I am pretty sure that I have read Nine Indian Women Poets: An Anthology, edited by Eunice De Souza, in my undergraduate days but I stumbled upon it once again in the library and the faint familiarity of the poems within the book wafted in my mind.
As the title suggests, Nine Indian Women Poets: An Anthology, contains a selection of poems written in English by nine Indian female poets. The poets included in this anthology are Mamta Kalia, Kamala Das, Melanie Silgardo, Eunice De Souza herself, Imtiaz Dharker, Smita Agarwal, Sujata Bhatt, Charmayne D’Souza and Tara Patel.
The most familiar poets for me were Mamta Kalia, Kamala Das, Eunice De Souza, Imtiaz Dharker and Sujata Bhatt.
My favourite has to definitely be Mamta Kalia’s cheeky and wry poetic style.
Most of the nine poets have a common theme through them of addressing ideas and issues that affect them such as identity and language, marital relations, family matters or even ex lovers. However, saying that this is all that their poems express would be a gross generalisation which I will not be a party to. Each of the nine poets have specific issues that they deftly express. Each is versatile and each has her own unique style.
For instance, one of the central ideas in Kamala Das’ poems included in his collection is navigating the dynamic of male and female gender roles. On the other hand, Mamta Kalia’s poems artfully use wit to portray women and their routines and challenge those very routines, be it in the automatic love expected out of a daughter to her father or the routines of married life. Whereas Sujata Bhatt’s poems are on the other end of the spectrum where she tries to make sense of the various identities that she carries within. Eunice De Souza’s poems however often take into consideration very Goan Catholic themes as do Melanie Silgardo’s poems.
One of my favourite poems is by Melanie Silgardo titled, Cat, simply because of its words’ visual power that being a cat lover, I can immediately recognise as being typically belonging to any cat’s idiosyncrasies.
Mamta Kalia’s poem, Tribute to Papa, is another of my favourites as it boldly challenges a typical Indian privilege we proffer on to our fathers. The poem stands out because of its sheer defiance.
All in all, Nine Indian Women Poets: An Anthology is a visual and aural delight as one gets to read the best of 20th century female Indian poets.
Be sure to read them out loud and immerse yourself in their lilting rhythms!