It’s the extra ‘i’ and the capitals that, on paper at least, distinguishes father from son. Mike Masilamani goes by the pseudonym MASii – “It’s my way of acknowledging the influence of my dad, who wrote under the name Masi,” he says, adding, “it is also a clumsy attempt to create a new persona - someone who can be ruder and cruder than me - if that is possible!”
As a huge fan of the poet e.e. cummings, the bespectacled poet has embraced some of the qualities, irreverence for instance, that he says he most admires in the former. Immersing himself in contemporary concerns, Mike has tackled rabid consumerism and sexual stereotyping in poems like ‘Looking Thru’ My Earphones: Errol’s Story’ and ‘Tits.’ The result is the kind of poetry that will not sit down decorously at the table and is instead far more likely to do a vigorous two-step across the bar counter.
When he is simply being Mike, Masilamani is the Managing Director of a respected advertising company. In fact, he’s been working in the field for nearly three decades, almost as long as he’s been a poet. In recent years, he’s had the pleasure of seeing his work make the leap from page to stage under the direction of Tracy Holsinger – “it’s like watching your kid misbehave - or expecting them to - and then they make you proud instead!” he says.
A new production titled “The Travelling Circus” which includes an adaptation of Mike’s short story for children – “The Boy Who Spoke in Numbers” – will be staged later this month, again under the auspices of the Mind Adventures Theatre Company.
What are you reading now?
I just discovered some old short stories, which include ‘Cruel and Barbarous Treatment ‘ by Mary McCarthy, ‘The Country Husband’ by John Cheever, and the ‘Rocking Horse Winner’ by D.H Lawrence - all of them absolute gems.
Are you enjoying them?
Yes, I am rediscovering how powerful the medium of short stories can be.
Where do you like to read?
To start with I can’t potty without a book! I can read on my way to the bathroom, dinner table, open heart surgery - anywhere!
Tell us about the poetry on your bookshelves. Do you lean more toward contemporary poets?
Yes, I favour contemporary poets, in particular performance poets like Gil Scott Heron and Saul Wlliams. The latter was introduced to me by Alexander Nemser - who is in his own right a wicked poet. Check Saul Williams on youtube.
Have you ever loved a writer’s work enough to read every single book they’ve ever published?
Well there are some authors who keep recurring; Steinbeck and Herman Hesse at one point in my life, Milan Kundera, Hanif Kureishi and more recently Dave Eggers and Murakami. I love anything coming out of the McSweeney Press.
If you were asked to read to a group of 10 year-olds, which book would you pick?
Coraline by Neil Gaiman - but be warned it is scary!
You’re on a long journey and you need an entertaining but uncomplicated read to while away the hours. What would you pick?
A book of short stories - maybe Hemmingway. Zadie Smith and Geoff Dyers I am sure will also keep me out of trouble.
So many books seem to come in trilogies and quartets - when was the last time you were intrigued enough to follow a plot through several volumes?
I will happily confess to reading all of Harry Potter except the last!