Amirthanayagam was born in 1960 in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). When he was eight years old, he moved with his family to London, England, and at age 14, his family moved again to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he began writing.
He writes poetry and essays in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. His Spanish collections include El Infierno de los Pajaros (Resistencia, Mexico City), El Hombre que Recoge Nidos (CONARTE/Resistencia, Mexico), "Sol Camuflado" (Lustra Editores, Lima, May 2011), Sin Adorno, lirica para tiempos neobarrocos (Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, Mexico, 2013). A new collection, Ventana azul, will be published in January, 2016 in Mexico City. His first collection in French, Aller-retour au bord de la mer. was published in 2014 by Legs Editions. He has also published The Splintered Face (Hanging Loose Press, 2008) and Ceylon R.I.P. (International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Sri Lanka, 2001). The poem "So Beautiful" was broadcast on the PBS series The United States of Poetry. Univision reported on Amirthanayagam's Spanish poems in a news report in August, 1999. His poems have been anthologized in The United States of Poetry, ALOUD: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Open Boat: Poems from Asian America, The Nuyorasian Anthology, Black Lightning, Living in America, The Four Way Reader #1. His poems have also been published in Grand Street, The Kenyon Review, The Massachusetts Review, Exquisite Corpse, Hanging Loose, BOMB and elsewhere in the U.S.. Poems written originally in French and Spanish have been published in Côte d'Ivoire and Mexico. His translations of Mexican poet Manuel Ulacia were included in Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poetry. Translations of Jose Eugenio Sanchez have been published online. His poetic history of the Sri Lankan Civil War, Uncivil War, was published in 2013. Amirthanayagam read in the international poetry festivals in Medellin (2010), Lima(2012), and Granada, Nicaragua (2014.)
Amirthanayagam's The Elephants Of Reckoning won the 1994 Paterson Poetry Prize. The poem "Juarez" won the Juegos Florales of Guaymas, Sonora in 2006.
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