Friday, August 21, 2015

Wet Silence

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Sweta Srivastava Vikram.  I've read and reviewed many of her books, including: Because All is Not Lost, Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors, Beyond the Scent of Sorrow, No Ocean Here, and her terrific novel, Perfectly Untraditional. When I discovered that she had a new collection of poetry, Wet Silence: Poems about Hindu Widows, published in July 2015 by Modern History Press, I was thrilled.  I couldn't wait to read it, and luckily, I didn't have to, because Serena from Poetic Book Tours asked me to participate in the tour for this book. 

This collection begins with an insightful and eloquent foreword  by author  Shaila Abdullah, whose work I've reviewed and also adore.  As Shaila says in the foreword, Sweta's poetry deals with the many faces of widowhood in India.  Shaila calls it a "startling account of Indian widows"--and I agree.  My knowledge of Hindu widows in India was scant before reading this book.  I've learned that in India (and in other places), when a woman loses her husband, she also loses many rights.  She is not allowed to remarry, to eat certain foods, or to wear colorful clothing.  Widows are supposed to wear white saris, remain celibate, and mourn for the rest of their lives.  According to Shaila, widows are "blamed for bringing death to the family's doorstep", and "shamed into silence".  Wet Silence features poems that depict the varying emotions of Hindu widows (and other women) in India.

Dear husband: try to leave your scent behind.

I know
your Old Spice on my pillowcase will drive me insane.
(from Ghazal, p. 8)

Some of the widows featured in this book loved their husbands and miss them.  Others are relieved when their husbands are gone; they'd lived in fear or loathing of their husbands, because the men were abusive or unfaithful.  According to Sweta, all of the poems are based on or inspired by true stories.  This makes them even more poignant. The women in these poems are telling the truth, which is often painful.

From a poetic standpoint, this collection is remarkable.  These poems are honest, profound, beautiful, and brilliant. They courageously depict compelling stories with dignity and grace, although many of them are disturbing.  I must admit that while reading this book I was often angered and saddened.  I tended to focus on the terrible ways that the men treated the women, and asked my usual question, "why?".  (Even if cheating is "merely" the byproduct of a greater sex drive on the part of men, it's still devastating to women, particularly to wives, who've often invested great time and energy into their marriages.)  Some of the women in these poems were stuck in abusive marriages. They suffered quietly. The  lines below are from the poem Wet Silence.  It's heartbreaking.

You dragged me by my throat,
I knew it wasn't the right way
for a husband to treat his wife.
(from Wet Silence, p. 47)

However, the women featured in Wet Silence are not asking for pity.  They are simply telling their stories.  They are simply speaking out loud.  And they are simply making themselves heard, maybe for the first time ever.  These poems break the silence.

The final poem in this collection is particularly powerful and positive and empowering to women, and is the perfect ending for this collection. 


I am a woman
who can be left in a desert,
and I'll come back smelling of jasmine.


In the YouTube video below, Sweta reads four poems from Wet Silence at the Queens Literary Festival: Craving you, What does a servant girl know?, Your wife, and A widow's confession. Watching the video is a great way to sample her work.

Please do yourself a favor and listen to this poetry reading when you have some time.  It's very worthwhile.  I've watched it several times.  Poetry should be read out loud, and hearing Sweta read her own poetry is a real treat.  Sweta is a talented writer, and she's an expressive speaker.  She also has great warmth and a sense of humor, even though the poems are serious in nature.  I enjoyed this video, and felt as if I were at the event.


Thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of this tour.  For more reviews of this poetry collection, please visit the other stops on the tour for Wet Silence.  Thanks for reading! Your thoughts and comments are welcomed.
Willpower, a poem, originally appeared on page 50 in Sweta Srivastava Vikram's poetry book: Wet Silence (Modern History Press: July 1, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1615992560)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Salon: Back at Last!

Finally!  I am back after my longest yet posting hiatus.  I've been reading, but at a relaxed pace.  The past few months I've been extra busy with my family and work, so I took a much needed break from blogging this summer, although I did visit other blogs, and posted numerous book giveaways hosted by others.  Anyway, I've had a good summer, and I hope you have, too.  I spent a lot of time with my eldest daughter, who is now in Japan. We went on many morning runs together, and she also helped out at the office.  Our time together is priceless to me.  My younger daughter will be leaving for college soon, so I've also felt the need to spend time with her, although she's often out of the house, making the most of her summer with friends who live nearby.


Reading Nagasaki

Last month, I read Nagasaki by Éric Faye.  I chose this novella to read during the weekend that my daughter was leaving for Japan.  I plan to post a brief review of this book for Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge fairly soon.

I also read The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers recently, which I enjoyed a great deal.  I'd read so much about this book, and it was even better than I thought it would be.  I'm "friends" with the author on Facebook, which is very cool (Facebook is great in some ways).  How times change!  This type of communication or connection is still pretty remarkable to me, because when I grew up, it was a huge deal to have any contact with authors.  Many years ago, my younger sister, Amy, wrote to Maurice Sendak, and when he wrote her back and included an illustration, it was an exciting event.  I can't speak for the whole family, but my sister, mother, and I loved his work, and I still do.


This is my first Sunday Salon post. Thanks for tuning in with me!  I hope to post a review soon. :)

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