Friday, January 15, 2021

"Luminol" by Kamala Das: Summary and Analysis

"Luminol", written by Kamala Das, is an autobiographical poem antholozised in her 1973 collection of poems The Old Playhouse and Other Poems. "Luminol" is the name of a sleep-inducing pill. Luminol as a tile for this short, fourteen-line poem is intended by Kamala Das to express her longing for a deep slumber from which nothing can rouse or awaken her. Her husband's treatment of her, especially when he performs the sexual act with her, has been making her most miserable because of its roughness and because of the noisy gestures and movements which he makes at that time. She refers to him as the "ruthless one,” clumsy with noise and movement". She does not want him to enter the mute arena of her soul" (meaning her soul's territory which would not brook any encroachment), and she can ensure his exclusion from that zone by "a silent sleep inside her sleep". What she means to say is that, although she cannot stop him or prevent him from performing the sexual act which is purely physical or lustful in his case, she can prevent him from disturbing her soul's peace, though she can prevent him from doing so only if she has taken some drug like luminol to send her into a deep slumber. 

 This poem was published in Kamala Das's third volume of poems which appeared in 1973 under the heading of "The Old Playhouse and Other Poems". A critic* regards this poem as one of the most moving Kamala Das has written. This critic thinks that this poem shows Kamala Das as a neurotic person who finds herself profoundly alone and longs for some peace from her inner conflicts. According to the same critic, Kamala Das has played out her role as an unhappy woman in many poems. She has been unhappy wife and unhappy as a mistress to many men. Her nymphomania (that is, her insatiable hunger for sexual gratification) had brought her nothing but misery, and she had therefore been seeking an escape from her memory of her sexual frustrations. As no real escape from memory is possible, she can only think of some drug like luminol to lull her to a deep sleep. 

 This poem is most irregularly written. There are some lines which are moderate in length, some which consist of only four or three or two words; and there are at least two lines consisting of only one word each. Although we do agree that it is a very moving poem, its irregular form is somewhat irritating to us. We are of the opinion that a poet should not take such extreme liberties with the technique of writing poetry. However, Kamala Das is not alone in this respect because, unfortunately, almost every Indo-Anglian poet has taken such liberties.