Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Widowhood is trapping me unwillingly. ~ First line of the poem "My Husband is Leaving"

Wet Silence: Poems About Hindu Widows by Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Modern History Press, 2015
Poetry; 72 pgs

Sweta Srivastava Vikram captures well the many different voices of Hindu widows in India in this collection of forty-nine poems. The poems in Wet Silence speak of grief of all kinds, including that of love lost and of lost opportunities. The poetry I like the best is the kind that speaks to me on an emotional level, and Sweta Vikram's poetry did just that.  There was not a poem in this collection that did not work for me, that did not draw out my emotions in some way.

How do I tell anyone what you gave me?
Even when you had less hair and few breaths,
you kissed my questions,
we came crashing like a wave.
We contained each other.
~ Excerpt from "Never Abandoned" from Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

When I first saw mention of Sweta Srivastava Vikram's Wet Silence, I knew I wanted to read it. This collection appealed to me most because it is about women facing hardships, in addition to being  another opportunity to step outside my own experiences and culture to learn about another. Wet Silence gives readers a glimpse at the cultural restrictions placed on many Hindu women after the death of their husbands. They are not allowed to remarry and must live as if in mourning the rest of their lives. From what they wear to the food they eat to how they behave, they are required to adhere to strict religious and cultural norms. Just as the first sentence quoted at the beginning of this review, widowhood is its own sort of trap for these women.

We kept our dirty laundry
on separate shelves in the same closet.
~Excerpt from "Eulogy" from Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

A few of the poems are written from the perspective of the mistress and others from a wife whose husband was unfaithful. There are poems about abused wives as well as those who were well loved. There is one about an ungrateful son.  Sweta Vikram covers a wide range of experiences in her poems, writing about gender expectations and inequality; and about the freedom that comes with the death of spouse as well as that feeling of being trapped when one's spouse is gone.

Other men notice your prints on my breath;
you were everything to me.
But I remained a ghost story
in your life-a fish bone that no one wants
in the throat long after the fish is dead.
~Excerpt from "Your Wife" from Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

The book is divided into three sections, the first being “I can hear a white cotton sari weaving at the shop,” which were the poems that spoke to me most clearly--perhaps because I imagine these are how I might feel to some extent if I lost my husband. There is such sorrow and loneliness within the poems. The second section, “I didn’t promise to sleep in your shadow,” is made up of poems that speak of a mixture of feelings, each one very different: that of loss and love, of feeling burdened; of anger and frustration, especially by those who had been abused or were married to men who were unfaithful. The voice of the women in the third section, “Silence became my lover, that’s why,” who feel less constrained by cultural and religious expectations

You never pulled yourself together for me.
But like the autumn breeze,
I'll indignantly rise, and sing songs of freedom.
~excerpt from "I'll Rise" from Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

I have read each of the poems at least twice, some even more than that.  Each of the poems are emotional and have a power all their own. They spoke to me as a human being as well as as a woman. So much comes through in so few words regarding the cultural complexities each of these women faced. I loved that about this book.

Here is a brief video of the author during a poetry reading of Wet Silence:

To learn more about Sweta Srivastava Vikram and her books, please visit the author's website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Wet Silence on the Poetic Book Tours route:

Aug. 21: Suko’s Notebook 
Aug. 23: Emma Eden Ramos

Sept. 5: Bookie Obsessed 

Sept. 16: 5 Minutes for Books 

Sept. 18: Create with Joy 

Many thanks to the Poetic Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Review copy provided by the publisher for an honest review.

 © 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Thank you so much for being on the tour for this phenomenal book; there is so much said in an economy of words -- it is doubly powerful. Sweta is a true poetic talent.

    1. Serena - Thank you for letting me be a part of the tour! This is such a heartfelt and memorable collection of poems. I am glad I had the opportunity to read it.

    2. I still think about it now. I love it; and I'll likely read it again.

  2. This sounds absolutely fascinating and heartbreaking. I'm not the biggest poetry fan but these sound so emotional and so real I think I would enjoy the read. I never would've even looked twice at this one but I'll have to add it to my library list.

    1. Katherine - It is! These poems are very approachable, even to someone who doesn't read poetry often, I think. I hope you do get a chance to read this collection.

  3. I rarely read poetry, but this sounds lovely.

    1. Stephanie - I don't often read poetry either, although I am always telling myself I should.

  4. I've seen this book around but yours is the first review I read. This sounds like an emotional read.

    1. Melody - The poems are emotional. It was hard not to get choked up reading many of the poems.

  5. I enjoyed your review. This sounds like a very moving book of poetry.

  6. I'm in love with these poems. Poetry has always been a big part of my life, but with a few notable exceptions, I return to old favorites like John Donne and T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas over and over again, but the excerpts from Vikram's poems that you have chosen are so touching that I am adding Wet Silence to my wish list.

    1. Jenclair - I do hope you get a chance to read them, Jenclair! They are such beautiful poems.

  7. Wow, this book sounds amazing! I never read poetry - I find that I never get it. But your review has made me inclined to give this one a try.

    1. Athira - Poetry often intimidates me because I'm afraid I won't get it. And that is true for some, but not always. I try to remind myself of that now and then. This is a good collection--I don't think you would have that problem with these poems.


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