Welcome, Kirun Kapur!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired during 2018. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Kirun Kapur, author of the poetry collection Women in the Waiting Room, which will be published in late 2020.
Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our November Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies) and translations from German. Also, our Big Moose Prize for the novel is currently open to early bird submissions.

The Author

Kirun Kapuris the winner of the Arts & Letters Rumi Prize in Poetry and the Antivenom Poetry Award for her first book, Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist (Elixir Press, 2015). Her second book, Women in the Waiting Room, was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Poetry International, FIELD, Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares and many other journals. She has taught creative writing at Boston University and Brandeis University, and has been granted fellowships from The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Vermont Studio Center and McDowell Colony. She was recently named an “Asian-American poet to watch” by NBC news. Kirun serves as Poetry Editor at The Drum Literary Magazine and currently teaches at Amherst College.


On writing Women in the Waiting Room


Women in the Waiting Room grew out of my frustration with my own poems. I felt I was covering the same ground, writing the same kind of poem again and again. I wanted to push myself into new territory. I experimented with traditional forms, like the ghazal, but I also wanted to explore white space, disembodied voices, broken forms and fractured narratives. It took some time to realize my small formal experiments were talking to each other and might come together in a larger whole.

At the center of all the poems were women, all kinds of women—mythological, historical, anonymous and intimately specific. Their bodies and stories formed the backbone of the book. As the subject of the work came into view, I realized there was a corollary to writing the same poem over and over: I’d been avoiding writing something, too. Illness, powerlessness, friendship, violence, love, silence—some of the most profound experiences that women have—were subjects I’d touched on in earlier poems, but only in the broader setting of history, family and nationality. Why did these subjects feel different in the context of a single woman’s life? How could these subjects take form? How would they change a form or be changed by it? I wrote Women in the Waiting Room to find out.




Steubenville Ghazal
…….Steubenville, Ohio 2013
It was hard not to notice the style of him.
We were all mesmerized by the smile on him.
Snaps, sexts. He might. I might not.
Friends teased, Post a pic of your thigh for him.
There’s a strip mall, a steel mill, the long Veteran’s Bridge.
The white picket grin was the lie of him.
A basement. The music. Coats draped on the couch.
I kept drinking and thinking, don’t be shy with him.
He posed for the camera, his hand on my neck.
I lay still underneath the hard guile of him.
I dream I’m clear wind, I dream I’m blank space,
I dream of the girl who’s surviving him.
Skank. Slut. Cunt. Whore.
What did you expect is the cry from them.
Skank. Slut. Cunt. Whore.
These are the facts from the trial of him.
In Delhi, a bus. In Houston, a bridge.
There’s New Bedford, Toronto, Dubai for him.
For a girl to be innocent she has to be dead.
The newspapers await a reply from him.
My name is redacted, it no longer applies.
I end every line writing him, him, him.
Girls Girls Girls 
Along the strip in Waikiki, past sailor bars
and clubs, the length of beach where lipstick
sunsets smudged and magazines would shoot
and caption, Paradise. Past posh hotels
where M. and I would wait for some nice man
to buy us drinks from the bar. We’d watch
the women walk like they were stars onstage,
dress like they couldn’t wait to be undressed,
leaning over into idling cars. Out on the west side
of the island, J. tells me any man she dates
is more likely to hit her than pay for her dinner.
Teenagers holding babies spit at us when we stare:
What you looking at? You got nothing.
I have nothing, sobs L., today, on the phone.
I know it isn’t my fault, but when I think of how I let him do it
over and over, even helped him cover it up, I hate myself. 
I’m thinking of the man who owned the noodle shop,
the man who’d always sit with me and chat
about Hanoi, warm water in canals,
moms on bikes with babies tied down
front and back, how to tell a ripe papaya.
I saw him on the news a few years back,
for smuggling women in refrigerated trucks.
He owned the bar called Girls Girls Girls
a few doors down from where he served me pho,
the one whose sign was made of neon legs
that kicked and kicked until they were a stain of light.
We liked to swim along the south shore
when the tide was right. You had to time your dive
or crack your head against the reef. More than once
a girl washed up. Sometimes they named her
on the news. M. and I drank Kamikazes
on the lanai of the new Sheraton,
the chief of security coming out to check
we were the right sort of girls, regaling us
with stories of the wallets stolen off of businessmen
by ladies visiting their rooms, a theft
they’d later blame on the hotel maid.
I hate—L.’s voice, mine. When I think
of how I—how times have I said it?
How many times have I said nothing at all
or tried to explain why we aren’t at home—
the right sort of girl and the wrong,
why we’re out under the orange street-lights.
Bare chrome, fast grin, hot pipes
remind me I have skin. Piss off,
You plush backseats, I am a flag
Whipped taut in wind,
A cyclops with a golden eye—
I have a rampage caught between my knees.
When black road opens its throat,
When the engine kicks and kisses,
When I’m nothing but an articulate machine—
Drag bars, shaft drive, V twin. Darling,
If I idle like a tidal wave outside your door,
Come out, unwind me from my leather.