Das, Kamala (Contemporary Literary Criticism)
Kamala Das 1934-
(Has also written under the pseudonyms Madhavikutty and Kamala Suraiyya) Indian poet, short story writer, novelist, playwright, essayist, nonfiction writer, children's writer, and autobiographer. The following entry presents an overview of Das's career through 2000.
Das is one of the best-known contemporary Indian women writers. Writing in two languages, English and Malayalam, Das has authored many autobiographical works and novels, several well-received collections of poetry in English, numerous volumes of short stories, and essays on a broad spectrum of subjects. Since the publication of her first collection of poetry, Summer in Calcutta (1965), Das has been considered an important voice of her generation who exemplifies a break from the past by writing in a distinctly Indian persona rather than adopting the techniques of the English modernists. Das's provocative poems are known for their unflinchingly honest explorations of the self and female sexuality, urban life, women's roles in traditional Indian society, issues of postcolonial identity, and the political and personal struggles of marginalized people. Das's work in English has been widely anthologized in India, Australia, and the West, and she has received many awards and honors, including the P.E.N. Philippines Asian Poetry Prize (1963), Kerala Sahitya Academy Award for her writing in Malayalam (1969), Chiman Lal Award for fearless journalism (1971), the ASAN World Prize (1985), and the Sahitya Akademi Award for her poetry in English (1985). In 1984, she was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Das was born into an aristocratic Nair Hindu family in Malabar (now Kerala), India, on March 31, 1934. Her maternal grandfather and great-grandfather were Rajas, a caste of Hindu nobility. Her love of poetry began at an early age through the influence of her maternal great-uncle, Narayan Menon, a prominent writer, and her mother, Balamani Amma, a well-known Malayali poet. Das was also deeply affected by the poetry of the sacred writings kept by the matriarchal community of Nairs. Das's father, a successful managing director for a British automobile firm, was descended from peasant stock and favored Gandhian principles of austerity. The combination of “royal” and “peasant” identities, along with the atmosphere of colonialism and its pervasive racism, produced feelings of inadequacy and alienation for Das. Educated in Calcutta and Malabar, Das began writing at age six and had her first poem published by P.E.N. India at age fourteen. She did not receive a university education. She was married in 1949 to Madhava Das, an employee of the Reserve Bank of India who later worked for the United Nations. She was sixteen years old when the first of her three sons was born; at eighteen, she began to write obsessively. Although Das and Madhava were romantically incompatible according to Das's 1976 autobiography, My Story, which describes his homosexual liaisons and her extramarital affairs, Madhava supported her writing. His career took them to Calcutta, New Delhi, and Bombay, where Das's poetry was influenced by metropolitan life as well as by her emotional experiences. In addition to writing poetry, fiction, and autobiography, Das served as editor of the poetry section of The Illustrated Weekly of India from 1971 to 1972 and 1978 to 1979. In 1981 Das and her husband retired to Kerala. Das ran as an Independent for the Indian Parliament in 1984. After her husband died, Das converted to Islam and changed her name to Kamala Suraiyya. She currently lives in Kerala, where she writes a syndicated column on culture and politics.
Das published six volumes of poetry between 1965 and 1985. Drawing upon religious and domestic imagery to explore a sense of identity, Das tells of intensely personal experiences, including her growth into womanhood, her unsuccessful quest for love in and outside of marriage, and her life in matriarchal rural South India after inheriting her ancestral home. Since the publication of Summer in Calcutta, Das has been a controversial figure, known for her unusual imagery and candor. In poems such as “The Dance of the Eunuchs” and “The Freaks,” Das draws upon the exotic to discuss her sexuality and her quest for fulfillment. In “An Introduction,” Das makes public traditionally private experiences, suggesting that women's personal feelings of longing and loss are part of the collective experience of womanhood. In the collection The Descendants (1967), the poem “The Maggots” frames the pain of lost love with ancient Hindu myths, while the poem “The Looking-Glass” suggests that the very things society labels taboo are the things that women are supposed to give. In The Old Playhouse and Other Poems (1973), poems such as “Substitute,” “Gino,” and “The Suicide” examine physical love's failure to provide fulfillment, escape from the self, and exorcism of the past, whereas poems such as “The Inheritance” address the integrity of the artistic self in the face of religious fanaticism. In Tonight, This Savage Rite: The Love Poems of Kamala Das and Pritish Nandy (1979), Das invokes Krishna in her explorations of the tensions between physical love and spiritual transcendence. The Anamalai Poems (1985), a series of short poems written after Das was defeated in the 1984 parliamentary elections, reworks the classical Tamil akam (“interior”) poems that contrast the grandeur and permanence of nature with the transience of human history. Poems such as “Delhi 1984” and “Smoke in Colombo” evoke the massacre of the Sikhs and the civil war in Sri Lanka. In My Story, originally published in serial format, Das provides details of her extramarital affairs and her unhappy marriage to Madhava Das. She is also the author of a novel, The Alphabet of Lust (1977), and several volumes of short stories in English. Under the name Madhavi Kutty, Das has published many books in the Malayalam language.
Critical response to Das's poetry has been intimately connected to critical perception of her personality and politics; her provocative poetry has seldom produced lukewarm reactions. While reviewers of Das's early poetry have praised its fierce originality, bold images, exploration of female sexuality, and intensely personal voice, they lamented that it lacked attention to structure and craftsmanship. Scholars such as Devindra Kohli, Eunice de Souza, and Sunil Kumar have found powerful feminist images in Das's 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 a “confessional” poet, writing in the tradition of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Denise Levertov. Some scholars, such as Vimala Rao, Iqbar Kaur, and Vrinda Naur, have deemed Das's poetry, autobiography, and essays frustratingly inconsistent, self-indulgent, and equivocal, although they, too, have praised her compelling images and original voice. Such commentators have suggested that Das is both overexposed and overrated. Other scholars, such as P. P. Raveendran, have connected the emphasis on the self in Das's work to larger historical and cultural contexts and complicated, shifting postcolonial identities. Indian critics have disagreed about the significance of Das's choice to write of her experiences as an Indian woman in English; some scholars suggest that, in her shunning of traditional aesthetic form, she has created a new language for the expression of colonial contradictions. Despite disagreement over the aesthetic qualities and consistency of Das's body of poetry, scholars agree that Das is an important figure whose bold and honest voice has re-energized Indian writing in English.
Tharisunilam [Fallow Fields] (short stories) 1962
Summer in Calcutta (poetry) 1965
The Descendants (poetry) 1967
The Old Playhouse and Other Poems (poetry) 1973
My Story (autobiography) 1976
The Alphabet of Lust (novel) 1977
A Doll for the Child Prostitute (short stories) 1977
Tonight, This Savage Rite: The Love Poems of Kamala Das and Pritish Nandy (poetry) 1979
The Heart of Britain (nonfiction) 1983
Collected Poems (poetry) 1984
Kamala Das: A Collage...
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SOURCE: Blackwell, Fritz. “Krishna Motifs in the Poetry of Sarojini Naidu and Kamala Das.” Journal of South Asian Literature 13, nos. 1-4 (1977-1978): 9-14.
[In the following essay, Blackwell contrasts the use of the Krishna motif in four poems by the Indian poets Kamala Das and Sarojini Naidu.]
Traditional imagery in modern poetry in English
Let us consider four poems, two each by two Indian poets writing in English. The older of the two is Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949), who is the author of three volumes of poetry: The Golden Threshold (1905), The Bird of Time (1912) and The Broken...
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SOURCE: Raphael, R. “Kamala Das: The Pity of It.” Indian Literature 22, no. 3 (1979): 127-37.
[In the following essay, Raphael contends that Das's autobiography, My Story, is flawed but provides insight into the author's personality and work.]
David McCutchion says that Kamala Das, the Indo-English poet, uses the technique of free verse in her poems, the ‘originality’ and ‘freshness’ of which arise out of her personality. Roger Iredale says that “In many of the poems of Kamala Das there is an almost violent frankness that expresses itself through an outspoken use of languages as she explores the nuances of the personal relationship.” In a review...
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SOURCE: Kurup, P. K. J. “Revolt.” In Contemporary Indian Poetry in English, pp. 144-63. New Delhi, India: Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 1991.
[In the following excerpt, Kurup offers a thematic and stylistic examination of the poems in The Descendants.]
In the second volume of the poet—The Descendants—the same existential despair of the self emerging from the failure to establish an eternal bond and to realise the meaning of existence is intoned, this time with heightened intensity. The difference here is that most of the poems in this volume provide evidence to her painstaking efforts for a fuller encounter with life. In a bid to receive the...
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SOURCE: Lim, Shirley Geok-lin. “Terms of Empowerment in Kamala Das's My Story.” In De/Colonizing the Subject: The Politics of Gender in Women's Autobiography, edited by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, pp. 346-69. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992.
[In the following essay, Lim discusses My Story as a provocative and transformative work of women's autobiography.]
A popular approach to Western women's writings is to categorize the best of them as the achievements of exceptional women, women who were able to move beyond the sociocultural confines that kept other women “domesticated” and invisible. Such exceptional women forced a...
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SOURCE: Chavan, Sunanda P. “The Unity of Vision in the Poetry of Kamala Das.” In Perspectives on Kamala Das's Poetry, edited by Iqbal Kaur, pp. 142-49. New Delhi, India: Intellectual Publishing House, 1995.
[In the following essay, Chavan identifies the unifying aspect of Das's poetry, asserting that “the extraordinarily subjective nature of her vision establishes a vital link between her poems about private life, and about external life.”]
Due to its unusualness in the Indian context, Kamala Das's poetry has received a variety of interpretations from critics. But it is seen that the criticism has so far been primarily concerned with her poems about personal...
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SOURCE: Raveendran, P. P. “History in the Anamalai Poems.” In Perspectives on Kamala Das's Poetry, edited by Iqbal Kaur, pp. 150-55. New Delhi, India: Intellectual Publishing House, 1995.
[In the following essay, Raveendran examines the role of history in the Anamalai Poems.]
The Anamalai Poems are a series of short poems that Kamala Das wrote during and after her sojourn at the hills of Anamudi in Tamil Nadu following her defeat at the parliamentary elections of 1984.1 Along with “The Anamalai Hills” which closes the group of poems dating from 1981-90 in The Best of Kamala Das (1991), this cycle of poems provides a peephole into...
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SOURCE: Uma, Alladi. “What's in a Genre?: Kamala Das's My Story.” Literary Criterion 32, no. 3 (1996): 69-75.
[In the following essay, Uma investigates the genre of My Story.]
“My Story is my autobiography which I began writing during my first serious bout with heart disease” (Das 1991:v). The author herself has given us sanction to read it as an autobiography. So we proceed to do so, taking with us at first a lay person's understanding of what an autobiography is—factual recounting of one's life—and therefore we take whatever is written as sacrosanct truth. Then suddenly we realise that we are not “naive lay readers” but “sophisticated...
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SOURCE: Harish, Ranjana. “My Story.” In Women's Writing: Text and Context, edited by Jasbir Jain, pp. 213-22. Jaipur, India: Rawat Publications, 1996.
[In the following essay, Harish underscores the novelty and appeal of My Story.]
This book has cost me many things that I held dear, but I do not for a moment regret having written it. I have written several books in my life time, but none of them provided the pleasure the writing of My Story has given me. I have nothing more to say.
In Virginia Woolf's view any woman who sets her pen to paper and adopts the writer's profession,...
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SOURCE: Kaur, Iqbal. “Protest against Sexual Colonialism: Kamala Das's My Story.” In Women's Writing: Text and Context, edited by Jasbir Jain, pp. 223-32. Jaipur, India: Rawat Publications, 1996.
[In the following essay, Kaur explores Das's attitude toward gender roles and views My Story as a protest against the sexual discrimination of women.]
Sexual colonialism refers to the relationship between the sexes which is ‘a relationship of dominance and subservience’. It refers to the relationship between sex and power and as Kate Millett puts it “Through this system a most ingenious form of ‘interior colonization’ has been achieved”. Men are...
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SOURCE: Manohar, D. Murali. “Man-Woman Relationship with Respect to the Treatment of Love in Kamala Das's Poetry.” In Kamala Das: Treatment of Love in Her Poetry, pp. 14-53. Gulbarga, India: Jiwe Publications, 1999.
[In the following essay, Manohar traces Das's depiction of the male-female dynamic in her verse.]
In the life of a woman or a man there are happy as well as sorrowful events. Neither the sorrowful events nor the happy events can be forgotten. In order to understand the man-woman relationship in terms of love in Kamala Das's poetry one could ask questions like:
a) What is man-woman relationship?
b) What is man's...
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SOURCE: George, Rosemary Marangoly. “Calling Kamala Das Queer: Rereading My Story.” Feminist Studies 26, no. 3 (fall 2000): 731-63.
[In the following essay, George reads My Story as a “queer” text.]
… When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask 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.
The weight of my breast and womb crushed me. I shrank Pitifully.
—Kamala Das, from “An Introduction,” 1965
At this time my husband turned to his old friend for comfort. They behaved like lovers in my...
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Gowda, H. H. Anniah. “Perfected Passions: The Love Poetry of Kamala Das and Judith Wright.” Literary Half-Yearly 20, no. 1 (January 1979): 116-30.
Finds parallels in the poetry of Das and Judith Wright.
Narayan, Shyamala A. “A Note on Kamala Das' My Story.” Commonwealth Quarterly 3, no. 9 (1978): 148-53.
Regards My Story as a disappointing and flawed autobiography.
Additional coverage of Das's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Contemporary Authors, Vol. 101; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series,...
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Das, Kamala (Poetry Criticism)
Summer in Calcutta 1965
The Descendants 1967
The Old Playhouse and Other Poems 1975
Tonight, This Savage Rite: The Love Poems of Kamala Das and Pritish Nandy 1979
Collected Poems 1984
The Anamalai Poems 1985
Kamala Das: A Selection, with Essays on Her Work [edited by S. C. Harrex and Vincent O’Sullivan] 1986
Only the Soul Knows How to Sing: Selections from Kamala Das 1996
Tharisunilam [Fallow Fields] (short stories) 1962
Tanuppa (short stories) 1967
Pathy kathakal (short stories) 1968
Thanuppu [Cold] (short stories) 1970
Premathinte vilapa kavyam [Requiem for a Love] (short stories) 1971
Draksakshi Panna [Eyewitness] (juvenilia) 1973
My Story (autobiography) 1976
The Alphabet of Lust (novel) 1977
A Doll for the Child Prostitute (short stories) 1977
The Heart of Britain (nonfiction) 1983
Kamala Das: A Collage (plays) [edited by Arun Kuckreja] 1984
Padamavati, the Harlot and Other Stories (short stories) 1994
The Sandal Trees and Other Stories (short stories) [translated by V. C. Harris and Mohamed Ummer] 1995
The Path of the Columnist (essays) 2000
SOURCE: Kohli, Devindra. “Kamala Das.” Literary Criterion 12, nos. 2-3 (1976): 173-86.
[In the following essay, Kohli argues that Das's confessional poetry, with its unusual metaphors and original tone, represents a distinctly Indian voice that bows neither to the English modernists nor to Indian transcendentalist philosophy.]
Kamala Das was born on 31 March, 1934 in Malabar in Kerala. She was publishing short stories in Malayalam, her mother tongue, before she brought out Summer in Calcutta, her first volume of poems in English, in 1965. She was immediately and widely noticed and soon recognized as a poet of promise, for her poems were, and still continue to be, characterised by a striking vitality of metaphor and an originality of voice which cannot be missed: the authenticity of both demonstrated to the Indian poet in English that one could write well without parading Eliot and Auden in one's pocket and that one could be a distinctly Indian poet without striving to be one and without leaning on the crutch of transcendental philosophy.
At the conscious level, her favourite theme has always been the shadowy borderline between fulfilment and unfulfilment in love. For example, ‘The Dance of the Eunuchs’ objectifies through what is a familiar sight in India the contrast between the symbolic frenzy of the dance of the eunuchs and their actual ‘vacant ecstasy’ so that in reality their dance is mere ‘convulsions’. ‘In Love’ considers the gap between the sensuous completeness of sexual love, ‘this skin-communicated thing’, and the questions which, because the memory of the experience lingers somehow, pop up in the moody mind:
Of what does the burning mouth Of sun, burning in today's Sky remind me … Oh, yes, his Mouth, and … his limbs like pale and Carnivorous plants reaching Out for me, and the sad lie Of my unending lust. Where Is room, excuse or even Need for love, for, isn't each Embrace a complete thing, a Finished jigsaw, when mouth on Mouth, I lie, while pleasure With deliberate gaiety Trumpets harshly into the Silence of the room … At noon I watch the sleek crows flying Like poison on wings—and at Night, from behind the Burdwan Road, the corpse-bearers cry ‘Bol Hari Bol’, a strange lacing For moonless nights, while I walk The verandah sleepless, a Million questions awake in Me, and all about him, and This skin-communicated Thing that I dare not yet in His presence call our love.
It is part of the strength of Kamala Das's exploration of the love-theme that it also follows her compulsions to articulate and understand the workings of the feminine consciousness. Her best known poem in this category, ‘An Introduction’ is concerned with the question of human identity, but it effectively uses the confessional and the rhetorical modes in order to focus pertinent questions relating to a woman's or an Indian poet's identity in English. ‘Fit in’, they said. ‘Belong, cried the categorizers’. But she responds to this by transforming her alienation from ‘critics, friends, visiting cousins’ who say, ‘Don't write in English’, into a larger and more universal alienation (sexual, social, and artistic) that seems to characterize some of the best literature of our age and is perhaps at the heart of any attempt at self-exploration and self-integration. First, the freedom to choose her language, and a confidence in her creative talent:
The language I speak Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses All mine, mine alone. It is half English, half Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest. It is as human as I am human … it Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of the rain or the Incoherent mutterings of the blazing Funeral pyre.
Then, the puzzling adolescence and the pain of growing up:
I was a child, and later they Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair. When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask 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. The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me. I shrank Pitifully.
Followed by a desire to be even with the male world on its own terms despite the family and social pressures to conform to the traditional feminine role:
Then … I wore a shirt and my Brother's trousers, cut my hair short and ignored My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl, Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook, Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh, Belong, cried the categorizers. Don't sit On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows. Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or, better Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to Choose a name, a role …
And finally, self-realization through empathy:
I met a man, loved him. Call Him not by any name, he is every man Who wants a woman, just as I am every Woman who seeks love. In him … the hungry haste Of rivers, in me … the oceans' tireless Waiting. Who are you, I ask each and everyone, The answer is, it is I. Anywhere and Everywhere, I see the one who calls himself I in this world, he is tightly packed like the Sword in its sheath. It is I who drink lonely Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns, It is I who laugh, it is I who make love And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner, I am saint. I am the beloved and the Betrayed.
Kamala Das's tone of voice as well as the nature of her experience—its spontaneity and uninhibited treatment of a woman's experience—belongs centrally to the history of the recent years in which there has been a heightening of interest in the work and achievement of women, and women writers in particular. Not surprisingly, more anthologies of women poets have been brought out by women writers in the last few years in America than ever before. The important issue is the way in which a woman writer can redefine herself and her world without or, as some of them think it inevitable, by breaking away completely and violently from the traditional roles of women. In their introduction to Psyche: The Feminine Poetic Consciousness (New York 1973) Barbara Segnitz and Carol Rainey point out that a ‘conflict between passivity and rebellion against the male-oriented universe’ is one of the themes that preoccupies some of these women poets. Others go to the extreme: Denise Levertov warns: ‘Don't lock me in wedlock, I want / marriage, an / encounter—’, and Sylvia Plath, though she was capable of tenderness, was concerned more than any other woman poet with just the unbearability of being a woman.
Some of Kamala Das's poems will no doubt find a natural and honourable place in any future international anthology of contemporary women poets. And though she deals with the ‘conflict between passivity and rebellion against the male-oriented universe’, her poetry is in the final analysis an acknowledgement and a celebration of the beauty and courage of being a woman. Kamala Das is essentially a poet of the modern Indian woman's ambivalence, giving expression to it more nakedly and as a thing-in-itself than any other Indian woman poet with the possible exception of Amrita Pritam in Panjabi. The reason for this is, I think, that Das seems to have a good deal of the conventional woman in her makeup, so that not only can she speak of the common woman and her basic need for love and security with inside knowledge, but cannot help, in addition, expressing an ambivalence proceeding from her own duality, proceeding from, that is, the combination in herself of a need for domestic security and the desire for an independence, an independence consistent with a non-domestic mode of living. Married at the age of fifteen, and finding, herself tied, as she tells us time and time again, to a hollow relationship which she could not untie, Kamala Das's story, despite its sensationalism which is sometimes heightened by the directness of her manner, makes poignant reading and in essence strikes one as representative of a not so uncommon social phenomenon in India. When she speaks of love outside marriage, she is not really recommending adultery, but merely searching for a relationship which gives both love and security and which should have been hers right at the start. The editors of Psyche ‘discovered that in searching for mythic ancestresses, women poets reject images glorified by the male imagination, such as Aphrodite, Helen, and Eve—those dual-natured archetypes of Beauty, virgin/seducers, and purveyors of man's joy and destruction. Instead, they find their psychological ties with such figures as Leda, Cassandra, and Lot's wife—all victims of the gods or society, struggling to comprehend their circumstances and to express themselves’. When Kamala Das mythologizes her search for true love, she identifies herself, as in ‘Radha Krishna’ and ‘Vrindavan’, with Radha, or with Mira Bai who relinquished the ties of marriage in search of Lord Krishna, the true and eternal lover who is also the epitome of the fullest consciousness that a human being can contemplate:
Vrindavan lives on in every woman's mind, and the flute, luring her From home and her husband who later asks her of the long scratch on the brown Aureola of her breast, and she shyly replies, hiding flushed cheeks, It was so dark outside, I tripped and fell over the brambles in the wood.
This interiorization of Vrindavan involves a living through of the conventional roles. ‘Captive’ in ‘The Descendants’, her second volume of poems (1967) describes her love as ‘an empty gift, a gilded empty container’, and herself as a prisoner of ‘the womb's blinded hunger, the muted whisper at the core’. This theme of the glory of childbirth as the fulfilment of love...
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SOURCE: Mishra, D. S. “The Confessional Mode of Kamala Das: Romanticism and Realism.” Contemporary Indian English Poetry: A Revaluation, edited by Vallabh Vidyanagar, pp. 55-62. India: Sardar Patel University Press, 1990.
[In the following essay, Mishra situates Das's poetry in the confessional genre and discusses her attempts to mythologize her personal experiences.]
Kamala Das, a recognized feminist poet, writes “autobiographical poems” to “mythologize” her personal life. She expresses her strong feeling of love and admits her inability to realise it in the world of self-centred men. Obviously, her poetry is suffused in emotion. This emotion seems to be a...
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SOURCE: Nair, K. R. Ramachandran. “Napalat House.” In The Poetry of Kamala Das, pp. 76-82. New Delhi, India: Reliance Publishing House, 1993.
[In the following essay, Nair addresses the significance of the poet's ancestral home, Nalapat House, to several of her important poems.]
Kamala Das is at her best as a poet of private sensibility. Her dreams do not overstep her reach. Though she has the modern Indian woman's ambivalence, her consciousness is firmly yoked to the world around her, a world characterised by ecstasy and pain, love and despair. Her poems are the gestures that counter the luridness of the world. She is essentially conventional in her mental makeup...
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SOURCE: Raveendran, P. P. “Text as History, History as Text: A Reading of Kamala Das's Anamalai Poems.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 29, no. 1 (1994): 47-54.
[In the following essay, Raveendran examines how Das's later, more political poems, embody tension between the timelessness of the landscape and the minutiae of human history.]
Anamalai Poems are a series of short poems that Kamala Das wrote during her sojourn at the hills of Anamalai in Tamil Nadu following her defeat at the parliamentary elections of 1984.1 Although she has reportedly written twenty-seven poems as part of the sequence,2 only eleven have so far been...
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SOURCE: Nabar, Vrinda. “The Old Playhouse and Other Poems.” In The Endless Female Hungers: A Study of Kamala Das, pp. 62-82. New Delhi, India: Sterling Publishers Private Limited, 1994.
[In the following excerpt, Nabar provides extensive stylistic and thematic interpretations of Das's later poetry.]
Kamala Das's third volume of verse, The Old Playhouse and Other Poems, appeared in 1973. It was published by Orient Longman and contains 33 poems, of which 14 had appeared in the first book and 6 in the second. This gives us only thirteen new poems in six years, a fact which speaks for itself.
Kohli has already listed the 20 poems which had...
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SOURCE: Das, Kamala, and Eunice de Souza. “Kamala Das.” In Talking Poems: Conversations with Poets, pp. 29-40. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999.
[In the following interview, Das discusses her writings and her life.]
Kamala Das was born in 1934. Her collections of poetry include Summer in Calcutta (Delhi: Rajinder Paul, 1965), The Descendants (Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1967), The Old Playhouse and Other Poems (Madras: Orient Longman, 1975), Only the Soul Knows How to Sing (Kottayam: D.C. Books, 1966). With Pritish Nandy she published Tonight This Savage Rite: The Love Poems of Kamala Das and Pritish Nandy (New Delhi:...
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Blackwell, Fritz. “Krishna Motifs in the Poetry of Sarojini Naidu and Kamala Das.” Journal of South Asian Literature. 13, nos. 1-4 (1977-78): 9-14.
Comparative study of the use of Hindi mythology in Das's poetry.
de Souza, Eunice. “Kamala Das.” Osmania Journal of English Studies 13, no. 1 (1977): 19-27.
Takes issue with some of the stylistic devices—for example, repetition—that Das uses to evoke pathos in her confessional poetry.
Dwivedi, S. C. “Kamala Das: My World Defleshed, Deblooded.” Creative Forum 5, nos. 1-4 (January-December 1992): 65-72.
(The entire section is 745 words.)