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Green Leaves

Unpacking ‘We Need to Talk’ with Manveen Kohli

In this interview, we learn more about Manveen Kohli and the stories behind her debut collection, We Need to Talk.

Centre for Stories has been following Manveen Kohli’s poetry journey via Instagram (@uncensored.poet) for some time, checking in on her thoughtful posts and keeping up-to-date with her adventures with Perth Slam. We were thrilled when Manveen applied for our Green Leaves/Red River project and we can’t wait for the world to read We Need to Talk.

Centre for Stories (CFS): Can you tell us how We Need to Talk came together?

Manveen Kohli (MK): I’ve been working on my manuscript for almost five years now, as my goal has been to publish a poetry book. However, I didn’t realise the amount of work that goes into writing one until I officially began the process! My editor helped me structure the book in an accessible and reader-friendly manner.

CFS: Who did you celebrate with when you received the good news about your poems getting published?

MK: I actually received the email on my birthday (and it was the best birthday gift ever!). The first person I told when I received the good news was my mum. This book would never have been possible without her.

CFS: What was it like working with your editor, the wonderful J Eh Kaw Thaw Saw?

MK: Working with my editor was a memorable experience. He was meticulous, patient, and genuinely connected with my art. He was also extremely organised, which was helpful because I’m definitely not!

I learnt that an editor does so much more than just revise material for publication. An editor is a supporter, an advocate, and someone who wants to see your art flourish just as much as you do.

CFS: This book sits within a series of poetry collections within the Green Leaves/Red River project in collaboration with Red River Press in Delhi. What is something unexpected (good or bad) that’s come up during this process?

MK: The collaboration has genuinely been wonderful. Although the distance was challenging, my publisher worked tirelessly to create something that I was 100% satisfied with. We had multiple Zoom calls and exchanged several emails to discuss design, layout, and structure.

One of the barriers, due to the distance, was that I was unable to see the first physical copy of my book. It is different seeing something digitally as opposed to in the flesh. However, we worked collaboratively to problem solve any issues that arose.

CFS: This is your debut collection of poems (the first of many, we hope!). What has met your expectations and what has been awkward or unexpected?

MK: This experience has exceeded my expectations. I always dreamt about writing a book but to actually write one…wow! The poetry is one aspect of it but there’s also the editing, structure, design, marketing, and so much more. These are equally pivotal elements, which we often don’t consider when picking up a book.

CFS: For those of us who don’t have a copy, can you share a poem from We Need to Talk?

MK: I chose this poem because it’s short and simple but also an accurate depiction of my mother. She is a force to be reckoned with!

My mother lived
in a world
that constantly
tried to
defeat her.
So she created
an entire
within herself.
Turned all
of her scars
into a
of stars.
I could spend
my entire life
writing poems
about her.
But words will
never do her

About Manveen

Manveen Kaur Kohli is a British-Indian poet residing in Western Australia. She is a two-time finalist in WA’s Australian Poetry Slam. Manveen has performed at various events, including Neon Readings, Woman Scream, and Perth Poetry Festival.

Manveen was raised in England before relocating to Dubai with her family at the age of 13. After graduating from Heriot-Watt University with a degree in Psychology, she moved to Perth and pursued a postgraduate degree in School Psychology. Manveen also studied a Master of Teaching (Early Childhood) at The University of Western Australia. Currently, she works as a Psychologist at a high school.

Manveen strives to make a difference and empower people – poetry and psychology are two mediums that enable her to achieve these goals.

Praise for We Need to Talk

Manveen Kohli’s slam poetry is powerful, insightful and mesmerising. She never fails to deliver cleverly crafted poetic journeys, both personal and political, illuminating, and bold.

– Allan Boyd (the antipoet)

Manveen Kohli speaks power to the female experience. Hers is a poetics of strength and vulnerability that blazes with candour, truth and power. Kohli is a poet to read and admire.

– Scott-Patrick Mitchell (SPM)

There are so many moments of YAAAAAAAAS when I read Manveen’s words. They are electric.

– Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa

Purchase a copy of We Need to Talk from our online shop.

Green Leaves / Red River is an international publication project by Centre for Stories in partnership with Red River Press based in Delhi.

The project supports eight poets from CALD backgrounds to publish a full manuscript of poetry. The project also provides two editorial fellowships to emerging editors from CALD backgrounds. Editorial Fellows work with the writers to develop a manuscript of high literary standard. The collections will be published over two years and sold individually as part of a series.

This project is possible with funding from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.

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