“Our first language was English as a Second Language”: A Poetry Reading and Talk on Exophony
Literature has always been shaped by linguistic outsiders: Jack Kerouac mostly spoke French into his teens; Joseph Conrad enlarged the British novel in his third language, after Polish and French; the most widely read book in African literature, Chinua Achebe’s English-language masterpiece, Things Fall Apart, was written by a native Igbo speaker. “Exophonic” authors have been writing the story of world literature in acquired languages from the learned Chinese verse of Nara-period Japan to the London-born Bengali American writer Jhumpa Lahiri’s 2018 Italian novel Dove mi trovo (translated into English as “Whereabouts”).
In this hybrid poetry reading and talk, Srikanth Reddy will read from his poetry and discuss exophony and the global lyric—with reference to the April 2022 special issue of Poetry magazine on “Exophony.”
Srikanth Reddy’s latest book of poetry, Underworld Lit, was a finalist for the Griffin International Poetry Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Four Quartets Prize, and a Times Literary Supplement “Book of the Year” for 2020. His writing has appeared in Harper’s, the Guardian (UK), the New York Times, and Poetry; and he is currently the poetry editor of the Paris Review. The recipient of fellowships from the Creative Capital Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, Reddy is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Chicago, where he edits the Phoenix Poets book series at the University of Chicago Press.