#Art + Culture

Performance poetry, a feminist with words: Meet Melizarani T Selva

Poet, educator, journalist and author all at a young age. Melizarani T Selva juggles between her career as a journalist and her love for poetry. Her zeal in writing and reciting poems has taken her to platforms like TEDxGateway, ASEAN Poetry Recitation, Cri de Femme International Poetry Festival and many more. She isn’t just a writer of poetry but a performer of poetry. Selva is able to craft poems, engage and entertain live audiences all within 3 minutes.

Her poems range on various issues like womanhood, taboos of the Indian society, and deconstruction of her Tamil-Malay identity. In her ‘The Afternoon Affair’ she sarcastically describes the judgmental eyes of the society on “stray lovers.” Poorvi Gupta, who is a real fan of Selva’s writing delves into what inspires and urges the poet to write

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I started writing poetry because I did not know how to talk about matters that mattered to me.

Poetry enabled me to articulate what I needed to say or wanted to say in the most precise manner. Instead of going on a rant about things that I was unhappy or annoyed by, I would craft verses that helped carry my emotion and logic in equal parts. Basically, I could tell you the crux of the story with brevity.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was 6, but I only discovered the art of spoken word or performance poetry less than five years ago. Stage poetry/Spoken word tend to be a little more challenging as you have to craft poems engage and entertain live audiences within 3 minutes.


2. What is the basis of all your poetry ideas?

I write based on the truth as I see it. 

Whether it’s about a first love or the state of affairs in a country, all my poems are geared to tell what I know to be true.

I started writing poetry because I did not know how to talk about matters that mattered to me.

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3. You have studied mass communication. How did you develop an interest in poetry?

I did my Bachelor’s degree in Media Management and Journalism. And my Master’s Degree in Media Studies was focused on studying the Indian identity.

My interest in poetry has continuously grown since I was 6. But it’s the themes that I now explore that have evolved as a result of my academic adventures. I wrote the poem Indiantity, which is what I performed at TEDxGateway during the course of my Masters thesis, in which I studied the intricacies of the Indian diaspora and our fragmented identity.

In my book ‘Taboo‘, there is a poem titled The Woman, which tells the story of my job search after completing my higher education. I was applying to be a television talk show host, and I had all the education and work experience required for the job, yet they turned me down saying they did not want a dark skinned woman on screen. It was a rude shock, but it drove me to write about it. Because there is only so far reportage can take your story before censorship lines are drawn. There are no censors in poetry, just tactfully thought out words that tell the truth.

4. Where do you see yourself headed in terms of taking this passion to the next level? 

I expect more learning opportunities in future. In terms of writing and performing. I have performed on a variety of stages around Asia. It is my goal to perform on stages in US and the UK, soon.

Beyond that, I am looking forward to writing more poems that reconstruct the identity of women in Indian mythology. I recently retold the story of Draupadi, to highlight her strength and bold character. I believe that female characters in our folklore have often been depicted as downtrodden damsels in distress or furious fearsome individuals – which I believe aren’t accurate. Through my poems, I hope to educate young girls about the stories of our foremothers that will inspire them to be great women.

 I write based on the truth as I see it.

5. What are your thoughts on the treatment of women in the Indian society? 

Women in the Indian society have been treated traditionally on either one extreme. Either they are worshiped as divine goddesses or they are unfortunately seen as dirty and defiant creatures.

 Write your stories and tell the world about them

There is a lack of balance and understanding about the woman’s role and place in our society. And this is rooted back to our history and also the poor interpretation of women’s stories over the years.We can change this, by making women stories known. Teach our children to transmit the positive tales of women before our time and today.

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6. How do you deal with the gender disparity inherent in our society?

By writing poems about it. They say the sword is mightier than the word, well, so is the microphone.

We need to talk about these problems and make known to the world that we are not going to tolerate it further without a good fight.

By writing poems about it. They say the pen is mightier than the word, well, so is the microphone

7. What is the idea of progress for you? 

Progress is doing what you do best, even better. By doing it consistently, learning and unlearning along the way. Progress must be holistic. It is important that we grow on all levels, both character and career. As everything that we choose to pursue is an extension of who we are. So, if we be good people, we will grow into better people who grow greater ideas.

 I am looking forward to writing more poems that reconstruct the identity of women in Indian mythology.

8. A message for the young aspirants who may want to pursue poetry

DO IT. Write your stories and tell the world about them. What you have to say is important and people need to hear it. Because you never know who is listening and who needs to hear your story. There will always be one person who needs the comfort and healing that your words can provide.