Off the Page and Off the Hook
If seeing is believing, hearing is conceiving: of a new day and way for poetry. Sharanya Manivannan is conceiving a new poetry. Born in India in 1985, she grew up in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. She currently lives in India and has performed in the Utan Kayu International Literary Biennale in Indonesia, the Singapore Writers’ Festival, and Poetry with Prakriti in Chennai. “Art,” Manivannan said in an interview with TELL Magazine, “if done right, transcends boundaries.”
Manivannan does it right.
She is a novelist (Constellation of Scars), poet (Iyari; Witchcraft), and spoken word artist. With spoken word she melds her considerable gifts for story and image into white-hot performance. Her solo show, Ochre As The Earth, rocked the Kuala Lumpur arts scene when first performed in June 2007, generating rave reviews of work that “negotiates the intricacies of imagined exile, combining the core concepts of ananku (Tamil), iyari (Huichol) and duende (flamenco).” These may seem like abstract theories, but Manivannan brings them to life in surprising ways, weaving the three strands with dexterity, passion, and precision.
“Ananku” is an ancient Indian concept of sacred power that exists in dangerous places. In the boldly titled poem Clitoris we hear: “god wakes up between my thighs.” The sacred power of women’s sexuality is also made manifest in Linea Negra: “this is no mere pigment….this dark line of convergence…you’re a girl with a heart like jacarandas and I am a dangerous, dangerous, woman.”
“Iyari” is a Huichol Indian concept of “heart memory.” Her poem Witchery casts a spell with the arresting line: “I am the hemorrhage of memory.”Although difficult to define, duende may be understood as the force that inspires the art of the flamenco dancer. Federico García Lorca wrote that the duende “works on the body of the dancer like the wind works on sand.” This force always courts death in pursuit of its expression.
In the sparely titled, Poem, Manivannan exudes sexual confidence that flirts with disaster: “thunderstorms should make love to me…they’re the most erotic things in nature and I think they might enjoy it.”Manivannan believes that “performance poetry is definitely more accessible than poetry on the page” (TELL Magazine). It would be difficult to read a book of poems in under half an hour, but this 24 1/2 minute
-Kimberly L. Becker
One World Cafe Performance
How To Eat A Wolf
Cante Jondo In The Neytal Vein
This Hummingbird Heart
Duende (The Gypsy Prayer)
A Horse Named Notoriety
And If You Still Must Leave
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