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Ms Militancy

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Meena Kandasamy’s full-blooded and highly experimental poems challenge the dominant mode in contemporary Indian poetry in English: status-quoist, depoliticised, neatly sterilised. These caustic poems with their black humour, sharp sarcasm, tart repartees, semantic puns and semiotic plays irritate, shock and sting the readers until they are provoked into rethinking the ‘time-honoured’ traditions and entrenched hierarchies at work in contemporary society.

The poet stands myths and legends on their head to expose their regressive core. She uses words, images and metaphors as tools of subversion, asserting, in the process, her caste, gender and regional identities while also transcending them through the shared spaces of her socioaesthetic practice. She de-romanticises the world and de-mythifies religious and literary traditions by re-appropriating the hegemonic language in a heretical gesture of Promethean love for the dispossessed. The poet interrogates the tenets of a solipsistic modernism to create a counterpoetic community speech brimming with emancipatory energy.

64 pages, Paperback

First published December 1, 2010

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Meena Kandasamy

30 books714 followers

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5 stars
65 (40%)
4 stars
70 (43%)
3 stars
23 (14%)
2 stars
4 (2%)
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Displaying 1 - 25 of 25 reviews
Profile Image for Vijetha.
95 reviews3 followers
September 12, 2017
I sample read this book before I started reading the author's new release When I Hit You or a Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife and I honestly didn't understand her angst and anger and decided to put it off for later.

Reading this now, after reading "When I hit you..." actually put things in perspective and I rather enjoyed reading this one.

Ms Militancy is a collection of her poems. This book (and her other works too, for that matter) might not go well with everyone. It's not a breezy read. She's angry, crude, outright feminist and very strong about her opinions. This is not something you read for the poetic feels alone. One needs to be in that zone with her - feel her words, her emotions behind and (maybe?) understand the place it comes from. It worked for me. And I hope it works for you too!

Here's a sample for you:

For an affair:
Trust any man who is allergic to children,
carries a civil war in his eyes, travels a lot
and speaks up when you are subjected
to society's customary stone throwing-
this hero has a history of scandals.
He keeps secrets like slave-girls.
Trust this man to never let you down,
or stand you up, even if it involves
raising from the dead. Amen.

For marriage:
Trust a man only after you have dunked
his head in buckets of freezing water.
Trust all the truth spilling out of him
when you have slipped, like soap on skin,
rusty pins under his toe nails. Eyes wide open
trust him as you take him on an electric dance
that makes his penis sing. Test him to trust him.
Detest him to trust him. Trust a man through faith
in all forms of torture, which is how men trust each other.
Profile Image for arjn.
62 reviews12 followers
May 4, 2019
In Meena Kandasamy's hands, language is a weapon against centuries of oppression. Each word here is damnation, and originates from the mouths of the damned. I don't know a single dissident text in 2000 years of Hindu and Dravidian culture that transgresses the cultural patriarchy so strongly and fiercely (this is an admission of ignorance as much as it is praise). She re-interprets classic Hindu myths from a feminist perspective, writes about political topics like dissidence, lynchings, and Dalit oppression, she takes Mahabharata to Los Angeles and makes Draupadi a stripper, calls the Gods dickheads and rapists. Nothing is sacred for her, because the entire structure of Hindu society oppresses and needs to be militated against.

The collection contains poems about being Dalit in modern India, about female desire, sexual violence, cultural patriarchy, political resistance, and tyranny of the Gods. The Preface reads like a manifesto and perfectly captures the spirit of the 40 poems in this book. It's also one of my favourite parts of the collection. The poems are often blunt, crude, and punchline-y, but that's just her style. I grew to like it, it adds a visceral feeling to the text. It also makes for powerful performances.

The poet is a militant alright, and watching her blow things up is pure joy.
Profile Image for Sheeja.
7 reviews6 followers
July 22, 2013
A collection of really powerful poems. She retells stories from a feminist and dalit perspective. Her women are not shy and docile women of the puranas; they are powerful, they flaunt their desire.
Profile Image for S.
136 reviews65 followers
August 19, 2019
Really can't rate or review this. Poetry is not my thing. I don't know anything about it. I loved some of the things a lot and some just went over my head as usual. The rage the poetess feels and the way she goes against the entire patriarchal structure is phenomenal.
Profile Image for Durga Kale.
3 reviews
October 11, 2021
Brilliantly worded, masterful writing. Full of "mic drop" moments.
The compositions present an intricate weave of intertextuality and offer gems for a layered reading of traditional to the modern interpretation of myths from Hindu literature. However, this collection of poetry is not for the faint of the heart, and for people who fail to see beyond the texts as sacrosanct.

Kandasamy's poetry collections have inspired me in ways I cannot articulate. My takeaway from the collection is the act of questioning, beyond just looking through the watch glass, at the myriad of South Asian literature.

Please do not forgo reading the sharp preface to this collection, penned from Meena Kandasamy's years of experience distilled in mere few pages.
In short, this collection of poetry is truely a treat.
Profile Image for Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm).
672 reviews204 followers
May 28, 2020
"On some days of the week
They come up with the lotuses
And greet the first rays of the sun
In all their fresh/flesh/flush pinkness.

Surfacing, as in a pointillist canvas,
Speckling the grey-green temple-tank,
They float around like fish-food.
Bloated, just-born, just-dead babies.

In a tight-lipped, time-tested way,
The holy temple removes all traces
Of these floundering ones. Chlorinated,
The bathwater turns pure once more."


Ms Militancy, Meena Kandasamy's second collection of poetry, begins with a fiery preface wherein she tells the self-appointed arbiters of morality, decency, and religiousness, in no uncertain terms, to just sod off if they choose to take offence at her. In the poems that follow, she fulfils her promise by being as irreverent, unapologetic, and outspoken as possible. Put simply, she has no time for fake bullshit and she makes that quite clear. Similar to Touch, her previous collection, Meena Kandasamy continues to radically re-imagine gendered spaces in the complex context of rampant patriarchy, an entrenched caste system, and colonial hangover. She proceeds with the recontextualization of Indian (Hindu Brahmanical) mythology, integrating them all with contemporary women’s struggles. There is a deep exploration of body politics and how it is interlinked with discourses around gender and caste in poems that are darkly humorous and buzz with an infectious melody. You can't help but be mesmerised.

She unravels the hollow cavity of modernist thinking using language as a tool of dissent and subversion, imbuing them with "emancipatory energy". More than all that, her poems are wildly creative. They are filled with wild, startling imagery and astounding phrasal shifts, always seeking to undermine regressive dominant modes of thinking and understanding the world. She is unafraid and loud in challenging the people in power, and she pre-empts all possible backlash. While Touch was a little rough around the edges, Ms Militancy is tempered and polished. Here Kandasamy ably shows a greater degree of control but without any loss in the sharpness of her distinct poetic voice. She assumes her activist self, uninterested in the silencing and invisibility brought by self-effacement.

I would like to end with the last section from the above-mentioned preface which is both provocation and self-assertion, highlighting exactly why Meena Kandasamy is, and will always be, my favourite writer of all time — "Call me names if it comforts you. I no longer care. The scarlet letter is my monogram. I see it on everything I wear, I tattoo it into permanence. I strive to be a slut in a world where all sex is sinful. I strive to be a shrew in a society that believes in suffering in silence. I strive to be a sphinx: part-woman, part-lioness, armed with all the lethal riddles. Come, unriddle me. But be warned: I never falter in a fight. And, far worse, I seduce shamelessly." Kandasamy is brimming with rage, transferring them to her words and the resulting poems bring that fierce fire with them, a cleansing inferno. The reader beware.
Profile Image for Ashish Kumar.
249 reviews52 followers
February 6, 2023
Two stars just for that powerful preface and the first poem (which was the best poem in this entire collection).
Profile Image for sabiha.
23 reviews
April 11, 2022
“you wouldn’t discuss me because my suffering / was not theoretical enough. enough. enough. / enough. now i am theoretical enough. / i am theoretical enough… but because i use these bedeviling words / the way you use me never means / that i have stopped seething in anger / that i have stopped swearing.”
Profile Image for Kshitija Ghan.
10 reviews1 follower
August 8, 2020
Bold and unapologetic ! One of my favourites from feminist literature.
Profile Image for s.
49 reviews
January 13, 2022
The best that poetry and language have to offer.
Profile Image for Apoorva.
582 reviews65 followers
January 5, 2017
This is a fucking brilliant collection, especially the bits about the non-conformist Hindu goddesses. Love love love!
Profile Image for Idea Smith.
341 reviews69 followers
April 1, 2022
The title warns you of the mood of the poetry. If rage could be simmered into fine words & violence turned into poetry, it would be this book. Ms Militancy is unapologetically feminist, the angry raging kind, wrathful at the world for discriminations against gender, caste & language intersections. Female icons from the Hinduism pantheon ranging from goddesses to devdasis to apsaras dance in and out of the poetry. They are also unabashedly sexual & militant, a point that Kandasamy lays bare in the introduction itself. My favorites were 'Celestial celebrities' and 'Once my silence held you spellbound'. Meena Kandasamy is an undeniable force on the landscape of Indian women writers & poets today.
Profile Image for Saamarth Singh.
23 reviews5 followers
May 4, 2023
Ms Militancy | Meena Kandasamy

Poetry | 2010 | Navayana Publishing

A powerful collection of poems on feminism by a Tamil Untouchable feminist woman. Her poems come alive and attack you furiously. I loved how she used mythological tales in her poems and attacked both patriarchy and Brahminism. A robust collection of poems. However, a few poems are difficult to comprehend for a non-Tamil reader. Only if some context had been provided. Loved it. 
Profile Image for Prem Sylvester.
250 reviews27 followers
January 17, 2020
An irreverent (in the best way) collection of poetry that leaves no heroes unscathed, no deity unturned. There is heart, yes, but one of a raging warrior, one rallying against the singe of patriarchy and casteism. No poetry I've read has matched the passion of this book, and it is an experience to behold
Profile Image for Sivananthi T.
361 reviews47 followers
February 10, 2020
A collection of poems to savour, where the poet re-tells the stories of mythical women as wild, strong women who are mistresses of their own destinies. Myths were created to put women in their place the poet says, and that for women to exist as themselves there is a need to re-write these myths. There is a hint of Plath here and there.
Profile Image for nivedita.
75 reviews
January 18, 2022
Short but very repetitive. At one point it just became obvious she was writing for herself and herself only. Still, I love Kandasamy's writing :) The understanding she has of queer, Dalit womanhood is just insane lol
Profile Image for Sourav.
43 reviews19 followers
June 2, 2019
This needs a precursor. Reading her book first and then coming back to it ! For the first read, I couldn't quite follow the wave.
Profile Image for Archana.
16 reviews11 followers
August 18, 2019
Extremely smart, witty, powerful; this book is a weapon. Perfect example of "The pen is mightier than a sword"
Profile Image for Divya.
121 reviews11 followers
May 28, 2021
Fabulous fucking collection. Bursting through the seams with very real, much relatable anger, pointed and powerful, militant every step of the way.
126 reviews
January 15, 2022
Angry, pointed, alive. Kandasamy's poetry leaps out and dissects religious icons, historical and political figures, and still-living realities. Furiously Dalit, unapologetically feminist.
Profile Image for Gautham Raja.
24 reviews2 followers
November 12, 2015
Reading different perspectives of Indian Mythology and characters was mind boggling. I enjoyed that part. But I couldn't connect to the feminism part... Felt more like a feminazist view.
Displaying 1 - 25 of 25 reviews

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