Anita Sivakumaran writes poetry, short stories and novels. She was born in Madras, India, and has lived in the UK since 2004. She has a BA in English Literature, an MSc in Mass Communication and an MA in Creative Writing.
Anita won the Ravenglass Poetry Prize and her first poetry collection is called ‘Sips That Make A Poison Woman’ (Ravenglass, 2011). Anita was shortlisted for the Riptide Crossover fiction prize and her short story 'Pandian Uncle and His Ghosts' was published in the 2011 Asham award collection. In 2011 she won the Grassroutes creative writing commission.
Her current writing projects include a hairy novel, the Grassroutes commission and rewriting some Hindu myths for her doctoral study at the University of Leicester.
It’s a stance:
Head turned over the shoulder,
Looking you in the eye,
In bus parks, roadsides, furrows,
In the hot sun or when the rain is spitting,
Their hands cupped as if holding a chick,
Coaxing - as they wouldn’t coax their wives -
A golden arc of mineral to enrich the earth
Or drench rubbish heaps
Or pattern the concrete
Or garland walls.
They stare straight at you,
In the act of exercising
A right they were born to
To bear arms),
And you’re a trespasser.
They’d shoot you
If only they could shoot bullets
Instead of piss.
from Sips That Make A Poison Woman, Ravenglass, 2011.
This poem conveys my experience of growing up in India in a morally and physically constraining lower middle-class household. It is about my discovery that becoming an adult wasn’t going to free me in the way that it freed all the men. If you are a woman then the culture of adulthood shrouds you, layer upon layer, like an Egyptian mummy. Simultaneously, though, it strips you bare for the eyes of men.
For the majority of Indian women, who don’t live chauffeured and air-conditioned lives, the world is a place where men stride up and down streets stroking their penises like chicks. If you happen to stray into their path you are assaulted by looks and words. All too often, you are assaulted physically too. I have gone jogging only to be followed by shrieking ten old year boys; I have gone cycling and had my breast grabbed by a male pedestrian; I have been spat at for refusing propositions on an evening walk; I have climbed into crowded buses and been subjected to the anatomies of a hundred different men. The outrage I have felt has been distilled into 'Citizens' and a few other poems.
Although I write about all kinds of things, most of the poems of my first collection (Citizens is one of them) come from a wounded sense of rage at being reviled by the whole race of men, as it seemed, while growing into an adult. The poems explore the irony that such men feel helpless at being only able to shoot piss, not bullets, at the women who have the temerity to share their world. 'Citizens' takes its comedy from this irony.
This is my interpretation of the poem now, but while I wrote it I only had in mind this experience common to all the bus stations of India. The men pissing proudly by the roadsides during the rest stops. The women staring out of the bus windows and holding on with an almighty effort. There is a bit of early Naipaul about the situation.
The structure and style of the poem is in my favourite form, blank verse. Its appearance on the page arises entirely out of the raw material. The form is an abject slave of the content.
Sips That Make A Poison Woman, Ravenglass Press, 2011
Bloodaxe Anthology of Black & Asian Poets, 2012
Ravenglass Anthology, 2011
Ultraviolet.in, 2010. Click here to read online.
Pandian Uncle and His Ghosts, in Something Was There, Asham Award collection, Virago Press, 2011
Kite Season, Riptide Volume 6, 2010
Bhai and the Manager, Riptide Volume 4, 2009
Contact & Links
Email: forename dot surname at gmail dot com