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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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Published and In Stores Now!

Chant of a Million Women is now available in stores worldwide.

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Review of Chant of a Million Women

On Basso Profundo, August 11, 2017.

 

Toward the end of Shirani Rajapakse’s plaintive and eloquent book of poetry, she has a piece called “The Poetess.” In its final lines she writes:

She walked with a spring in her step.
Her expression serious. They turned around
as they saw her pass.
She felt such pride. At last to be known.
Even if to just a few.
They did not know she had
nothing to show.

The last line surprised me, and moved me to immediate disagreement. Chant of a Million Women is certainly a notable achievement: it chronicles so many moods, in so many stories, from ancient Indian epic legends to the insurmountable challenges of every day. It consolidates and focuses our attention on the myriad ways men subjugate and objectify women, and the paltry few effective means women have to fight back. This applies particularly to cultures bound by tradition, such as one finds in India and the Middle East.

And women’s situations are so hopeless in this collection that fighting back isn’t really what it’s about. It’s about maintaining something so basic as one’s identity. So often used as a simple ornament, a status symbol, or property to be hidden away, the women in these poems lose their onetime promising selves to a male society, be it as some idealized – but definitely owned – prize, or a simple, reviled piece of furniture, or worse, a victim of violent crime.

Ms. Rajapakse places her poems in a number of milieux: traditional sexist households, dangerous, sometimes murderous, public thoroughfares, urban settings and rural. Often, no setting is specified, except the consciousness of the dispossessed woman.

A million women would indeed raise this chant. They would be fortunate were they to make it this resoundingly, with such force. The poetess distills their suffering to a specific litany, as though a bell were ringing to toll the offenses, forming a high-relief frieze of the hundreds of thousands of wives, daughters, and princesses whose stunted lives impoverish us all.

This is a distinctive, consistent collection in which the milk of human kindness has no place. Nowhere are the kind whispers of a lover or even the support of a life partner. Ms Rajapakse has consistently chosen her pieces with a eye to the plaints and sorrows of women. I salute the courage with which she lends her voice for the forgotten and uncared-for women suffering in so many places in the world. Take up Chant of a Million Women and experience its elegant phrases and its moral force.

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On the road to self publishing – ebook formatting

I finished formatting my ebook. Yes, it’s now officially ready for release.

I thought it would be hell since poems have a different way of formatting even if they are all left aligned. I also had several poems running all over the page.

I contacted several book formatters and they gave me all kinds of responses when I sent a list of things I needed done.  They all were skeptical, telling me it won’t look like it does on print. One formatter though, assured me he could do it. He even did a sample of one of the poems that has a different look with the lines all over the page. He agreed, but the funny thing was when I uploaded the book he suddenly raised his price from USD 10 to USD 200 giving me reasons that didn’t make sense for that huge price difference.

So there I was stressing out about what to do for two weeks, going up and down with formatters. Should I pay so much to get something done or should I take a chance on someone who was offering much less but cautioned me saying it might not look exactly as I want it to look?

Then a a couple of friends on Facebook assured me that,

a). it was ok if the poems in the ebook didn’t look the same as the print. Because the ereader takes on the frames and needs of the readers including font size and type that can be changed, it will never look exactly the way I want it to, and

b).book formatting was easy and there were several places offering it for free.

That made me decide to do it myself. After all, I did format the book for print and had it on PDF. What could possibly go wrong with the ePUB? I got rid of the unusual formatting for the few poems that had words crisscrossing the pages and made them all left aligned (it would have all become left aligned even if I didn’t change it).

They were right. It wasn’t hard.

I uploaded the book on D2D and after a few changes, it came out looking just the way I wanted. Wasn’t expecting that, but I’m thrilled. I’ve been playing around with the draft, making changes, but it’s done. What a relief.

Next step, uploading the PDF for POD and sending for a sample to check before pressing the publish button.

 

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Women Rise – Making Movie Poems

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I launched my crowdfunding campaign to make movie poems today on indiegogo. The poems selected are from my soon to be released poetry collection about women. The 5 poems selected are diverse in theme and are representative of the poetry in the collection.

Join me in bringing these poems to life by funding the campaign. There great perks on offer. Also share the information with anyone interested in funding the campaign.

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of Warna Hettiarachchi)

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The Writer’s Space

What runs through an editor’s mind as she reads a piece of work for the first time? Does she let herself relax into the story like a reader would, or does the editor’s mind take over, hawk eyed, looking for flaws that need to be perfected?

Karen R. Sanderson, my first guest to drop in for a chat is an editor and a published writer. Her debut collection of poems No Boundaries was released last year on CreateSpace and she has plans of publishing short stories too.

Here’s your opportunity to ask everything you want to know from Karen about editing, her book of poems, and anything else about writing.

You have 48 hrs to post your questions. At the end of two days I will stop notifications and hand over to Karen. She will pick a select number of questions and reply to you in the comments. So what are you waiting for? Come on over to my page and get started https://www.facebook.com/shiranirajapakseauthor/

You can view Karen’s profile at https://karenrsanderson.wordpress.com/. or follow her on twitter https://twitter.com/KRS_WordShark . Check out her book here https://www.amazon.com/No-Boundaries-Karen-R-…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

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