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Poetry International

This review appeared in Poetry International on November 25, 2017.

Micro Review: Chant of a Million Women by Shirani Rajapaske

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  • November 25, 2017
Chant of a Million Women by Shirani Rajapaske

 

1Chant of a Million Women by [Rajapakse, Shirani]42 Pages
Create Space, 2017
ISBN: 9789553828507
Reviewed by Jessica Wright

In her book Chant of a Million Women, Shirani Rajapaske’s poems read as tributes to women all across the spectrum – transwomen, women of color, immigrant women, and women across socioeconomic classes. She is unafraid to tackle uncomfortable or taboo topics such as female mutilation or rape, while softening them with beautiful language. For example, in the poem “Mutilated” she describes the sewn-shut labia of one woman:

Lips you yearn to kiss, mold
to your soft being. Soft, pliable rubies
hidden forever from view.

A theme across her poems is the struggle women face to overcome inequalities in a male-dominated society. Several of her poems such as “I Live in Dreams” and “Lost in Thought” are about women wanting to go beyond their current lives, to achieve more and to escape their norms. In the poem “Major Minority” she more directly addresses this topic, relating it to the “major minority” of women in the country who feel as if their voices, and votes, don’t stand a chance within the patriarchal political structure. Of the subject of abortion, she writes:

Entombed from the womb
by man-made rules,
religious decrees you twist, like you did the
bougainvillea vine outside the window, to
suit your wishes and not any
God that ever was.

You amuse yourself in a childish game,
playing God almighty to trap me.

Men in power twisting rules regarding women’s reproductive rights is something that all women, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, creed, can relate to. Touching on topics like these makes Rajapaske’s poetry universal. While her language takes the reader on a journey filled with beauty inside of the darkness of the topics.

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Winning Writers -November 2017

Chant of a Million Women is featured in the Recent Publications of Winning Writers this month.

 

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Book Review in Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine

Check out the review below or go to Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine to read poems by other writers in Issue 29, September 2017.

Editor’s Book Review: Chant of a Million Women by Shirani Rajapakse

This month I had the joy of reading Chant of a Million Women by Shirani Rajapakse, a Sri Lankan poet and fiction writer.

This poetry collection covers lots of themes, including identity, relationships, freedom, dignity, war, struggle and rape, but its main message is captured in the title poem, “Chant of a Million Women”, which opens with:

My body is a temple, not

a halfway house you enter for

temporary shelter from

the heat and dust swirling through trees.

This poem really embodies the spirit of the whole collection, giving women a voice, a reminder of our self-worth and ownership of our own bodies.

“I Live in Dreams” is a mingling of dreams, reality and longing, and a similar mix of melancholy and hope can be found throughout the collection. In particular, “Asking for It” is a powerful commentary on rape and victim-blaming culture, and “Unwanted” is short but touching, and one of my favourites. “To Dance with the Wind” has some wonderful imagery which really did make me feel like I had been picked up and taken by the wind.

Overall this collection is spirited and powerful, and above all, it has an important message that is expressed so well. This is one of my favourite collections I’ve reviewed so far, and I would thoroughly recommend it.

Chant of a Million Women is available in print from Lulu.com and Amazon, and also as an eBook at http://www.books2read.com/shiranirajapakse.

You can also find Shirani Rajapakse in Flash Fiction International, Mascara Literary Review, Asian Cha, Deep Water Literary Review, Dove Tales, Earthen Lamp Journal and City Journal, among others.

Sam Rose

>^..^<

 

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Launch of City, in Colombo

I’m going to be at the ICES Colombo next week, July 11 at 4 30 pm, for the launch of City:  A Journal of South Asian Literature in English.

The launch is for the special edition of City which features Sri Lankan literature in English and in translation from Sinhala and Tamil.

If you are in this neck of the woods, join us at the ICES and meet the editor, Ajmal Kamal and the other contributors.

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New Ceylon Writing

“Colombo” is published in issue 6 of New Ceylon Writing. You can find it on page 27 here or read it below.

 

Colombo – by Shirani Rajapakse

 

Prescription walkers

huff and puff their way to good health,

proud of the city’s walkways,

the affluent thrusting their

jelly bellies ahead

as they valiantly attempt to compete

with young trendsetters

their ears blocked to reality,

sweating it out by

lakes and parks dressed

in designer clothes stretched taut

across wobbly frames.

They do their thing,

walking, strutting on legs

that can barely hold so much weight,

serious looks on smug faces,

while community dogs stare in amusement,

calling out to friends to come

observe the show.

 

There’s a whole generation grown up

on an unhealthy lifestyle, unable to cope,

a last bid to get their act together or

face the consequences,

sprawled on a bed with tubes sticking out

from every corner

while they gasp out in agony and plead

to every God known to man

for a second chance.

 

Yet hospitals are overcrowded.

 

They are as popular as

restaurants and watering holes.

Every minute someone’s sick, every minute

someone needs medical attention, and

every minute someone dies in

a lonely old home unable to cope, away

from families that have

no use for old flesh anymore.

 

 

 
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