becoming sam

becoming sam

Samodh Porawagamage

JUNE 11, 2024

Winner of the 2022 Burnside Review Press Book Award,
selected by Jaswinder Bolina.

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Samodh Porawagamage’s first book, becoming sam, was selected by Jaswinder Bolina as the winner of the 2022 Burnside Review Press Book Award. He writes about the 2004 tsunami, Sri Lankan Civil War, poverty and underdevelopment, and colonial and imperial atrocities. His poems have appeared in the anthology Out of Sri Lanka: Tamil, Sinhala & English Poetry from Sri Lanka & Its Diasporas (Bloodaxe Books) and a number of journals.

“A vivid, gutting, and memorable collection, becoming sam moves from poem to poem like a deftly crafted memoir in verse. It recounts, both, the quotidian dramas and violent terrors of a childhood lived through the Sri Lankan civil war alongside the quieter violences committed against an immigrant acclimating to life in the U.S. The subtle shocks and startling turns in Samodh Porawagamage's poems bring me sometimes to wonder, sometimes to tears, and always to gratitude for their brilliance.”

—Jaswinder Bolina

“How does one survive diaspora? Or rather, what does one become, carrying the home country while you live in someone else's land? In becoming sam, Samodh Porawagamage offers us a poignant memoir in verse that takes us from his earliest memories in Sri Lanka to his current life in Texas, where he lives but is never entirely at home. Sri Lanka is around every corner of his mind, as he hears the news from abroad of protests and change: ‘We are dry leaves feeding our own roots.’ His poems testify both to the ignominies of immigrant life—from mispronunciations of his name to airport security patdowns—and the secret wisdom of being an outsider with equal parts wit and pathos.”

—Philip Metres

“Samodh Porawagamage's poems are fast-moving, thrumming with both spoken energy and formal finesse. His lyrical bulletins from Sri Lanka tell us things that our parochial news and literary cultures have no time for. A truly cosmopolitan, transnational sensibility has arrived, conversing with Sri Lankan poets (notably Lakdhas Wikkramasinha) and speaking back to, and alongside, the Western canon.”

—Vidyan Ravinthiran