Q&A with Bow Seat’s Intern Akhila BandloraJune 22, 2020
What’s your name?
My name’s Akhila Bandlora! My first name means total or complete, and my last name is after a village in Southern India. Fun fact: the only reason I dedicated myself to the spelling bee in fourth grade was because I had the same name as the leading character in Akeelah and the Bee!
Where are you from?
I was born in New York, but I’ve lived in Phoenix, Arizona for all my remembered life! I am on the land of the Akimel O’odham and Hohokam peoples. If you don’t know what land you are on, I encourage you to check here. In the fall, I’m heading to Princeton University!
How did you learn about Bow Seat?
I stumbled upon Bow Seat in my freshman year of high school, looking for art and writing contests. I was beyond thrilled to find it, because Bow Seat represented an opportunity for me to write poetry and think about my relationship to nature, specifically the ocean, which is something I don’t have access to living in Phoenix. Since submitting, I haven’t stopped thinking about my connection to the planet and to the people in it, and I try to do as much as I can to continue to learn and give back.
So, you’re a poet. Why poetry?
Every time I’m asked this question, I always respond with a quote by local Phoenix poet, Megan Atencia, which reads: “Poetry can’t save the world, but poetry can save people and people can save the world.”
I learned the world through poetry. Although poetry is first and foremost regarded as a creative process, I also believe it’s a way of thinking. To identify and explore through poetry is to learn and yearn for stories. I also don’t think you have to call yourself a poet to live a life of poetry. There are so many people I think of as poets, regardless of if they write poetry, because of how carefully they consider the world around them and the people in it.
In the environmental movement, I think the consideration poetry demands is not inconsequential. Although other writing styles involve reflection, poetry requires it. Without internal reflection of why we continue to fight for a crisis that a lot of the time feels incredibly overwhelming, we cannot sustain both ourselves and each other. More overtly, poetry is an accessible way for people to tell their stories as it’s easily bendable and extends across cultures. While we need to reflect, we also need to deeply consider the stories of people from all around this world as inseparable from the future we are re-envisioning.
What work have you done that you’re most proud of?
Last year, I joined my local environmental justice group, Arizona Youth Climate Coalition, and performed my award-winning Bow Seat poem at our first climate strike. I started Phoenix’s Youth Poet Laureate Program with a friend to amplify the voices of young Phoenix poets. I served on the 2019 Sea Youth Rise Up Delegation, and found such a bright and lovely community. And most recently, I created a story map of my neighborhood so we could all feel more connected to each other. So, that’s a little about me and what I’m most proud of!
What have you been reading?
I’m currently reading the Cross of Redemption by James Baldwin! I’ve also been reading a lot of articles from the publications Reasons to be Cheerful and the Juggernaut.
What’s been generating joy for you?
Pinterest, beginning this internship, my plants growing, and James Baldwin!