Express press service
CHENNAI: Penn vaasanai veesum sorkkal, odukkumuraikku ethiraana aakrosham are some of the descriptions you will find in the synopsis of one of Sukirtharani’s latest releases – Sukirtharani Kavithaigal (1996 – 2016). While the second book Neer Ular Aambal does not say the same, the many poems that make up the compilation are no different. This says a lot about the poet and her work of more than 25 years. Each poem is accompanied by the following affirmation: this is who I am and this is what you get. It’s by design, admits Sukirtharani, but the conception of the poems more so than the poetess herself.
“I don’t decide the language of a poem; it’s the poem that decides for me and I simply become a tool there. And it becomes all the more difficult when it comes to Dalit literature, women’s literature or subaltern literature. You cannot simply go in search of meter and beauty; it also needs to convey the message instead of passing off as mere poetry,” she shares. As with each of her creations, she navigates these difficulties to present two collections of poetry that present the world with the piercing point of view of a liberated woman – on everything from politics, to social constraints, to love (for the world around him), freedom, violence, reclamation, homeland and much more. And the purpose of these creations is much broader.
Of dreams and documentation
“It took ten years of writing to release my first collection of poetry. This was in the early 1990s, when editorial resources were limited. Over the years, I became attached to the poetic movement here. My fellow poetesses and I wanted to spark a similar movement out of women’s poetry. We have all been writing for over two decades on women’s liberation, feminism, dalit feminism, body politics, electoral politics, Eelam and more and that in itself would count as a movement. Through these writings, even through my poetry, you can see the issues that have predominated for women in each period; whether culturally, politically or socially. Lately, violence against women has been significant. Poetry from this period reflects these issues and the impact they had on writers. My poetry is no different; in this, I see it as a means of documenting the changes that have occurred over the years,” she explains.
These works, while documenting changes on a larger scale, also testify to the evolution she underwent and her work. “I started writing at 19. So it was with the little understanding I had then, the few books I had read, the little life I had witnessed that shaped my writing. I was in a village, I hadn’t even seen Chennai, had no access to world literature. Over the years, my reading expanded, my influences grew, and I found more clarity about my politics and what I wanted to write about. There are thousands who write about love. I didn’t want to limit it to love for a person but love for a society, wanting a social change isn’t it also a question of love? And after all, it is Dalit women (or women of any caste for that matter) – being the oppressed lot of society – who know the pain and can express it in hopes of creating equality. . That’s how I found my way,” she says.
Art and its public
Over the years, his poetic expressions have also evolved. The marabu paadal slowly grew to define his work. She always writes in the present because it has its own beauty. Yet such grand projects and evolution in a time when people are more inclined towards a “ready-made” culture, even in poetry, have not been without challenges, she points out. “We want everything to be ready. They expect poetry to be the same way – to be easily understood on first reading. But poetry is not like that; it should make you want to introspect and do what you want with it. I believe poems are like a closed fist, it’s the reader who should want to peel it finger by finger and find what’s waiting inside,” she says.
But all is not gloomy. The response she’s had since the books were released in January has been quite reassuring; she expects her audience to continue showing patronage throughout the year. However, it was the students who bought and read her work that gave her full hope, she notes. This reinforces his belief that art for art’s sake is not art at all, art should always be for the people. She is also delighted to see that so many more women are now wielding the pen and making history. She has only one request for them: that they take it upon themselves to write more politically.