HomeIndian AmericanVA's 1st youth poet laureate is amplifying South Asian voices

VA’s 1st youth poet laureate is amplifying South Asian voices

by Akemi Tamanaha, AsAmnews Associate Editor

When she was a young girl, Kashvi Ramani says she liked to write poetry about simple things, like her love for her mother or the beauty in nature. Now, as she prepares to represent Virginia in the National Poet Laureate competition, she is using her platform to represent South Asian Americans.

Ramani, who grew up in northern Virginia, is the state’s first-ever youth poet laureate and will represent them. She is currently finishing up her junior year in high school at Phillips Academy-Andover in Massachusetts. AsAmNews spoke with Ramani about her poetry and her plans after high school. 

Ramani remembers being introduced to poetry by reading poems from writers like Shell Silverstein. She thinks she wrote her first poem. As she grew up, she began listening to performers in cafes around Washington D.C.

“A lot of times their poetry was about poverty and loss and gentrification and these topics that I was able to be introduced to at a very young age because of that,” she said.

Now, Ramani’s poetry explores themes like friendship, feminism and grief. She has also written several poems about her cultural identity. In one poem titled “Finding You,” she describes her evolving relationship with Hinduism. 

Ramani says she felt “exposed” writing a poem explaining how she moved on from certain beliefs and ideals as she grew up. During her creative process, she reminded herself that “everyone has things that they don’t want to tell other people.”

“And in writing that poem, I was like, ‘What are all the ways that that I feel like the reasons I feel like I’m silenced in this specific poem that I’m writing?’ And then how can that be manifested onto a page? And why is it that I’m feeling that way?’” she said.

Writing about her journey as a young South Asian American woman has always been important to Ramani.

“I started writing in order to amplify South Asian voices because I felt like being ‘model minorities,’ it’s difficult to have to feel validated enough to say the things that we want to say…” she said.

Minority voices often feel obligated to focus their work on their experiences as minorities but Ramani doesn’t mind. 

“Personally, for the rest of my life, I want to delve into South Asian Studies and explore that and bring those South Asian voices to the forefront to the point where I never feel like I’m being pigeonholed because that’s usually what I end up talking about,” she said.

Ramani’s parents, like many other parents, were skeptical of artistic careers. They wanted their daughters to pursue more stable careers like medicine or the law. But they offered their whole-hearted support once she began seriously writing poetry and studying the arts. They even agreed to send her to Phillips Academy-Andover so she could focus on her artistic endeavors.

Ramani also credits her mother with helping her get to where she is today. Her mom taught her to pursue every opportunity possible and to never take no for an answer.

“I didn’t have the same like shrewdness and drive that she always was able to have and that’s the only reason I am where I am,” she said of her mother.

After high school, Ramani is interested in studying film. She says she wants to start her own production company that produces Indian American movies and creates Indian American stories.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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