Rappahannock Review Poetry Editors: “Hair” has a distinct, personal, and raw speaker that we read as being heavily influenced by your identity as a queer, trans, disabled writer of color. How do you approach voice and how do you incorporate your own voice and identity into your writing?

Mrityunjay Mohan: My writing is often based on my childhood. My identity plays a large part in that. I don’t often think about it in fragments of my identity, I view it as me as a whole person instead, and much of the language revolves around that entirety that I’m attempting to encompass into my work. I try to not fragment pieces of myself to fit into my work, and instead write to create an entirety within the work. The “what to add” and “what to remove” comes at the editing stage where I assess the meaning the poem embodies and go from there. I never plan what I write. It’s always just thoughts and emotions that come and go that I tether to sentences to form meaning.

RR: Your writing provides a unique and much-needed perspective to the collective conversation of poetry. Could you tell us about the influence of marginalized writers in your work?

MM: I grew up reading work written by marginalized authors. The writers that have most influenced me and are in conversation with my work often share some intersection of a marginalized identity. The trans, queer, people of color and/or disabled writers who came before me sustained my life for a long time. Representation in books is so important, especially when you’re still young, and there was little of that when I was a child. Still, there are so many writers that influenced me and continue to influence my writing in often powerful ways. I wouldn’t be able to put my words together if I hadn’t been exposed to great writers.

RR: We are interested in your poem’s comparison between hair and the umbilical cord. How did you end up comparing the two?

MM: The umbilical cord sustains life. Hair is a large part of gender presentation. I think they are more similar to each other than most people think. In a less romantic sense, it was written in part because of a condition that I was born with that affected the umbilical cord while I was in the womb and hence, my body.

RR: As a guest editor, reader, and an intern at various literary journals, do you have advice for aspiring writers seeking to submit their work for publication?

MM: Reread your work before you submit is a big one. I reread what I write several times after I finish editing it. I feel like we miss a lot of things when editing our work, and taking a few days (I take at least a few weeks off usually) and then rereading it changes a lot of things. Another one is reading the submission guidelines and checking if you’re submitting to the correct category. It’s annoying, but it makes it easier on the editors, and is very much appreciated.

RR: We are excited to read more from you. What are you creating now and where could we find your work?

MM: I’m currently writing a short story while simultaneously attempting to write a long poem. My work has most recently appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, The Good Life Review, Indianapolis Review, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal.


Read “Hair” by Mrityunjay Mohan in Issue 11.1.