Wild Girls, Wicked Words

Wild Girls, Wicked Words, a collection of poems (in English translation) of four contemporary Tamil women poets will make you think.

Wild Girls, Wicked Words, a collection of poems (in English translation) of four contemporary Tamil women poets will make you think.

Review by Rajam Anand

Lakshmi Holmstrom captures the readers’ attention with her title Wild Girls Wicked Words, a translation of poetry by four contemporary Tamil poets, Malathi Maithri, Salma, Kutti Revathi and Sukirtharani. She deserves to be praised for her effort in translating such a contemporary, unconventional and thought provoking collection of poems. She has tried to do justice to the original volume which in itself is a difficult task considering the nuances, the images and the idioms used. The flow of many of the poems is uninterrupted and easy to follow.

For an English audience, it will be a good introduction to the work of these modern poets. Defiant and bold, the poets are prepared to face all kinds of criticisms and charges levelled against them and in a way these women are nurtured by allegations. Their agony, anguish, anger, resentment and joy can be experienced through their poems. The social bias based on gender, caste and class is well brought out by them.

Incessant War and The Street Singer by Malathi mourn the loss of lives and the pathetic condition of the sufferer.  Consumer goods and Perish her intellect… are vivid portrayals of the oppressed women; they also reflect the seething anger of Malathi against the conventional – to an extent self wrought – role of women. Through Cast away blood the reader is reminded of the age old customs of society and is made to think of a more rational and relevant approach to the taboo. With ‘the moon in the tank reddening’ the Goddess Minakshi herself seems to endorse the poet’s view. The joy found in the Swing and My Home is infectious. Further, these poems are a tribute to nature.

Salma’s poems reflect her inherent loneliness and her dissatisfaction in marriage which is reduced to a Contract. Her Midnight tale could be any thinking woman’s tale. Her oneness with Nature is evident in Getting used to the sea and My ancestral home. Her voice against the discrimination of women in general and of Muslim women in particular, is sure to provoke the reader.

Kutti Revathy’s unconventional approach in describing the female form makes her work sensual. Her self appreciation extrapolates into her love for women. Most of her poems allude to beauty and love. Her concern for the woman who is reduced to a puppet in Suicide-soldier indicates her desire to change the traditional mould of the woman. Her love for Nature is evident in the Rain-river, Sleeping seed, etc.

Sukirtharani is the voice of the Dalit woman. Her fearlessness makes her wear her caste with pride in I speak up bluntly. Her desire for a tender and gentle Infant language is an unspoken volume on the harsh words she has encountered at various stages in her life. The pathos in My village and Nothing left is quite moving. Against all odds, she breathes hope in Fountainhead and Every town is a hometown…

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The choice of idioms and images along with the shift caused by the non-linear style of writing kindles one’s curiosity. In short, the English translation will help these poets gain prominence among the non-Tamil readers.


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