Shazea Quraishi was born in Pakistan, grew up in Canada and lived in Madrid before moving to London where she works as a writer, teacher and translator. Her poems have been published in anthologies and magazines in the UK and the US. She is working on her first collection.
The Courtesan’s Reply is a sequence of original poems written in response to M Ghosh’s translation from the Sanskrit of the Caturbhani, four monologue plays written around 300 BC on the life of courtesans in India.
Shazea says “In the original plays, a narrator walks through the courtesans’ quarter, commenting on the women he meets and engaging them in a one-sided conversation. I enjoyed the sensuality, charm and formality of Ghosh’s prose immensely, but more than that, I was captivated by the courtesans glimpsed through the filter of the narrator. I wanted to respond to that work, and provide a counterpoint to the male
voice and the male gaze. My poems are in the voices of the courtesans mentioned
and glimpsed briefly in the original plays. My intention was to give them a voice, and although I began by staying loyal to Ghosh’s translation, I found that the courtesans wanted to say ‘no, it was not like that, it was like this.’
– photo by Amarjit Chandan of Shazea Quraishi reading for MPT at the LRB Bookshop May 2010