Correctional: A Memoir — Ravi Shankar



The Mount (2 Plunkett St., Lenox, MA 01240)

Pushcart-prize winning poet, author, editor, translator and professor Ravi Shankar comes to Edith Wharton’s house and gardens to talk about his newest book, Correctional: A Memoir.

Writer and editor of more than fifteen books and chapbooks of poetry, he is also the founder of Drunken Boat, one of the world’s oldest electronic arts journals, and has written for the New York Times, NPR, BBC and PBS NewsHour among many others.

“I became another statistic of NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg’s infamous stop-and-frisk policing, later deemed unconstitutional by [a] U.S. District Court judge,” he says. “… At the time, I was a tenured associate professor of English at a state university in Connecticut, a married homeowner, and a father. … I sued the city for racial discrimination and police misconduct, winning a modest settlement. … The next time I was arrested, I was not so lucky. Nor was I guiltless.”

And so begins his much anticipated memoir, as The Mount’s annual Summer Series highlights recent books and writers in an eclectic mix incuding stories of historical figures and contemporary underrepresented voices.

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The first time Ravi Shankar was arrested, he spoke out against racist policing on National Public Radio and successfully sued the city of New York. The second time, he was incarcerated when his promotion to full professor was finalized.

During his ninety-day pretrial confinement at the Hartford Correctional Center—a level 4, high-security urban jail in Connecticut—he met men who shared harrowing and heart-felt stories. The experience taught him about the persistence of structural racism, the limitations of mass media, and the pervasive traumas of twenty-first-century daily life.

Shankar’s complex self-portrait—and portrait of America dives into the inner workings of his mind and heart, framing his unexpected encounters with law and order through the lenses of race, class, privilege, and his bicultural upbringing as the first and only son of South Indian immigrants. Vignettes from his early life set the scene for his struggle and this country’s struggle.

“A candid and often excruciating exposure … Shankar’s hard-won words on the page are the telling trace of what has already been shed. We learn to see, as he does, from the reversed view granted in the falling.”—Martin Kovan, Ploughshares

Ravi Shankar is the author and editor of more than fifteen books and chapbooks of poetry, including the “Many Uses of Mint: New and Selected Poems: 1998-2018” (Recent Works Press); W.W. Norton & Co.’s “Language for a New Century” called a “beautiful achievement for world literature” by Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer; the Muse India Award winning translations of eighth century Tamil poet/saint “Autobiography of a Goddess” (Zubaan/University of Chicago Press); the National Poetry Review Prize winning “Deepening Groove”; the Carolina Wren judges award winning “What Else Could it Be”; and the finalist for the Connecticut Book Awards “Instrumentality,” poems from which have appeared around the world.

His poems and writings have been translated into more than 12 languages, and he has earned the Glenna Luschei Award from Prairie Schooner as well as winner of the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize for his work.

Shankar has taught at such institutions as Columbia University, Fairfield University, the City University of Hong Kong and the University of Sydney. He has held fellowships from the Corporation of Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Jentel Foundation, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Blue Mountain Center and many others. Recipient of numerous grants and awards, including multiple “Excellence-in-Teaching Awards,” his students have gone on to publish dozens of books of their own.

Granted fellowships by the New York State Council on the Arts and the Rhode Island State Commission on the Arts, Shankar has been featured in The New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, BBC, NPR and the PBS Newshour. His essays have appeared in such places as the Georgia Review, the Hartford Courant, and for the Poetry Society of America.

He has appeared at the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets and Poetry International and he founded one of the world’s oldest electronic journals of the arts, Drunken Boat, winner of a South-by-Southwest Web Award. He currently teaches for the New York Writers Workshop and lives a nomadic existence centered around Boston, Massachusetts and Sydney, Australia.