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The Old Playhouse and Other Poems is among the classics of modern Indian poetry in English. This new edition carries an eminently readable and insightful introduction by V. C. Harris. Not only Kamala Das’s major themes but the specific terms of her poetic address, voice, and concerns (as a woman, poet, and social being) receive fairly close and critical attention in these pages. Harris concludes his discussion of The Old Playhouse with an altogether fresh and illuminating reading of Kamala Das’s “An Introduction” in the light of postcolonial concerns of home and the world, and the poet’s conversion to Islam in the last years of her life. “Talking about Kamala Das today means talking about not merely post-Independence Indian poetry in English,” he observes, adding that other, far more complicated issues “relating to gender, violence, identity and difference, hybridity, contradictory coherence, and . . . language and the art of writing the self” cry for renewed attention, pre-eminently in this collection.
New readers of Kamala Das will find her as engaging and challenging as the old readers have always found her. Furthermore, as Harris suggests in his essay, no reader could leave The Old Playhouse without being awakened by a newer conscience and unmoved by fond memories.
KAMALA DAS is one of India’s leading poets writing in the English language. The thirty-one poems in this collection are representative of her best work. Her theme is physical love; her medium, free verse. Her writing is intensely lyrical—sometimes soft and musical, sometimes with a bitter edge to it. Its unpretentious brilliance is revealed in strong yet subtle imagery, and the natural and autobiographical tone heightens its poignancy.
This is an invaluable book for those who are interested in modern poetry and particularly in modern Indian writing in English.
V. C. HARRIS, well-known writer and Professor of English at the School of Letters, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, has translated (with C. K. Mohamed Ummer) a collection of Kamala Das’s short fiction entitled The Sandal Trees and Other Stories.
V. C. Harris