In lieu of a short update for December, I wanted to take a look at this past year, which has seen me grow immensely as both an artist and a scientist, and to share the products of some of these endeavors with you.
It’s been a VERY long time since I did some updates, so here we go!
I spent a short time at NASA JPL at the end of August, finishing up my project using Cassini imaging to investigate crater relaxation on the icy moons of Saturn. It’s felt momentous leading into the Grand Finale of the mission as well as my doctoral studies, and it was a wonderful time.
The Cassini mission did sadly end on Sept. 15 but I was excited to spend the week tweeting about my work and hopes for the future beyond Cassini from the marvelous scicomm account Real Scientists, alongside several wonderful planetary scientists. Read my intro post here.
September also saw my very brief release of my self-produced album THEY WILL BE FREE: a song cycle. This was a genuine labor of love over the course of a full year, and I was so blessed to work with so many talented and wonderful artists – from musicians to poets – on this work (see the page for the full credits), and to explore electroacoustic and multimedia composition, epic poetry, poetic storytelling, and space science history in developing the album. TWBF really became the culmination of my composition challenge – to write 120 pieces in as many days, before starting graduate school – as well as my deep interest in fusing modern composition and poetry, and I’m proud of the work we’ve produced.
The AAS Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) meeting is next week, and UA’s The Art of Planetary Science initiative will have an exhibition at the conference. I’ll have a song from the album, “Earthling 1,” playing as video! The exhibition is open to the public on Monday, Oct. 16.
I’m so excited to be an upcoming guest on the Femmes of STEM Podcast, a wonderful show that discusses women in science. I’ll be discussing my own journey in STEM as well as the astronomer and fellow polymath, Paris Marie Pişmiş. Listen to the Season 2 trailer here!
I spent some of July writing a semi-autobiographical novella called “gone,” which follows a girl on her nightly walks – and subliminal encounters with various forms of Death – in five parts. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this work but it was absolutely thrilling to return to writing fiction after 2-3 years, and I hope to finalize and submit to a few contests.
Last – but not least – I’ve started my Ph.D. in Space & Climate Physics at University College London, with a focus on imaging for Mars. The past year has been non-stop in my creative endeavors and I feel so fulfilled in beginning my doctorate this fall. I’ll be stepping back a bit with my art and writing (besides finalizing DNPT), and definitely reflecting on what I want my art to be in the future, as well as enjoying the wonders of planetary research. x
Tonight, I’m heading to the Lit Exhibit – a literary gallery in Brooklyn curated and hosted by the ever-pioneering Lana C. Marilyn! I will have a poetry installation/performance piece called ‘write me a letter,’ which challenges the dichotomy of strangeness vs. intimacy. I’m so excited to be part of such a unique space, and I will definitely post updates about the event here.
I’m still working on my “140 pieces in 140 days” challenge. I’m a little behind, but I’ve just reached #75 with “Journeys” for voice and piano:
This piece is part of a recent set of “microsettings” of my shortest poems.
This spring has seen a lot of poetry-music hybrid projects for me, first with my “microsettings” and then “do not perform this,” in addition to a still-developing project as I’ve mentioned before. I’m hoping to announce this project soon!
Last: I’m so humbled to say that I will be starting a PhD in Space & Climate Physics this fall at University College London! I will continue to update on my travels and studies.
I spent a fantastic evening in Brooklyn earlier this month, sitting on a panel of other self-published women at a Book Swap Party hosted by friend and fellow writer Lana C. Marilyn. We spoke about theme, style, honesty, and process in everything from poetry and confessional writing to our personal lives.
Photo credit: Lana
I’ve challenged myself to write a piece (or complete movement, arrangement, etc.) every day from mid-January to mid-May, which will result in 140 pieces and hopefully expand my technique and voice. In this vein, I’ve begun work on 78 variations on a theme by Beethoven for woodblock (to follow up on a joke that I maintain is still quite funny) and a string quartet arrangement of Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances, and I’m continuing my work on the Dream Palace pieces, the newest of which, ‘nuit,’ can be found here.
I’ve also started work on a cohesive project involving both my composition and poetry, about which I won’t give details quite yet. As a preview, however, listen to my tribute to John Glenn, “Godspeed, John Glenn”, an electronic piece which utilizes Mercury-Atlas 6 mission recordings and is based on Glenn’s heartbeat. Also read “On Living” by Nazim Hikmet.
My recommendations for the start of the year:
- My darling friend Najia Khaled has released “Dough Re Mi,” a fabulous “kitchen folk” EP that utilizes only kitchen implements and her lovely voice. Available to purchase and stream at the link.
- “strength,” an EP by disconnect red, also a dear friend, is an incandescent set of a capella songs that plays with mode with a startling rawness. Steam “fragility” here.
- The aforementioned Lana released her debut book, “Wet Sand in an Hourglass: a self portrait in words,” last year and I’ve been taking my time reading it. The book is a deliberate memoir, both intricate and exhilarating in its tone and narrative.
I have been collaborating with poet and friend Sanjana Rajagopal on musically illustrating her fantastic, otherworldly poem series ‘Dream Palace.’ The first four demos of these pieces can be found here with links to the original poems.
I recently wrote on my NASA Academy and honors thesis project for Madame Mars, a transmedia production documenting the role of women in space science, which interviewed me in 2014 (and quoted my interview on HuffPost). You can read the article here, and subscribe to their fantastic media here.
My uncle Rajiv Mohabir, a talented poet and teacher, writes on the liminality of Indo-Caribbean experiences and discusses several authors and poets, including myself, and how we relate to this heritage via our work in this blog post for the North American Review.
I’m working on a series of poetry zines with several artists. The first topic of this series is ‘the void’; read my take here.
Finally, all of my books are on sale for the holidays! Check out details here.
I’ve just given my final presentation at JPL and am wrapping up my internship in the next few days! I’m so grateful for all of the support and encouragement that helped me get to this point. I am proud of my work, and JPL is truly a special place to which I hope to return one day soon.
My books are now on Goodreads and I have an active author page! Reviews can now be left for each book, and I may begin updating the author page in the future.
Najia (with whom I performed at “THE THINGS WE CAN CONJURE”) and I are working on some music – check out this reduced electronic demo of “Talisman” and look forward to completed songs in the next few months. x
The Things We Can Conjure went wonderfully! We had a nice turnout, made new friends, and had a beautiful time sharing our work. We also both completed National Poetry Month strong with 30 poems each! Don’t forget to check out Najia’s beautiful book “Wanderers, Witch-Talkers.”
Last week (4.30), I presented my senior thesis – the geology portion of the 2015 NASA Academy Mars mission design – for the EES department and had my composition final “performed” – you can find the track here. The piece utilizes voice and cello recordings of myself, as well as recordings of planes from last summer. Completing my time with both the EES Department and the Eastman composition department has been a delight and I am so grateful for the resources to which I’ve had access during my time at Rochester.
I finished executing my project ‘i can’t hear myself’ for my anthropology course this week. The reaction has been so involved and wonderful, and I look forward to continuing to discuss the work and the social issues behind my ideas with other musicians.
At the end of this month, I’ll be heading off to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a summer research program in surface processes of icy moons, which is a thrilling way to end my undergraduate career!
Stay tuned – I’m hoping to start some new things in the next handful of weeks x
This will be an afternoon of poetry to celebrate our recent book releases, ‘color’ and ‘wanderers, witch-talkers,’ with friends! We will also have copies of our work for purchase.
Wanderers, Witch-Talkers is a collection of poetry by Moroccan-American poet Najia Khaled. European and Moroccan witchcraft, folklore, superstition, and mythology are explored in poems about love, loss, culture, mental illness, and race.
COLOR: a book of poetry
My fourth collection of poetry, ‘color’ is a synesthetic exploration – a spectral adventure of love, heritage, grief, and self-reflection through both the natural and subliminal worlds.
I’m proud to be releasing ‘color’ this spring. It has been a longer-term project than ‘de caelo’ — an idea that I’ve had for the past two years, and which spans my poetry from 2013 to late 2015. Enjoy x
- It’s been a quiet process, but I have been preparing a new book of poetry – stay tuned for updates!
- I love film and I’ve now found myself volunteering for the Science and Entertainment Exchange (SEE), a network under the National Academy of Sciences by which creators in the entertainment industry can seek volunteer consultation from scientists for their media
- I’ll be quietly attempting the National Poetry Month writing challenge this April with hopes only to get some words down after a fairly long dry spell
- I’ve been busy with my thesis/graduation requirements/etc. but hope to see some more creative work in the next few months!