Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Ruth Padel

Ruth Padel is a prize-winning British poet and author of at least six books of non-fiction.

Her book Tigers in Red Weather has just been been shortlisted for the 2007 Kiriyama Prize in non-fiction, for books that promote understanding of South Asia.

I asked her what she's been reading. Her reply:
I’m reading a new collection of poems by Laurie Sheck, Captivity (Alfred A Knopf), and in love with the fineness and stillness of the language. It is punctuated with poems for what she calls “removes”, moments when slaves are in new places and have to learn new words. I wish it had appeared in time for me to include a poem from it in my latest book on reading modern poetry, The Poem and the Journey.

Also The River of Lost Footsteps, by Thant Myint-U (Faber & Faber, UK) An account of Burma's history that has led to the tragedy of now. I did go there in 2003, when researching my tiger book, but only to teach poetry and interview a biologist, not into jungle. At that time Aung Aan Suu Kyi was out of house arrest, and I had tea with her: it was her day for being vegetarian, and she hunted out the cucumber sandwiches. Everyone thought, then, the junta was going to allow more democracy. What’s happened since has been worse and worse. This book is erudite and very moving.
And how does it feel to be nominated for the Kiriyama Prize?
I’m glad, because it is about people as much as anmals - I tried hard to understand each culture that lives with the tiger. For all of them, their problems are much greater than how to look after the tiger. In Burma, it was worst of all. But the tiger, and the wildness and wilderness it stands for, still matters, even there.
Padel put Tigers in Red Weather to the Page 69 Test last year.

--Marshal Zeringue