Rupsha's debut poetry collection is more than meets the eye: It begins as an arcane tour of Indian heritage sites—divine destinations that soothe and confound—and develops into a study of the nature of memory and the anatomy of fantasy and passion; love and embodiment; belonging, identity, and the representation of self. In its rich exploration of psychological interiority, Smoked Frames presents the notion of the alternate self, a state in which one at times feels alien to one's own being and at other times senses a close kinship to it.
This ambivalent identity is inscribed in the competition between the poet's imagination and the hazy memories of the past that colour her experiences: In one moment, we might be given a tour of the Hazarduari Palace in Murshidabad and the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, and in another instant we may watch mermaids swim near the seabed. Or we might be privy to a Saraswati Puja celebration where, alongside the poet, we may wish for the wherewithal to describe all that we have seen.
I first conceived of Smoked Frames after I began to receive generous comments from editors such as Aekta Kapoor and Demetra Davis and literary touchpoints for my work such as eShe Magazine and the BLACC Poetry Contest. It was this positive reinforcement, together with my grandmother's frequent encouragement and support of my love for the written word, that motivated me to put together this book. It is why I dedicate this collection to my grandmother and late grandfather.
I wrote the poems in this collection between 2020 and 2023. From odes to solitude to pieces exploring family dynamics, each of these poems is close to my heart. The combined effect of these pieces immerses my readers in a poetic journey through Indianness itself, a space heavily steeped in history and culture (at times completely new to my readers in the West). I hope that those who engage with this book might feel lost in a sense of wonder as they peer through these Smoked Frames.
Themes: culture, spirituality, identity