An Introduction Poem By Kamala Das | Line By Critical Analysis An Introduction ( 1st Part )

Kamala Das has written three books of poetry; Summer in Calcutta (1965),  The Descendents (1967) and The playhouse and other poems (1973). Most of the poems are confessional in tone and deal with her interior life and subjective state. Through them she reveals her feminine sensibility in her diverse roles as grand daughter daughter, sister, mother, wife and beloved. Her poems of self exposer however pranscend personal import and acquired universal significance for they Reveal the predicament of the contemporary women beset her encounter with the difficulties of love and sex. 

   Walt whitman once said of his own poems, "who so touches this book, touches a women".

Structure and Form of the Poem "An Introduction"


 The poem "An Introduction"is written in two verse paragraph  and does not follow a specific rhyme scheme. The diction of this very poem is lucid and simple. In kamala Das's poetry it is found that prosaic flavor is an important element and this is not a conventional poetic diction. 


"An Introduction" as a poem

              This poem "An Introduction" is highly anthologised poem . This poem is also known as autobiographical confessional poem. Every confessional poem must be autobiography but every autobiography should not be confessional. 

Tone of The Poem "An Introduction

"An Introduction "is perhaps the most famous of the poems written by Kamala Das in a self reflective and confessional tone. The poem is a strong remark on Patriarchal society prevalent today and brings to light the miseries, bondage, pain suffered by the fairer sex in such times.This is also an autobiographical poem.

Themes of The Poem "An Introduction"

 Kamala Das's An Introduction uses Indian themes and patterns and speak intimately of sexuality and domestic oppression. Her poetry  is characterized by the presence of stark images that challenge many conventions generally considered to be part of 'Indian Life'. Her criticism of patriarchy interrogates some of the assumptions informing the Indian family life. In this poem An Introduction kamala das explores the desire of self-expression:

            1.The obvious desire to write poetry & fiction. 

            2.The obvious desire for sexual expression. (Body materiality) 

Here she creating a  new space for women and the poem is a strong remark on patriarchal society prevalent today  and brings to light the miseries, bondage, pain suffered by the fairer sex in such times. This poem also represents body politics, linguistic politics, and identity crisis, body and soul debate. 

  With the change in outlook and setting forth of women's liberation, many of the mordern women poets have taken recourse to frank expressions of which some stricking examples are to be found in the poetry of Kamala Das. Her frankness gives strength to her poetry. Taking her cue from the modernist movement in poetry, she belives in the sincere treatment of the material. In trying to establish intimate tone. She gives unabashed expression to her personal themes.

Image of The Poem "An Introduction"

Kamala Das's poetry is characterized by the presence of Stark images that challenge many conventions generally considered to be part of "Indian life".Then she contrasts the speech with the deaf and blind speech of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the incoherent mutterings of the blazing funeral pyre here she gives a number of images and they are all incoherent. The images are also taken from nature .To Kamala Das that much of nature is incoherent but hard language is not like that Her language is coherent. 

"An Introduction" Poem By Kamala Das
"An Introduction"

      One of our few significant poets writing in English today, kamala das made and instant appeal with her very first collection Summer in Calcutta (1965 ). Kamala Das's poem An Introduction is highly anthologised poem and taken from the collection called Summer in Calcutta (1965).

Critical Analysis line by line of the poem "An Introduction"  by kamala Das

 ( Line  1 To 40 only Analysis here, Click here for NEXT PART )

      The poem an introduction begins with a distaste for politics. She does not care for even politicians. she says: 

"I don't know politics but I know the names of those in power, and can repeat them like days of week, on names of months, beginning with Nehru"

      Actually she does not want to bother any hegemonic ideology of politics. She is very much disappointed with politicians. Here Kamala has very tactfully deconstructed the names of those in power with repeating them like days of week or names of months that of the very beginning the poetess wanted to make herself free from political hegemony.   

"I am Indian, very brown, born in Malabar, I speak three languages, write in two, dream in one."

     After giving her comment on politics and politicians. Next, she describes herself saying that she is an Indian born in Malabar and very brown in colour. She speaks in three languages, writes in two and dreams in one, articulating the thought that dreams have their own Universal language.  

Don't write in English, they said English, is not your mother tongue. Why not leave Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins, 
Everyone of you? why not let me speak in
Any language I like? the language I speak 
Becomes mine, it's distortions, it queernesses
All mine, mine alone. It is half English, half 
Indian funny perhaps, but it is honest.

   Kamala Das echoes that the medium of writing is not as significant as his comfort level that one requires. People asked her not to write in English since it is not her mother tongue. Even more criticism every time she had an encounter with a critic, friends or visiting cousins. This is happened because English was a colonial language. She emphasizes that the language she speaks becomes her own, all its imperfections and queernesses become her own. It is half - english, half - Hindi, which  seems rather amusing but the point is that it is honest.

"Why not leave me alone" 

                                - Explain this line based on kamala Das's An Introduction.

                  When the poet says why not leave me alone by saying this she clearly declares that she needs her own space, a very new space as an women, as a writer and as a thinker. She wants to make own identity, Own world. This is why craves liberty in language to express herself freely as language is the vehicle of expression. Thus here the politics of language is an important idea.

It is as human as I am human, don't
 you see? It voices my joys, my longings, my
Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing
Is to crows or roaring to the lions, it
Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is
Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and 
Is aware.

                                  - explain this line based on kamala Das's Poem An Introduction.

    She also says about her association with English language with the help of images taken from nature. She says as cawing naturally comes to a crows, roaring comes naturally to a lion, english comes naturally to her. Her own Indian English poetry is her own. She says it is "the speech of the mind". This is a very authentic relationship of Kamala Das with the English language.

Not the deaf, blind speech
Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the
Incoherent mutterings of the blazing
Funeral pyre. 

            - explain this based on kamala das's poem "An Introduction".

  Then she contrasts it with the deaf and blind speech of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the incoherent mutterings of the blazing funeral pyre. Here she gives a number of images and they are all incoherent. The images are also taken from nature. To Kamala Das much of nature is incoherent but her language is not like that. Her language is coherent, she says,            

          "It is as human as I am human"

      Actually it is common that who is coming through in her speech.

After this politics of language over, she moves from it to what she is as a human being.                   
I was child, and later they
Told me I grew, for I become tall, my Limbs
Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair. When 
I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask
For it he drew a youth of sixteen into the 
Bedroom and closed the door.

                        -- Explain this line  based on kamala das's poem "An Introduction".

    Deep sexuality of her life is coming through here as we know earlier that she is explicit about her sexuality. Apart from this what is very striking here is that when she asked for love, even not knowing anything else about it, her father or some Patriarchal person drew a youth of sixteen into the bedroom and close the door. So she was married to a man who was sixteen years old . 

Then she went on saying...

He did not beat me
But my sad women - body felt so beaten.
The weight of my breast and womb crushed me.

              -- Explain this line  based on Kamala Das's poem "An Introduction".

   By this experience of having someone whom she did not care for, whom she could not love and whoom she even did not like and he did not love her too. He only used her body. It is true that to a Patriarchal person female body is more important than female mind.

This bitter experience Kamala Das experienced. in her words-

I shrank
Pitifully then. . . I woare a shirt and my
Brother's trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
 My womanliness.

              -- Explain this line  based on Kamala Das's poem "An Introduction".

   This shrinking pitifully shows us the extend of deterioration or decline in the person Kamala Das. Then in order to avoid feeling defeated as a girl, she decided to become a boy. So she began wearing shirt and brother's trousers. She did all these in order to assault herself. She wanted to protect herself from patriarchal violence. As its reaction the picture of domestic context come up then: 

Dress in sarees, be girl, 
be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in.

          -- Explain this line  based on Kamala Das's poem "An Introduction".

   So "fit in", this is the pre-fabricated structure of society. A girl or a woman must have to be fit in to this pre-fabricated structure of society. We cannot deviate from it. She has no right to do it only because she is a girl. Therefore, she must live like that. This is how men are trained in gender and women are trained intellectually, emotionally and physically.

Belong, the cried categorizers.
Don't sit
On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows.

              -- Explain this line  based on Kamala Das's poem "An Introduction".

  'Categorizers' - Those who categorize. This is a formulated phrase used by Kamala Das in the poem "An Introduction". This is the way girls are stereotyped in a social system. In this system their identity has been essentialized and constructed. T.S. Eliot wonderfully put it in his poem The lovesong of J. Alfred prufrock that: 

    "The ice that fix you in a formulated phrase.

 And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, 

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall

Then how should I begin."

      In this way the body politics continue and Kamala Das represents role of gender throughout this line.

Be Amy, or be Kamla, or, better 
Still, be Madhavikutty, It's time to 
Choose a name, a role.

             -- Explain this line  based on Kamala Das's poem "An Introduction".

    Here she has got three names. First one is Amy Powell, this a american name. Kamala Das has got this name because she Carries western culture and the first feminist writer of India. And the second one is Kamala, this is a psedo name in english. And also Madhavikutty, it is a malayalam name And her language is malayalam.

Click here for NEXT PART

Read Also: