Kamala Das’s Summer in Calcutta Poem Collection

Kamala Das's Summer in Calcutta Poem Collection

The Dance of the Eunuchs

The first poem in this volume bears the title The Dance of the Eunuchs. It is a bold poem written against the background of the poetess’s sudden contact with a man who, in her own words, had hurt her when she was just fourteen or fifteen years old. By virtue of the ironical tone of this poem, it sets the tone and temper of the entire volume which is entitled “Summer in Calcutta“.

The Freaks

The poem, which follows, has the title The Freaks which expresses the intensity of a woman’s yearning for sexual gratification while the man lying beside in her bed is passive. The persona in the poem is certainly Kamala Das herself, complaining about the passivity of her husband who treats sex as something mechanical. The last line of this poem contains a phrase which has become famous and which is frequently quoted by critics. The phrase is “a grand, flamboyant lust.”

Spoiling the Name

This, again, is a poem which illustrates Kamala Das’s own passionate desire not merely for sexual pleasure but for the fulfillment of her love. In this poem Kamala Das asks herself whether she can give the name of love to her sexual experience. The poem entitled Spoiling the Name contains the following significant lines:

“Why should this name, so

Sweet-sounding, enter at all the room

Where I go to meet a man

Who gives me nothing but himself, who

Calls me in his private hours

By no name……”

These lines evidently show that there is no real love in the persona’s sexual relationship with the man. The tone of this poem is, again, one of disappointment verging on despair.

The Fear of the Year and My Grandmother’s House

Two other poems expressing a mood of gloom, bordering on despair are entitled The Fear of the Year and My Grandmother’s House.  The second of this poems ends with the following memorable lines expressive of Kamala Das’s deep dismay at not having been able to find real love anywhere except in her own grandmother’s house where she spent some of her happiest days before the death of her grandmother:

“I who have lost

My way and beg now at strangers’ door to

Receive love, at least in small change”

Summer in Calcutta, My Morning Tree, The Testing of the Sirens

The poem entitled Summer in Calcutta (after which the whole volume has been named) is written in a joyous mood because it celebrates the poetess’s temporary victory over the defeat of love. Actually Kamala Das has here described her creative reaction to the torture of an Indian summer.

But then there is the poem entitled My Morning Tree which deals with the theme of Kamala Das’s desperate longing for fulfillment. This poem expresses a mood of dark despair, though the poetess hopes, ironically of course, that the passive limbs of her desire and passion would flower into a “red, red morning flower of death”.

Also Read:

The last poem in this volume bears the title The Testing of the Sirens in which the poetess describes her loveless sexual experiences with two men, quite different from each other, both leaving her disappointed. A Critic’s View About this Volume of Poems

.According to A. N. Dwivedi,

“Despite the fact that the majority of poems in this volume are dominated by a tone of betrayal and present the poet as a prisoner of her own loneliness and complex moods, the poem The Wild Bougainville satisfies a peculiarly personal need as a necessary distraction from her mood of sadness and loneliness….It is, however, clear from a large number of poems in “Summer in Calcutta ” that Kamala Das’s impersonal note or sense of universality is simply self-imposed and not natural for her”.


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