(1973 - Present)
Poet, prose writer, and editor Arundhathi Subramaniam was born and raised in Mumbai, India, then known as Bombay. She attended the J. B. Petit High School for Girls, whose focus on the arts rather than academic competition was a natural fit for her. According to Subramaniam, “I think I knew I wanted to be around words—listen to them, utter them, play with them, string them into patterns—even as a child.” Her early poetic influences included writers from many places and traditions, such as Basho, Pablo Neruda, Rainer Maria Rilke, Denise Levertov, and Arun Kolatkar. She attended St. Xavier’s College for her BA in English literature, followed by the University of Mumbai for her MA. After graduating, she became deeply involved with the Poetry Circle of Bombay, a hub for poets where she developed her craft and found an invested writing community.
Subramaniam published her first two books of poetry, On Cleaning Bookshelves (2001) and Where I Live (2005), with Allied Publishers India. Her first UK collection, Where I Live: New & Selected Poems, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2009. When God Is a Traveller followed in 2014. A Poetry Book Society Choice shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize, When God Is a Traveller won the inaugural Khushwant Singh Prize at the Jaipur Literary Festival, the International Piero Bigongiari Prize in Italy, and the Sahitya Akademi Award. Subramaniam’s most recent collection, Love Without a Story, was published by Bloodaxe in 2020. A poet of profound lyricism with rich knowledge of spirituality, Subramaniam’s recurring areas of poetic exploration include travel, human connection, and belonging.
As a writer of prose, Subramaniam’s books have included The Book of Buddha, (Penguin, 2005); Sadhguru: More Than a Life (Penguin, 2010), a bestselling biography of the spiritual leader; Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga (Harper Element, 2017), co-authored with Sadhguru; and Women Who Wear Only Themselves: Conversations With Four Travellers on Sacred Journeys (Speaking Tiger, 2021). She has written on culture and the arts for newspapers and magazine such as The Times of India, The Hindu, The Indian Express, since 1989, and has served as a columnist on culture and literature for Time Out Mumbai, The Indian Express, and New Woman. Subramaniam has also edited books including Pilgrim’s India: An Anthology (2011), a compilation of journey narratives; Confronting Love (2005), an anthology of contemporary Indian love poems; and Eating God: A Book of Bhakti Poetry (2014), a collection celebrating devotional poets of India, for which she also translated poetry from Tamil and Gujrati. She has held the role of editor for India for Poetry International since 2004.
Subramaniam’s honors include the Raza Award for Poetry, the Zee Indian Women’s Award for Literature, the Mystic Kalinga Literary Award, the Charles Wallace Fellowship, the Poetry Society’s Visiting Arts Fellowship, and the Homi Bhabha Fellowship. Her poetry has been published widely in international journals and anthologies, and she has spoken at literary conferences and festivals across Asia, Europe, and Africa. She previously worked at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, where she led inter-arts forum Chauraha and served as Head of Indian Classical Dance. Subramaniam travels widely and is based in Mumbai.
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Photo by Matthew Thompson.