Poetry at Sangam



DEMON LANGUAGE by Malathi Maithri

(Translated from the Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström)

The demon’s features are all
woman’s features are all

Demon language
is poetry

Poetry’s features are all
become woman
become poet
become demon

Demon language
is liberty

Outside Earth
she stands:
niili, wicked woman.

* The reference throughout this poem is to Karaikkal Ammai, one of the sixty-three canonized Saiva saints, who lived in the 6th century CE. Punithavathy (the ‘sacred’ or ‘holy’), as she was known in the world, was abandoned by her husband when he realized her extraordinary qualities. She then renounced her youth and beauty, took the form of a demon, and became a poet-saint devoted only to Siva.