Gurkeyrith uses poetry as an outlet to write about her experience as a brown immigrant woman struggling to survive in a Western country. She also writes about needing feminism to survive and about how Eurocentric beauty standards are pushed onto her. She expresses how she copes daily through her adventures and daily life. Read more about her in our interview:
Fem: You write a lot about cultural appropriation, most recently in “Queen Bee.” How do you think that your perspective as a self-identified “brown poetess from rajasthan” shapes your poetry?
Gurkeyrith: Cultural appropriation is a very passionate subject for me because I see it happening all the time – from online to real life. It’s extremely harmful and disrespectful towards any culture that is being stolen from by a privileged group (white people) or by other people of color (cross cultural appropriation). It reduces and dehumanizes my culture and its people by portraying them as “exotic people” from a “foreign exotic culture”, it reinforces stereotypes that further reinforce oppression and racism, it homogenizes a group of people by portraying all of them as the same (a.k.a all brown people are the same…), and it lifts culturally important symbols and turns them into a fashion statement so the offender can satisfy their need of self expression via harming my existence. Those are just a few of the ways cultural appropriation harms people of color – there are many more. I identify as a brown poetess from Rajasthan because representation is important – there are hardly any well-known Indian poets with published work. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of Indian role models here in Canada simply because I never heard of any and that’s why I think its important to acknowledge your ethnicity otherwise white western society has no qualms erasing your race.
F: There’s a lot of discussion of unhealthy relationships in your writing. Do you find it emotionally exhausting to write about difficult times in your life, or do you find it therapeutic? Or is it somewhere in between?
G: To me, it’s important to acknowledge and to write about the trauma I have been through – partly because it’s therapeutic and partly because it helps me connect with readers that have gone through similar experiences. This connection forms a bond between us and helps us both heal. Its disheartening to know that other women have gone through the same trauma as me but it also helps me show solidarity to these women – I have been there and I can understand.
F: How do you personally define feminism?
G: Feminism for me has to be intersectional or it does not exist. Women everywhere are discriminated against solely for being or being perceived as a women – but black women, who paved the road for themselves and women of color, and women of color are more heavily discriminated against compared to white women. When a feminist say’s, “Women make less then men,” I want the feminist to go even further and acknowledge that white women have privileges over black women and women of color. I want them to say, “White women make less then white men but make more than black women and women of color.” I need people to acknowledge their privileges, I need my feminism to center disadvantaged and marginalized women, and most importantly – I need my body of work to reflect that I am an intersectional feminist.
F: What do you think makes a piece of writing feminist?
G: Any written or spoken piece that covers gender inequalities, highlights how systematic racism is still in place, talks about the discrimination the lgbtq community faces and how we – as feminists – can help them, any body of work that boosts people of color, talks about how oppression and patriarchy still shape modern society, cultural appropriation, and in general speaks about the how often women are policed, silenced, shamed, and harassed for all their actions and for simply existing is a feminist piece to me.
F: What poets do you admire?
G: There is one poet in particular that I admire – Nayyirah Waheed. My best friend bought me Salt and I fell in love with Waheed’s poetry, and I continue to fall in love every time I reread Salt. Her poems are usually short but the speak to my soul. One day, I hope to write poetry as powerful and as moving as hers.
F: Tell us about your blog!
G: I started writing over a year ago and it’s been such an amazing journey. I’ve made new friends, and lost some because of my feminism and poetry, but this entire experience has just shaped me into being more confident about my poetry and myself. I post my poetry usually on my Instagram and Tumblr and post about my feminist ideology on Twitter usually.