(India, 1961)   

Anamika is a Delhi-based poet who writes in Hindi. A lecturer at the Department of English at Satyawati College, Delhi, she has five collections of poetry to her credit. Over the years she has won numerous accolades for her literary work, including the Bharat Bhushan Award for Poetry (1996), the Girija Mathur Samman (1998), the Sahityakar Samman (1998), the Parampara Samman (2001) and the Sahityasetu Samman (2004). In addition to poetry, she has authored volumes of fiction, memoir and criticism, and undertaken translations of the works of Octavio Paz, Rilke, Rabindranath Tagore and Girish Karnad.

Anamika studied at the Universities of Patna, Lucknow and Delhi. She holds a doctoral degree in Donne criticism through the ages, and did her post-doctoral research on the treatment of love and death in post-war American women poets. Her research interests also include a comparative study of women in contemporary British and Hindi poetry. Anamika’s poetics have been shaped by her highly catholic exposure to Indian, Anglo-American and European women’s literature and critical traditions.

In the accompanying interview, she reveals a keen awareness of the many varieties of self-censorship that literature by women is compelled to enact. While her work questions middle class patriarchal notions of ‘respectability’ and ‘dignified suffering’, she remains conscious of the fact that self-revelation is a fraught and perennially challenging process. “Telling it slant” becomes, therefore, an important aesthetic strategy.

Anamika’s poetry is a sophisticated combination of political awareness and self-reflection, a restless interrogation of a socially constructed femininity and a wry acknowledgement of the many hues and textures of human relationships. This is not a simple poetry of protest. The feminist and human rights concerns that it articulates are subtle and inflected, and there is an ability to raise ethical and existential questions in a manner that rarely seems programmatic. This is evident in the eight poems selected for this edition, translated by poet, linguist and translator, Arlene Zide, in collaboration with the author.

There is seldom anything monotonous about Anamika’s poetic cadence. A poem often promises to lead you in one direction, but a sly cross-current surfaces, pushing you to an unexpected destination. The poem, ‘Dalai Lama’, for instance, starts out as a portrait of a simple and charismatic teacher and statesman, moves to an ironic admission of the popular stereotypes associated with Tibet (chow mein, lost eyes and Lhasa Apsos) and suddenly concludes with a meditation on a caste system of truths:

I prefer living in the deep cave of a small truth
occasionally coming to you
to learn the nobler truths of life.

Or consider ‘Mobile’, my personal favourite. From a humorous evocation of the cell phone and middle class domestic hierarchies, it moves suddenly to “the roads of old Baghdad/ before the American bombings”. In a single deft image, the poem conjures up a parallel interior life, secret, unexplored, essentially untamable:

Parallel to the modern malls
are the old souks and the meena bazaar
glittering inside me
like archeological ruins dotting the heart of the metropolis.

For the reader willing to play archaeologist, Anamika’s poems will yield new insights with each successive reading.

© Arundhathi Subramaniam

Also on this Site
Poetry and the Good Girl Syndrome
Anamika interviewed by Arundhathi Subramaniam


Samay Ke Shahar Mein, Parag Publications, Delhi, 1989
Beejakshar, Radhakrishna Prakashan, Delhi, 1992
Anushtup, Kitab Ghar, Delhi, 1998
Kavita Mein Aurat, Itihas Bodh, Delhi, 2000
Khurduri Hatheliyan, Radhakrishna Prakashan, Delhi, 2005

In English
World Association for Christian Communication – Taking Sides
On a national colloquium in Hyderabad in which 65 women writers (including Anamika) met to discuss the many faces of censorship in India, including its gendered dimensions.
‘The Door’: English translation of a poem by Anamika
A quote from Anamika on the poetry of Kedarnath Singh
Report on ‘Asmita’, a poetry reading by women poets in Mumbai, 2002, in which Anamika participated.

In Hindi
‘Bejagah’: A Hindi poem by Anamika


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