Book Review: Poetry is Possible By Vikram Kolmannskog

Vikram Kolmannskog is a writer based in Norway, who identifies as Indian-Norwegian, queer, and spiritual. Talking about his recent book, “Poetry is Possible”, Vikram says:

“Some of the poetry is quite homoerotic and sexually explicit. I think it’s important to include gay sex in poetry and literature, give it space, not least since it’s our sexuality that often makes others see us as criminals, dirty, sinful, sick, etc. To me, the sensual/sexual and spiritual are intimately linked.”

Vikram’s collection of poetry is a beautiful intersection of his spiritual, queer, cosmopolitan, and hyphenated identity. He draws on his personal and cultural history to reimagine and rewrite it. The poems open up about his experiences as a gay man dealing with reservations in India and a person who has inherited multiculturalism. Personal and overwhelming, his poetry is also socially responsible that stands up for the cause of love and for LGBTQ community’s rights.

“Fields of Silver and Gold” is a bold rewriting of mythology. The piece reimagines the episode of Amrit Manthan when Vishnu takes the form of Mohini to seduce Asuras. In Vikram’s reimagining, however, it is Shiva who is seduced and begs Vishnu to take the form again. The idea of Vishnu’s gender fluidity and the consequent sexual play between Shiva and Vishnu/Mohini is celebrated as something divine. The episode brings out an instance of suppressed queer narrative within mythology that needs to be discussed and accepted without justifying them to fit them in society’s heteronormative moulds.

A sizeable amount of his poetry reimagines gods as sexual and sensual beings, as against the majoritarian religious narrative that portrays them as benevolent, desexualized entities. A rare and uncommon blend of sexuality and mythology is witnessed in his works. The existence and consequent suppression of queerness and sexuality in canonical texts are thus hinted.

One of his poems, titled “Homeland”, negates the words of law and establishes love as the highest and the oldest law. There is a constant establishment of cultural and gendered norms, only to defy them playfully. The poem is directed against the criminalisation of homosexuality by the Supreme Court.

“The words of lawyers
were never the highest law of this land.
Love was, is, and shall forever be.
Only lovers know what has been granted
and what, from each of us, is required.
Here is the Supreme Court.
Here is our homeland.”

Poetry offers the poet persona a sense of freedom to accept the impermanent state of being that would understand breaking gender binaries instead of forcing conformation. The famous Shakespearean dialogue, “to be or not to be” is used to question gender and national identity. His works also capture the constant threat of violence that the LGBTQ community has to live with, the fear having worldwide resonance.

A poem titled “Silverfish”, is about a worm’s existence in the poet persona’s bathroom. The poem talks about cosmopolitanism and looking for similarities as a way for acceptance amongst a dissimilar group. The metaphor subtly educates us about peace, coexistence, and acceptance. There’s also something to be said about how the relationship between knowledge and acceptance is explored. The piece seems simple at first but leaves a lasting impact on the mind.

The book opens with a poem of Creation. It reimagines Ymir, a god from Norse mythology as the creator, who is “neither male nor female, yet both”. The penultimate poem titled “Unlikely”, talks about all kinds of brutality against those who identify as queer. But “That is not the worst thing”, the poet persona reiterates. The worst thing is not giving credibility to their story and to them. Their dismissal altogether as individuals with painful experiences is what breaks them.

The book, however, ends with a positive affirmation about the possibility of beauty, dance, nature, homosexuality, God, and of poetry. The possibility of poetry is explored throughout the book in circumstances of violence, legal and religious persecution, social alienation, and through the unique lens of a cosmopolitan. Vikram’s poetry brings out the suppressed queer narrative within mythology to prove that sexuality, sensuality, and spirituality can and do coexist, and are not mutually exclusive of each other.

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Literature graduate. Awkward kathak dancer. Introvert. Radical feminist. Laughs longest at her own jokes. Resting bitch face champion. Loves her Kindle like it's her firstborn. Punk rock enthusiast.
Mansi Draboo

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