Women’s Day Special
Sarita Jenamani, poet, essayist, feminist and the PEN Austria general Secretary, explores poetry and women
Self portrait — Amrita Shergil
Gypsy girl — Amrita Shergil
Three women — Amrita Shergil
“You are a poem, though your poem’s naught.” This was said by well known American poet and critic, Ezra Pound (as quoted by H. D., End To Torment (New York, 1979), p. 12.), of a woman poet. Is it a fair statement?
On the other hand, American writer, feminist and activist, Audre Lorde said, “ For women, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity for our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”
Since ages and across the cultures, women are more close to words than to silence. The medium of poetry has always played an important role in the process of communication. Poetry written by women opens up like linen of plentitude and possibility in every cultural scenario. Women write to record their history and as part of the common legacy of literary history. Female poetic practises forms an important part of women’s literary history.
Modern women writers reflect feminism and elaborate female identity in their works. Writers’ movements, their techniques and thematic works are necessary to understand women’s issues and feminine concepts in different situations and stages of their lives. They develop a female framework through figurative languages. Women’s poetry is all about decoding the silence, this is a search of the unspoken. Poetry has often been noted as a form of resistance and a powerful way to give voice to those who do not have it. Through the richly woven carpet of women’s poetry, ornamented by various texts and textures, women express themselves and mould their destiny. Their voices are loaded with the enormous power of language and individuality. In them exists an obsession for writing and speaking within the subversive tradition.
By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
To do otherwise would be to deny an integral part of myself. I write because I must, because of my addiction to the feel of an ink pen between my fingers scribbling word-code onto one blank page after another. To me, writing is an aesthetic pleasure that sets every fibre of my being into vibration, when I’m actually doing it. The other reason I write is to be able to make sense of my own thoughts and feelings, and creatively express them onto the page or screen. Sometimes, just the writing process is a form of catharsis for me, even though my scribbles make no sense.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
My last book, Afterlife: Ghost stories from Goa, published by Rupa (2012) is a novel that follows the lives of X generations within a Goan family. At a get-together to celebrate the patriarch’s 75th birthday, there is a powercut that leads organically to the family swapping ghost-stories. Through the process or sharing oral histories, the family history and some secrets are revealed. The structure became an important part of telling the story of the family; I used a frame narrative device to interlink the individual stories. It’s more of a commentary about the social mores of South Goan society, diasporic culture and religious aspects among other things. My intention was to create a story that wasn’t just about ‘ghosts’ but about the things that haunt us emotionally and psychologically.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
Excavating words to reveal complex layers of emotion. At least, that’s the aspiration!
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
I write to keep my sanity in a world that is so chaotic. I have always had this retreat from life. I remember, as a child I was a misfit in every sense of the word. I was that painfully shy, awkward, mousy girl with no friends. I tried to fight that by being aggressive and picking up fights but that resulted in even lesser acceptance. In the end I simply turned inwards, started writing on bits and scraps of paper and retreated from the world. I found great joy in the little world I had created for myself. I told no one about my writing. Not even my family because I did not want to be laughed at. I did not want to be judged anymore.
To this day I write to keep my sanity. I love the act of sitting down with a pen and paper or at my laptop and being by myself. The act of writing calms me, quietens me and takes away the stresses and strains of having to deal with the mundanities of everyday life. I write when I am angry, when I am sad, when I am restless…And when I am done writing, there is a feeling of lightness, a high that carries me for the rest of the day.
Maya Angelou was a St. Louis native who became one of America’s most celebrated poets, novelists and civil rights activists. She survived a sometimes desperate upbringing to become a force on stage, screen and the printed page.
She died Wednesday (May 28, 2014) at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C., where she had served as professor of American studies at Wake Forest University. She was 86. No cause of death was given, although she had become increasingly frail.