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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

"An Introduction" by Kamala Das

You can read the poem here: AN INTRODUCTION

Kamala Das
An Introduction is a poem which provides a focus for an exercise in autobiography. Kamala Das impresses by being very much herself in this poem and the tone is distinctively feminine. Critical response to Das’ poetry has been intimately connected to critical perception of her personality and politics; her provocative poetry has seldom produced lukewarm reactions.

Kamala Das’ poetry has been often praised for the originality, bold images, exploration of female sexuality, and intensely personal voice; however, there is a lack of structure and craftsmanship in her verses. We, the readers, often find powerful feminist images in Das’ poetry, focusing on critiques of marriage, motherhood, women’s relationships to their bodies and power over their sexuality, and the roles women are offered in traditional Indian society. Many critics have analyzed Das as “confessional” poet, writing in the tradition of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Denise Levertov. Though Das does not adapt to the poetry writing in the traditional aesthetic form, she has created a new language for the expression and many scholars agree that Das is an important figure whose bold and honest voice has re-energized Indian writing in English.

Das’ An Introduction is a poem which experiences a few shifts in the mood; what starts of as a sarcastic comment on politics and on the label of ‘Indo-Anglian’ later shifts to the personal and biological aspects of the narrator, which according to Das is a story of ‘every woman’. By the end the poet calls herself a ‘human’ who is very much sensitive to everything just as how a ‘man’ is.

The poem begins with a note on ‘history’ and how ‘memory’ plays its role in storing the past. The poet says that she knows all the names of those who were and are in power and can recite it anytime but one thing she doesn’t know is the role of ‘politics’. By saying so, Das mocks at the political embodiment in the society and by whom is this political organization run by.

Kamala Das touches upon the issue of language as well. She detests all the categorizers and who tell her to write in her regional language instead of writing in English and her reply, as she quotes, is;
          “… I speak three languages, write in
          Two, dream in one…”
Though Kamala Das prefers writing in English, she claims that it is original and still Indian and the distortions and queerness present in her writings is her own. She uses simple animal and natural imagery to substantiate that she can best express herself in English than in any other language. Also, this particular issue is seen in yet another poem which can serve as a good reference here - Don’t Call Me Indo-Anglian by Syed Amanuddin deals with almost the same issue. The poet is categorized under the title ‘Indo-Anglian’, meaning an Indian writing in English language; and he too abhors the ‘label-makers’ justifying his say by giving various nostalgic moments from his life and stay in India.

An Introduction then shifts to a different mood where the poet talks about her early youth and how she asked for love but was deceived.
Kamala Das as Kamala Suraiya
          “...For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the
          Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me
          But my sad woman-body felt so beaten.”
These lines show how Kamala Das (as an autobiographical character in the poem) felt insulted not because she was a victim of abuse physically but her character and the ‘womanliness’ was misused and abused. After having said the bitter instances of her past, Das now turns to raise a voice of protest where she ignores her “womanliness” by wearing a shirt and her brother’s trousers and cutting her hair short. She steps out of the so-called “domestic arena” and begins to add weight to her say in the world. The poem rests on a very impacting message to those women who need immense support in voicing out their opinions. A reference can be made to a poem, Trouser Enthusiast by Paula Glynn, where she too begins the poem by saying that she is a ‘feminist’ and that she too has equal rights to see, learn and enjoy, what the world offers, in great depths.

          “…I have no joys that are not yours, no
          Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.”
These lines depict the very heavy emotions of a human being, meaning, the poet wants to be treated equal and that she is no less than ‘man’ in holding responsibilities. Also, we, the readers, get to know the sense of ‘identity crises’ being portrayed. The very word ‘I’ which is referred to someone who can take a firm stand in the society and someone who can make decisions and enjoy freedom; and ‘I’ in this context is referred to a man, but Das contradicts this and substantiates by calling herself as ‘I’, as someone who should be respected.

In a way, Kamala Das’ work, to an extent, is connected to larger historical and cultural contexts and complicated, shifting postcolonial identities. Though many scholars do not approve of Kamala Das as an aesthetic poet, they still find her as a prominent figure for the explicitness, honest and bold expressions in her writings.

23 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I did read her autobiography, which is quite interesting, some how I always feel when some one speaks of his/ her opinion every one starts putting them in to some category for ex. if one talks of women and their opinion first thing comes 'feminist' category does one need to put one into category. Any ways your write up is really thought provoking

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    2. @Arun - Of what I have read so far about Kamala Das, I find her as an interesting woman for she led a life by the decisions she made for herself. I am sure not everyone can be so bold enough like her. And, like you, I too don't understand categorization. Thank you for taking out time and reading my blogpost Sir! :)

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    3. wav!!! really stunning analysis Suhasini.... the right and well constructed style... I salute you.

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  2. Very nice, also the photograph you picked of Kamala. What is the piano song played in your blog called?

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    1. Thank you Aldo! You can get the piano music by typing 'Soft Healing Music - Piano' in Google.

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  3. hay suhansi di ,,can u please give me brief ,i mean at least 2 page note about feminism

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  4. and also play of protest briefly..i will be so pleased if u give it

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    1. I am afraid I cannot send in a '2 page note' on feminism but I can suggest a book to you, you can find in it about 'feminism' and 'feminist criticism', I am sure it would be of some help to you - "Beginning Theory – An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory" by Peter Barry.

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  5. its very usefull continue this great job for learners

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  6. Suhasini you really present fruitful analysis which remain helpful for us.i appreciate ur way of poetic appreciation.
    This poem is in our sylabse. thanks 4 such help...

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    1. Thank you very much Madhvi for reading through my write-up. And I am glad that it was of any help to you!

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  7. NEED SOME MORE ON THE LAST PART OF THE POEM. THANK YOU

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    1. Thank you Animesh for reading through my write-up. I shall re-read the poem and see what I can add on to this write-up.

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  8. We have discussed this poem in our class.

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    1. That's nice Ericka! Do share your thoughts!

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