A queer, Indo-Trinidadian writer told of how being in Nottingham had been a freeing experience in writing.
Shivanee Ramlochan attended a talk at Nottingham Contemporary, and a poetry workshop at Bonington Gallery in Nottingham during a trip around the UK where she felt freer when writing with the knowledge she would return home as she could look at her life from a distance without it being permanent.
She spoke about her works, past and future, within which she incorporates her identity, as both a Trinidadian and a queer woman.
Shivanee calls Trinidad home, a place that repealed its sodomy laws in 2018 and still, like many other places, has people against the LGBTQ+ community.
Shivanee, poet, critic, and essayist, said: “I have been, I think, within that reality [being ostracised or thrown out] particularly fortunate not to experience repercussions because of my sexual identity on those fronts but I have undeniably lost the esteem of people I thought were my friends and particularly people in my extended family.”
She added: “I think that’s a really tangible result of choosing to be open about the work but I always say if I didn’t have the immediate very strong family support, my parents and my two brothers, it would have been far more difficult.”
While her identity is incorporated throughout her work, so is Trinidad.
“I don’t want to lose sight of the heart of what connects all of us, what might even connect me to someone who hates me or someone who hates the idea of me”
Shivanee Ramlochan, poet, critic and essayist
She uses Trinidadian folklore in her poetry book, Everyone Knows I am a Haunting, which is a more obvious way she has included this aspect of her identity.
She said: “All poems [in Everyone Knows I am a Haunting] have a Trinidadian heart even if I didn’t intend for that to be the case.”
Her work, which she described as dangerous, subversive, liminal, challenging, and emotional, was the focal point of the talk she attended at Nottingham Contemporary.
She spoke of the importance of the emotional aspect of her work.
She said: “I think it is important to write works that are politically engaged but I don’t want to lose sight of the heart of what connects all of us, what might even connect me to someone who hates me or someone who hates the idea of me.”
Shivanee, who had not been to Nottingham before, spent three months travelling around the UK for her working writers trip, where she met fellow writers.
She said: “One of the best and most beneficial things for me was reconnecting and connecting for the first time with people who are young writers, who are also exploring the world and their own particular worlds, through literature, through activism, through poetry.
“It felt profoundly special to actually be in the same space as these people and to have generative and meaningful conversations with writers across the UK.”
Her trip around the UK was beneficial because it helped her continue writing her newest book Unkillable, a creative non-fiction collection of essays, especially the parts that up until her trip had been difficult to write.