On the poetry of Banira Giri
(from the Introduction to FROM THE LAKE, LOVE)
When a voice of assured affirmation anchors itself in an act of violation and violence as victim, the words "transformation" and "overcoming" can only approximate the writer's intention. In the poem "Wound", Banira Giri does more than raise a voice against rape and the personal wound the victim bears, she transforms through the powers of language and the inner strength of adversity overcome, the stigmata of violation into an emblem of power. "Wound"--already the softening occurs, the doubling of the act, the vowels, not the disavowal, the "V" for violation, like a flag waving in the wind, like something touched not with one lip but two. And so the tongue takes over: man misleads, sentences us; woman miraculizes, brings forth out of emptiness.. and we take note --of the images drawn through the eye of her affirmation. Creation borne out of memory. Where innocence is victimized, where rape follows upon avowals of friendship, where chance meeting where brute strength overwhelms, what remains is the ad infinitum of Violation, the signs of blood of "cruel intimacy.... spread on the gravel of the crossroads like an unclaimed corpse."
From the outset
your every thrust
blazed as fire,
tore through the skin as thorns do,
pierced as a blade,
appeared as the night of the dark moon
But these days
your every stroke,
a mere touch,
and as for my self
oven that contains the flame,
bush that raises up thorns,
sheath that holds the blade,
fangs for the cobra's deadly poison,
darkness of the night that swallows the moon
Only intensity of language and conciseness of imagery can assimilate what has happened. The stigmata of rape like an unhealing wound, like a brand claiming an animal is turned round not at the point of entry but from the deepest recesses of consciousness. It is there that woman triumphs. Man cannot go deep enough, he can not find her to claim her, for the vehicle of his claiming lacks depth, for it is always in retreat even as it attacks. Violation is all that he is. Wound is the source of her triumph, and in that triumph resistance cries out: you have done this to me, you will not do it again.
Wound! Maul and smother me
Lick with your slathering flames
Your force converted
for I'm hardened to it
Where your weapons of thrust and violation are stored,
I burrow and hide, grazed from all angles guns afire
Flameburst upon flameburst here and everywhere
But it is surely so, violator
Violation! tearing your ears, listen
Your armory will be emptied --I will not
your armory will be emptied --I will not
Giri's voice insistent in its climactic victory resounds with an insurgent force. In "From The Lake Love" the author works with an imagined act of violence. A high mountain lake is taken to be the body of a woman that all are drawn to and partake of in a ritual of rape and dismemberment. The aware reader recoils as she is drawn in. The woman of the lake in forced submission to the many gives herself to the one who fathoms to the depths her worth. Against a preconscious memory marked by collective violation, legend would have its readers overcome trauma within the amnesia of love and the cultural rites of marriage. Beneath the beauty of the language one asks: Is this not rape? Is this not violation? Is this what culture conceals?
a woman without compare...
immersed herself, emerging
her gentle comely form turned to gold
Then and there a gaggle of youths
grabbed her, tore her to pieces
and shared her among themselves
...among them a youthful hunter
...stole away with her heart.
...On full moon nights
in the dreamlike shimmering of Sarover
...transformed into white swans
murmuring their love talk,
...waiting for the wedding procession,
hand-woven leaves for the feast.
For Giri and for the culture she seeks to reclaim in her poetry, a crime more consequential than violation is abandonment. Within her writing the ideal of wholeness, of man and woman complementing and completing, of world and beings sustaining and surpassing, is seen as a given within nature and when seen well, when understood, is taken up and affirmed in human creation and in culture. In "Pashugayatri" she portrays the cultural loss when the task of sustaining has been abandoned.
in this holy land of Pashupati,
completely helpless, bereft and naked,
pitiful Bagmati... ...stagnant within
...only scars of memory...
the rush of her waters, an encrusted scab
... through the dry banks of her chest
(she) whispers the Pashugayatri mantra..
and she is shocked
"Ay ai, Men are men after all,
though they throw a flood of filth into the Bagmati,
though they make the Bagmati a River-Of-Sand
...who is she to have them listen...?"
She herself feels ashamed, troubled, sobs
In preparation to enter the underworld for ever,
seen by no one, for the last time,
stops for a moment during the still of night,
tries to wash the feet of Lord Pashupati, but cannot
Bagmati, of only a thin line, only a name,
breathless, weak, waterless, Bagmati
disheartened while trying to bid farewell to Pashupati
the whips of sand
the whips of sand
drive her out
In a world where culture mattered, where symbol embodied living force, the writing of Banira Giri would be recognized for its sustaining power, for its capacity to project enduring sources of creativity into a mode of awareness. At the heart of her enterprise the Sovereign Female reigns. Where it should be praised, it has been diminished; where it should be established, it is abandoned; where it should be protected it is assaulted. Unfortunately the power of her voice, the intensity of her language and her willingness to take up the forms of traditional culture and revitalize them from a more deeply realized source does not warn nor awaken those who will not hear it. Where man appropriates, woman creates; where creation itself is violated, what use is poetry?