Poem on Gandhiji turns book release function ‘non-rhyming’
By Aswathy Karnaver | Published: 28th June 2012 11:41 AM |
Meena Kandasamy is a spark waiting to be ignited. The conspicuous absence of poet Sugathakumari, who was supposed to release the translation of Kandasamy’s phenomenal first book, ‘Touch’, at the Students’ Centre on Wednesday afternoon, was an ample spark.
Film critic V K Joseph had supplied the innocuous explanation in his introductory remark that the veteran had cited her objection to a poem on Mahatma Gandhi included in the collection as the reason for abstaining from the function. The firebrand poet was quick to read between the lines.
“Sugatha Kumari’s absence today is louder than her presence,” Kandasamy, known for her rebellious stance and subversive writing, ventured after a quick round of courteous niceties. ‘’It speaks of the power of poetry and it reinforces my faith in my own words,” she continued. Clarifying that she had no intention of reading the poem to the audience earlier, Kandasamy went on to read out the subject of controversy with an urgency that seemed to infect her whole being.
The poem, titled ‘Mohandas Karam Chand’, as it turned out, was modelled on Sylvia Plath’s notorious ‘Daddy’ and was downright slanderous in its tone and idiom. In fact, the provocative poem and its emotionally charged rendering left the crowd uncertain about a fitting response and caused a brief moment of stunned silence before the apprehensive applause was heard.
“I am not the first person to speak against Gandhi. In fact, his greatest critic ever was Dr Ambedkar. Why, if he lived among us now and wore orange robes and practised what he did in his ashram, he would have been in jail like Nityananda,’’ the poet went on to say tongue in cheek.
She then returned to focusing on the absence of Sugathakumari and said that she had been asked by comrades here about why she had agreed to let an ‘opportunist’ like Sugathakumari release the book.
“Why is Sugathakumari so afraid? It is somebody else’s poem. Her stance is proof of just how safe people want to be. If poets are historically those who enjoy the mollycoddling of the ruling class, those who align themselves with the establishment and adorn themselves with the so-called recognitions like awards, then I would never want to be called a poet,” she said.
The book, titled ‘Sparsham’, was eventually released by author and Marxist ideologue K E N Kunhahammed.
The poetry collection ‘Urum Perum Illathavar’ by Dalit poet from Jharkhand Nirmala Puthul was released by Ezhacherry Ramachandran.
KEN spoke on the Dalit-women presence in contemporary poetry. Critic V N Murali and publisher Lakshmy Rajeev also spoke.
‘I Acted on My Conscience’
Responding to the criticisms levelled against her by Meena Kandasamy, Sugathakumari said in a phone conversation with City Express: “She doesn’t know me or my work. My conscience does not allow me to release a book that insults Gandhiji, a world citizen and Guru beyond doubt. I read the poem only yesterday and had informed the organisers about my dissent. It is my right to abstain just as it her right to write. All I have to say to this newbie Dalit activist is that there are hundreds of destitute Dalit women in my care. My activism is not limited to words.”