Jha,Vivekananda. “Brutal Frankness of Feminism : The Poetry of Kamala Das.” Post Feminism in India : Myth or Reality? Delhi : OUP, 2003. 111-125. Print
The author analyzes the characteristics of Kamala Das’ poetry that contributed to her being recognized as a worldwide feminist critic. The article posits how the “intensity of sexual yearning” stirred a great deal of unrest among the placid readers. Another striking feature of her poetry is her tone of confession. Summer in Calcutta (1965), Das’ first published work encapsulates her candid confessions about the disillusionments of an arranged marriage in disarmingly frank terminology. Hence, it is not over-reaching to compare her confessional poetry to that of Sylvia Plath or Robert Lowell.
The article discusses how Das differed from her contemporaries. Deviating from the common trend, Das ventured to write in English and not in her mother tongue. Despite wide criticism, she maintained that she had the freedom to write in the language which she prefers. The language envisaged in her poems was not only mellifluous but also filled with stark symbolism. The article argues that Das has expressed the suppressed emotions of women in terms that are bereft of any sign of hesitation or embarrassment. Her style of writing is compared to that of Robert Browning’s.
“Many of Kamala Das’ love poems have a Browningesque dramatic quality. Like Browning’s women, her persona too sees herself in different situations against a concrete background, reacting to incidents in the development of the soul” (Nair 110).
The themes explored in Das’ poetry ranges from conflicting emotions of sexual desires and frustrations to the shackles imposed upon the freedom of the woman by the patriarchal society. The dominant theme that runs along her poems is feminism. She has also highlighted important incidents from her own personal life in the poems, like her unsatisfying marriage, her moments of lust, and the sufferings that she has endured as a girl child. The immense frankness with which she writes is termed as “brutal”. This is the chief quality of her verses that has attracted critical as well as popular fame. She had dared to speak aloud about things that have never been dealt with other poets preceding her or were considered as a taboo. The image of the suffering women amidst the wilful lust of the men have been beautifully captured in her poem “The Sunshine Cat”.
Das’s vehement lines “I wore a shirt and my Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored my Womanliness” reflect the ways in which she has fought against the “authoritarian standing orders of edicts and etiquettes imposed upon women by men” (Jha 113).
The article concludes with the description of the most prominent feature of her poems : joissance. Pleasure has been described in various forms in her poems. Her craving for spiritual love is sharply contrasted against the dire carnal desires of her husband to whom she was forcibly wedded. “When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask For” portrays how she wanted her conjugal experience to be replete with notions of romance too. Instead her “sad woman body felt so beaten” (Das 120).