Rukhaya M.K

A Literary Companion

Month: December 2014 (page 2 of 3)

Poetry Analysis: Alice Walker’s “Poem at Thirty-Nine”

Thirty-nine is a significant time in the life of a woman. She reaches her prime and is on the verge of entering forty. It is a difficult phase for her if she is a single mother. Alice Walker had met Melvyn Roseman Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights lawyer in 1965, and had her daughter Rebecca in 1967. They divorced in 1976.The speaker at this juncture has probably reached a stage, where she longs for the presence of a father in her daughter’s life. She thus becomes nostalgic for her own father.

She begins the poem “Poem at Thirty -Nine” by stating how nostalgia set in with thoughts of her Father coming to her in flashback. She wished that he was not so overcome with fatigue when she was born. Her father ” earned only $300 a year from sharecropping and dairy farming” worked hard for a living and could not devote much time to her. According to her, he was “wonderful at math but a terrible farmer”. He taught her to deposit slips and write checks, and how life is lived. She recalls his methods of educating her as he would have explained: “This is the form.” For the speaker, the bits of paper were more to her than just papers…they were for her a better way of life as compared to the life of her father which she had seen.…

Poetry Analysis: Kamala Das’ “My Grandmother’s House”

Kamala Das recalls her ancestral house that was filled with the all-pervading presence of her grandmother And this is why her grandmother’s house is singular: Kamala Das received ‘love’ there. When the poetess speaks of ‘love’ in particular she ascertains that it is unconditional and selfless. With the death of the Grandmother, the house ceased being inhabited. It now became an isolated and remote entity, echoed by the phrase ‘far away.’ The poetess asserts that with the death of her grandmother silence began to sink in the house. Kamala Das, at that juncture, was too small to read books, but emotional enough to comprehend the true feeling of love.

With the death of the Grandmother, her life that was hitherto filled only with emotions becomes numb. Her veins thus become cold rather than warm. It is as cold as the moon, the moon being an emblem of love. The worms on the books seem like snakes at that moment, in comparison to the size of the little girl; and in keeping with the eeriness of the situation. The poetess also implies that the deserted house is like a desert with reptiles crawling over. The poetess now longs to ‘peer’ at a house that was once her own.…

Poetry Analysis: Kamala Das’ “The Sunshine Cat”

In the poem “The Sunshine Cat”, the poetess rants over the disillusionment in her yearning for love. Those who took advantage of her emotional instability are termed ‘men’ in general ;it inevitably includes her husband too. He turned out to be a mere objective observer without emotional attachment. His being selfish, he did not exhibit the slightest display of love. And, his being cowardly, he did not dare to give in sexually to her, for it would mark the relegation of his ego: his perspective of masculinity..He was a relentless onlooker to the extent of being insensitive for he watched her encounters with other men like a carnival affair. This is why Kamala Das employs the word ‘band.’

She ‘clinged’ on to this band of ‘cynics.’ The word “cling” is very significant, as one clings out of desperation, as in clinging onto dear life. A cynic is a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions. Her life revolved around these egocentric people. Nevertheless, she “burrows’ herself in the chest of these men. Note the word “burrow” is generally used with reference to mongooses or rats that dig holes to hide themselves for security. For the poetess, this was a temporary refuge to make herself secure as long as it lasted.…

Poetry Analysis: Kamala Das’ “The Dance of the Eunuchs”

Kamala Suraiya Das also known as Madhavikutty, is India’s ‘Poet Laureate’. The “Dance of the Eunuchs” is included in the collection Summer in Calcutta(1965). The poem is an eloquent expression of the barrenness of Kamala Das’s love-life and emblematic of the spiritual aridity of her being. The poetess utilizes the symbolism of the eunuchs who are the very emblem of sterility. The dance of the eunuchs far from being an aesthetic extravaganza is rather a spectacle that is looked down upon.

The poetess begins by exclaiming that: “It was hot, so hot, before the eunuchs came.”

Climate change is not a matter of concern for them, as they are always subjected to cold air and frigid responses. The anklets just jingle and jingle without any rhythm to it.They are indeed a spectacle with their ‘flashing eyes’ beneath the fiery gulmohar. The gulmohar is a beautiful tree that is juxtaposed against something deemed unpleasant.

To dance, wide skirts going round and round, cymbals

Richly clashing, and anklets jingling, jingling

They were green tattoos on their face. They have to carve tattoos on their face, as the face of the eunuchs will be the only place that will be explored, that too, by disinterested eyes.…

Poetry Analysis: Kamala Das’ “The Freaks”

The word ‘freak’ has the following meanings:

  1. A thing or occurrence that is markedly unusual or irregular
  2. An abnormally formed organism, especially a person or animal regarded as a curiosity or monstrosity.
  3. A sudden capricious turn of mind; a whim:

Here , the first stands for the sexual act in the poem that is unnatural, simply for the reason that it is not natural (not arising out of love).

The second meaning can be attributed to the object of the act, the poetess herself- an eccentric.

The third implication is responsible for the poem itself as a whole, a sudden whim that results in the poet’s inspiration.

The man in question is described in terms of his unattractive attributes: his sun-burnt cheek, his dark mouth, the uneven teeth that gleam (implying that the person is most probably dark) etc. The poetess begins the poem with ”He talks” as he is the supreme authority as in “And God said…” The act of love also has patriarchy reigning supreme. His mouth is a dark cavern of hidden egoistic secrets. The cavern is also a passage for the poetess to reach her love’s heart, that she fails to achieve. The teeth hanging from the roof of his mouth appear as uneven as stalactites.The word ‘stalactites’ denotes lack of warmth.…

Poetry Analysis: Kamala Das’ “An Introduction”

An Introduction” is Kamala Das’s most famous poem in the confessional mode. Writing to her, always served as a sort of spiritual therapy: ”If I had been a loved person, I wouldn’t have become a writer. I would have been a happy human being.”

Kamala Das begins by self-assertion: I am what I am. The poetess claims that she is not interested in politics, but claims to know the names of all in power beginning from Nehru. She seems to state that these are involuntarily ingrained in her. By challenging us that she can repeat these as easily as days of the week, or the names of months she echoes that they these politicians were caught in a repetitive cycle of time, irrespective of any individuality. They did not define time; rather time defined them.

Subsequently, she comes down to her roots. She declares that by default she is an Indian. Other considerations follow this factor. She says that she is ‘born in’ Malabar; she does not say that she belongs to Malabar. She is far from regional prejudices. She first defines herself in terms of her nationality, and second by her colour.

I am Indian, very brown, born in Malabar,

And she is very proud to exclaim that she is ‘very brown’.…

Poetry Analysis: The Meaning of A.K.Ramanujan’s “Small-Scale Reflections on a Great House”

“Small-Scale Reflections on a Great House” may appear on the superficial level as a poem about an ancestral house. Nevertheless, it signifies, considerably, the Great Indian Culture. The house is said to possess an incorrigible property of letting anything into its confine without allowing it to go back. The Indian culture has forever accommodated whatever had arrived at its threshold. It has incorporated all foreign elements into its internal structure to form a homogenous whole. The adroit repetition of the phrase “lost long ago” points to the loss of its true essence. The use of the present tense highlight the ‘presentness of the past’, how the past and present are intricately linked to each other.

Things that once found their way into the house lost themselves among other things in the house that had also been lost long ago. Therefore this projects the antiquity, rich heritage and innumerable elements the culture encompasses. In a world, were human beings are marginalized, irrational creatures are accepted and provided with an identity (name); as with the intruding cow. The poet also mocks at the so-called tabooisms about natural things in Indian culture. For instance, the mating of the cows that girls of the house were carefully shielded from.…

Poetry Analysis: Kamala Das’ My Mother at Sixty-Six

Kamala Das captures the picture of her mother in a significant moment of comprehension. The speaker in a fast-forward life, pauses for a moment to regard her mother, with with reference to time and space.

Driving from my parent’s

home to Cochin last Friday

morning, I saw my mother,

beside me

Words are indicated to signify time, space and position (‘beside me’). The act of ‘seeing’ poses as a stationary moment as against the kinetic act of ‘driving’. The drive from home to Cochin also serves to illustrate the metaphor of journey as experience. The poem is indeed born, out of love as one observes the possessive pronoun ‘my’ when the word ‘Mother’ would have sufficed. The speaker’s understanding of her mother at the age of sixty-six, would be indeed one of enriched experience; as it would be coloured with the speaker’s individual maternal experience as with her own children. It would be a different one, with indication to the past when she was single. She could probably judge her better as a wife, and mother now.

doze, open mouthed, her face

ashen like that

of a corpse and realised with


that she was as old as she

looked but soon

put that thought away, and

Words like ‘doze’ point to the torpidity that old age has imposed upon her.…

Poetry Analysis: Nissim Ezekiel’s “Enterprise”

Ezekiel describes the account of a journey in the poem ‘Enterprise”. A section of people endeavour on a journey to acheive a specific goal. Their sheer initiative, and the thought of their objective leave them keyed up .They proceed on their expedition and the sun shines its scorching rays on them. Nevertheless, they render themselves immune to the stinging rays and put up an enduring front. The leader of the group believes that they have withstood the heat well. They take notes of whatever they see in the course of the journey. They observe the things they find around, and the commodities that the peasants sell and buy and witness the behavior of serpents and goats. Besides, they behold the sight of three cities where a sage has delivered his learned discourses.

The travelers fall into an argument over how to cross a desert. Owing to the differences, a person who wrote stylish prose and is supposed to be the best of the group forsakes the rest and goes his own way. The others are left with a sense of deprivation.

The travelers go through another ordeal as the travelers are attacked twice and they lose their way. At this juncture, many of the travelers leave the group and go on their own way.…

Poetry Analysis: Sarojini Naidu’s “Summer Woods”

Sarojini Naidu is a poet of ardour, agony and ecstasy. In her perfect lyricism and mellifluous melody, she is indeed the Nightingale of India. Her poetic sensibility is essentially romantic. In ‘Summer Woods’ she communicates her aversion to the artificiality of the pseudo-modernism that she thrived in. She seeks to discover refuge in Nature from the monotony of her existence and her mechanical routine.

She begins by ranting that she is sick of ‘painted roofs and soft and silken floors’ or the mendaciousness of the so-called civilized and sophisticated life. She probably refers to the process of automation and industrial revolution. On the other hand, she craves for summer-houses with over-hanging canopies of bright-red Gulmohars. These appear lovely and enchanting when accompanied by the breeze-like wind. She is also fed up of strife and song and festival and fame. The affectation and luxury of the contemporary times seems too hollow for her tastes. They only leave in her a sense of void. She yearns to retreat into the forests where the cassia flourish and aspires to dwell in the rapturous and enthralling atmosphere there.

She implores her lover to recoil with her to the pastoral vicinity of Nature where passion and instinct reign over calculation and manipulation.…

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