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Rushi Vyas

Longlisted for the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry in the 2024 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

When I Reach for Your Pulse cover image

In this electrifying debut, Rushi Vyas untangles slippery personal and political histories in the wake of a parent's suicide. 'When my father finally / died,' he writes, 'we […] burned, / like an effigy, the voiceless body.' In this tough and tender, gently powerful collection, grief returns us to elemental silence, where 'the wind is a muted vowel in the brush of pine / branches'.

These poems reach into this deep silence and bring back evidence of life as well as loss. This language listens as much as it sings, asking if it is possible to recover from the muting effects of British colonialism, American imperialism, patriarchy and caste hierarchies. Which cultural legacies do we release in order to heal? Which do we keep alive, and which keep us alive? A monument to yesterday and a path to tomorrow, When I Reach for Your Pulse reminds us of both the burden and the promise of inheritance. '[T]he wail outlasts / the dream,' but time falls like water and so 'the stream survives its source.'

'In this quietly powerful and moving collection Vyas inhabits the voices of son and father, excavating family histories, silence and loss. Through the laws of physics; through arias, the blues, raga, Hindi pop song, ritual, chants and prayer; across generations, languages and continents; with tough honesty and with tenderness, Vyas reaches for the pulse of life itself.' – Alison Wong


Rushi Vyas was born in Toledo, Ohio. He is co-author (with Rajiv Mohabir) of the chapbook Between Us, Not Half a Saint (GASHER Press, 2021) and his poem 'Morning Chant: Scatter' was republished as a broadside by the Center for Book Arts (US). He earned his MFA from the University of Colorado-Boulder and his BSc from the University of Michigan. His poems have been published in US journals including Adroit Journal, The Georgia Review, Indiana Review, The Offing and Tin House, and in NZ in Landfall and The Spinoff. In 2019, Rushi moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Ōtepoti Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand, where he now lives. Rushi is completing a PhD at the University of Otago and teaches on the university's Creative Writing programme.

Publication Details

230 x 150mm, 124 pages
ISBN 9781990048616, NZD$30
IN-STORE: September 2023

Reviews and Interviews

Review: 'This collection is a courageous one, not, as blurb writers love to say, ‘unflinching’, but one that flinches and presses on anyway. Where other poets might quiet down or turn away from a brittle, complex subject, Vyas plunges deeper ... Vyas illuminates the impossibility of holding onto what has gone. The attempt to reach one’s dead, even to hold onto a solid memory of them, is as futile as trying to reclaim a dream whose details vanish with every effort to seize them—but it is, as this collection reiterates, a process impossible to forgo.'Sophie van Waardenberg for Aotearoa NZ Review of Books 

Interview: Rushi Vyas speaks to Jeff Harford about his debut collection on Write Spot, OAR FM (kindly presented by Dunedin City of Literature) Listen

Interview: Rushi Vyas speaks to Rachael Comer for the Timaru Herald Read

Interview: Rushi Vyas speaks to Regan Harris for the Wānaka Sun (Issue Friday, September 29) Read

Interview: Rushi Vyas  shares what he's been reading with the Sunday Star Times, Stuff NZ Read

Review: 'Vyas' talent is undeniable. Their lyrical chops combined with formal innovation make for a stunning collection. The poems cascade down the page in rhythmic lines, accented with vivid imagery. Vyas deftly alternates between crisp narrative and rhapsodic abstraction. Throughout it all, their voice remains intimate and accessible, drawing readers into this journey through darkness toward catharsis. This is poetry as ritual and 'When I Reach for Your Pulse' feels like a ceremony commemorating what has passed as well as what lies ahead. Vyas proves themself a poet to watch.' Chris Reed for NZ Booklovers

Feature: 'I love Vyas’ poems. They feel to me like sitting very still next to someone guiding me quietly through painful things I’ve tried not to hear.' – Saraid de Silva celebrates South Asian Voices in Aotearoa for Kete Books Read

Review: 'It's a delicate dance to write about trauma, and Rushi holds his reader gently through the stories of family violence and suicide.' – Liz Breslin for 1964 Magazine Issue 16 Read

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