Monika Kumar
(India, 1977)   
Monika Kumar

Monika Kumar is a Hindi poet of growing acclaim. Her poetry has been published in various print and web journals, including Pratilipi, Jankipul, Samalochan, Anunad, Sabad and Samavartan. She lives in Chandigarh where she works as Assistant Professor in English at the Postgraduate Government College. She has studied in Amritsar and Patiala and is currently registered for her doctorate on the work of Jean-Francois Lyotard at Punjab University, Chandigarh. Her interests include the folklore and folk culture of Punjab, contemporary literary theory and world poetry.

Hindi poet and editor Giriraj Kiradoo, who recommended Kumar’s work for this edition, writes in an article:
Her work engages with the mundane and its sad, difficult poetics without the protective aid of the heavy machinery of ideology or philosophy. Her poems are signed by a deep-rooted doubt, perhaps dislike, of everything grand – things or narratives  and have an acute awareness of the linguistic weariness and the loss of detail that their cherished literary mythologies bring in. Undoing the poetics of the mythologized grand, her poems invent ways of conversing with the invisibility of the “little universe(s)” around us.  Small, hardly noticeable everyday activities are converted into a poetic “event” as they happen inside the poems as if under a microscope.
In these poems, one sees a poet curious about the many lexicons of love, the varied perspectives and lens through which the subjective world can be viewed. She seems acutely aware of the subtlety and precariousness of human relationships, the fraught world of interpersonal communication, so susceptible to the betrayals of the camera, the failures of language, the self-preserving decorum of hindsight, reason and prudence, the caprices and inaccuracies of nomenclature.
One sees a need to get past the name, the word, the façade, the attitude to reach the molten, vulnerable epicentre of self and other: “To make any sense of history/ I need a quick artless response”, she says in one poem. Artlessness seems necessary in order to “see better” the “fresh oil” in the ripened peanut within the shell. And yet, there is also a realization that the mystery of the other can never quite be penetrated in its entirety and that some depths will remain forever unplumbed:
Looking at a watermelon
I have no idea how deep its red fleshiness is
where the countless meditative eyes
that garnish its inside are 
(from ‘Signs of Exclamation’)

© Arundhathi Subramaniam


Pratilipi and The Browsing Corner: Poems by Monika Kumar


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