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International Reflective Writing


Anushka Solomon

Anushka Solomon is author of two poetry chapbooks, Please, God, Don't Let Me Write Like A Woman, Finishing Line Press 2007 andThe Hindu and The Punk, Pudding House Press 2009. She was born in Malaysia.

Her poetry was read at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Scotland, by Amnesty International, UK in 2007 (Imprisoned Writers/Women at Risk/ in Exile series). In 2008 she was featured as on one of the twelve international writers/journalists of the Heroes and Heroines Exhibition. The others, Cuban journalist, Pablo Pacheco Avila, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner 2003 Shirin Ebadi, Nigerian Chris Abani, novelist Arundhati Roy from India, Chinese journalist Shi Tao, Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho, Activist Wangari Maathai from Kenya, Anna Politkovskaya the Russian journalist who was murdered in 2006, Aung San Suu Kyi the imprisoned Burmese democratic leader, Iyad Hayatleh who is a Palestinian refugee writer in Scotland, and Woeser a Tibetan writer whose works have been banned in China.

In 2009, Anushka was one of the eight women (Anna Politkovskaya, Lydia Cacho, Shirin Ebadi, Arundhathi Roy, Wangari Maathai, Aung San Suu Kyi and Woeser) featured at the Glasgow Women's Library, International Heroines Exhibition for speaking up against human rights abuses in the face of repression. Scottish writer A. L Kennedy read excerpts of the women's work.

Upcoming, in 2009, Anushka A. Solomon's poem Of The Indian I Am Not, written in early 1985 as part of her Division 111 exam at Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass. will be read at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Education: B.A, Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts. Anushka transferred from the University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Journalism to study poetry and creative writing with the late Jamaican poet laureate Prof. Andrew Salkey. After graduation from Hampshire College, Anushka returned to Malaysia and taught English and Critical Thinking at a Malay-Muslim only institution in Malaysia to America and Australia bound students. She also taught TOEFL and ESL to Malaysian Chinese, Indian and Malay students at Inti College.

Anushka and her husband, Ben Solomon, and their son, David Marshall, fled Malaysia after their conversion to Christianity in 1998. Malaysia, her country of origin, (then 10th trading partner of the US, now 16th), is never far from her mind. She was a Compass/Colorado Voices Op-Ed columnist for The Denver Post (2002-2003) and continues to write free lance articles for The Denver Post, , Colorado Serenity, The Canyon Courier, Mountain Connection and other regional and national publications. Anushka is determined to live happily ever after with her family, friends, fellow poets, the elk, deer, fox, coyotes, birds and mountain lions in Evergreen, Colorado.

Glossary for Anushka Solomon's Poetry

dikir barat — a traditional musical performance. Everyone is seated cross-legged on the floor. The lead sings and the rest of the band claps their hands and move their bodies to a beat and tempo.
durian — Malaysian fruit with a thorny hard green shell and soft custard pulp encasing seeds inside. Westerners find the smell of durians too strong.
jangan kuhatir — don’t worry.
kain songket — intricately woven gold embroidered cloth used by Malays for traditional dress.
koviar — the lowest caste among the Tamils from Sri Lanka.
permaisuri — Queen
pahlawan — Warrior
ringgit — the Malaysian currency.
selamat datang — the traditional Malay greeting of welcome.
songkok — a black cap.
Yang Di Pertuan Agung — title for the King.
Yap Ah Loy — Chinese governor of Kuala Lumpur in its founding years. Lived 1837-1885.

The Poems

Raped, Draped and Relegated

I slept with the Prime Minister, Mahathir,
jangan kuhatir, why not, I am not 
telling a soul. He unloaded his songkok,
bald, ribald and bare — why do you stare?
You know he does it. You, his wife, do you
care? You, his daughter, didn’t you hear the hymen tear?

I force the details on you mad, bad and glad
to share how he gunned me down
like a muted, molted hare, blinded
by the headlights of a snare in a singularly 
built concrete jungle Mahathir —

Jangan kuhatir, cracked open my skull, 
monkeyed my brain and can you bear it
broke even the bars of the jail to suffocate
this tale before I turn pale and stiff like 
a bed of nails I say I could not lay on so 
my soul sank out from under him
gasped and suffered and piteously died 
while you all sat around the table covering
your ears drowning my tears

supping chinese elixirs, drumming dikir barats
karaoke klapping hands, Eh wah! Eh Wah!
Aweh! Aweh! accepting ringgit bribes
beckoning some long forgotten moon, you 
forget you are afraid of stricture, denying all
scripture, you crow as I cry 

How he soiled the marital bed!
How he drew the mattress to court!
How uselessly, uselessly I fought!

When he called, beating his chest,
‘Are there any men out there?’ no-one
came baring their breasts, he was right —
Mahathir, jangan kuhatir — We are an
emasculated nation, emancipated from
nothing and constipated with everything.

I do declare, if I Look East, as you feast and 
and see a rising sun, my brains are unctuous 
matter, dissolving before the witch doctor’s
chant is begun.

If you remember correctly
before he mended memory and gave you 
a medical history he came —

A Malay Dilemma 
his own medical balls poured into some
pants, mouthing heresy, masking fantasy, 
asking in ornate oratory to placate your anxious ass
by probing, poking and peeking, leaking like the plague
into the air Malaysians ate as they doubted Fate
and debated Faith letting in the Prince of Air.

If all I tell you isn’t viable,
If all I bell is the cat, doesn’t it rather vitiate the air
If you got raped and then draped with his pants?

You go girl, get yourself some justice
Just take yourself some care, Friday
is not a good day, maybe you ought to go pray,
there is that long foray — lunch break — some months are 
for fasting, the rest of the year they are dusting

In the police precincts, you can get raped again, 
But with Mahathir, I am telling you,
jangan kuhatir, no-one will tell a soul, no-one will
really care or dare.

Give Mahathir Your Tourist Dollars

Come to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
the city bolted on the inside lighted
on the outside bring your tourist 
dollar, hear us holler, bring your
tourist dollar; ‘Selamat Datang’
visit now my burial ground, 
bring cash I have so much 
to offer — the dead, in auspicious 
Chinese red proffer — receive in paper 
all they can get — quaint customs, 
traditional bamboo blinds the Malays 
with cash you can have a bash, the
Indians dance to all tunes, in our 
modesty we hide our travesty like
the ostrich in sand dunes what in
the nation what shall I not praise? 
What have we not to lift up to the
human race? For a price, you can have
the coconut tree moved, auspicious rice,
forest bound lives, or city hives, ride the
rickshaw, rub shoulders with the
urbanites, enjoy the native smile,
marvel at the lack of guile and when 
we assemble in coloured lies, you 
realize, we went to so much trouble 
to practise rites for your delight so 
Come to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,
The city bolted on the inside, lighted
On the outside, you will feel like you
died and went to heaven, we will be
open all night like a tavern dancing 
on our monuments like pawns in 
noodle soup, oh, prawns! flying kites 
or head hunting among the dead in 
auspicious red, don’t you get all
suspicious now and start looking around
for the bullies on your playground —
you know the walking dead buried in
four hundred and fifty two meters of
glass and steel never make a sound.
so bring your tourist dollar but don’t 
you go fooling around the crown 
in the land of the sultans in kain
songket*, velvet, silk, batik or damask 
they know how to bring you down 
without a dollar so adjust your collar
hear me holler and come to the city 
bolted on the inside, lighted on the
outside, Come to Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia. ‘Selamat Datang’

The Creed of the Poet in a Woman/Poetess

I wandered like a river, meandered like a nomad,
looking for a poet who could set a drunken bard 
afire; a loaf of bread, a jug of cold water sustained
on all I read, I went as the spirit led.

There were poets who lurched words across the page
ornate words that had women bound, bah! bah!
said Ezra Pound, ‘I have sung women in three
cities, But it is all the same; and I will sing of
the sun’.

Black, black like a raven fled his words in 
pun, red, red, like a woman bled the land 
laid underground; against rocks and snakes I
dashed my head, in an ocean I made my bed

in the sounds that rushed around, all the books
that abound, I found few who wrote of things
I knew, like a woman whose feet are bound I
wandered like a river, meandered like a nomad

looking for a creed, rushing like a reed, 
thirsting like a cloud, I wondered out aloud
hungered, lingered in a city looking for words
to give women whose mouths are bound 

I straddled two worlds, and speaking three
tongues, read Edna St Vincent Millay, and
watched Maya Angelou sashay, I leapt over 
rocks, tipped over crocks going home

I found salt running in streams, washing poets
Out; watered down or behind bars, the women sat
their hands over the mouths; not one lacked bread
to eat, women swirled like colours in the streets 

caged in towers I longed to share my joy 
at having found women who wrote poetry and 
gushed out from underground but no woman rushed 
naked to greet poetry, not one had her mouth unveiled

nor was her spirit free, before I profess the poet’s
creed , I must confess — this in my country is no
mystery; the creed of the poet can set drunken bards
on fire; those who are free soar with glee but what

are poets in a nation bound by their hair to the ground? 
Bah, Bah, said Ezra Pound, ‘I have sung of women in
three cities, they are all the same I will sing of the sun’.

What writer are you?

‘What writer are you?’ —
a balding, beer-bellied Malaysian bellows
his cup filled with a vile brew, his cry
echoed by a consenting crew raising modern
heads, thrusting in my hands with a shaking fist
a broom: ‘Sweep the Floor,’ he commands
so to be true I comply with his demands
accomplish a purpose with his tools
knowing no-one can do nothing quaking
in his jackboots I quickly strip
the palm-frond leaves
our quiescent women wave when our fickle nation
houses the entire Empire I acquire the features
of the painted persons the prime rib has
on parade at the crossroads of culture
I shake the skeletal quarters of a drooling city
mined on waters by metal the likes of Yap Ah Loy I hang
curtains I draw to peer at what secret shame
abides in a Malay Archipelago fame
the Yang Di Pertuan Agung, Permaisuri, Pahlawan
Prime Minister monuments and memorials stretch frail like
cobwebs in a scurry under the table I brush
aside Braille dust aged praying hands, I choke at
the money laundered buying, selling our
women, our graying old men, our caged land in the magical forest
realm I stop to gaze at a talisman
I let my heart race at the pace trade has set
the price at which we are purchased, the carnage
we sell, the dead things we embrace, I look up upon
the gilt-framed faces of kings upon the wall, the towers we rig
tall I count in cowrie shells the cost contained
on our shores among our dead buried like secret
treasure scattered like sacred ash from end
to end I sweep the house built after spirits are
appeased I try to keep the faith of the land but
the ocean calls a purpose I raise to hail the storm
a livid monsoon rain floods the path I walk
bloodied by other limping poets wounded I
fall dying in a trench dug out by denizens
who step in their own graves to observe the law
of a land steered by the stars of a henchman I
strike down sweeping the floor spill blood that
washes nothing away and answer the door the
national anthem rattling the primal cave
of a mouth meant for God and praise writing
poems politicians paraphrase that’s the kind of
writer I am sweeping the floor like a whore
when God stands knocking at the door and
you are inebriated to your core.

Source: The New Internationalist:


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