Featured

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.

Featured

Litro

This is Home is a short story I wrote last year about a Palestinian woman stuck in the middle of the conflict. Check it out here.

4c1f04a54acc5cb5d34f6ce6782933bc

Featured

Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts

Earth Song is featured in LIJLA Vol 4 No1 February 2016. Go here or read it below.

 

Earth Song

 

I am the weeping earth cringing

in pain when you dig me up, pulling out

 

limbs, entrails leaving me to hemorrhage.

Shocked, in excruciating pain, no one hears my

 

silent cries. Children orphaned, lives torn apart,

fracking my veins drinking me dry. Parched

 

I crumble into pieces. I am the silent sky watching

anger whizz by to explode in places you don’t like.

 

Not yours to care while I listen

to the cries of the weak

 

trying to make sense of it all

amidst terror raining down from

 

above. I am the roaring waves, the deep

darkness under heaving waters, flowing rivers

 

gurgling streams and silent lakes that stand still as

mirrors for clouds to comb their hairs. You

 

damn me everywhere but I lift my

head straining to rise, course through the

 

way I want and not how you think

I should. I am the raging fire that burns, taking

 

the trees with me chasing the birds away,

the deer, rabbits and wild beasts

 

that hide within my voluminous cloaks. Trees, how

I love to sway to birds tunes, the beat of squirrels feet,

 

weave my magic through the land, burrowing in deep,

standing up tall reaching high to the skies waving

 

my many arms in the breeze holding onto life. I am

woman I am life I am earth and I bleed.

 

Featured

Cities + Secrets

image

Issue 5 of Cities + is all about secrets. Here is what to expect in the issue.

“We send you on a hunt to find answers written in urban landscapes and whisper (or maybe shout) to you about Rankopolis, the most ‘city’ of all cities. There is a polemic on the parasitic nature of the urban-rural divide. There is a series of conjurations based on Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’ (if you don’t think you can see the invisible, think again)(actually always, always think again). And there is a most impressive contributor who literally unearthed the secrets of her garden. That’s not even an exhaustive list. ”

Check out The Old Road on page 58.

 

 

Featured

Getting it Write!

The annual creative writing seminar organised by the English Writers’ Cooperative (EWC) Sri Lanka will be held on August 29, 2015 from 9.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. at the auditorium of the Sri Lanka Federation of University Women.
There will be two sessions on poetry and short story followed by a panel discussion in the afternoon.

For more info check it out on Facebook.

Catastrophe and Environment

Moving Worlds Volume 14 Number 2 Catastrophe and Environment will be launched during the two-day public conference Reframing Disaster that will be held from 28-29 November 2014 at Leeds.

Reframing Disaster is being held to mark the 30th anniversary of the Bhobal Gas Disaster in India, the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide and the 10th anniversary of the South Asian Tsunami.

The conference will “think through how these and other global disasters have been conceptualised and represented in art, literature, film and the media.”

For more details about the book including a table of contents and purchase information go here.

Turn to page 44 for my poem “Conversations in the Dark.

Catastrophe and Environment

Deep Water Literary Journal

I tend to publish more poetry than fiction for whatever reason. This is one of the few instances when I published fiction. Check out my flash story “Night Visitor” in Issue 2, published this month. It’s a dark story, but then that’s what the Deep Water Literary Journal is about – exploring the dark side of life. To read the rest of the journal go here.