by Sharanya Manivannan
Sometimes I think you would have to be absolutely androgynous to not want to make love to me. The most annoying part of being a sexy thing is when you go through a whole day with nobody seeming to want to ravish you. Mythology should make love to me, musical notes should make love to me, hell, strawberry jam should make love to me. Thunderstorms should make love to me. They're the most erotic things in nature and I think they might enjoy it. Kiki Dimoula's captive statue should make love to me. But then I'd just end up calling her a frigid cow. There can be nothing spectacular about a stone tongue in my ear.
Magenta should make love to me. If white gets jealous, she could make love to me too. Maps should make love to me. Maps are masculine so I can't be accused of oppressive matriarchy by denying them their fundamental right to pleasure me.
Anyway, sometimes I think maybe I don't love you, I only love the way it feels to think I love you, so maybe that feeling should make love to me. And ever since I decided that I love mouths, their shapes and the shapes they make, I think that people's voices should make love to me. So should the city of Rio de Janeiro. And the Yangtze river and each of her tributaries.
Hearts should make love to me because I'm already broken. The colour of the sky at 1a.m. on a cloudless night should make love to me. The word Melancholy should make love to me. Sometimes I think that woman in the mirror must be insane to not want to jump me every time I approach or walk past her. Sometimes I think I want to become a born-again, so all my appeal becomes concentrated on the fact that I'm completely unattainable. Sometimes I think I am, otherwise magenta and Rio and Kiki and her statue would certainly have attempted a shag by now, and I wouldn't have the time to wonder why you haven't.
© 2008 Sharanya Manivannan
Creative process: Sharanya: It’s not really bragging or exaggerating to say that “Poem” is probably my most popular piece of writing – when something gets spoofed, as this piece has been, it’s got to be because it is recognizable enough.
It’s a piece I love to perform, because it’s funny and sexy and over-the-top, and it cuts through to the audience very quickly and unabashedly. I can’t remember it ever not working in performance, even in places like Singapore (no offense – I love Singapore, but your audiences are so damn sober!).
I wrote “Poem” when I was 17, and I think the unimaginative title was a combination of not being able to come up with anything that was right (“Sensual Frustration” was suggested once, I remember, and it was also published somewhere without authorization under that title, to my horror when I found out) and reading a book in which many of the poems were called, well, “Poem”. Also, I wanted to experiment with the prose-poem form.
There’s a reference to “Kiki Dimoula’s captive statue”. Dimoula is a Greek poet, and I had read one of her works about a statue of a woman with bound hands, because the woman is always a captive. At this time, I was heavily influenced by micro-press feminist publishing, and read mostly obscure work – if it was dead, white and male, I rarely went near it. I read voraciously back then – when others my age sneaked boys into the house, I sneaked books in. Seriously. I come from a deeply unsupportive family who believed that money spent on books was money wasted.
The truth is that I wrote “Poem” because I wanted to write something funny and clever, and because there was a poetry workshop on the following day and I wanted some new material. It sparked with an idea I thought would be a lot of fun – everything on Earth finding me so damn irresistible – and then it was just a matter of deciding what some of those things were. It was definitely a lot of fun to write, and I did it very quickly, but the twist at the end surprised me.
For all its quirkiness, to me, “Poem” has always been a poem about loneliness. In many ways it was prescient. The truth is that while I knew all about being irresistible at 17, I didn’t know much at all about rejection of a certain sort. I did eventually experience that kind of rejection, which was what “How To Eat A Wolf” came out of. “How To Eat A Wolf” is often taken quite literally as a man-eater poem. But to me, the wolf has always been her own lust. It is a beast and a wild thing, and she needs to kill it, because the man she needs will not have her that way. But she can’t do it herself, because she loves that lusty part of her and knows that it is only because of him that it needs to die, so that they can be equals. I am sometimes surprised by how the sadness of both these poems is frequently overlooked.
Sharanya Manivannan is an Indian writer who lived in Malaysia for a long time, and became infamous for leaving it. As a spoken word artist, she has performed at dozens of venues since 2001, including an abandoned pier, a cemetery and the 11th century Borobudur Temple (as well as more conventional locations). Her first full-length book of poems, Witchcraft, will be out this year, and lots more by and about her is at http://sharanyamanivannan.wordpress.com.