“Meera Nair’s poems trace a curve of beauty even when they go through harsh issues and daring pronouncements,” writes Amit Shankar Saha.
En Body starts with the argument that “en” as a unit of measurement is half of “em” dash and in a patriarchal society that is what a woman is considered to be – half of a man. Meera Nair in this third collection of her poems by using the “en” in the title of her book tries to destabilize the connotation of that term through poems that contradict that original meaning stereotyped in society.
But this does not mean that the volume is a feminist propaganda that loses out on the art of poetry which is fundamental to a poet. It is this delicate balance between arguing for the cause of women in content and maintaining aesthetics in form that is the hallmark of Meera Nair’s poems.
The noted poet K. Satchidanandan has said that Meera Nair’s poems belong to the category of poems of those of Kamala Das and Eunice D’Souza, which vouches for the claim. In fact, in her poem “Kamala”, dedicated to Kamala Das, Nair writes:
lotus in eternal bloom,
you stole words from my mouth
and made them yours
long before I was born.
As I turn your pages,
we laugh together
at all those
who read us wrong.
The beauty of her words comes out by juxtaposing thoughts and images which apparently appear as contradictory but thereby the inner meaning of the epigram is revealed. What is part is actually the whole and there is no whole. This is the deconstructive approach to a text. In the poem “Laments of a Reluctant Feminist” she begins the verse with the lines:
For the man who believes
his worth lies in the piece of flesh
between his legs,
and ends with the lines:
Men are such ignorant darlings.
It is so difficult being a feminist.
It takes the readers through a journey of dichotomy but also a satirical realisation that mocks at the power structures of a patriarchal society. So do poems like “Women of the Streets”, “Brides of God” and others.
But not all of Meera Nair’s poems explore issues of gender even though the apparent paradoxes remain her forte. Nair is very convincing when in her poem “Dog” she says, “Silence seeps into my ears/ and plays a nonstop track” and claims “Emptiness is tangible”. Nair’s poems suck the readers into moments of poignancy. “Rented Quarters” is a magnificent poem which ends memorably with the beautiful lines: “I live in a house/ Someone else has loved in.”
In her poem “Ootacamund” she writes: “Sleep rolls a blanket/ around your tongue.” There is beauty in her language. She can talk perceptively about ruins and heritage of cities like Konark, Kovalam and Kolkata as well as about emoticons, shopping malls and circuses. In the poem “For Tenzin Tsundue” she depicts homelessness and in “Great Grandmother” she discusses the great art of detachment.
And then there are poems of love and longing. There is pain of yearning in poems like “Last Love”, “My Love is a Terrible Thing” and “Railway Station.” In “Comrade and I” she ends the poem with the line: “Love is a luxury that must be rationed.” Drunk on love, Meera Nair turns “despair/ into words on paper”. That is why some of her poems begin and end with lines that stay with the readers for a long time.
She starts poems with words like: “The shore holds an ocean of tears” (“Ockhi”), “Anonymity is a bullet bike” (“Anonymity”), “the last of our stories have run dry” (“Deluge”). She ends poems with words like: “The Gods must be in so much pain” (“Artist”), “an ode to your impotence” (“The Book of Poems”), “and let wounds and words rest” (“World poetry Day”). Meera Nair’s poems trace a curve of beauty even when they go through harsh issues and daring pronouncements. The poet is never lost in the propaganda nor is the cause dissipated in artistry.
Dr. Amit Shankar Saha is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Seacom Skills University. He is also a widely published short story writer and poet. He has won the Poiesis Award for Excellence in Literature, Wordweavers Prize, Nissim International Runner-up Prize for Poetry. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Griffin Poetry Prize. He is the co-founder of Rhythm Divine Poets and the Assistant Secretary of Intercultural Poetry and Performance Library. He is the Fiction Editor of Ethos Literary Journal. His two collections of poems are titled “Balconies of Time” and “Fugitive Words”.
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