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The IUP Journal of English Studies :
An Eternity of Lines Around My Throat: Negotiating Old Age in the Poems of Contemporary Indian Women Poets in English
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Relationships are a recurring theme in the poetry of women poets. Being a daughter, wife, lover, and/or mother is examined and reexamined, often with reference to the men in their lives. The complexity of these roles and the network of family, lovers, and friends offer rich material for poetic content. And one of the most interesting figures to emerge out of these interconnections is the woman in her twilight years. This paper draws on the theories of feminism, gerontology, and cultural historicism to analyze how Indian women poets explore the many expectations, concerns, and privileges that come with old age, especially as they relate to women in India. With this aim, the paper focuses on the poems of Melanie Silgardo, Eunice De Souza, Kamala Das, Smita Agarwal, and Tara Patel from the anthology Nine Indian Women Poets edited by Eunice de Souza. The paper attempts to show how old age is both a time of difficulties and possibilities. Though many of the unique issues affecting elderly women in India are a product of long-entrenched unequal patriarchal structures, it is still possible for individuals—as evident from the voices in the poems—to carve out spaces of personal responses.

 
 
 

Among the questions that contemporary women poets across the world grapple with, one of the most elusive is whether their poetry voices a distinct female sensibility (Shapcott 2009) in terms of both theme and style. And if so, does it define their poetry, and more importantly, how essential is it for good poetry? In the Indian context, this question assumes even greater relevance as women poets down the ages have been exploring ways to make their voices heard within the social, political, and cultural structures of a patriarchal society. In fact, perhaps the best known modern Indian woman poet, Kamala Das, owes a great deal of her fame to her unabashed exploration of women’s sexuality, usually in terms of relationships with men. In recent times though, more and more women poets are bypassing the lens of their gender to write—coming up with characters, situations, and identities in their poems that are not essentially female.

 
 

Journal of English Studies