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The Looking Glass -- Kamala Das

Guest poem submitted by Vidur:
(Poem #804) The Looking Glass
 Getting a man to love you is easy
 Only be honest about your wants as
 Woman. Stand nude before the glass with him
 So that he sees himself the stronger one
 And believes it so, and you so much more
 Softer, younger, lovelier. Admit your
 Admiration. Notice the perfection
 Of his limbs, his eyes reddening under
 The shower, the shy walk across the bathroom floor,
 Dropping towels, and the jerky way he
 Urinates. All the fond details that make
 Him male and your only man. Gift him all,
 Gift him what makes you woman, the scent of
 Long hair, the musk of sweat between the breasts,
 The warm shock of menstrual blood, and all your
 Endless female hungers. Oh yes, getting
 A man to love is easy, but living
 Without him afterwards may have to be
 Faced. A living without life when you move
 Around, meeting strangers, with your eyes that
 Gave up their search, with ears that hear only
 His last voice calling out your name and your
 Body which once under his touch had gleamed
 Like burnished brass, now drab and destitute.
-- Kamala Das
I noticed that you've run a couple of poems by Eunice De Souza but none by
the other excellent contemporary Indian woman poet, Kamala Das. This is by
far my favourite Kamala Das poem. I'm not terribly good with analyses, but
I'll try to express what I like about the poem.

Kamala Das, like all good poets, displays excellent control over her words.
There's a quiet strength in her verse. And unabashed candour. For instance,
I like the way in which she describes human (male) quirks as defining
intimacy in a relationship. Even though on the surface the poem appears to
encourage submissiveness, it's really about being in control (even with the
melancholic end). This underlying message comes through clearly in the lines
"... so that he sees himself the stronger one / And believes it so" (i.e.,
let him believe what pleases him) and "Gift him ... all your / Endless
female hungers" (the paradox in "gift" and "your hungers" is particularly
good: satisfy *your* needs, it says, and use the essence of being a woman to
do so).

A brief bio of the poet can be found here:
http://www.emory.edu/ENGLISH/Bahri/Das.html

Vidur.

[Minstrels Links]

Other contemporary Indian poets writing in English include

Eunice de Souza:
Poem #603, "Marriages are Made
Poem #682, "Advice to Women

A. K. Ramanujan:
Poem #382, "A River"
Poem #434, "Extended Family"

Nissim Ezekiel:
Poem #516, "The Patriot"
Poem #579, "The Professor"
Poem #714, "Night of the Scorpion"

Vikram Seth:
Poem #650, "All You Who Sleep Tonight"
Poem #754, "Protocols"
Poem #460, "Round and Round"

24 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

> I noticed that you've run a couple of poems by Eunice De Souza but none by
> the other excellent contemporary Indian woman poet, Kamala Das. This is by
> far my favourite Kamala Das poem. I'm not terribly good with analyses, but
> I'll try to express what I like about the poem.

Excellent? There's nothing like this. This poem hits hard - but it seems
to be written to _deliberately_ hit hard, if you know what I mean.

She gives me the impression of trying too hard, to be more feminist than the
most rabid feminist ... and I have read a few feminist poets (Adrienne Rich,
Maxine Kumin and such come to mind).

FWIW, I have a distant (and old) relative whose family was quite close to
Kamala Das's family. That's a nice old man - but he wasn't exactly very
complimentary about Ms.Das ditching her husband like she did.

Yeah, generation gap, conservationism and such aside, he wasn't impressed by
her all that much. Neither was I, or am I.

-s

Anonymous said...

Please provide the original text of the poems

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