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MULIEBRITY

by Sujata Bhatt

The Poet
Sujata Bhatt:
Sujata Bhatt (b. 1956) grew up in Pune but
emigrated with her family to the United States
in 1968. She studied in the States receiving an
MFA from the University of Iowa and went on
to be writer-in-residence at the University of
Victoria, Canada. More recently she was
visiting fellow at Dickinson College,
Pennsylvania. She currently lives with her
husband and daughter in Bremen, Germany.
Her first collection, Brunizem, won the
Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia) and the
Alice Hunt Bartlett Award. Subsequent
collections have been awarded a Poetry Book
Society Recommendation and in 1991 she
received a Cholmondeley Award.

Muliebrity
I have thought so much about the girl
who gathered cow-dung in a wide, round basket
along the main road passing by our house
and the Radhavallabh temple in Maninagar.
I have thought so much about the way she
moved her hands and her waist
and the smell of cow-dung and road-dust and wet canna
lilies,
the smell of monkey breath and freshly washed clothes
and the dust from crows wings which smells different
and again the smell of cow-dung as the girl scoops
it up, all these smells surrounding me separately
and simultaneously I have thought so much
but have been unwilling to use her for a metaphor,
for a nice image but most of all unwilling
to forget her or to explain to anyone the greatness
and the power glistening through her cheekbones

I have thought so much about the girl


who gathered cow-dung in a wide, round
basket
along the main road passing by our
house
andfirst
the Radhavallabh
temple
in In this the poet
This is the
sentence of the
poem.
sets theManinagar.
scene by telling the reader where this memory

takes place.
Maninagar: is now a suburb in Ahmadabad, Gujarat,
India where Bhatt was born.
The girl is picking up cow-dung because in the olden
days and still today cow-dung is used as fuel for burning
things and other stuff. The reader can see that picking
up cow dung is not something that you would want or
have to do. Many would generally be kind of disgusted of
picking up cow dung and embarrassed being seen
picking up cow-dung. This is important later on in the
poem.
I have thought so much... shows the reader that the

I have thought so much about the way she


moved her hands and her waist
and the smell of cow-dung and road-dust and wet
canna lilies,
the smell of monkey breath and freshly washed clothes
and the dust from crows wings which smells different
and again the smell of cow-dung as the girl scoops
it up,
all these
smells
surrounding
me separately
In this the
words,
I have
thought
are repeated
again. Now the
and see
simultaneously
reader can
that the girl has had kind of a lasting impact on

the poet. In real life Bhatt used to see a girl picking up cow
dung when Bhatt was still living in India.
The reader can see that the girl is pictured as a graceful figure
even though she is picking up cow-dung. This can be seen
from the words,
..,about the way she
moved her hands and her waist.
The smells surrounding the girl are described very well and
creates an atmosphere for the reader to imagine.
Canna lilies: are plants, native to India, growing well in moist,
tropical climates. They are related to banana and ginger plants

I have thought so much


but have been unwilling to use her for a metaphor,
for a nice image but most of all unwilling
to forget her or to explain to anyone the greatness
and the power glistening through her cheekbones
each time she found a particularly promising
mound of dung

And again shows how repetitive the job of the woman can get, and
appeals to the readers sense of smell, as the cow-dung overpowers
all the other sensations. Scoops also suggests urgency and speed,
which shows how she is not relaxed and her life is full of hardship.
I have thought so much is repeated again, to show how even
though she didnt know the woman, she has made a lasting impact
on the author, just by the way she moves and acts confidently.
A nice image tells the reader why she was unable to use her for a
Each
time she
found Bhatt
a particularly
promising
mound
of dung-
ends
metaphor,
because
doesnt see
anything
remotely
nice about
in
a hyphen,
not adoes.
full stop.
suggests
that there
is more
to come,
what
the woman
But This
in a way,
the woman
is still
a metaphor
due
to the repetitive
nature
of her job. It is an odd sentence as there
for muliebrity,
meaning
womanhood.
isMost
nothing
promising
about
a mound
of explain
cow-dung
others, but
to
of all,
unwilling to
forget
her or to
to to
anyone
again
the
womanhow
it is the
all she
has, is
and
can provide but
her mostly
and hershows
familyhow
fuel to
reiterates
woman
unforgettable,
cook
and survive.
Bhattwith
is unable
to tell others about what she saw in the woman,
because she is so unfamiliar with someone displaying such

The title:
The word muliebrity means womanhood, the
status of being a woman and possessing full,
womanly powers.
Situation:
In this poem, the poet describes the actions of
the girl picking up cow dung in front of this
temple. The poet also describes all the senses
such as smells and sounds surrounding the poet.
In this poem there are only two people-the poet
and the girl. Throughout the poem is only
describing the girl and her actions.
The poem is in the perspective of the poet and
this is effective because as this perspective
shows the reader what the poet herself is feeling.

The speaker:
The speaker of the poem is the poet not a specific
persona. The speaker is stating a memory about a girl
and the speaker is stating what she had observed. The
speaker refers to herself in the first person pronoun
which makes it kind of personal.
Intention and Purpose:
The poet is sharing a memory about a girl who is
picking up cow dung. From the poem the reader can see
that the poet is kind obsessed with the girl. Bhatt has
seen this girl many times as she was growing up in India
before moving.
The purpose of this poem might be to show the pride of
being a woman and express those feelings to the
reader.
Setting:
This poem is set in Maninagar which is now a suburb in

Diction:
Diction refers to the word choice of the poet in the poem.
Muliebrity refers to womanhood and the status of being a
woman. This words positive connotations are reflected by
the words, greatness and power in lines 15 and 16. While
the word cow-dung has negative connotations.
The word choice of the poet is kind of casual. The poem is in
the past tense as this is a memory about the girl.
Form and Structure:
In the poem there are 18 lines consisting of two sentences.
The general appearance of the poem is that it is kind of like
a block as in a block of the poets memory.
The sentences of the poem are mainly fragments. There is
only one complete sentence. This suggests to the reader
that the poem is like a very quick recount of the girl. The
dashes are maybe the place where the poet or the reader
waited to catch his breath. The word order in the sentences
are natural not grammatically irregular.

Senses:
Bhatt is referred to as a sensual writer because
she refers to the human senses quite a lot in her
poems.
For example in this poem the sense of smell is
evoked
like
in the
I have
thought
solines,
much about the way she
moved her hands and her waist
and the smell of cow-dung and road-dust and wet
canna lilies,
the smell of monkey breath and freshly washed clothes
and the dust from crows wings which smells different
and again the smell of cow-dung as the girl scoops
it up, all these smells surrounding me separately
and simultaneously

The highlighted parts show how Bhatt describes


the smells surrounding the girl and this
description is very intense when you think about

Imagery:
The main imagery is the girl being a metaphor for a
woman who is proud, confident and strong. Even
though the girl is picking up cow-dung, the girl takes
pride in what she is doing and does not care what
others think of her. The reader can see this in the
lines,
...to explain to anyone the greatness
and the power glistening through her cheekbones
each time she found a particularly promising
mound of dung

The poet also describes the girl as kind of graceful


as she is picking up the cow dung in the lines,
I have thought so much about the way she
moved her hands and her waist...

The poet describes the smells surrounding the girl in


one part of her poem as shown before.

Effects:
The repetition of I have thought has a good
effect on the reader as it shows them that the
poet is kind of obsessed with the girl.
The description of the smells surrounding the girl
and the girl herself has a good effect also because
the reader can create an image of the place.
Feelings:
From the description of the girl the reader can see
that the poet is proud of the girl as she is
confident and proud of herself. This is shown by
the words, greatness and power glistening.

Themes:
Woman.
This theme is also shown in the poems:
Plenty; She Dwelt Among The Untrodden Ways;
Storyteller.
Social injustice/Poverty.
This theme is also shown in the poems:
Carpet-weavers; Morocco; Song to the Men of
England;
Spectator ab Extra; Monologue; Caged Bird.
Character.
This theme is also shown in the poems:
Monologue; Farmhand.

Possible exam questions:


How does Bhatt portray the girl in her poem?

THE END