“Being Born”: A Poetry Collection


“Being Born” is a collection of poems that celebrates and explores interior journeys, the natural environment, and renewals that can emerge in moments of unexpected connectedness in human relationships and in the relationships between humans, animals and the natural world.


Praise for “Being Born”:

Being Born by Shivani Sivagurunathan brings to the fore a poet of the Indian diaspora, one who sketches out the contour and its special confluence of Tamil and Malaysian cultures. As expected, her language is tropical and redolent, like the lines in “Day at the Mosque” — “the vellum goes the great way, / across fish ranging the hot soups of these / waters and the quiet lulls of those nearer / to the way my nipple cracks when it faces / the blue of twilight” The poet invokes the local landscape and culture with passion and urgency. Being Born is about birth and rebirth, about hybridity and multiculturalism, about “a tug between what is” and “a moment of ellipsis’ and being simultaneously and comfortably at home in all these. — Sudeep Sen, author of Anthropocene (Pippa Rann), EroText (Vintage: Penguin Random House), and The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (editor)

Being Born sweeps the reader headlong into the paradoxes of existence, finding wisdom in the eye of a grasshopper and peace curled in the belly of a hedgehog. The poems illuminate a vast landscape at our feet, making us see the familiar askance: in the “violent light”, “voyaging milk” and “deciduous freshlings” our language is reborn in new configurations and takes flight in the wings of “sunbird aunties”. These poems snake down the page in free verse that is by turns taut and expansive, rooted in the vegetal flesh of life and meditating on “molecular godworlds”. Internal rhymes swoop with exquisite grace from “dark meanderings” to “dangling things” until “All you need to do is swing” with the rhythms of biology and prayer. This collection is an impressive achievement, a joy and an inspiration. — Carina Hart, Poet and author of Your Brain Cells Sing When They Die (The Black Spring Press Group)


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What Has Happened to Harry Pillai?: Two Novellas

A collection of two novellas set on Coal Island.



Middle-aged Debbie’s life is a disaster – her mother abandoned the family when she was a young girl, her father committed suicide and if that isn’t enough, her only son has decided to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and drown himself.

Turning to her best friend Geraldine and copious amounts of wine for emotional support is getting her nowhere…until one day Debbie’s mysterious ex-husband turns up on the island along with his spiritual guru. Will Debbie find salvation as part of the Master Your Life cult?



For decades Harry Pillai has kept his triplet daughters away from the island’s prying eyes. Modern life is rubbish and he wants no part of it; all electronic devices are banned in the Pillai household and the triplets are forbidden from mingling with the islanders.

Despite their father’s best efforts, the Pillai triplets each have their own secret worlds, kept secret even from each other. While Penny and Betty respectively find solace and sexual release with a local mechanic and the island’s lighthouse keeper, Sally seeks out the company of a tribal family hidden deep in the jungle. Life in the Pillai household is about to undergo a shocking transformation.


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Wildlife on Coal Island


The eleven stories in Wildlife on Coal Island are set on a fictional island located in present-day Malaysia. Coal Island is a place of secrets, gossip and murder. Peopled with characters that simultaneously laugh at life and are broken by it, it is a petri dish for experiments with the darkness that sometimes enters ordinary days and the surprising clarity that comes after suffering. The humans and animals here will linger in your head as you go about your daily chores: an ageing Chinese opera singer and her pet monkey; a self-proclaimed psychic who is convinced that a tsunami is coming; a murderer who finds worldly wisdom in a wandering Malayan tapir; an ex-colonial plantation overseer, battling with the literal and lateral python of his past; an obese supermarket matriarch who talks to bats.



One hundred and eighty-five-year-old recluse, Pushpanayagi, is on the brink of a transformation. Her past, long forgotten, long avoided, is catching up.  When eighteen-year-old Maxim Cheah, disgruntled at home, aching for freedom, for answers about her life, arrives on an apparent whim at “Yalpanam”—the old lady’s house—they begin an unlikely friendship that will give the girl a temporary home, and send Pushpanayagi whirling through space-time, back to the past. Returning to 19th century and 1940s Malaya, to early 19th century Ceylon, the old lady encounters people long dead—Charles Tanner, a rigid British lepidopterist, his melancholic first wife Mary, his vibrant second wife Savitri, their seemingly subservient servant Abu—and is faced with the reality of her actions, and her denials. Will the past release her? As Pushpanayagi battles with her psychical upheaval, Maxim finds a place for herself at Yalpanam, and grows into her new friendship with Hadi, the vegetable seller. But a person can only run away for so long. Pushpanayagi and Maxim must embark on a journey fraught with lies, shadows, ghosts, and realizations at times too painful to bear, and discover, in their own unique but intertwined ways, the path to inner liberation.

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Chiaroscuro: A Poetry Chapbook


At once delicate with essential sparse images, these poems bisect landscapes of lush vegetation with anatomies of unnamed muses. think Lorinne Niedecker’s lake in diffuse sunlight, or Wallace Stevens’ desk under a lamp’s spotlight; each itinerant poem offers details sculpted with light and shadow. Shivani Sivagurunathan gives us the contents of a poetic mulch composted in rich layering.

All About Monkey (Kindle Edition)


Coal Island is a place of secrets, gossip and murder. Just the sort of place, in fact, where an ageing opera singer and her pet monkey can set tongues wagging.


Out of the Swamp and Other Stories


This is a collection of short fiction on the lives of ordinary Malaysians going about their day-to-day lives—but with a twist or two thrown in.