Search BBC
BBC World Service
BBC BBC News BBC Sport BBC Weather BBC World Service Worldservice languages
Front Page
Talking Point
In Depth
------------- Learning English
Schedules & Frequencies
Site Map
Middle East
South Asia
About Us
Contact Us
Text Only
Daily E-mail
News Ticker
 You are in:    Home > Sitemap > Women Writers
key influences and themes

The experience of her early years has led to a recurring theme in her work...

"I think it's leaving places, leaving places and then returning, and often the returning is in memory. Every year until the age of 18 I would come and go between India and the Sudan, so the idea of departure and how it's woven in with memory is very much something which keeps coming up again and again for me in my work and with that all the many languages which flow in my head."
Meena Alexander

Truth of the Body
Both India and the Sudan were former British colonies which had recently gained their independence. One effect of colonialism for Alexander was that she had to learn to read, write and speak in English instead of her native Malayalam and this gave added problems when trying to express inner emotions through language - but she found the solution in poetry.

"Bit by bit I realised that the form of the poem offered something I needed, a translation out of the boundaries of the actual, a dance of words that might free me from my own body. And I took to reading poems day and night so that history might not consume me, render me dumb. But that realization came slowly when, years later in North America, I had to strip my partial knowledge away so that I could learn to write the truth of the body, pitted, flawed, unfinished..."
Meena Alexander

As well as the difficulties of expressing herself in a language which was not her own, she had been brought up in a very traditional way and had not been encouraged to talk or write about the deepest female experiences: "the truth of the body". She describes this truth as molten - melted down and fluid so hard to put into ordinary words…

"I mean a truth that often is too molten for ordinary speech, because ordinary speech is constricted, it's bound as if in a corset. You're taught by what you're taught by your parents, taught by your teachers and underneath that lies emotions, and experiences and bodily memories that you really have to tear away the other language in order to write. For me, that process of stripping away is so critical to be able to tell the truth. I think I write because there is nowhere else I can put that truth: I can't just stand on the street and say it - so I think writing becomes a habitation where these difficult bodily truths can find a place."
Meena Alexander

life events
key influences and themes
Alexander's work
the next chapter
being a woman writer
  Women Writers
  Ama Ata Aidoo
  Meena Alexander
  Maya Angelou
  Shashi Deshpande
  Margaret Drabble
  Buchi Emecheta
  Jamaica Kincaid
  Doris Lessing
  Bharati Mukherjee
  Michele Roberts
  Helen Simpson

^^Back to top
BBC World Service: 5th Annual Webby Awards Winner  Front Page
News | Sport | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature
Technology | Talking Point | In depth
Learning English | Programmes | Schedules & Frequencies | Site Map
BBC World Service Trust | BBC Monitoring | About Us | Contact Us | Help
© BBC World Service, Bush House, Strand, London WC2B 4PH, UK
Privacy Statement