Lessons in Bending, Jonaki Ray

Lessons in Bending offers a candid view into the sacrifices made by those seeking a brighter future and safer world as they break metaphorical and literal chains that bind them to oppressive living conditions.

In this remarkable collection by Jonaki Ray, many stories are heard: the immigrant woman imprisoned in the United States, dreaming of an escape; the daughter, dreaming of her mother’s face nuzzling against her own; a man trying to cross a border, who is met with laughter by the police; the dead, whose lives were ended by the hands of the state. The intricacies of experimental forms and daring lineation give each poem its own voice, its own pulse. These poems are for anyone trying to find a home in a place that never wanted them, for those trapped without the possibility of escape yet still daring to imagine better futures, for those, under the weight of it all, who are learning how to bend, not break.

“Jonaki Ray’s Lessons in Bending is a remarkable work of poetry that tells us what it means to be an immigrant and prisoner of color in the promised land. Her poems give voice to the unwanted, the outcasts—the refugees, survivors, prisoners—who barely exist at the edge of society. A haunting collection. An eye-opener.”
—Abhay K., author of Monsoon

“An outcry in a silent world, Jonaki Ray’s Lessons in Bending grapples with intimacies of family and girlhood in a world with ‘shelters, / prisons, and half-way houses,’ ‘a road [that] divides two states within the same country,’ and ‘mass graves where thousands were buried.’ In this world, one must survive by reminding herself to breathe. Ray’s poems rebel against injustice and violence, prompting us to rescue ourselves through her words.”
—Jessica Kim, author of L(EYE)GHT

“A collection of searing poems that stare brutality and exploitation squarely in the eye. Jonaki Ray’s words crusade against the rampant injustices and oppressions which plague human society. Her lines, though restrained and controlled, leave the reader reeling with the horrors they unmask. The poems in Lessons in Bending desperately seek the ‘mirage of a refuge’ and, finding none, expose the abuse and cruelty of the entire world, ‘until Delhi becomes Kashmir becomes Louisiana becomes Florida becomes Cambodia becomes Serbia.’ A staggering set of poems that will leave you shaken.”
—Vinita Agrawal, author of Twilight Language