Kamala Das Sept 23, 2008 20:11:33 GMT 2
Post by moira on Sept 23, 2008 20:11:33 GMT 2
introduced by Farideh Hassanzadeh-Mostafavi
Recognized as one of India's foremost poets, Kamala Das was born on March 31, 1934 in Malabar in Kerala. Her love of poetry began at an early age through the influence of her great uncle, Nalapat Narayana Menon, a prominent writer. Kamala was also deeply affected by the poetry of her mother, Nalapat Balamani Amma, one of the most eminent Indian poets. She was privately educated until the age of 15 when she was married. She was 16 when her first son was born and says that she "was mature enough to be a mother only when my third child was born."
She has written five books of poetry, a fictional autobiography, a novels, novellas and a collection of short stories. She is also the most famous woman writer of fiction in Malayalam. In Malayalam she writes under the name Madhavikkuty. She is known now as Kamala Suraiyya after her conversion to Islam.
Kamala Das has travelled widely to give readings and talks at universities, and was specially invited to the South Bank Centre Poetry Festival in London.
She was short-listed for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1984.
Three Poems from Nine Indian Women Poets
The Stone Age (from The Old Playhouse and Other Poems)
Fond husband, ancient settler in the mind,
Old fat spider, weaving webs of bewilderment,
Be kind. You turn me into a bird of stone, a granite
Dove, you build round me a shabby room,
And stroke my pitted face absent-mindedly while
You read. With loud talk you bruise my pre-morning sleep,
You stick a finger into my dreaming eye. And
Yet, on daydreams, strong men cast their shadows, they sink
Like white suns in the swell of my Dravidian blood,
Secretly flow the drains beneath sacred cities.
When you leave, I drive my blue battered car
Along the bluer sea. I run up the forty
Noisy steps to knock at another's door.
Though peep-holes, the neighbours watch,
they watch me come
And go like rain. Ask me, everybody, ask me
What he sees in me, ask me why he is called a lion,
A libertine, ask me why his hand sways like a hooded snake
Before it clasps my pubis. Ask me why like
A great tree, felled, he slumps against my breasts,
And sleeps. Ask me why life is short and love is
Shorter still, ask me what is bliss and what its price....
The Dance of the Eunuchs (from Summer in Calcutta)
It was hot, so hot, before the eunuchs came
To dance, wide skirts going round and round, cymbals
Richly clashing, and anklets jingling, jingling
Jingling... Beneath the fiery gulmohur, with
Long braids flying, dark eyes flashing, they danced and
They dance, oh, they danced till they bled... There were green
Tattoos on their cheeks, jasmines in their hair, some
Were dark and some were almost fair. Their voices
Were harsh, their songs melancholy; they sang of
Lovers dying and or children left unborn....
Some beat their drums; others beat their sorry breasts
And wailed, and writhed in vacant ecstasy. They
Were thin in limbs and dry; like half-burnt logs from
Funeral pyres, a drought and a rottenness
Were in each of them. Even the crows were so
Silent on trees, and the children wide-eyed, still;
All were watching these poor creatures' convulsions
The sky crackled then, thunder came, and lightning
And rain, a meagre rain that smelt of dust in
Attics and the urine of lizards and mice....
The Maggots (from The Descendants)
At sunset, on the river ban, Krishna
Loved her for the last time and left...
That night in her husband's arms, Radha felt
So dead that he asked, What is wrong,
Do you mind my kisses, love? And she said,
No, not at all, but thought, What is
It to the corpse if the maggots nip?
Farideh Hassanzadeh-Mostafavi is a poet, translator and freelance journalist. Her first book of poetry was published when she was twenty-two. Her poems appear in the anthologies Contemporary Women Poets of Iran and Anthology of Best Women Poets. She is the author of The Last Night with Sylvia Plath: Essays on Poetry. She has extensively translated World literature into Persian. Among her several publications are: Selected Poems of T.S. Eliot, Marina Tsvetaeva, Blaga Dimitrova, Iroslav Seifert, Anthology of Contemporary African Poetry, Women Poets of the World, Twentieth Century Latin American Poetry Pablo Neruda:(A Passion for Life), and The Beauty of Friendship: Selected Poems by Khalil Gibran. Her latest work is Anthology of American Poetry
Her translations of Kamala Das's poetry will be published next year.