Saffron Skies and Kajal Cries: Kashvi Ramani ’24 Publishes Poetry Collection Exploring Identity

Ramani often focuses on her childhood and navigating her identity in her poetry.

Poetry first piqued the interest of Kashvi Ramani ’24 when she watched poet Sarah Kay’s TED Talk in fourth grade. After gaining inspiration from Kay to share her own works at a poetry cafe in Washington D.C. called “Busboys and Poets,” Ramani discovered an intense passion for poetry. 

This summer, Ramani published her second book, a poetry collection titled “Saffron Skies and Kajal Cries.” As the Virginia Youth Poet Laureate (YPL), Ramani was commissioned and received funding to write the book. Ten of the poems were written prior to drafting the collection, and the rest of the poems were originals written within a five month period. 

“Most of what I wanted to write about was about my culture and about growing up because I realized that some of the poems, which I reused in the book, [were] heavily based on growing up and growing up Indian because that’s a big part of my life. So I talked a lot about that intertwined with more of a macro-scale, worldly ‘Why are we who we are? And how do I fit into this world as a small person?’” said Ramani.

According to Ramani, the collection explores the complexities and struggles of her queer, female, Hindu, and Indian identities. She hopes her book can be relatable for teenagers who go through similar situations surrounding self-discovery. 

“My first poem is called ‘My first birthday was in an orphanage.’ So that’s like [a] baby, being one year old. And the last poem is ‘My Dodda in Day,’ and that means grandmother. So it’s all about grandmothers in India. So it’s going through an age progression over time, growing up,” said Ramani. 

Ramani’s favorite poem in the book is titled “Finding You.” However, Ramani is most proud of her poem “Text messages from Icarus on September 14th, 2020” for the challenge she faced while writing. 

“[There is] definitely a lot of hurt, a lot of thankfulness. I dedicated a lot of poems to the people in my life… And then definitely a lot of self inventiveness and self awareness because I was very sheltered for most of my life. So I wrote about seeing the world in my poetry,” said Ramani. 

Throughout her writing process, Ramani faced difficulties with the pressure of publication and thought that sharing her vulnerable work with the world was an obstacle. Despite the daunting nature of publication, she ultimately felt that the collection launched successfully. Ramani compared this experience to the publication of her first book, which she published in 2021. 

“Normally, I’m really safe about what I write. I’ve written a previous book in the past and that was very audience-based. It was a children’s book based on racism in the acting industry… But for this poetry book, it was very raw and it was what I wanted to write. Anyone that reads it is reading my personal thoughts and my life and the things that you wouldn’t know just by looking at me… The fact that I was so scared to launch it is a good sign,” said Ramani. 

Looking towards the future, Ramani hopes to start a film production company for South Asian Americans. As for more immediate plans, she discussed plans of sharing the power of poetry to the wider community as the Virginia Youth Poet Laureate (YPL). 

“For now, I would just love to keep writing, definitely keep writing poetry. I plan to do a lot of events for Virginia Poet Laureate. Plus, I’m going to meet up with the Boston Poet Laureate pretty soon and we’re going to do some events there… I just want to do more for poetry, give back, help people get the same opportunities that I had,” said Ramani.