A new book is being produced that calls for the participation of women poets in the Bhakti tradition. The Vaishnavi Voices Poetry Project is drawing in women devotees from all over the world, who are uniting together to represent and offer a tribute to the spiritual sentiments of contemporary vaishnavis, or women practitioners of bhakti yoga. Here, Pranada Devi Dasi interviews the organizer, Krishna Kanta Dasi, in her home of Alachua, FL.
Pranada: You've published two spiritual poetry anthologies in two years. Your last anthology reached the number one bestseller spot on Amazon in the new releases for women’s poetry category in the first week after it was released. The book you’re working on now will be a third anthology. What is the difference between this book project and the two earlier ones?
Krishna Kanta: The first two poetry books I produced feature the voices of women from diverse paths and religious traditions. The collection of poems I am putting together now, on the other hand, draws exclusively from our sisters in the bhakti tradition. They both, however, share the same spirit: to illuminate the spiritual wisdom and beauty in women’s valuable voices.
Pranada: Why do you think the Vaishnavi Voices Poetry Project is important?
Krishna Kanta: Any project that can offer a platform for the voices of the women in the bhakti tradition to be heard, respected, valued and appreciated is, in my opinion, a very worthy one. This is particularly so in light of the disproportion between male and female voices currently representing the bhakti tradition around the world.
Pranada: How did you get started publishing these anthologies? Is there any particular significance in how you got started?
Krishna Kanta: The first two anthologies emerged via the Journey of the Heart Poetry Project, which I started on Radhasthami of 2012, with the intention of encouraging and inspiring women to form an online sisterhood in which they would feel welcomed to share their spiritual journeys via poetry. The project was so successful in drawing in hundreds of women from all over the world that it encouraged me to revive an older project I had left behind. That original project was called the Kavirani Poetry Project, which I started in 2004. The book project I am working on now, picks up where the Kavirani book project left off over ten years ago.
Pranada: What is your reason for publishing a book that focuses exclusively on poetry by devotee women?
Krishna Kanta: I have always been curious about the women throughout history in our bhakti tradition, and have often wished that they had left us more insights into what their lives were like. I have found that it is very difficult to find substantial accounts of the lives of bhakti yoginis, and even more unheard of, to find written works, songs or poems by the women themselves. My hope is that this book will leave some of our voices behind for future generations of vaishnavis to discover. In addition to that, this anthology is also my offering to bhakti sangas, or communities, around the world, that they may draw spiritual inspiration from the voices of my bhakti sisters.
Pranada: You must experience some personal satisfaction in putting these anthologies together then. You’ve begun the third one as soon as the second, Where Journeys Meet, was published. What inspires you?
Krishna Kanta: I am very inspired by close friendships I have with women, and all the treasures that I know dwell in their hearts. My hope is that by encouraging and inspiring one another to share our voices, we will be benefiting everyone around us. I believe that for a culture to fully thrive, the women in that culture need to feel supported, encouraged and uplifted. When the value of women’s voices goes unrecognized, the whole culture is deprived. If I can be of service to the bhakti culture at large, by honoring vaishnavis through this new book, I will be very happy, as the women in the bhakti tradition are a wonderful inspiration to me.
Pranada: What can we expect from this new book you are putting together?
Krishna Kanta: The book will present 108 beautiful and heartfelt poems by contemporary vaishnavis and will be divided into eight chapter themes: (1) Divinity, (2) Guru & Sanga, (3) Ourselves & Others, (4) Bhakti Devi, (5) Sadhana, (6) the Holy Names, (7) Worship and (8) Maya. It will also feature inspiring prose by several women disciples of Srila Prabhupada, such as Visakha Dasi, Urmila Dasi, Arcana Siddhi Dasi, Rukmini Dasi, etc. It will be the first book of its kind to offer readers a diverse collection of contemporary women’s voices from the bhakti tradition. We are still in the process of organizing the poetry and therefore still accepting submissions to the project.
Pranada: If there would be one thing you'd like to say to your authors or readers what would it be?
Krishna Kanta: “You are so very valuable!” In our bhakti tradition we are each valuable beyond measure to Krishna, because we produce something he cannot: our love for him. I believe that we are at a time in history in which the mothers, sisters, daughters and grandmothers of our bhakti tradition are coming out from the shadows and finding more confidence in sharing our love, in whichever ways it emerges! For some of us, it does so in the form of poetry. Poetic expression, after all, is said to be a characteristic of one practicing bhakti-yoga. And poetry also fills our sacred texts! I find it especially inspiring that at the heart of those texts we find the Queen of all Poetry, or kavirani, Srimati Radharani. The Vaishnavi Voices Poetry Project aspires to serve that Supreme Kavirani, and all of her sevakis, or loving servants.poetry ] [ vaishnavi ]