Prathibha Nandakumar
(India, 1955)   
Prathibha Nandakumar

Prathibha Nandakumar is a Bangalore-based poet, short story writer and playwright. She has also been active as a journalist and documentary filmmaker. She has five collections of poetry to her credit. Prathibha’s other publications include books of short fiction, translations, essays, biographies of women artists and an autobiography. She is presently the Director of Surya Creative Services, a media services agency, and Kriya Foundation, a culture foundation.

Nandakumar’s contribution to Kannada letters has been recognised by various literary institutions: she received the Karnataka State Sahitya Akademi Award in 2000 and the Mahadevi Verma Kavya Samman in 2003. She has been invited to present her work at various festivals, including the Gottenburg International Book Fair (1997), the Asian Writers’ Conference in Helsinki (1998) and the SAARC Writer’s Conference in Kathmandu (2002). Her poems have been included in several anthologies, including Penguin Modern Indian Writers, Chicago Review: Special Edition on Indian Writers, In Their Own Voice: Contemporary Indian Women Poets (edited by Arlene Zide for Penguin), among others.

In the interview also published here, Prathibha recalls how in the early 80s she stormed the predominantly male bastion of Kannada verse with “a fresh, daring and adventurous poetry about what it meant to be a woman”. She and fellow writers like N.V. Bhagyalakshmi, Sa Usha, Kamala Hemmige, insisted on writing “about life as we saw it: inequality, love, yearning, adultery, motherhood.” She points out, however, that her dissident content did not alienate her from senior or contemporary male litterateurs with whom she has always shared volatile but affectionate relationships.

Prathibha is not squeamish about the notion of confessional poetry. As she says in the interview, “I didn’t want to write anything even in my most private letters that I couldn’t shout from the top of the Eiffel Tower!” And yet, the poems in this edition are not ‘confessional’ in any facile sense of the term. Formal and compositional concerns are evident and remain vital to the poet’s understanding of her genre.

The poems included here offer a glimpse of the varied resonances of the poet’s voice: assertive, playful, poignant and witty. There is the amplified tone of the ‘credo’ poem (‘Woman and Blood’ and ‘Magnitude’) as well as the quiet cadence of the personal relationship poem (the ardent lover’s elopement entreaties in ‘At the Staircase’ are superbly undercut by the wry closing line: “There is still half an hour before I serve dinner”). Irony is the poet’s chief resource, but it is a fine-tuned instrument, often directed slyly at the persona as much as at the other.

© Arundhathi Subramaniam

Also on this site
‘Even in my most intense moments, I’m me.’
Interview with Prathibha Nandakumar by Arundhathi Subramaniam.


Navu Hudugiyare Heege (We Girls Are Thus). Kannada Sangha, Christ College, Bangalore, 1983.
Itanaka (Until Now). Kannada Sangha, Christ College, Bangalore, 1988.
Rasteyanchina gaadi (Cart at the Edge of the Road). Kannada Sangha, Christ College, Bangalore, 1991.
Kavadeyata (Game of Cowry). Kannada Sangha, Christ College, Bangalore, 1998.
Aha! Purushakaram! (Aha! The Human Form!). Nelamane Prakashana, Srirangapattana, Mandya district, 2000.

Nimmi (Collections of Columns). Nelamane Prakashana, Srirangapattana, Mandya district, 2000.
Mirch Masala (Collection of Essays). MSN Publishers, Bangalore, 2001.

Short Fiction
Yaana (Travel). Surya Prakashana, Bangalore, 1997.
Akramana (Intrusion) (Collection of translated stories). Surya Prakashana, Bangalore, 1997.

In English
The Tribune (India): Windows
‘When Indian Writers Meet’: Column by Khushwant Singh on his meeting with Prathibha Nandakumar .

The Hindu (July 5, 2001)
On Aha Purushakaram, an evening of poems by Prathibha Nandakumar and dancer Madhu Natraj Heri.

‘Will Short Film Do The Trick for BMP?’
News report from The Hindu on short film on waste management in which Prathibha Nandakumar plays a key role.

In Kannada (December 2004)
‘Mirror’: A poem by Prathibha Nandakumar. (October 2004)
‘Dehu Mattu Aathma’: A poem by Prathibha Nandakumar.


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