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Congrats 2022 Firestarter Award Winner, Teja Sudhakar

Meet Teja Sudhakar

Teja Sudhakar, 21, of Lexington, is a poet whose work incorporates topics such as immigration, intergenerational womanhood, borderlands, surveillance, and resilience. She was selected as a Firestarter for her dedication to her craft, her commitment to feminism and human rights, and for telling the stories of immigrant women like herself. 


Her poetry has explored feminist myth revision of Hindu narratologies. She has used docupoetics to combine her own immigrant experience with oral histories from Lexington’s women identified immigrant community.


Her nominator says, “The poems are already so achieved they speak for themselves. She possesses a true artist’s work ethic, curiosity, clarity. She has what it takes to go all the way in her publishing hopes and build a life as a writer.”


Teja’s first chapbook won UK’s highest prize for undergraduate creative accomplishment.


Teja says of her work, “Looking for Smoke is a collection of poems entailing the experiences of five first-generation immigrant women living in Kentucky, as well as my own navigation of being an immigrant woman. We typically hear about immigration in the context of violence, suffering, and turmoil–but unlike the news, poetry creates space for the underlying humanity of immigrant narratives. These poems communicate immigrant women’s stories about tradition, resilience, sisterhood, kindness, and faith.”


Her nominator describes her as a committed transnational queer feminist, and says, “her work is both dynamic and devoted to her practice of literature as an agency for women-identified human rights in a local/global, post nationstate context. Her commitment to women-identified human rights is inspiring. I myself am instructed and inspired by her unique potential, vision, work ethic, and capacity. She came to feminist poetry by way of neuroscience. She is truly a brilliant light. Anything I’ve ever given to her, she has taken and spun gold.”


Teja says of receiving the Firestarter Award, “I am absolutely honored to be nominated for this award and continue the legacy of women making impactful change in the commonwealth. I am especially proud to represent Kentucky– although this state is not my place of origin, it has always welcomed me as one of its own.”


She begins her MFA program this Fall.


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