My goal is to shift the experience of everyday time so that another kind of time, the time of the book, becomes possible. To create a space in which others can make contact with their: imaginations.
How I began: I began teaching creative writing at Naropa University in 2000, and for Goddard College a few years after that. Simultaneously, I had a private practice as a bodyworker, integrating palmistry and other forms of narrative translucence in my work with others. I just made up those words! Narrative translucence! The way that the lines on the surface of the palm are non-identical to the lines nobody can see. What is this space between what is apparent and what is glimpsed, felt or remembered? My two professions began to inform each other, crystallizing as questions about trauma, healing and time.
Working with writers: I combine meditation with an experimental approach to creative writing. As I take my place in the Place of Trees, the grove of the Two Trees, I will offer pop-up workshops across genres. I also have a deep commitment to one on one mentorship, though at the moment I will only be offering this in the form of one hour palm readings. Ask a question about writing, but also, ask a question about the life or context in which this writing is happening. Let’s see what unfolds.
Personalized Palmistry Readings for Writers
Meditation and Experimental Workshops
“Bhanu is brilliant and unimaginably compassionate in her support of student artists and activists inside and beyond the classroom. Her ability to turn “reality” on its head to open up portals of truth and creative possibilities for all to see, smell, taste and touch and in other ways experience is mind-blowing. She is a powerfully inspiring and supportive force for change and LOVE.” – Citation, Faculty of the Year Teaching Award, Naropa University, 2019
“As a child, I believed literature was an artform that sprung from a genius class—a select group of sacrosanct writers born with an innate talent to produce world-altering prose. I loved writing and was devastated by the thought I might not have the genetic prerequisites to pull it off myself. Bhanu Kapil’s classroom dispelled these fears from the moment I walked in and took my seat. Her passion for writing—a writing of the heart as much as the mind—showed me I didn’t need to be a genius to write. What I did need was an intense attention to how I am immersed in the world. In her classes on memoir/anti-memoir and experimental prose, I took a morning walk until I saw the color red; stood on the edge of a forest to scan an open field; joined a clay studio; all this, to remember the vitality of sensation, the body as animal, to let color and light enter me and move through me into language. I didn’t have to be a genius—but I did have to feel.
“As a writing teacher, Kapil reaches deep into the well of a pedagogy unfragmented by academic (and often narrow-minded) disciplinary compartmentalization. She approaches student writing through the kaleidoscopic lens of literary theory, colonized histories, nervous system anatomies, epigenetics, and intergenerational hauntings. She teaches aesthetics, yes, but also the hidden cultural power dynamics of pacing, syntax, cadence, and tone. She showed me how a reader can fall in love with a sentence, and how I am capable of writing such a sentence, one that stays with that reader forever. As her student, I learned what was required of me to pull it off. To become a writer. To, in effect, become myself. I was required to observe, to believe, to act, and to endure. Endure the minute moments of life that become writing, good writing, not through innate genius but from an unswerving verve for unmitigated feeling.” – JH Phrydas
“As a teacher of writing and literature who is a deeply important writer herself, Bhanu Kapil serves writing in a vital way. She transmits a spectrum of inquiry that is necessary for a student/writer to engage with in order to vividly live into the practice of writing. Bhanu has a glittering zoetic experience of writing that she transmits to others. She respects the interdisciplinarity of our current world. A text can evolve if it so desires, into another form, or even another medium. If you are lucky enough to learn and write with Bhanu, you will experience new meanings for the words radical and magic, new techniques with which to meet your work. Your heart may reveal healed cracks that you will translate into an essay, your failed novel might become the notebook living within your book of poetry. Her own visionary work manifests in so many varied formations on the page, but through time it always has the quality of expansiveness, of proliferating possibilities for living and writing the intensity and beauty of this world. To engage with writing as an ongoing and evolving practice is necessary, and the hard work of doing so is common to any writer. Ultimately though, the possibility of writing will always flourish and occur in a way that is unique to each person scratching their way through. There is difference and diversity in this world, and Bhanu is able to tend to many writers and their unique needs, inquiries, and cares, while simultaneously making a workshop or class relevant and generative to the collective. Bhanu brings people together. She feeds an organism that to others, at first glance, wasn’t visible. Her creative generosity is infectious. She opens writers to possible paths and worlds, and invites one to feel the earth that lines the threshold of a possible text.” – Sherri Pauli, Librarian, Allen Ginsberg Library, Naropa University
Work With Bhanu
Bhanu works with writers of all genres and at all stages of their process, to make writing feel possible again. She offers workshops that combine meditation practice and experimental prompts. She also offers a one hour palmistry session: a close study of images and lines that invites questions about writing but also, the life in which the writing is being made. Check out the WRITE WITH US tab in the menu for sessions you can sign up for today, including our inaugural virtual retreat. To reach Bhanu, Send Her A Message in the contact form at the bottom of this page.
How To Wash A Heart
“Brilliantly relentless… Kapil’s words sit brilliantly between the intellectual and the bodily. The eponymous phrase of this book returns again and again, to be held up to the light in different ways. Violence, exile, love and the world of literature drip out in the answers to the opening question.” (Andrew McMillan, Poetry Book Society)
“This idea of time and decay is central to Schizophrene, which haltingly, in prose, traces the junctures of migration and schizophrenia in diasporic communities, primarily in India and Pakistan. I say haltingly not in slight, but rather to illustrate the subtleties in recounting experience which is communicated in sparse sentences on the page, hemmed in by an exquisite use of blank space.” (The Aviary)
Incubation: A Space for Monsters
“The first [Bhanu] I read was Incubation, that was like entering a breathing painting, panting and seething and sweating love. You know that scene in Godard’s Bande à part, where they run through the Louvre? She walks slowly through, with a considered body language, hands maybe folded behind back, chin leading, until she takes down what catches her eye. She doesn’t cut out the particular element or detail, but rather crumples the canvas back down into where it becomes bendable again. Then she lets it rest. That is how I am thinking of the work right now.” Douglas A. Martin, The Believer (a round-table on Bhanu’s work, with Amina Cain, Sofia Samatar, Kate Zambreno, and Jenny Zhang.)
The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers
Only at the end of the twentieth century could a writer create this compelling combination of experience and imagination, education and tradition, sex and prayer. This magic and modern coming of age could not have been written at any other time, yet its references bring the reader places that are distinctly not 1990s America.
Humanimal: A Project for Future Children
Bhanu Kapil follows a film crew to the Bengal jungle to re-encounter the true account of two girls found living with wolves in 1921. Taking as its source text the diary of the missionary who strove to rehabilitate these orphans—through language instruction and forcible correction of supinated limbs—HUMANIMAL functions as a healing mutation for three bodies and a companion poiesis for future physiologies. Through wolfgirls Kamala and Amala, there is a grafting: what scars down into the feral opens out also into the fierce, into a remembrance of Kapil’s father. The humanimal text becomes one in which personal and postcolonial histories cross a wilderness to form supported metabiology.
Ban en Banlieue
“Kapil abandons the palimpsest as a visual form in favor of a practice of addition and emendation in time, translating the visual form of the palimpsest into a book of cyclical, amalgamating prose—a book that can be inventoried even as its contents resist being mapped or contained.” (Chicago Review)
Bhanu is the author of six full length books: How to Wash a Heart (Pavilion Poetry, 2020), The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey Street Press, 2001), Incubation: a space for monsters (Leon Works, 2006; Kelsey Street Press, 2021), humanimal [a project for future children] (Kelsey Street Press, 2009), Schizophrene (Nightboat Books, 2011), and Ban en Banlieue (Nightboat Books, 2016). She is also the author of many chapbooks, most recently a critical-creative pamphlet, Threads, co-authored with Sandeep Parmar and Nisha Ramayya (Clinic, 2018.)
Bhanu is currently an artist by-fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge, where she is…writing! In 2020, she was the recipient of two literary awards for her body of work: a Windham Campbell Prize for Poetry from Yale University, and a Cholmondeley Award from The Society of Authors (UK).