Example poetry

Arise Out of the Lock: Celebrating 50 Years of Poetry by Bangladeshi Women Poets

The poems in this ambitious collection are written by female poets writing in Bengali, who emerged from the land that is now Bangladesh – having lived, or still live here, or are now part of the first generation diaspora.

What emerges beautifully from this carefully curated and faithfully translated volume is that Bangladesh is emerging as a country in its own right, with this collage of women’s writings, rooted in a rich eclectic cultural history, but with a contemporary sensibility and cosmopolitan.

Much has been written about Bangladesh’s economic success and social progress, especially the empowerment of women. However, the creative spaces in Bangladesh, especially in poetry, have been largely dominated by men. Diving into this book will be like the delicious potential discovery of a treasure trove of women’s works that bring out varied aspects of the collective Bangladeshi experience.

. . . .

Inferences to culture, land and nature form the backdrop for women navigating their reality. With echoes of Rabindranath Tagore, Jibanananda Das and Kazi Nazrul Islam, they draw their strength from the familiar, symbolic and concrete, to express themselves, frame and express their resistance. The historical influence of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism, Tantra and other practices, as well as the power and beauty of the fertile land and mother nature, are harnessed, interpreted and used as they see fit.

Fearless, confident, defying expectations, and covering age-old emotions like anger, love, and dissonance with the status quo, many poems display a boldness of material and direction capable of capturing the essence of what might represent the Modern Bangladeshi. women.

. . . .

Most importantly, the women in this collection come across as the multidimensional beings that we are; beyond binary caricatures. Historically, “my”, the mother, was placed on a “pedestal”, given the “highest” position; the one who gives and sacrifices herself, is devoted to her family, but is rarely expected to have dreams or thoughts of her own. The counterpart of this is the lack of rights and social acceptance for women who actually demand that their voices be heard and their rights respected, and their potential fulfilled. Throughout the ages, we have demonized or glorified women with a “bad” woman/”good” woman narrative. Women have been used as cultural markers to represent the horrors of war with a “loss of honour” as women who have been raped or vilified because the violation of their bodies was their fault.

. . . .

The poems capture women like I have known many in all my years here – passionate with love and purpose, compassionate, courageous, unconventional, not taking no for an answer, full of rage against unjust structures in place and wanting to attack the whole world on their own terms, while expressing the vulnerabilities and acknowledging the tribulations of struggling against patriarchy and deep-rooted prejudices. One gets the feeling that the elegance and cadence of their lyrics can only be fully appreciated in the original Bengali. However, this translated collection conveys the philosophical and the practical, and I believe it will challenge and inspire poetry lovers to dig deeper and explore more of their works, and those of other Bangladeshi women poets (those who write in Bengali , English and myriad other local languages) too.

Excerpts from Exit the lock:

“Come Out of the Lock”


No time to braid this wick, to ask is the order!
Whether or not the saree has a graceful border,
the beauty mark on the forehead, the kajal in the eyes, the weather
blushing your lips is over, it’s over. It’s life or death that rings.
More than teenage girls, young women and smiling wives:
defined chin, firm mouth and lips, to engage and strive,
always on alert. Just like the shining sharp saber
wide-eyed up quickly at the moment, more downcast.
No longer afraid like a doe, these looks, listen,
show a questing spirit, a hawk searching for its target.
Their merciless hearts, hardened like a solid stone
to get revenge on the invaders of our home.
The soft and shy form of the woman has changed,
all her loved ones, relatives and comrades, she will now avenge.
Slender waist and his chest full of lion power
the brave heart holds boundless strength, no bright-voiced love songs.
Hail the fatherland, hail the people! Glory to the Muktisena, hail!
Her aanchal soaked in the blood of martyrs, the woman too is ready to sail.

“To the Flower and the Moon”



I don’t have a garden, I want flowers
the sapling in the pot blooms only by one or two—
which barely extinguishes the heart of my desire.
So don’t bloom that way, flowers,
don’t make my flower soul restless
tell me how can i fulfill this garden desire
of mine only planting saplings in pots?


Whatever others say, you are my moon
at the top of the bamboo grove, in such a way
when I miss Kajla Didi sorely, sadden her.
How do I tell you how much I need you?
Not a burnt roti for me, you ain’t,
even if the earth is harder than ever –
in spotless metaphors may you prosper
like the half-veiled face in the bedroom, the bride of Bengal.

“What’s a Woman to Do in Heaven”


Heaven has no poet

so what’s a woman to do in heaven.

Wide-eyed hours

keep dancing nonstop

along the corridors of Heaven.

No lovers in heaven

no enchanting flirtations

the atmosphere of Heaven? Rather boring

spic and span, all sternly arranged in a neat row.

Where is the forest in paradise?

Sea or rivers?

Mandakini, Al-Kawthar, Lethe?

If it don’t meander wild

breaking banks in a frenzied ecstasy

how is that even a river?

In the hall of heaven you see pious men and women

pray day and night

no desire or lust in heaven

aspiration or disappointment

heartbreak and all that seductive tamasha

where are the reckless savages

in the heart of heaven?

Nor is there death written anywhere—

what’s a woman to do in heaven anyway

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