Current City, State, Country
Birth City, State, Country
Diane Mehta was born in Frankfurt, grew up in Bombay and New Jersey, studied in Boston, and now makes her home in New York City. Her second poetry collection Tiny Extravaganzas, out with Arrowsmith Press (2023), pushes against the boundaries of the American sentence while writing about music and art. Her essay collection Happier Far, about her mixed-race Indian-Jain and American-Jewish background, and about growing older with chronic pain, comes out in 2024. New and recent work is in The New Yorker, Virginia Quarterly Review, Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, and A Public Space. Her writing has been recognized by the Peter Heinegg Literary Award, the Café Royal Cultural Foundation, and fellowships at Civitella Ranieri and Yaddo. She was an editor at A Public Space, PEN America, and Guernica. Her latest project is a poetry cycle connected to The Divine Comedy. She is also collaborating with musicians to invent a new way of working through sound together.
What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?
Being a mixed-heritage Jewish-feminist poet who grew up in India can sometimes be contradictory and political. What I’m most interested in, from a Jewish standpoint, is a progressive Judaism that doesn’t mind being fraught or problematic. There is always a sense of a moral imperative hovering above, like a Jewish mother or an Old Testament God who is wagging a finger at me. The liturgical and cantorial rhythms from synagogue shaped some of my language and my long lines, as did Hebrew folk songs and Jain chanting. Just as much of an influence then and now are George Gershwin’s theater songs, Leonard Bernstein’s revved and passionate approach to conducting, and, lately, my new obsessions: György Ligeti’s strangely vast and supernatural classical music and Arnold Schönberg’s poetry song cycle Pierrot lunaire. So the influences on my poetry are Jewish, and the sensibility of a Jewish intellectual is always lurking within me, but when I create Jewish “content” I prefer that it is explicit.
Tiny Extravaganzas (Arrowsmith Press, 2023)
Forest with Castanets (Four Way Books, 2019)
Happier Far (University of Georgia Press, Crux, 2024)
How to Write Poetry (Barnes & Noble Books, 2005)
Links to Sample Works
Union College, New York, B.A.
Boston University, Massachusetts, M.A.