Ms. Militancy: Poems

by Meena Kandasamy    /  September 22, 2010  / No comments

Meena Kandasamy just finished the final manuscripts of her second poetry collection, Ms. Militancy.

Kandasamy poems retell Hindu/Tamil myths, in a feminist, anti-hierarchy, and anti-caste perspective. Some of the poems make the myths contemporary by locating it in today’s world.

Sampsonia Way presents this selection of poetry to be published by Navayana, New Delhi, November 2010.

Once my silence held you spellbound

(on reading bell hooks)

…..denial of democracy follows the assertion of authority
…..manipulating machinery of the state metes out violent punishment
…..or at patriarchy’s refined best doles out verbal harassment
…..likewise exploitation and entanglement and estrangement share
…..a common platform that is threatened by the fear of exposure
…..and the terror of betrayal and everything leads to devaluation
…..of the militating marginalized who seek to disrupt dismantle
…..and destroy the status-quo even as they struggle against
…..the erasure of identity that robs them of expression and
…..makes them exiles condemned to remain voiceless
…..speechless tongueless incapable of any transgress

You wouldn’t discuss me because my suffering
was not theoretical enough. Enough. Enough.
Enough. Now I am theoretical enough.
I am theatrical enough.

I have learnt all these big big words.
I can use them with abandon.
I can misuse them. I can refuse them.
I can throw them about and one day,
I can throw them out.
I am the renegade who can drop
these multi-syllable monsters
for stylistic, studied effect.
I am the rebel who can drop them altogether.
I invent new ones every passing day.
FYI, OED consults me. Roget’s Thesaurus
finds it tough to stay updated.

But because I use these bedeviled words
the way you use me never means
that I have stopped seething in anger
that I have stopped swearing.

Prayers to the red slayer

hey, villain who willed our deaths
son-of-a-guest who scribbled it on our foreheads
maniac who birthed this chaotic universe and the castes
(and who, according to reliable sources
raped your own daughter)
four-faced dour-faced father figure
who fucked up our lives . . .

the world will know your story
after you’ve been made landless
and locked out of every place of worship,
every place worth entering.

then, try becoming a civil-rights activist,
try fighting to gain attention, grow old and weary
shouting slogans and if you are ever called
to pose for the camera, or give those interviews,
drop that pen and stop writing our story
as if it were your own.

Most of the poems were written when Kandasamy was a writer-in-residence at the International Writing Program University of Iowa.

Read our exclusive interview with Meena.

About the Author

Meena Kandasamy is a poet, essayist and fiction writer from India. She debuted with the poetry collection Touch (2006), and has since published in The Little Magazine, the Quarterly Literary Review, Singapore, and elsewhere. A former editor of The Dalit that reflects the voice of India’s ex-untouchables, she has also translated the writings of the Tamil Eelam leaders. In 2007 she was selected for 21 under 40: New Fiction for a New Generation, the Zubaan Anthology of Young Women Writing in South Asia. Her collection of short-stories Black Magic will be published later this year. She is a contributing editor to Muse India and writes for the feminist blog Ultra Violet. She participates courtesy of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Exchange at the US Department of State. In September, 2009, he was a featured poet in the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s Jazz Poetry concert. Read more about Meena on her blog.

View all articles by Meena Kandasamy

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