Indran Amirthanayagam

Indran Amirthanayagam was born in Colombo. He migrated to London and then to Hawaii with his parents.

His first book The Elephants of Reckoning won the 1994 Paterson Prize in the United States. His poem "Juarez" won the Juegos Florales of Guaymas, Mexico in 2006. Amirthanayagam has written five books thus far: The Splintered Face Tsunami Poems (Hanging Loose Press, March 2008), Ceylon R.I.P. (The International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2001), El Hombre Que Recoge Nidos (Resistencia/CONARTE, Mexico, 2005) El Infierno de los Pajaros (Resistencia, Mexico, 2001), The Elephants of Reckoning (Hanging Loose Press, 1993).

Amirthanayagam is a poet, essayist and translator in English, Spanish and French. His essays and poems have appeared in The Hindu, The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, El Norte, Reforma, New York/Newsday, The Daily News, The Island, The Daily Mirror, Groundviews (Sri Lanka). Amirthanayagam is a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow and a past recipient of an award from the US/Mexico Fund for Culture for his translations of Mexican poet Manuel Ulacia. Translations of poet Jose Eugenio Sanchez have appeared online. Two other Spanish collections and a collection of poems about Sri Lanka are under preparation.


Bomb Picking

My friend says
that where ashes
fall from the grill
nothing grows,
not even weeds,
for a year. Imagine

recovering land
from artillery
shells, cluster
bombs shattered
and multiplied,
the sheer slow

picking up
of signals
with metal rods,
I heard today

that removing
 the world’s
unexploded bombs
would take
five or six or ten
thousand years,

I don’t have
the exact number
–an elusive target–
don’t know how
many more devices
will drop in 2009.


Smoke Signal

The sense
of a life,
dousing body
in gasoline, 
before Lake
brought back
to London
for burial,

in exile,
a funeral,
news item,
to burning
of family

in Vanni
wake up
to light
to make

and read
their pyre
in Swiss


The Big Eye

When Orwell wrote that war is peace
literature may have solved hypocrisy
once and for all,  and new generations

of politicians learned his lesson
in their graduate programs, or on the job,
paying heed as a result to eyewitness

accounts of atrocities committed
by the good army liberating
the Vanni from Tiger devils.

The fact that the same eyewitnesses
speak of convoys of wounded
and dying blocked by the devils

gives their accounts an appearance
of impartiality, seriousness,
but as the man in charge

in the capital said, there are only
four of these international observers
and the rest are locals and all

are subject to Tiger pressure.
Locals certainly cannot be trusted.
They speak Tamil and live

in harmony with cousins
in Chennai and are suspicious
of detention camps where

we welcome entire families
to eat and live, watched,
protected, in peace.