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In 2003, a group of men and women, setting themselves up as guardians of Tamil culture, objected publicly to the language of a new generation of women poets — particularly in the works of Malathi Maithri, Salma, Kutti Revathi and Sukirtharani—charging the women with obscenity and immodesty. More than a decade later, a deep divide still persists in the way readers and critics perceive women poets. Tamil women poets have been categorized as 'bad girls' and 'good girls'. The traditional values prescribed for the 'good' Tamil woman are fearfulness, propriety and modesty. Our poets have chosen, instead, the opposite virtues — fearlessness, outspokenness and a ceaseless questioning of prescribed rules. This anthology celebrates the poetry of these four poets through Lakshmi Holmstrom's English translations.
MALATHI MAITHRI grew up in a fishing community with a strong tradition of independent working women. Malathi's poetry and fiction have been published since 1988. Malathi is a political activist committed to human rights, community welfare and environmental issues.
SALMA is the pseudonym of a writer who grew up leading a sheltered life in a middle-class family belonging to a Muslim community in the small town of Thuvarankurinchi, near Madurai. Entirely self-educated, today she is widely recognized in Tamil literary circles and is also a politician and an activist.
KUTTI REVATHI has published several books of poetry. She is deeply influenced by that strain of Siddha thought which claims that our bodies are our selves: it is through the body that we understand the natural world, gain knowledge of ourselves and achieve a connectedness with the universe.
SUKIRTHARANI was born in Lalapet, a village near Ranipet, in Vellore district. Her poetry developed, she says, in an atmosphere of disapproval: refusal of permission to attend public meetings on the part of her parents and evasive lies on her part. She has published five books of poetry. LAKSHMI HOLMSTROM (1935-2016) translated short stories, novels and poetry by major contemporary writers in Tamil including Ambai and the Sri Lankan poet Cheran. In z000, she received the Crossword Book Award for her translation of Karukku by Bama; in 2007, she shared the Crossword—Hutch Award for her translation of Ambai's short stories, In a Forest, a Deer; and she received the lyal Award from the Tamil Literary Garden, Canada, in 2008.
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