Kunal Sangani, poet and student, has an asteroid named after him, but it’s not a big deal.
“There’s probably a pretty big contingent of people on campus with asteroids named after them,” he told me when I asked him about the whereabouts of Asteroid Kunal. Clearly trying to hide his alarm at my diligent Googling, he pleaded, “don’t put that in there.”
Sorry, Kunal. Sorry.
And while I’m making apologies, I have to point out that my iPhone died 10 minutes into our interview, so most of these “direct quotations” are actually fuzzy half-rememberings from our rooftop conversation at Synergy, which Kunal names among the many “weird enclaves” on the margins of Stanford’s tech-focused campus where he has found room to practice art in Palo Alto.
“Stanford is a community really based in productivity,” Kunal said. And then he said some crazy smart shit about orderliness pushing mess to the edges of campus, the joy of lingering in impracticality, and harnessing the creative forces of entropy. Or something. Sorry, I can’t take notes that fast, Kunal – maybe you could stop speaking in fully formed paragraphs? Or maybe say “like” or “um” once in a while so I can catch up?
Once I started listening again I caught something about a hidden literary society that has helped Kunal, and other Stanford writers, overcome the literary equivalent of the Stanford “imposter syndrome.” Besides the secret society, editing for the Leland Quarterly and, recently, storming the gates of the Spoken Word Collective are a few experiences that have all given Kunal the confidence to call himself a “real poet,” coming a long way from his “pretty bad” poetry from the 7th grade.
Kunal makes meaning out of his time here by writing poetry (though not as often as you might think – most of his work is “self-editing,” done in his head), journaling “like an old woman,” and walking everywhere. Reading poetry (from Green’s PS section, as Kunal eagerly pointed out) is a large part of that meaning-making, as well; in his own words, reading is the largest part of his existence on campus. Recently he’s been into Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Siken, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and a couple other poets I pretended to write down but couldn’t spell the names of. For Kunal staying abreast of contemporary poetry is essential because, unlike older and more classical forms, it can “look you in the eye and say, this is happening.”
So, if you’re into that, check out Kunal’s performance with the Spoken Word Collective on December 6. Well, scratch that – check out Kunal’s recorded performance with the Spoken Word Collective. His poem “Elegy on an Answering Machine” will be there, but he won’t. He’ll be in Barcelona, singing at a wedding with Raagapella. Sounds pretty lame if you ask me.
As part of our mission to raise awareness of the arts on Stanford campus, the Stanford Arts Review is starting a weekly feature on the visual artists, writers, musicians, directors, and general fuzzy-types that make Stanford shine.