Kamala Das: Selected Poems – Penguin Modern Classics: Book Review

Category: Poetry
Selected Poems by Kamala Das poetry collection book review
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I have been a reader of poetry who does not rest until a new collection of a single poet or a collection of poems by many different poets gets on my reading table, every week. I understand that the modern age is not for poets as it used to be, perhaps, 2-3 decades ago. However, there are the lovers of poetry who will surely want to know more about poetry collections from poetry freaks like me and I am here to tell them all that I have recently finished Kamala Das: Selected Poems published by Penguin India. Are you interested in reading this book review? Keep reading.

The best thing in this collection of poems by Kamala Das, ironically, is the explanation, introduction and almost a paper on Kamala Das as a poet which we can find at the beginning of the book. Devindra Kohli, the editor of this collection or the introducer we can say, has been at his best in the introduction part of the book. However, I cannot say the same about his choices of the poems that he thought best to include in this collection. It could have been better. But, if you are a student of English literature, the introduction will be more than merely useful for you.

Nevertheless, a critical analysis of the introduction by Kohli, if you are at an advanced stage in your understanding of Indian English poetry, will certainly let the threads of bias open and you can see what the editor is trying to do. He is trying to fix the contribution of Kamala Das to Indian English poetry in a frame that does not go beyond feministic perspectives. Kamala Das, however, is way beyond being limited in one dimension that any critic might think.

The poems are taken from many collections, vivid and various, but with an ideology in mind which could have been avoided so that the readers could have enjoyed it – un-guided. Nevertheless, with whatever it is offered, the poems by Kamala Das does not connect with the readers as such. You can feel a discontent within her emotional expressions and that may be because of her own existential dilemma.

I am a million, million silences
Strung like crystal beads
Onto someone else’s

And this is all the truth about this collection that one critical reader of Indian English poetry might know. This is not what we could have seen had the poet been composed and convinced about what she was trying to do. However, at times, Kamala Das, when she draws her inspiration from her roots, ancient learning and obviously, a religious identity that she later bartered for some reasons unknown, she is at her best! Her poetry, when sung for Krishna, has a brilliance that can be observed from a very distant vantage point:

This becomes from this hour
Our river and this old Kadamba
Tree, ours alone, for our homeless
Souls to return someday
To hang like bats from its pure

Could see say more? She should have done very well… still, with much left unsaid, the poet has said too much for the readers to understand.

Kamala Das is a poet who is more unpredictable than fixed. To understand her poetry, that is a task I think only students might undertake because Kamala Das could never veer across the intellectual dimensions with her verse, one might find this collection a useful step. And so, you can have this very well. To get a copy of this Penguin published collection of Kamala Das’ poetry, you can click the link to Amazon India below and get your copy:

Buy the book now – click here to buy from Amazon

Review by a contributor to Egoistic Readers

Selected Poems: Kamala Das – Penguin Classics Book Review
  • Egoistic Reader's Rating


I won’t say that’s the best Kamala had done. However, it’s the best that Mr Kohli could have done. A good and informative collection for English literature students looking to understand Kamala Das and her poetry.

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