Nisha Ramayya

States of the Body Produced by Love

In Ramayya’s visionary poetry, the body assumes as many forms as love produces states: attraction and repulsion, excitement and exhaustion, selfishness and the dissolution of self. 

States of the Body Produced by Love is structured according to 19th century lexicographer Sir Monier Monier-Williams’s definition of smaradaśā or ‘love-state’

स्मरदशा smaradaśā, f. state of the body produced by love (ten states are named: joy of the eyes, pensive reflection, desire, sleeplessness, emaciation, indifference to external objects, abandonment of shame, infatuation, fainting away, death)

Now I understand love and devotion to be productive and destructive: the nationalistic love that sanctions violence against those who do not fit the nation’s image of itself; the religious love that justifies turning away from the structures of the material world to sustain the status quo of injustice; the familial love that does not admit the selfishness of family values; the romantic love that entails the loss of self and the dissolution of self-containment. 

Now I return to India, in love and shame and anger, these repeated returns enabling the repeated beginnings that follow.“ - Sir Monier Monier-Williams

Love is a many-headed snake in Nisha Ramayya’s debut poetry book, twisting its way through devotion, sacrifice and bliss. Ranging across genres and forms, mixing poetry, prose, autobiography and theory, States of the Body Produced by Love conjures an opalescent world by way of heritage, ritual and myth. Thousand-petalled lotuses bloom inside skulls, goddesses with dirty feet charm honeybees, strains of jazz standards bleed into anti-national anthems. Desire, eroticism and care contain the possibilities of shame, fury and destruction. Moving towards and away from love, being translated and transformed by love, suffering under love and refusing its power.

Nisha Ramayya grew up in Glasgow and is currently based in London. Her debut collection States of the Body Produced by Love is published by Ignota Books (September 2019). She is a member of the Race & Poetry & Poetics in the UK research group and a lecturer in Creative Writing at Queen Mary University of London. 


Image Description: Nisha is stood on a stage behind a silhouetted lectern, she is dressed in a light coloured loose dress and is lit by blue wash lighting which bounces off the floor making it glow blue .  Behind her is a glowing white screen with a yellow circle with drawings of 5 figures.  The drawing is Mookerjee, Ajit and Madhu Khanna, The Tantric Way: Art, Science, Ritual (London: Thames and Hudson, 1993) A gouache drawing on paper. In front of a golden background the image shows Chinnamastā, a Tantric-Hindu goddess representing Devī in her destructive and creative aspects. She is blue skinned, and floats in a half-sitting position, as she cuts off her own head to feed herself and her loved ones. Under her Ratī and Kāma, the female and male principles, depict the transcendence of the phenomenal world and the abolition of the experience of duality. All of them are naked and bejewelled, wearing gold ear or nose rings, chains, arm and ankle bracelets. 

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