Srikanth Reddy

recorded in Chicago, IL

with Suzanne Buffam

 

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Suzanne Buffam

I’m Suzanne Buffam and I live in Chicago.


Srikanth Reddy

And I’m Srikanth Reddy and I’m married to Suzanne Buffam, and I live in Chicago. And this is our little baby girl Mira Buffam Reddy. She lives in Chicago as well. And we’re poets. We’ve been here for about 6 years now, Mira’s been here for 14 months. We moved here when I got a job at the University of Chicago. I’d been living in Madison, Wisconsin for years, so I’d been a Midwestern poet for a year, at least, before that, and actually, I’m from Chicago, so in some ways I’ve been a Midwestern poet my whole life. Chicago via India, where my parents are from. But then, when I got the job in Chicago, Suzanne moved out here from Montreal.


Buffam

Right. So, I was born in Montreal, I grew up in Vancouver, and I went to graduate school in Iowa City, where I met Chicu, otherwise known as Srikanth Reddy. I lived in Iowa for a couple of years, upon completing my MFA, went back to Canada and lived in a few places—Nova Scotia, Montreal—while Chicu did his Midwest tour in Madison. I also spent time, I think, in Paris, too. And then Chicu got the job in Chicago, and I was tired of teaching ESL to brewers at Labatt’s in Quebec, so I came here and got a few teaching gigs around the city. I taught at Columbia College for a couple years, and then got a teaching job here at University of Chicago. So we’ve been here since 2003.


Reddy

It’s a good place to write.


Buffam

It’s a great place to write. Although, I’ve actually only written four poems here in the last six years [laughs]. I did most of my writing on sabbatical.


Reddy

Which we spent far away from Chicago in a city in the south of Mexico called Oaxaca, where Suzanne wrote pretty much all of her new book of poems.


The Knox Writers’ House

Why do you think that you don’t write in Chicago?


Buffam

Well, I don’t think its Chicago’s fault. I hope not anyway [laughs]. I think what happened was I was just teaching a crazy amount when I first got here, so I really didn’t have a lot of time, plus we were getting married, which became a ridiculous parade of events that consumed a year of our lives. So I think a lot of it was just that, and adjusting and whatnot. And then we had this amazing year with absolutely no social life at all, no professional obligations, all we had to do was read and write.


Reddy

In Mexico.


Buffam

In Mexico. It was sunny every day. It was blissful. And then we came back here and had a baby, so I haven’t really written much since then. But now we’ve moved into a house where I have an office space, so I hope to actually get some writing done again. We’ll see.


Reddy

We’ll send the baby to Mexico [laughs].


KWH

Well she can come with us.


Reddy

Yeah. You want to go on a road trip with these guys, Mira? You can learn a lot about poetry. Well, now that clammed her up [laughs].


KWH

This will be interesting, to get both your perspectives on this. We’ve been asking people if there’s a Midwestern or even specifically Chicago voice in contemporary writing.


Reddy

I don’t think so. There might be a kind of ethos of kind of questioning pretentiousness or suspicion toward pretentiousness that’s kind of a Midwestern sensibility—which doesn’t exclude people from being avant-gardist or experimental or things like that—but I think there’s no style or school of writing coming out of here. Because so many of the writers, who you’ve probably met, have come here from somewhere else, from New York or the Bay area or elsewhere.


Buffam

Canada.


Reddy

Yeah, so it’s kind of an ex-pat community here in Chicago. What do you think sweetheart?


Buffam

I think that’s true. Probably the people you’ve met in Chicago and you’ve been interviewing probably reflect an extremely wide range of poetics. You just met with Jen Scappettone, whose work is very far from, say, John Beer’s, or mine from each of theirs. If anything, it’s a great place to be encountering such a range or poetics that doesn’t feel quite as factional or polemical as certain writing communities might be.

Myrtle by John Ashbery