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Vivimarie VanderPoorten's poetry and cosmopolitanism in action

Updated on November 25, 2010

cosmopolitanism in action

I was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka and spent 14 years being educated in a Catholic convent. My home religion, as opposed to the one I was exposed to at school, was Islam. I grew up with both types of guilt, bombarded with information of sin on both counts. I truly was living the dream of inter-religious understanding. Then, when I went to university, I attended a Buddhist one. Talk about existential angst.

Now, I live in the UK. My husband had a fairly Christian upbringing though he was never baptised. I think I'm a pagan, I believe in the goddess, in nature and the universe. I also believe in faeries and do pathworkings to try and get to know them and the older gods and goddesses better. Institutionalised religion seems to me to be about power, control, money. I'm not into being a sheep, I much rather try to forge my own path.

I was never seen as a true citizen in Sri Lanka, my roots [three generations back] were too Indian for their tastes. In India, I was too different, too liberal, too not Indian. It was only in Britain that I finally felt like I belonged, even though I'm not white or Christian or anything mainstream. What does that say about me and what does that more importantly say about the poly-cultural reality of modern British cities?

Now that I've said my bit, let me go on into the book review part for today. I'm currently reading nothing prepares you by Vivimarie VanderPoorten. It is a collection of poetry by a Sri Lankan writer, written in English that tries to capture moments of growth and development, loss and understanding. She writes about simple things, though her language isn't simple. She writes of man's inhumanity to man, not in the big events that occur, but through fear, inaction, suspicion and rejection. A really moving collection of poetry, it requires more than a superficial reading. VanderPoorten doesn't bother to explain the non-English words in her poems, they force the reader to realise that English is not only spoken in the US and the UK. Her poems come with some notes, but the notes themselves reveal only so much, they themselves force the reader to step even further to truly understand the socio-political realities being laid bare.

Why have I included a photograph of elephants you may ask? Well they are very important to Sri Lanka and we have in Pinnawela the world's first elephant orphanage. It is a lovely place, you can go and see, touch and even feed the baby elephants milk from giant bottles :)


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