As part of Poetry with Prakriti, Margaret Mascarenhas read from her collection of poems Triage in which she categorises and dissects love


I will take my kite and fly

in the opposite direction

For I am more Pablo than Penelope

If you forget me

I will forget you

Margaret Mascarenhas reads softly, raising a note or two to emphasise a certain line. Her words linger a while, sifting through our thoughts, hallowing insights. Triage, her recently-published collection of poetry, spoken word, flash memoir with sketches interspersed, reveals all sides of romance as she peels off the captive layers to the heart of true love. At a session held at the Women’s Christian College, this multi-lingual writer, consulting editor and independent curator talked about giving art its deserved place in our social fabric. Excerpts:

About making poetry and its cathartic process

My poems just come to me fully formed. I may tweak and edit them later a bit. For years, I have maintained journals, letting the flow happen automatically. It purges excesses from within, a cleansing process.

After Skin, her first novel and The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos the second, why did she write a book of poems?

I was completely occupied with two major programmes — Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts that I set up and administered for three years till 2011 and the Blue Shores Prison Art Project where Swatee Nair and I conduct a curriculum for exploring creative outlets for the inmates of Aguada Central Jail in Goa. Triage emerged out of my inability to find time to write a novel. While teaching, I began compiling smaller pieces of poems and fiction, many from my diaristic practice.

What Triage means in context to her book

Triage was a system of determining priority of casualties in war zones by categorising likely survivors, borderline cases and those who would not survive. It was developed by the French during World War I to decide who could get treatment. In my book, I treat romantic love like a sickness. It makes us obsessive! Real love lasts.

On word, image and transcendence

Poetry is really about painting with words. The work has to make the other identify with the poem — to transcend. We can alter meanings by playing with text and images. A title next to an abstract painting locks us into that particular meaning. I work a lot with image and text.

On being a woman and forming her identity

A growing diasporic community of writers and artists in Goa talks about the pain and trouble of fitting in. I have not grown up here; I lived and worked all over. I feel well integrated in the world but I do not have a nationalistic identity. My father, a Goan, met my mother in Michigan, U.S.A and I was born there. We moved to Venezuela when I was about five and I grew up in a country that was quite free of these issues of race. In India we deal with caste and colour, in the U.S., there is constant debate about race and colour. Curiously, I never experienced all these women and caste issues growing up. In fact, I have never experienced anything that stopped me from doing what I wanted because I am a woman.

On starting the Blue Shores Art Project

Swatee and I determined that only those who really wanted to write and paint could join as students. We would have a selection process. We started with about 20-22. It is a four-year programme and we get special permission to do the documentation after the first year.

The impact of the creative process on the inmates of Aguada jail

We are there to teach them and I do not want any barrier to that bond, so I don’t ever wish to know what got them into jail. Oddly, it’s the best place for a group to focus, as there is nothing else for them. We tell them to be free and paint whatever they like, but there are hardly ever any violent images. Painting is a metaphor for finding themselves.