Aimee Nezhukumatathil visits Storrs Barnes & Noble to talk all things poetry

Author and poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil reads poems and assorted works from her new book Oceanic at the Barns & Noble in Storrs Center, and conducts a Q&A with fans (Avery Bilkerman/The Daily Campus)

 The author of four poetry collections, one of the youngest people to ever become a poetry professor and the receiver of numerous awards, Aimee Nezhukumatathil was welcomed by the Creative Writing Program to read her work and host a Q&A at Barnes & Noble Tuesday night.  

Born in Chicago to an Indian father and Filipino mother, Nezhukumatathil grew up in a mixture of three different cultures, but with a traditional household. All throughout her young adult life, her parents expected her to become a doctor. After all, her mother was a doctor and she needed to continue her family’s medical field legacy of 400 years. She explains how after constantly struggling in her organic chemistry class and mistakenly picking up a random boy’s poetry homework, she knew that she could not fake her love for chemistry for any longer. During her junior year spring break and a week before the MCAT test, Nezhukumatathil explained to her parents how she would no longer be pursuing the pre-medical or chemistry route, but rather switch her major to English and devote her time to learning more about poetry.  

“My stoic Indian father wept,” Nezhukumatathil said. “I can count on one hand the amount of times he's ever cried. Once when I got married, once when his grandchild was born and once when I told him I wanted to study poetry. My mother got up from the living room and didn’t talk to me for three days.”  

 Despite these tense moments in her household and having to assure herself that she was doing the right thing, Nezhukumatathil explains how it was the best decision she ever made. Even today as a professor, her students are always teaching her and challenging her in many different ways. It is for this reason that Nezhukumatathil is so captivated with poetry. She says that even to this day she feels like the same girl who was sitting in her first poetry workshop at the age of 20.  

Nezhukumatathil enjoys writing for everything that it is. All of the metaphors, similes, word plays, rewrites and edits are all part of the journey that makes a piece of writing what it is. She read to the audience a found poem, which essentially means that every single part of her poem has been cut and pasted from a larger piece of work. In this case these larger pieces of work are reviews people left on tourist attractions, the Great Wall of China for example. She gives the audience an example from her poem, “One Star Reviews of the Taj Mahal.” 

“Can you believe there’s no coat room at the South Gate? Oh my gosh, the garden is so basic. Everything here is basic. Can you believe they told us to get out with my selfie stick? Don’t even think about seeing under a full moon.” As Nezhukumatathil read the poem out loud, she embodied all of the voice inclination and tones that the reviewer most likely had when reading this review in their head. Not only is she a talented and gifted poet, but Nezhukumatathil is overwhelmingly charismatic and an amazing story-teller. She captivated the whole audience with her amazing poetry and reading skills and blew everyone away while reading her own poems.  

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is entering her fifth year as poetry editor for “Orion,” a quarterly, advertisement-free magazine that focuses on nature, science, poetry and landscape, and is committed to getting voices represented from all backgrounds. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Fine Arts degree from Ohio State University. The Charles Angoff Award, the Boatwright Prize and the Richard Hugo Prize are only a few of the awards she has won. Nezhukumatathil is a professor of English at the University of Mississippi and currently resides in Oxford, Mississippi with her husband and two children.  


Jordana Castelli is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at jordana.castelli@uconn.edu.