Ruth Vanita is a poet, editor, translator, academic and activist. Her book of poems, Play of Light (Penguin India) was published in 1994. She is Professor at the University of Montana, formerly Reader at Delhi University. She was founding co-editor of Manushi, an influential journal about women and society, from 1978 to 1990. Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies, and she has translated several works of fiction and poetry from Hindi and Urdu to English. She is deeply engaged in the fields of lesbian and gay studies, gender studies, and British and South Asian literary history.
Vanita’s bibliography reveals her abiding preoccupation with issues of gender, sexual orientation and cultural history: she has authored Sappho and the Virgin Mary: Same-Sex Love and the English Literary Imagination; co-authored Same-Sex Love in India: Readings in Literature and History; co-edited In Search of Answers: Indian Women’s Voices from Manushi; and edited Queering India. Her recent books include Love’s Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West and Gandhi’s Tiger and Sita’s Smile: Essays on Gender, Culture and Sexuality. She has also published on Shakespeare in several journals, including, most recently, Shakespeare Survey. She is currently on a Fulbright scholarship in India, researching the poetics of gender in eighteenth-century Hindi and Urdu poetry.
This edition features four poems, all of which are previously unpublished. The poems traverse that complex and treacherous topography of the inner world, where ‘protest’ meets ‘recognition’, and elation meets fear. The poems probe situations of extremity: the farthest limits of love, the anguish of foretold endings, the fear of dissolution. Love here is a matter of wonder, affirmation, loss, revelation, grief, celebration, and alarm. And yet all that inflammable content is reined in by a fiercely controlled poetics, alert to the exigencies of craft.
This is love poetry about the age-old themes of beginnings and ends, and miraculous in-betweens. And yet, it is also about an unmistakably contemporary emotion, negotiating the formidable odds presented by the modern world. How exactly does the garment of love endure when stretched across continents, hearts, time zones, squeezed through rings and telephone wires? Is it spandex love, or some other mysterious fabric? The idiom is modern, but love’s mysteries endure. It is left to the poet to simply wonder:
Is our love elastic, or some finer,
Clinging, skinlike, inward-breathing weave
To make all this bearable?
A Play of Light: Selected Poems, Penguin India, 1994
Love’s Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West , Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2005, Penguin, New Delhi, 2005
Gandhi's Tiger and Sita's Smile: Essays on Gender, Sexuality and Culture, Yoda Press, New Delhi, 2005
Same-Sex Love in India - Readings in Indian Literature (Co-edited with Saleem Kidwai): Palgrave-St Martin's Press, 2000; Macmillan, New Delhi, 2002
Sappho and the Virgin Mary: Same-Sex Love and the English Literary Imagination, Columbia University Press, New York, 1996
Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in Indian Culture and Society, Routledge, New York, 2002
In Search of Answers: Women's Voices from Manushi, with Madhu Kishwar, Zed Books, London, 1984; Horizon, New Delhi, 1991, Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, 1996
South Asian Women's NETwork : Ruth Vanita’s profile
University of Michigan’s Global Feminisms Project : Transcript of interview with Ruth Vanita
Suniti Namjoshi’s website: Swayamvar, a poem by Ruth Vanita