Volume 4 Issue 2, June 2020
Special Issue for Indian Poetry
(for kamala das)
Women are fields filled with seeds
sowed with a mother’s latent vengeance
a father’s blind eye
a husband’s need a woman’s stories.
You pulled weeds from underground
unpleated the years in poems, peeled yourself
as an onion wanting the naked center
your poems rode fierce chariots
clattering under a granite tradition
your womb like a chakka pazam teeming with
achenes of desires. Harbinger trumpet pen.
How then why then
the pilgrimage from disrobing to black-shrouded body
how did you slip through the crevices in your story?
Portrait of a Woman Poet
(for an anonymous Bengali woman poet)
She was beautiful, fluid as night,
poems branched as tridents raised in battle,
circuitous as conches of hidden murmurs,
a childish voice enamored and narcissist,
her poems drifted as nails… trails of silk and flags of womanhood,
the obsession with death; the romanticizing of madness and its
imitation; she was sane as a sunset falling into a habit of night,
Once they fished her from a lake; she came alive
like a phoenix; it’s the others around her who die daily,
a hundred deaths a day to keep her alive.
The air curdled to a purple iris,
forbidden city of foreign dialects,
an unamed constellation burned the sky,
And I shrunk in the folds of a shroud afraid
that a person could be a doorway into myself.
And you aging like a pressed leaf in your own book
of temptations, thinking of a saffron India and
a Shiva on a stark mountaintop cowering away from her.
We both called it virtue silently in our veins
And our pillow burned like a sole candle in the night.
About the poet
Usha Akella has authored four books of poetry, one chapbook, and scripted/produced one musical drama. She recently earned an MSt in Creative Writing from Cambridge University, UK. Her latest poetry book, The Waiting was published by Sahitya Akademi in 2019 followed by the Mantis Editores, Mexico edition in Spanish translated by Elsa Cross. She was selected as a Creative Ambassador for the City of Austin for 2019 & 2015. She read with a group of eminent South Asian Diaspora poets at the House of Lords in June 2016. Her work has been included in the Anthology of English Poets, published by Harper Collins, India.
Importantly, activism and community are deeply associated for Usha with poetry. She is the founder of ‘Matwaala’ the first South Asian Diaspora Poets Festival in the US (www.matwaala.com), and co-directs the festival with Pramila Venkateswaran. She has been published in numerous Literary journals, and has been invited to prestigious international poetry festivals in JLF-Houston, Romania, Canada, Slovakia, Nicaragua, Macedonia, Colombia, Slovenia, India etc. She has won literary prizes (Nazim Hikmet award, Open Road Review Prize and Egan Memorial Prize and earned finalist status in a few US based contests), and enjoys interviewing artists, scholars and poets for reputed magazines. She has been invited as a keynote speaker to TLAN’s Power of Words conference 2019 and the Turkish Center in Austin. She has written a few quixotic nonfiction prose pieces published in The Statesman and India Currents. Her work ranges from feminist/activist to Spiritual and all things in-between.