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Editorial December 2006

December 2006

December’s Indian pages feature a debate about the double bind in which women writers often find themselves. In her intelligent introduction, Arundhathi Subramaniam describes it thus: “The ‘personal’ in [women’s] work is frequently ghettoised or trivialised as autobiographical or confessional – in short, solipsistic in its concerns. But when their work speaks of a realm outside the seemingly autobiographical, or in an idiom that doesn’t seem adequately impressionistic, it is termed inauthentic.”

The two female poets, Kanaka Ha. Ma. and Salma, who are interviewed in this issue, speak of limited freedoms but of the outlet provided by poetry. Kanaka Ha. Ma. ’s drive to write comes from a desire for self-awareness. She describes her poems rather beautifully as “a garland of small freedoms” in a long continuous “march towards the self”. Salma’s poetry articulates an unapologetically female perspective, describing her existence in a closed patriarchal society. Her poem ‘No Traces Left’ movingly puts it thus:

This life — impossible to pursue,
With a myriad of lifeless objects
And one man —
Goes on regardless,
Inside the same room

However, autobiographical, personal writing is not just confined to poetry written by women. American-born Irish poet John Montague's poem ‘A Small Death’ tells of a toddler’s first confrontation with mortality. I particularly like the way the poem moves on to another level with its transcendent final verse:

Beyond the tall woods, lights
of Victoria are flickering on:
yellow flares of sodium
under dark coastal clouds
crossing Vancouver Island;
dream cattle swaying home.

The second poet in the Irish section is Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill whose poet page has been updated and new poetry included. Like the two Indian poets, she is concerned with feminist issues and aims to dispel stereotypes, replacing them with representations of multi-dimensional, confident, sexually-desiring women.

Miloš Đurđević describes one of this month’s Croatian poets, Branko Čegec's poetry as melancholic and lyrical. Reading ‘A Day’s Foam’ I get rather a different impression. Because of its title I was more intrigued by his poem ‘Never in the Netherlands’, although after several readings I am still unsure what the Netherlands is doing in there.

The other Croatian poet featured, Sanjin Sorel, also demonstrates a wide range of skills. His prose poem, ‘Blood is Thicker than Water’ forms an interesting addition to the prose poetry featured on the site in November. I had to look up the English word ‘sward’ in his short poem ‘Drop’ where “guards sward”. It means to become covered in grass.

The fourth country publishing new material in December is the Netherlands. Thomas Möhlmann has chosen to include Eva Gerlach, one of the leading Dutch contemporary voices. Her poems range from the naturalistic to the existential to the surreal. I quote here from her lovely poem ‘The Doorposts and the Covered Windows’ which combines all of these elements:

For that I once have loved you, that’s for sure.
The rest not – whether you existed
and if, what colour eyes then, green at times,
at others grey, a swarm of swallows once
shot out of them.

In order to add more audio and video material to the Dutch domain, a partnership project with  Digital Pioneers is underway. The first feature to be added was an animated film of Mark Boog’s poem series ‘Salt’. Coming up later this month, podcasts of Tsead Bruinja reading his poems in Dutch and Fresian will be added to the site. Over the coming weeks, we will be able to feature further new podcast readings and interviews on the Dutch domain.

Finally, Seasons Greetings!

Michele Hutchison

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