Gowri Koneswaran

Three Poems

20th Anniversary Reflections

Gowri Koneswaran served as co-editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly from 2015 to 2017, and is currently an Associate Editor of the journal. Prior to joining the staff, Koneswaran was featured in the Langston Hughes Tribute Issue (Winter 2011, Volume 12:1), and in the Spring 2011 Portfolio Issue (Volume 12:2), and she guest edited Orbit: The Asian American Poets Issue (Summer 2014, Volume 15:3, with Regie Cabico). While serving as co-editor, Koneswaran provided leadership in the journal’s participation in the Year of Publishing Women, and edited the Nine Women Poets Issue (Fall 2015, Volume 16:4), the LGBTQ Issue (Spring 2016, Volume 17:2, with Venus Thrash), the Slam Poetry Issue (Fall 2016, Volume 17:4, with Elizabeth Acevedo), the Virtual Salon Issue (Winter 2017, Volume 18:1, with Kim Roberts), the Summer Portfolio Issue of 2017 (Volume 18:3), and the Sterling A. Brown Tribute Issue (Fall 2017, Volume 18:4, with Margaret Corum and Kim Roberts).

Koneswaran writes, “My years as co-editor laid bare the journal’s role as a community meeting place and intergenerational salon. One issue in particular stands out—the Slam Issue from Fall 2016, which was guest co-edited by Elizabeth Acevedo. Featuring poets who represented DC, Baltimore, and Richmond in regional and national poetry slams over 23 years, the issue was also a testament to the journal being a space for poetry of varying styles, sensibilities, and generations.”


Three Poems

Turn on push notifications

When the non-transferable invitation says “business attire or
national dress,” you wear what they think is your nation,
get those oh, I love your culture smiles from liberal
white ladies.

Tonight you are here to perform arts panelist,
answer their questions about the ways we talk about what we
do and why and what are the themes here and do they burn

Your friend was asked to share a poem and did but
not before they told him his best pieces are too political and
couldn’t he bring something a bit more celebratory and maybe
he could use the word “diversity” in there.

You sip your drink
and woot and snap when he takes the stage, commend one of the
few speakers for whom “diversity” means me and the rest of
the global majority.

Lolz, remember that time you were in that
play and it centered white fragility and white supremacy and the
white gaze and some of your white friends came and they were
so excited and omg we needed to hear that?

And then remember
how you keep telling yourself that maybe they could handle it if you
alerted them to their casual supremacy and appropriated everything.
How pavement puddles steaming with their preferences attract
the most incisive stings. How you itch each time you spell and
pronounce and recite silence in sympathy while they keep talking.

But maybe if you tried you could chill that smog of sweat so humid
you’ve been wearing it since the start of your fifteenth DC summer.
Because in 2019 we name every season what is going on and how
much more can anyone

Every old poem about this country
is relevant. Every tv show is streaming, bingeable, forever on repeat.
Why and what are the themes here and do they burn you?


Sedimentary Rocks

Found poem at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut on Earth Day 2017.
The only modification of a museum label excerpt was to change all instances of
“sedimentary minerals and rocks” to “people of the global majority.”

People of the global majority are extremely varied, differing

widely in texture, color, and composition. In total, these people

cover about three-quarters of the Earth’s surface. Nearly all

are made of materials that have been moved from a place of

origin to a new place of deposition. The distance moved may be

a few feet or thousands of miles… Most people of the global

majority form in layers or strata; many contain fossils.



I am not enough

Human to occupy

This space I am not

Tidal wave or ambition

Nothing was supposed to be done by now but

Survival and instinct and how many

Ways we ache to bend

You can touch a live wire

(if you’re flexible about future outcomes)

Or tame yourself for optimal safety

I will be helio helipad

I am here and not

Here this

Time I mean

It this time

Can we just

Tell one more story


Gowri Koneswaran is a queer Tamil American writer, performing artist, teacher, and lawyer. Her advocacy has addressed animal welfare, environmental protection, the rights of prisoners and the criminally accused in the U.S., and justice accountability in Sri Lanka. She is poetry coordinator at the nonprofit arts organization BloomBars and a fellow of the Asian American literary organization Kundiman. Previously, she was senior poetry editor at Jaggery and co-editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly. has co-authored two peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and her poetry has been published in Bourgeon and Lantern Review. Koneswaran has performed her poetry at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Capital Fringe Festival, and universities in the U.S. and Canada. To read more by this author: Four Poems, Spring 2011, and Langston Hughes Issue.