Confession: I got to hang out twice with Srikanth – otherwise known as “Chicu” – Reddy two days in a row last weekend, first for the Asian American Literary Review‘s “8: A Symposium,” and then for an Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival literary panel. Even though my little brain is not so good with poetry, having Reddy actually read his to me (and the rest of the audience) helped immensely.
Given its title, Reddy joked that his collection often gets misshelved in the “Travel” section of bookstores. While that might mean his potential readers will need to do a bit of sleuthing to find the title, that sense of misplaced, disjointed distancing is not far from what Reddy explores with poignancy – and moments of sly humor – in his debut collection.
Written mostly while living abroad, the poems in Facts play with – even ‘corrupt,’ as Reddy comments – the accepted meanings of words, even language. From psalms to fairy tales, Reddy challenges that which was once familiar: in “Corruption,” his “words … remove themselves from expectation,” and then again at collection’s end in “Corruption (II),” he predicts that “our tongue will have crossed into extinction or changed utterly.”
In one of his longer pieces, “Fundamentals of Esperanto,” Reddy cleverly combines facts and fiction-disguised-as-facts to create a brand-new, albeit unreliable (though shrewdly entertainingly), history of the utopic language of Esperanto which was created in hopes of creating a worldwide accessible means of communication.
But language – any and all languages – are always in transition, a “mutating patois,” Reddy writes. Each of us struggles to communicate, to connect … not unlike visitors to faraway lands searching for the very ‘facts’ that will somehow bridge the wordless gaps.