Savithri Rajeevan
(India, 1956)   
Savithri Rajeevan

Savithri Rajeevan is a noted Malayalam poet and short fiction writer, based in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. She holds a post-graduate degree in Malayalam literature from the University of Kerala and another from the MS University, Baroda, in fine art criticism. She has taught art history in the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanksrit, Kalady, and is currently an advisory board member of the Central Sahitya Akademi for Malayalam. Widely anthologized, she has published a volume of short fiction and four collections of poetry, most recently Ammaye Kulippikkumbol in 2014.

The poems selected here circle the theme of middle age and physicality in various ways. There is the ageing body, the frail, diseased body, the slippery, shape-shifting body, the perennially mysterious body. Selected from four volumes, these are extraordinary poems in their ability to view the body as a site of materiality, mutability and magic all at once.
Rajeevan makes no attempt to romanticize her subject. Instead, her ability to gaze with quiet, unblinking, sometimes almost childlike clarity at the body transforms it into a thing of wonder and beauty. What makes for effective poetry is that it extends the reader’s ideas of beauty as well. A mother’s wrinkled body becomes an infinitely tender meditation  on memory and mutuality. In another haunting poem, skin disease transforms a body into an exquisite mural, a prehistoric cave painting (“That Greek beauty on your thigh,/ filling her basket with flowers:/ her arms reach your knee/ her fingers holding a pale white flower./ She wants nothing/ short of a bison to ride,/ that pitch black beast/ bellowing on your breast.”) In yet another, we see a body emerging from all attempts to etherealize, mythicize or exoticize it, into an undiscovered continent of mystery. A skilful weaver of metaphor, Rajeevan’s poems are luminous and finely shaded, the politics clear but never facile.
Rajeevan is fully aware that of the alchemical power of the human imagination – its ability to confer and alter meaning. A grandmother’s implacable faith can de-colonize the the moon, erasing the footprints of Armstrong and re-enchanting its terrain. Similarly, a diseased body can turn into an artefact, even Altamira, if viewed through the lens of wonder.
It is the lens that makes all the difference. And as a seasoned poet, Rajeevan is capable of viewing her subject from a place of clarity and obliquity at the same time. As she writes in one of her poems, “Glasses are the door/ Through which I talk/ to a stranger, a guest/ And a friend./ Through the glass I speak/ To children, flowers,/ And to God.”

© Arundhathi Subramaniam

Cherivu, Pakshikkottam Books, Thiruvananthapuram, 1993
Dehantaram, Mulberry Books, Calicut, 1999
Savithri Rajeevante Kavithakal, Mathrubhumi Books, Kozhikode, 2009
Ammaye Kulippikkumbol, Mathrubhumi Books, Kozhikode, 2014

Sanchaariyude Thaanu Poya Veedu, Mathrubhumi Books, Kozhikode,2009
Translations of Rajeevan's poems by K. Satchidandanan in Muse India.


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