poets Skylark Publications UK A Non-Profit Foundation

 Recipients of our Poet-of-the-Month Honour  

Pramila Venkateswaran

Is There a Fish in Your Tomato?


A Lifetime Achievement of Excellence as a Poet   

Pramila Venkateswaran, poet laureate of Suffolk County, Long Island (2013-15), and author of Thirtha (Yuganta Press, 2002) Behind Dark Waters (Plain View Press, 2008), Draw Me Inmost (Stockport Flats, 2009), Trace (Finishing Line Press, 2011), and Thirteen Days to Let Go (Aldrich Press, 2015) is an award winning poet who teaches English and Women’s Studies at Nassau Community College, New York.

 Recently, she won the Local Gems Chapbook contest for her volume, Slow Ripening. Author of numerous essays on poetics as well as creative non-fiction, she is also the 2011 Walt Whitman Birthplace Association Long Island Poet of the Year. For more information,





Pramila Venkateswaran

Patrons: Lord Parekh & Lord Dholakia

Please click on the covers to order the books

Editor’s Comment

I have always admired Pramilla’s work. Hence, when Saleem Peeradina, a past winner of the Word Masala Award, proposed her name, I was thrilled to explore more of her recent poems. Her statement may tell us of her feminist approach, but this can be misleading. Her subject matters are a far-flung net in a sea of possibilities. The concrete poem selected for this issue shows that she is indeed a poet embracing a wider rumination.

What an original title! Is There a Fish in Your Tomato? Great poetry always transcends the desiccated husk that can be a poem of description. It teases us with metaphors and similes; It playfully engages us in making fresh discoveries and finding new meanings and poetic joys. Here a poet creates a comic connection with identical genes enjoyed by a tomato and a fish as a result of a scientific experiment. Pramilla leads us from the creative games of science to the games of illusions with a poetic muse tossing our taste buds to the tang of fish within a bite of a tomato and at the same time suggesting a sexual connotation with one word - ‘cleavage’. A genius is at work! The word ‘Each’ plugged in at the top can be a straw to draw the essence from a pot that is tomato or just something from which a tomato hangs happily ever after. Each one with its own destiny, a fish in nectar. Yet this concrete poem also evokes an image of a hand grenade, a warning for the times we live in when men’s political or religious adventures end up in war. Perhaps, the poem's ending hints at waiting to blow up as a grenade. But not quite so; the poet throws in the word ‘cultivate’, which suggests optimism. Pramilla truly lives up to her promise in her statement ‘I use humour, myth, dialogue to get to the heart of a poem, play with words to make them sing.’ Please, don’t forget to write to tell me at what level you have enjoyed this poem.   


Word Masala Award

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Thirteen Days to Let Go

Sharp yet soft with resonance, poignant, and weighty with personal and social layers. Each poem was a snapshot of grief and the pain of human relationships- imperfect as they are-- its all we have. Simply beautiful! The book could have been just a litany of thirteen days.

-Usha Akella, Poet & Cultural Ambassador, City of Austin & Founder, The Poetry Caravan


Excerpts from South Asian Review (

In Thirteen Days to Let Go, Venkateswaran conducts us through the prescribed Hindu rituals following the death of her father, that seek to satisfy the spirit of the dead person.

-Other poems in this slim volume include “Swimming in Walden Pond,” in which Venkateswaran describes her dip thus:

I am upto my neck in philosophy,

My toes touching its shifting floor.

In “Sighting Hawks,” she goes “hawk-tipsy” reeling down Kansas roads. It is a pure lyric, the best in the tradition of Hawk poems. In “Field Trip to the Cochin Synagogue,” she muses on the irony of seeing Muslim girls in a Jewish temple. In “Above Kerala,” she captures the lush landscape in all its fecundity.  This is her fifth book, and it shows Venkateswaran at her best – a sure-footed, even-handed poet who has grown steadily over the years. A remarkable achievement, thoughtful and delightful at the same time

Saleem Peeradina

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Behind Dark Waters

This impressive volume of poetry is framed on a cosmopolitan, global scale and fleshed with intelligent and compassionate observation. Although, there is the odd, once-in-a-while ode to nothing in particular, most poems in this second anthology of Venkateswaran's are anchored firmly in mythologies that may be traditional or contemporary, ranging from the Ramayana to the saga of Aung San Suu Kyi. Furthermore, each poem is powerful with fluent lyricism and I found myself reacting to the tonal reverberations of seemingly simple lines long after the physical act of reading. Consider for instance, "...loss weighed like a gold coin/in the bottom of your chest" with its pithy coupling of emotion (chest = heart) to economics (chest of treasure).

-From a review by Prathim Maya Dora-Laskey (from SAWNET bookshelf)

I am an idealist who believes that art is radical in its ability to heal and possibly transform the artist as well as the reader. As an artist I feel I have the responsibility to describe social and political events around me. Art is ultimately political: I write about women’s lives, their voices raised in protest, their power and their victimization. My poetry ranges giving voice to hunger strikers, to the suicide of farmers as a result of the unfair global free trade practices, to the beauty of watching my daughters grow up.  I use humour, myth, dialogue to get to the heart of a poem, play with words to make them sing.

Pramila Venkateswaran, poet laureate of Suffolk County, Long Island, is author of Thirtha (Yuganta Press, 2002), Behind Dark Waters (Plain View Press, 2008), Draw Me Inmost (Stockport Flats, 2009), and Trace (Finishing Line Press, 2011).

Poet’s Statement






  round tomato fills my hand,  

 no wrinkle, smudge, scab or hole

   pierced by worm. A work of art, I marvel.

 Every tomato perfectly cloned minus rot or

  cleavage. But how can this shiny wonder taste so

 bland? Do these perfect vermillion globes cross-bred

 from fish, aim to taste more like their aquatic parent?

  Will cooks turn devious when they run short of sea food?   

  What do I know, a vegetarian who only imagines a mean

  glassy eye challenging me as I munch on tomato salad!

 Gills, fins, smooth pink entrails, the delicate eggs in  

  their ovarian sac, and the stink of fishing villages

   assault me, breaking my tongue, teaching it

  the sense of genetic modification so

    I can cultivate this new illusion