Friday, February 28, 2014



Com o sabor amargo do café 
ainda dentro da boca 
olho altraves da janela 
e sinto o cheiro da  água 
molhando o mato verde. 

Lembro-me  como sonhado
eu flutuava sobre o  corpo dela
em uma chuva como esta 

mas ela não vai se importa
como a tempestade deixa as nuvens  
e nada mais do que resta . 
E como uma espinha  
esprimida no escroto. 

- R K.Singh

Tradução por Teresinka Pereira

President, International Writers & Artists (IWA), Toledo, OH (USA)


With the taste of bitter coffee
still lingering in my mouth
I gaze through the window
drawing in the harsh smell of water
beating on thecrowded green

I remember how dreamily 
I floated over her body
in the rains like this

but she won't care
now the storm numbs
and nothing lives save 
the clouds that drift and squeeze
pimples on the scrotum


Wednesday, February 26, 2014



Unmoved in the wind
the rose still stands erect
in the night’s silence
imagine my teens
the street is lonely
love-ache ever fresh
with stolen fragrance


Friday, February 14, 2014

THE ASEXUALITYOF SEX by Raghuvanshmani

        The Asexuality of Sex

                              --   Raghuvanshmani

In one of his early poems, collected under the title My Silence, R. K. Singh writes about his involvement with sex when he looks at a woman. The act of looking is meaningful for the poet as it leads to the poetic process and the expression of his feelings. The poetic lines that underline his reaction to the beauty of a woman tell us that it makes him ‘blind’, ‘deaf’, ‘ignorant’, ‘poor’ and ‘indrawn’, various states connected to his being overpowered by a mystic sense inspired by her beauty, but the darkness of ‘dust’ veils his being so opaquely that he is not able to follow the hidden words.[2.6] The hidden words are related to the spiritual and the mystic and, thus, by not following the hidden words, he is bereft of the entry of the ‘pavilion of eternity’. The eternity is related [contrasted too] and signified in terms of the uneternal that surrounds him in spite of his reaching the condition of getting ‘blind’, ‘deaf’, ‘ignorant’, ‘poor’ and ‘indrawn’, the psychic states that may lead him to the desired realm. As a reader continues his journey through the poetry of the poet, he comes to know that the notion of eternity as expressed in his poetry does not exclude sexual acts like copulation, climax, and bodily fulfillment. Unlike the sonnets of Shakespeare, love is a part of sex, and lust is never denied or taken as a hindrance to achieve the spiritual state, and the ‘eternity’ is one of that. Thus, the ‘eternity’ is to be explained as a state of bliss, the extension of sexuality in the realm of poetry. In his journey of love even the savage is not unacceptable as it flows in ‘the arteries in the tulip silence’. [2.4]

The darkness and blindness of ‘dust’ is not the blindness of ‘lust’. The poet forgets the decree of the coal dust when she enters with her warmth in the wheezing and sleepless winter discomfort [26.3]. The poem underlines the importance of passion in life. Sexual exploration is mystic and it is done in her ‘privates’ with ‘handgun’. [6.19]The metaphors used by the poet, here, are not confined to eroticism. They cross the realm of erotic to enter the realm of obvious sexuality. The primal image of snake from Bible does carry a different sort of connotation, devoid of sin and suffering. [7.23&24] He describes himself as a snake without Eden. [29.19]The problem lies only when age is countered with passion, a question that reminds the poet of time rather than sin. These two aspects of sex, time and sin, are well delineated by the poet. [7.22] Instead of acknowledging the presence of sin in his sexual acts, he finds that the presence of her ‘presence’ makes him feel nearer to god.[1.1] The Indian god Shiva, associated with enjoyments of life, is planted deep and the serpent is eternal. [17.59] The poet, without mincing words, records that he exults as he drinks the infinite in her [2.3] and her body or its perfume makes the night drunken, [2.5] another state associated in literature associated with the bodily pleasures. [One may remember the Rubiayats of Omar Khayyam and its long prevalence over a literary tradition that discarded the orthodox religion in the favor of the joys of life.] For the poet, a woman is the best poetry, the best theme of his writing [3.7] and the spring music is hidden between her thighs. This music is beyond birth and aims at the sheer pleasure of sex [27.9]. In one of his poems, the poet states clearly that he wants non creative sex after the birth of two children.[28.17]  As the poet appreciates her, and states that her eyes are the source of love and beauty,[3.8] it is not the traditional boundary of taste that he draws around his idea of beauty. The poet feels the presence of sex even in nature, and for him an autumn tree is like a woman naked. [1.2] Thus, R.K. Singh’s involvement with woman and beauty is never devoid of sex and it stands as an obvious challenge to the traditional and orthodox in the form of his resisting poetry in the Indian surroundings where sex has remained a taboo for a long time. Even today among the conservative societies of India, it is something to be kept secret in the locker of repression. This is an enough argument to underline the symbolic nature of resistance available in his poetic presentation of sex.

Another interesting aspect of the poems of R.K. Singh is that he depicts the mysterious nature of woman with her Ritikaleen gestures. [6.7] The playful gestures of a woman attracts him in various ways.[6.20] The mystery of such gestures of a woman is, in fact, the creation of the male psyche that likes to see woman in the framework of the notion of classical poetry. This notion is, in fact, not confined to poetry alone but it is an attitude prevalent in the society, enforced by the romantic poems, novels and films. But the difference lies when he presents the sexual act as a metaphor [of the exploration of body?][6.19].In the perspectives of his poems, it is not the question of male domination or patriarchy but the question of the presentation of sex in poetry. How it is presented and what is its significance?

The idea of sex in his poems is highly deceptive as it is the least related to sex. It is needless for the poet to underline the joys that he receives in the sexual acts and exploits. Because it is a thing that is [already] well known to most of the readers and as a form of poetic knowledge it adds nothing to our stock. In recent decades, the underground pornographic literature of the past has emerged ‘over’ground and has engulfed the sky in the form of internet explosion of sexual knowledge [?], that is in the form of cyber pornography and erotic literature, once considered to be an offence equivalent to sin.  Therefore, the presentation of the sexual acts in his poetry is, in no way, the significance of his poems. In reality, it stands simply as a celebration of the carnal never fully accepted in our society, a society laden with hypocrisy in the name of social values, culture and religion. The suppression of sex in the society has led to so many abnormal results, at times, unknown to the society itself. It is in our time, that these suppressed elements have surfaced and spread around disturbing so many from the nightmare of their cultural sleep. The example of the killings ordered by the Khap Adalats is to count one of the numerous abnormal reactions to the unleashed sexuality in our time. It is always shocking to see how such abnormal age-long repressions surface in our society in the forms of new repression. In this context, the rebellious celebration of sex in the poems of R.K. Singh needs more serious and cultural explanation and interpretation rather that a casual passing remark.

Remarkably, in the poems of R.K. Singh sex is not always present as something spiritual and pleasure giving. On certain occasions it is sordid too, and the poet depicts the stark realities of life in the way of his description of the presence of sex in the society. For example, we can take the poem beginning with the line ‘she is declared a mental case’ [3.9] or the poem written on the widow.[4] In the first, the nakedness of the woman does not inspire any feeling of sex as it underlines her deplorable state as an abnormal woman. In the second poem, the rose which could have become a symbol of beauty and might have led the poet to sexual desires, leads him to the feeling of pity. Rose might, in other sense, have been suggestive to woman’s secret parts with the wetness of desire. For the poet the dance of love is dark and unfathomable. The poet wants to seek shelter in the grove of her flesh, [26.6] but this shelter is not always a sure one. The mystery of a woman’s flesh is a road to the subjects of poetry existing outside the realm of sex.

This shelter of the grove of flesh is unsure because of the world outside that keeps lurking in his early poetry and occupies a big space in his later poems. As a poem depicts, the outside world is disturbing to the poet’s prayer of sex. The disturbing vultures force him to make a show of his person in the sulphurous pond. It is very difficult to live with ones own God while the world around tries to disturb him due to its conservative approach. The society enters our personal life whether we like or dislike the needless social poking. If we don’t accept the ways of the world, we are always conscious of our own lifestyle. His poem depicts this aspect of a nonconformist in a humourous but serious manner. This conservatism forces the poet to pretend to hide the semen spots on his pants as tea spots. [30.21] So the question is ever whether it is sex or the suppression of sex that the poet presents in his poem. The question is always double pronged as the expression is presented twofold and forces the reader to look beyond sex. The readings of his poetry is always marred by the conservative approach of glaring at sexual presence with hungry watching or a sort of literary voyeurism which is verily cultural in its essence in the Indian context. This literary voyeurism turns into critical one when inflated with the question of taste. There is usually the brushing of the surface in the appreciation of his poems and it makes the sex shine, but does not look beyond the skin-deep in his poetry.

How asexual is the question of sex when the poet engages himself with the question of religion. The poet questions faith when it is turned into rituals by myths. It is not meaningful for the poet to search faith against oneself. [27.10] The personal convictions based on experiences are discarded by people when they come to the realm of faith and religion. For the poet, a faith or belief without conviction is of little value. His religious experience emanates from his sexual experiences and he develops a moral sense that stands beyond the orthodox notions of religion and spirituality. Sex plays asexual role in his criticism of religion and its real presence in the society. The vedantic discourse of the bearded swami is meaningless as it is unheard in the spiritual blankness. The speakers as well as the listeners are spiritually dead [32.29]. A sexual tinge is given to the asexual theme when the reference is made to Kartik, the month of the mating of dogs, with reference to the denuded women bathing in the Ganges while the gods leer at their wet bare backs. The poet concludes that ‘aum’ is suitable mantra for Vasanas [lust] [32.30]. The poet criticizes the jugglery through which the religious leaders hide their fractured faith from their followers. [32.32]

Likewise the eyes of goddess Durga can not see the sexual violence which prevails in the society and takes place even before her eyes. One wonders if she can see or do anything in reality. The questioning is about the sight of Durga whether she can see things like that happening during her public worship. Thus, sex is a method of questioning the so called religious in the society. [4] His idea of religion and spiritualism is different from the conservative religion followed by his fellowmen. His love for God is expressed by his love for the people He has created in this world.[154.1] This humanistic notion of religion is not understood by others. But sex is again a way of worship for the poet. His house is glorified by sex and it declares the mysteries of God. This idea of sex as worship is a contrast to the general idea of sex as something impious in the society.

The poet has written many poems on Benaras and the holy rivers. He questions the holiness of the city variously. The river Ganga and Yamuna are not sacrosanct for him. The religious sangam of Ganga and Yamuna is a sterile homosexual affair and these holy rivers don’t lead to heaven. [18.64] Thus, the city of religion is the city of sex and copulation of the two great rivers. The sterility of the intercourse makes the city devoid of any religious significance for the poet and his friend who seeks the way to heaven. Heaven is somewhere else. The river Ganga is also a symbol of how culture has been polluted by the modern life style. For him Ganga was once a river now it is lost in a drain. [12.41]

The same is true about repression of abnormal feelings for women in the society [5.13] and the business of sex in our society [5.14]. The state of a woman as pictured by him is certainly grim as she is pictured cleansing her womb [5.16] People show their dicks to women at the pretext of making water, but they object at the young people making love between the bushes and his backyard. This poem clearly shows that the celebration of sex is to be read as a reaction against the sexually hypocritical in the society.

In one of his poems, when the poet tells us not to fall in the trap of life as it is a mere show, [7.21] he is in fact making his reaction against the middle class life. It is the life that the poet is living and he knows the reality of this conservative living very well. The essence of this life is presented in the form of the kick of the prostitute in one of his poems. The prostitute is the symbol of middle class traps that keep us vainly engaged in our lives to make us face its disillusioning reality at last. But it is the stage from where there is no comeback for anyone. One may read it as the notion of Maya [attachment] in Indian philosophy that is the result of our ignorance of the spiritual reality [Agyan]. But, here, the Kick image is too original to be compared to Maya philosophy, and it brings the triviality of the middle class world to our eyes. In the darkness, when the light is switched off, every woman is a Cleopatra. It is the morning light that tells the truth. But in the middle class life the illusions are so many that the light is rarely switched on.

Sex is a shelter in such a life full of boredom. In one of his poems the images of sexual organs and nature do mix up. The poet tired and bored collapses on the open thighed creek and feels the whole city in the glen. [12-13.42] The static middle class life is without any pleasure and there is no release for the poet. [8.26] To use the phrase of the famous English poet S.T. Coleridge, the middle class life is not less than the death in life. Thanatos gets the upper hand at times in his poetry which is the result of the middleclass boredom not released even during some travel. [8. 27] Here, again the pleasure of sex is a reaction against the life of ennui and isolation. It is to forget the demeaning aloneness that he involves in sex and not for the thing itself. [92.30] Thus, sex remains a medium rather than an end in his poetry. This is clearer in another poem showing his naughty interest in activities like weeing at a lamp post, peeking at someone’s privates, or doodling vulgar graffiti etc. It is the dullness of life that inspires the wish of such acts in his poems [35.44].

The personal of the poet reacts acutely against this middle class life that is full of silence or chaos, two contradictory but similar aspects in his poetry. Inside the poet it is silence, in the society it is chaos. In the society, he stands like an island shielding chaos and live his joy hearing the serenade.[14.4] He considers himself rightful to react against the chill of the silence [icy wind] as he was born in the month of December. [13.47]. It is important to note that the fight against the chill is made by the lower class people in the streets where a huge log is giving them warmth. The petty bourgeoisie is always inside the quilt. But as the poet reacts against the deadness of his surroundings, inside the poet lies the tragedy of man and nature. The broken images reside in him and his poetry. [14.50] Likewise the loneliness inside the poet is increased by the passing of time, poem by poem. [15.52] People love moth eaten reality that floats to emptiness. This realization of his own position in the world is tormenting to the poet’s self.

The Image of winter is present in many of his poems which is suggestive of peculiar his state of poet’s mind when he feels himself isolated from the middle class conservative life devoid of meaning and significance. The hurried happiness means very little for the poet. [15.54] As far he is concerned, he weaves heat in the unholy solitude in the empty cell of time. [17.61]. He dances his silence on the ocean floor of time where sun rises and sets. The nature images, here, do speak the psychology of the poet. The inside of the poet is highly disturbed while the outside world remains undisturbed. It is compromising and laggard world that has faith in not reacting to the new values emerging in our lives. Thus, the rock stands undisturbed and the shores don’t move. It is the sea that returns after striking the seashore. [22.75] He feels the barrenness around himself as there is no tree on the mountain and he sits under the shadow of a wandering cloud.[38.55] Inside him there is a river inside him which is rippled by the ripples of darkness. This river is in fact his consciousness. He hears the shrieks of shadows amid savage hails.[38.56]

To go against the conservative values the poet criticizes the double standards in the society. In one of his poems he talks about free dogs and unfree men. [10. 14] The poet does not feel the comfort in his surroundings which is full of the sounds of Frogs and Owls, and he sings the ritual of flesh and hides himself inside the mosquito net. [27.12] The dust ridden city observes the falling leaves as time passes and the poet finds vultures all around and his corner is not very cozy for sex. It is reduced to the distasteful show of his naked person in the sulphurous pond. [29.18]

The cosmetic values of the middleclass are washed by the rain. It is a phenomenon of nature that discloses all that is hidden behind the mask of culture. [12.39] The same rain like night unwraps their faces and the poet is not able to make distinction between man and beast [33.37]. The Images of night and morning do hold significance in the case of his poetry. After getting tired he collapses on the open thighed creek and feels the whole city in a glen peel off the illusory flesh warmth until/ the rosy fingers of the dawn messes around. [12-13.42]

The criticism of the political system by the poet is at places too obvious to hide behind the images or the language of his poetry. The poet criticizes the police and, in this way, the whole system that has gone corrupt. The police arrests the innocent people accusing them as pick pockets and the real criminals do survive in there white clothes [9.10]. These people in Khadi are described as jackal, fox [45.82] and rats.[46.85] The poet detests the politicians and feels disturbed when he finds bureaucrats and journalists shaking hands with them. They are like dogs mating in the month of October or November, a seasonal image related to sex. [11. 38] His natural appreciation of sex goes against any sort of hypocrisy prevailing in the society. Rain, the time of epiphanic creation of poetry, continues to shake the mortal shell and blasts the hypocrisy. [12.39] In some ways this is his poetic process which involves demystification symbolized by rain.

The poetry of R.K.Singh is the creation of a poet who is a restless soul. To read his poems in a sensitive way involves the experience of the feeling of angst generated by the moral degradation in our time. This shows his rejection of the conservative life lived by the people around him. The life of conservative acceptance of the powerful dominance is not congenial to the poet. The poet has no difficult language to outwit people but people don’t like him and even his shadow is disturbing and uncomfortable due to his rebelling attitude. [22.76] In other words he is a nonconformist who is against the status quoits in the society, those who live a passive life and indirectly support the system unacceptable to him.

The presentation of the theme of sex is a medium to explore the society in an untraditional way. The themes planted in his early poems have grown with the passage of time in his later poems but the themes related to sex are always similar in their function. The observations of the poet seem at times objective but in fact they are very personal reactions to the society he is facing. But the personal itself does not remain personal in the poetic process, but involve the social and the political. The calm and fury of the poet shows his inability to change the world and this brings a deep feeling of restlessness getting space in his poetry. He is against the system that tames a man to give him survival in its structure of power. [721. 72]

But, ironically, he is himself a part of the middleclass that he hates and as a result, his reactions turn to himself in his poems. The counter result is more of unrest and crisis getting expression in his later poems. In his drugged sleep he utters expletives and he cannot help his sensory overload. [153.3] He suffers sleepless nights full of nightmares.[154.7] The crisis is represented in the form of themes related to sex and a-sex. As Freud used to say, the symbols visualized in our dreams look unrelated to sex but in reality they are sexual in nature. In the poetry of R.K. Singh, the process is just opposite. Poems look to be sexual and personal, but they involve asexual and apersonal elements. Thus, it is from the space of sex that the poems make a journey to the social, cultural and political.

--------------- -------------

[All the references are from the R.K.Singh's  collected poems entitled Sense and Silence:Collected Poems: 1974-2009 published by YKing Books, Jaipur, 2010. (ISBN 9788191058826).  Numbers in the brackets refer to page numbers and poem numbers.]

Dr Raghuvanshmani Tripathi
365, Ismail Ganj
Amaniganj, Faizabad 224001 (UP)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Year Haiku in DIOGEN

Ram Krishna Singh 

locked between 
my bed and quilt 
new year chill 

zaključana između 
moje postelje i pokrivača 
novogodišnja hladnoća

DIOGEN pro art magazine
Novi broj / New issue

No. / Broj  44 - 01.02.2014.
Salvador Dali, 

Monday, February 03, 2014




I am glad to have this opportunity to speak to such a distinguished group of lovers and admirers of Indian English poetry.  My colleague and organizer the Seminar, Dr Rajni Singh wanted me to reflect on some of the recent women poets from the perspective of a practitioner of poetry as well as  the academic profession.

Speaking as a poet, and,  if we claim a belonging to what we call Indian English Writing, then we should ensure that we are not dumped without being read or assessed, which is unfortunately not  the case as we observe today. A little large heartedness is necessary in our own interest, that is, for being remembered as Indian English poets and writers. Otherwise, the cause will die, repeating the praise for a handful of socalled well known poets, who think  poetry started with them and died with them. We also need to shed our ego.

Speaking as an academic, it pleases us to share with you that since we started the MPhil programme in the Department of Humanites & Social Sciences here at ISM, we have been encouraging students to write their dissertations on new, less known, unknown Indian English poets and writers. They have already explored works of such new poets and writers as R. Rabindranath Menon, Pronab Kumar Majumder, Niranjan Mohanty, VVB Ramarao, Y.S. Rajan, APJ Abdul Kalam, S.L Peeran, Syed Ameeruddin, Hazara Singh, P K Joy, D C Chambial, B Ahmad, Pashupati Jha, Vihang Naik, Manas Bakshi, Biplab Majumdar, Tabish Khair, Manu Joseph, Raj Kamal Jha, etc. Among the women poets and writers, our students have examined works of   Jaishree Mishra, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Mani Rao, and others including Mamang Dai, S. Radhamani, Dipanwita Mukerjee,Sudha Iyer, Nirmala Pillai, Venu Arora, Chitra Doijode, Prabha Mehta, Asha Viswas, etc. We have encouraged scholars to write their PhD theses also on new and less known poets and writers such as I K Sharma, Maha Nand Sharma, R K Singh etc.

In this perspective, the seminar not only  celebrates the contribution of so many new and less known women poets  the main stream academia  and media have been reluctant to talk about,  but it is also an exercise to discover new talents for academic exploration. Many of them have been writing and publishing against various  odds.

Moreover, there has  been a male ‘look’, or outlook, but the female response to that look (or outlook) is now an active and powerful look; the women poets’ in-look, and outlook too, is challenging; they examine, as their poetry reveals, their private and public life, or everyday experiences boldly; they integrate the flesh into their beliefs and representations just as they have been traditionally linking themselves to their home, family, motherhood, social life, solitude, god, nature, myths. With the profound changes that have taken place in their lives, their choices, and their opportunities in the recent period, their status, roles, occupation, and legal position, they now voice their own visions and understanding of the everyday life, often cutting across cultures and regions.  When they portray their sexuality, or comment on our sexual politics, they also tell us how woman is also master of her own place in poetical creation.

Several new collections that I could lay my hands on demonstrate their sensitivities and struggles that appeal for their lack of pedantry, moral commentary, or unnecessary romanticizing.  They exploit the medium to understand the why or how of life on the one hand, and to enrich and celebrate the female consciousness, redeeming their physical and spiritual existence, on the other.  They sound warm, vibrant and capable.

Let’s also take note of certain obvious realities. Quite a number of our contemporary poets-- male or female, and in their 30s, 40s, 50s, or 60s, with a 20th century consciousness—have learnt to live with a world in upheaval. They have grown up in  very disappointing external conditions of living. It has been normal for them (in fact, it’s one of our collective cultural traits as Indians) to think intuitively, and/or turn personal, inward, godward, or spirit-ward; their capability lies in their emotional sensitivity than in intellectual abstraction.  It is not their escapism  but an urge for changing the situation for themselves.

Let me begin with a couple of very recent instances reported in the media:

In the neighbouring Afghanistan, some dozen Kabul women, who call poetry their sword, are determined to protect their new-found freedom despite constant death threats from the Talibans.  Poetry is their form of resistance in a taboo-ridden, extremely conservative and almost illiterate society that treat poetry writing as sin.  Karima Shabrang, for example, uses explicit images of intimacy: “I miss you… my hands are stretching from the ruins of Kabul…I want to invite you to my room for delicious smoke... and you will  give me refuge in your shivering red body.”  More and more women there are waging their  fight for rights, including their rights to write and be heard.

 Participating in a discussion in the recently concluded Jaipur Literary Festival, the author of The Exiled,
 Fariba Hachtroudi, shared her experiences in the changing Arab world and said: “The power men want to have over women is the biggest obstacle in our society.”  Fariba has written a lot of erotic poetry. Shereen Feki, the author of Sex and the Citadel, stressed that social behavior is closely linked with what happens behind the closed doors of bedrooms. To quote her, “Sexuality is a rich way of looking at society. What happens inside bedrooms is related to outside life. If we don’t allow freedom in private lives, it won’t be achieved in public sphere.”
 Freedom to express themselves freely and creatively is something most women find hard to have, but some of them, not necessarily subscribing to feminist practices have honestly and boldly shown how their modernity lies in their attempt to change “thinking and growing.”                                                           Women poets in India have been opening up and talking about their intimate lives since Kamala Das challenged taboos, conservative norms and male dominance before herself disappearing behind the veil. They know well how hard it is to tackle the taboos around sex and sexual expression, yet they make their sexuality a positive presence as they structure what is “letting off steam” or release of tension, or self-analysis or social criticism.
 A poet like Joyshri Lobo (Bittersweet, 1989), for example, feels deeply hurt by the way a woman is treated and made to suffer  “self-righteous wrath.”  Her anger is representative of every woman when she questions:  “Is  the entrance to my womb/all that you crave for?/Are the sounds of love/All that you can offer me?/Have I no mind/ no secret emotions,/no hidden longings?/Do I not crave for/words, for similes/for many worldly conversations?/…since when have I become / a piece—decorative, useful/To be given an occasional rub,/cleaned and varnished,/Discarded when age mellows the glitter/And dust dirties the once smooth surface?” (‘Lament of an Indian Woman’).  Like others, she too raises her voice against her being a nobody: “A debris of household drudgery/mechanized, momentary sex/a cold limp handhold,”   “a slave to Indian manhood.”
  Poets such as Prabha Mehta, Purabi Patnaik, Vijaya Goel, Mani Rao, Anuradha Nalapet, Venu Arora, Kamal Gurtaj Singh, Renu Singh Parmar, Chandni Kapur, etc are open, bold and honest. They have energy to fight discrimination and stigma just as they question others’ stereotypes and prejudices. They react against being neglected, against hypocrisy, oral duplicity, false ethical and cultural values, and challenge the community’s norms and attitudes about sex and sexpression. They are intuitive, interpretative, and evaluative of the contemporary social, political and economic realities and present texts that reflect their responses to the flux of experiences.                                                     
Poets such as Rita Malhotra, Monima Chudhury, Tara Patel, Jyotirmayee Mohapatra, Madhavi Lata Agarwal, Shilpa Vishwanath, Jelena Narayanan, Sunanda Mukherjee, and others invite us to understand them vis-à-vis the realities of their mental and physical sufferings, betrayal and infidelity in marital life, denial of sensual fulfillment, false sense of pride or fear of shame, physical isolation and sexual neglect, and desperate struggle for a meaning in life and living.  Their critique reveals the chauvinistic attitude vis-à-vis the male/female emotions trapped in human body which prompts a strong assertiveness, exposing their secret self besides showing disapproval of what predominates in our private and social set up. Expression of sex helps them achieve some kind of liberating effects against the various forms of ‘structural oppression’ emanating from male dominance, authority and conviction on the one hand, and a variety of contradictory cultural, social, sexual and aesthetic attitude, on the other.
 Women poets, like their male counterparts, seek to know themselves as composites, contradictory, and even incompatible.  They understand that each of us is many different people – serious and frivolous, bold and timorous,  loud and quiet, aggressive and abashed. They too write to express themselves, accommodating a variety  of differences, including inner and outer conflicts, sufferings and celebrations, even as they appear marginalized.

   Asha Viswas, who has absorbed numerous suppressed tensions, griefs and ups and downs in life, is aware of her vulnerability as a woman. She expresses her concern about everything that matters to an ordinary person: “Life was always/too  overbearing/I neither had chance/Nor choice to decide/My name, surname.” Though she values love and treasures its memories, she recalls in plain irony how before she could even learn “the grammar of his face/in the sentence of his body/…analyzing  his gestures/synthesizing his moods/…/He raised a big structure/of surface ambiguities/That left us unfortunate parallel lines”  (‘The Misunderstanding’). She discovers she has been  “left a fresco/on  a broken wall” (‘In the Blues’).  The inner storm she endures makes her wonder: “How could I hum of happiness/from devasted, dark ruins?” and “why do fate and I meet/always at wrong angles?” The ‘trinity’ of “the ego, the world and the entropy” haunts her (‘Agony).
          Tejinder Kaur thinks and feels “the rhythm of life/which is not smooth/to be set in a pattern.” She understands the design “at deeper level/planned and schemed by Maker” just as she is aware of transitoriness of the drama, the “foolishness of grabbings, maneuverings/leaving materials,  carrying/accumulated imprints.”  She images the process of her personal growth vis-à-vis the complex of egoistic clashes, lack of mutual understanding, and weakening values of fidelity, honesty, commitment and love. Thus, she seeks to “open the silent chamber of her creative and critical self.”  The poems in her collections, Reflections (2001) and Images (2002) present a matured and confident voice with serious thoughts and reflections rooted in self-experience, observation, understanding, and idealism.
                Sunanda Mukherjee reflects her personal disappointments and disillusion with love, marriage and life: “I realized that love meant/Torture, treachery, and polygamy/That love means selfish sadism/… Now I know/The real meaning of love/And also, that/Woman must handle it with care.”  The “countless injuries,” and selfish sadism that her narrator has suffered in love make her “terror-stricken heart” so vunerable that she feels “empty” as a woman. In her moments of self-pity and disgust she even challenges God, who, in his male form, could never understand the sufferings and tortures a woman is made to undergo. If God could ever have a female form, He would realize “that the heaviness of time/is often heavier than life.”  In her personal and lyrical voice is pronounced deep discontentment, disillusion, uncertainty, and unhappiness with not only the near and dear ones but also the “faithless world,” humanity, and life itself.
               Dancer-dreamer poet, Indrayanee Mukherjee strikes a different note in her maiden collection, Images that Catch the Eye (2004): “The colour of her lips leaves an impression/on the cup she drinks from/…she touches her mouth to the rim of the mug./It is a relief from the cold, the weather outside” (‘Coffee Shop’); “A placid wave and streaks of the sun bleached sky./ A gust of heavy fiery wind and a lone peddler on his cycle peddles by./ A narrow straight curvature of the road…/ and yet another story unfods the lateral planes of a contrast/ that a city called Benares lives by.” (‘Benares’) and “The truth of the masks/The  sentiment of a foetus tucked away in its mother’s womb./All of it is my own, personally etched brutality.” (Why these verses reek of misery?’)
                Another new poet, who strikes a strong feminine presence, is Jelena Narayanan (Chennai). Her The Gold Comb and Other Poems (2003) with delicate feelings and passionate yearnings images love with commitment: “When the white musty walls/ Begin to close themselves upon me,/The air  becomes humid/Wrapping itself around my body/Slowly, with unchanging rhythm;/ I think of your/And I drown myself” (‘I Think of You’) and “…my being without you/Is wrong” (“Apartness’). Jelena is intensely personal and lyrical, with whispers of the soul in her articulation of both happy and sad feelings  in various moments of man-woman relationship.
                Shilpa Viswanath’s debut collection Pause (2001) evinces her keen interest in social issues: She observes “rocket motors , coolies,/devotees with dreams/ In different episodes” alongside “Mothers in menopause,/Daughters in adolescence./Cross roads, cranky minds.” (No Matter what’) . She recognizes and uses well, what she calls “in neighborly lingo” to mirror the world around her.
                There are over a dozen others who effectively respond to chaos and degeneration in all walks of life, lopsided values, hypocrisy, inner tensions, isolation, socio-economic hardship, feeling of void and/or sense of lack of meaning and purpose in life today.  In varying forms and rhythms, most women poets introspect and self-question, sharing their mind and memory, which is qualitatively superior to most male-poets writing in English today.  Frankly speaking, they exhibit a better word power and stronger sense appeal. They tend to be introvert and explore themselves with awareness of women’s degradation, exploitation, subordination and/or brutality and injustice to them simply for being women.  They seek freedom from the strangling confinement of the male-structured society and use poetry to experience peace of mind: “My perceptions are dulled/And my spirit struggles to escape/The caged bird in me,” says Shwetasree Majumder (‘Confinement’). They exude faith in themselves vis-à-vis their identity, sex relationship, and concern for women’s dignity.  They know their anchor and reason ‘to  be’ and recreate “the jigsaw that is life,” without excluding nature, love, home, society, god or future.  They sound more honest, more sincere, “freer, wider, larger/and infinitely lonelier,” to quote from Shwetasree Majumder’s  poem ‘Epilogue’.
                Rita Nath Keshri reveals a very sensitive mind: “I am married to a house/whose doors shut me in./Her fire ordeal was only once/But mine is repeated”  and “But the stone-breakers, do they see/My mind’s vast arid zone/Through which howl/ the desert winds?” Keshri is one of the thirteen poets, including Maria Netto, Themis, K.M. Shantha, Seema Devi, and U.R. Anusha from Pondicherry , who make up P.Raja’s anthology, In Celebration: Women Poets of Pondicherry (2003) and voice the same spiritual themes as experienced in Sri Aurobindo Ashram poets.  They are meditative an d interpretative, sharing the larger sentiments expressed by other women poets.  They are also personal and  lyrical, echoing  spiritual  feelings and sensations in their daily living and experiences, and celebrating their inner consciousness despite ugliness of man’s mind and disharmony all around.
                A Kashmiri woman poet, Syeda Afshana, who boldly disapproves of politicians and people who hold anti-women views, is critical of the media for reducing Kashmir to “propaganda symbolism.” She touches themes such as bloodshed, violence, insurgency, loss, sacrifice, and relationship.  It is, however, her “different” attitude that makes her  notable.  Her sadness is evident when she says: “A scream that is/only mine, just mine,/and has remained unchanged/since times immemorial.” (The Fugitive Sunshine, p. 24).
                Menka Shivadasani, who recently edited Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry (Big Bridge Press, 2013), mentions in her Nirvana at Ten Rupees (1990) several disturbing experiences, arising out of living alone in a small flat (in Mumbai) and the anxieties of a single woman’s life vis-à-vis the sordid world of sex, drugs, broken relationship etc.  She sounds remarkable with twists in her faith just as she is strongly aware of her restive spirit, inner tensions, and sexuality.  To quote from her poem ‘Epitaph’:  “My religion calls for blood,/redness draped across the eyes,/wrapped tight around the skin…./The story begins like a wrinkle on the face/and does not end/when the wrinkles freeze./ But that is when the surface/ turns to white and I hold  my pain/ in its plastic tube/ let the fluid fall.” 
                Writing in response to the gang rape of a 23 years old girl in New Delhi about a year ago, Chandni Singh feels part of every woman that gets raped. Let me read her poem ‘I am a Woman in India’:
            I have had my breasts fondled.
Not by a lover,
but strangers on a bus.
I have been gyrated against
as I navigate the city:
packed like sardines
they are more depraved than animals.           
I have had penises flashed at me
whose owners I know not;
they only come with a pair of lust-laced eyes
and a soulless smile.
I can hold my own on issues
about the environment.
I can wax eloquent about literature and music.
I am told, I am the future;
and for a moment I am bent into believing
in the bubble I have bought into.
But every morning,
I cower.
ego slouches
as it is castrated at the hands of
crotch-clutching goondas.
I have lost count:
there are too many to fight.
I may be liberated. And educated,
but my fire has been doused.
Neither rhetoric nor review can
bring me solace.
And so, I turn the other cheek.
I have become deaf to the whistles and
blind to the lewdness.
I adjust my dupatta
and look straight ahead
as they line the streets and pucker their mouths.
I am just a woman in India.

            The poets anthologized in Eunice D’Souza’s  anthology, Nine Indian Women Poets: An Anthology, 2001 and Shivadasani’s Big Bridge Anthology (2013) collectively present women poets as a vibrant community. Their metaphors and images invariably reflect their inner landscape as much as their responses to what they observe or experience externally.
Now let me conclude.  As they create discourse of themselves as the opposite sex and present a feminine perspective, many of them  sound committed to their home, family, children, motherhood, social life, and solitude, often voicing their own vision and understanding which cuts across cultures and regions. They articulate womanhood and female sexuality to comment on the male-structured norms and sexual politics and appear in control of themselves, transcending their body or feminity and respecting the woman in themselves. They turn inside out and reveal what is personal yet universal in their different roles as mother, wife, daughter, and feeling the agony of the spirit while trying to know “who am I?” As they look back or reflect their present--  be it job-stress, role-playing, domestic responsibility, life’s riches, personal losses, or death-fear—as female, some of them appear critical of the stereotyped sex-role and confinement of women within the domestic space just as some others try to balance their personal and social existence through a memory of lived experiences.  Some of them voice a
strong family bond, sense of togetherness, sense of family unity vis-à-vis their inner conflicts and/or spiritual hunger. 
But almost every woman poet seems to give the message that women need not feel diffident or inferior and try to be bold enough to venture into new  areas even if they find themselves standing at the edge, lonely, or dependent.  They express an alternative motive and impulse for social action at a very personal level, an urge for changing the situation for themselves, or for being in peace with oneself.  They seek to create a new culture as they rationalize how we ought to live in future.

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