It is a frantic day for the writer. Thereâ€™s somewhere else to be in the morning, a flight to catch in the evening and her mind is clawing at her pally to be taken to Diggi Palace as quickly as possible. Itâ€™s the last day. Itâ€™s a Monday. The hordes who show up for the sake of showing up will be gone. The panels look good. And the sky is warm enough to toast brains on.
But there is something scabby about last days, something rich but tired. Like dying roses standing in your best blue vase. But the salve for all annoying feelings is poetry. And so towards poetry, the writer drifts. â€˜Wild Girls Wicked Wordsâ€™ is being launched, which is far too wicked a title for the book to be anything but poignant. It focused on four Tamil poetesses, who have been reviled and threatened in fairly recent years for their work doesnâ€™t quite gel with the expectation of that each one behave â€“ and write â€“ like the â€˜good Indian girlâ€™.
Thatâ€™s the alley this writer hangs out in too, so she sits down to listen to some poems. Besides, she is eager to look at Lakshmi Holmstrom, that star translator whose work she has quietly admired for years. She darenâ€™t actually approach Holmstron, of course, but is content with listening to her read out from the bilingual edition, and wonder at how naturally the inflections in a â€˜reading voiceâ€™ change when someone switches between English and another language, say Tamil.
The half-rhymes, the natural musicality (even of blank verse) of poems in the original Tamil must have a different kind of power, the sort of impact that makes men send anonymous threatening letters to a poetess who wants to say something about breasts. She is distracted by thoughts of cadence and how much clarity rhythm brings (or conceals) in poetry.
But even in translation, there are phrases that leap up and grab the listening writer by the jaw. Thereâ€™s a longing for an â€˜infant languageâ€™ to â€˜put an end to sorrowâ€™; a â€˜suicide soldierâ€™ who must be different from a suicide bomber; Meenakshi, the Pandyan warrior princess whom Lord Shiva tamed with the sheer force of his beauty. Salma says she trusts silence rather than words.