To the women ‘upstairs’

Versification Srividya Sivakumar reads from her poems  

One had forgotten how nice it was to be read to. Allowing the words to wash over you, appreciating the rise and fall of voices, expressing joy, sorrow, excitement, love and cynicism. Srividya Sivakumar decided to launch her second collection of poems called The Heart is an Attic (the first one, The Blue Note, was a few years ago) by inviting her friends to read their favourite poem from the compilation.

And they did, in the elegantly ‘done up’ auditorium where the backdrop was the image of a big, well-used, messy bookshelf — the kind every book lover owns. I know Sivakumar has several well-loved bookshelves in her home (Pradeep Yuvaraj and his team from Prezantim created the mood of the event tastefully).

Between The Blue Note and The Heart is an Attic, three of Sivakumar’s poems ( ‘Sunder’,' ‘Pastoral’ and ‘Antepaschal’ were published in the 40 under 40: An Anthology of Post-Globalisation Poetry, published by Poetrywala, Mumbai, in June 2016. Two poems in this collection — ‘Pamuk Plays the Pallanguzhi’ and ‘Impressionist’ — have also appeared in the Noble/Gas Qtrly. Eight others also feature in an anthology of contemporary poetry, The Peacock’s Cry, published by Unisun, Bengaluru,and some are included in Samyukta: A Journal of Women’s Studies, The Kritya Anthology of Poetry,,,, among others.

In the blurb to The Heart is an Attic, poet Arundhathi Subramaniam says that the book “...unlocks the uncomfortable rooms of the human heart...”. It does indeed. The book is like an attic where old memories, odd recollections, favourite possessions and sometimes deep dark thoughts make their home.

“I toyed with the idea of calling it Do Fiery Feminists Fall in Love?, but was discouraged from doing so as it was too long for a title,” said Sivakumar. The Attic... gathers all the thoughts, emotions and angst into one room. It provided space for the poet’s intimate, disparate, and at times seemingly random, thoughts. Thoughts, that she said, she was no longer afraid of sharing. “I am a lot less censored in this collection. While in my first book I may have been tentative about speaking out my innermost thoughts, I feel now I am at a space and time in my life where I don’t worry too much about what people think.” The book also reminds us of the mad woman we all have locked up in ourselves, who wants to rave and rant and ‘sink a knife into that ribcage’ (‘Merry Widow’).

The poems are dark, sometimes depressing, but not so much that there is no light. The voice is of the poet making peace with her demons (as many of us do in life). We adjust, compromise, enjoy brief flings with fame and spotlight and then slip comfortably back into anonymity and the mundane as she wryly writes in ‘Aftermath’ and ‘Obituary’.

The poems are fiercely feminine, not coy at all and speak out about love and lust, loathing and disillusionment. There is blistering irony in the poem Every Day’s A Celebration that begins with “Happy Women’s Day, he says to her...” and ends with an unspeakable image of what it means to be a woman in reality. Sivakumar concluded the evening by reading out a poem she wrote just a couple of days before called Petiton on the rape of Asifa.

A book signing ended the evening.

The Heart is an Attic is published by Hawakal Publishers, Kolkata, and has gone into reprint for the second edition. Priced at ₹300, it is available at Prezantim, Fountainhead Villa, 211 Bharathiar Road, New Siddhapudur. For details, contact +91 9787-55-55-44 or +91-422-4529-255

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 5:57:02 AM |

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