by Ernest Dempsey
As the book’s subtitle tells, this collection of Sweta Srivastava Vikram tells stories in verse about women from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Each poem has a story, a question, and a cry for justice. It’s the 21st Century; yet women all around the world suffer from cruelty and injustice. And as you get to the less developed regions of the world, the situation becomes darker and more terrifying.
No Ocean Here has more than 40 poems, each one preceded by a note that gives the context of the poem. Whether these are the honor killings in Pakistan, dowry deaths in India, women-trafficking across borders, or female excision (genital mutilation) in Africa, Vikram’s poetry in this book depicts a multi-faceted picture of the abuse and exploitation of women’s body and soul in different cultures. In her foreword to the book, Marjorie McKinnon of the Lamplighter Movement and author of Repair Your Life series writes, “Sweta’s poems have magic. She speaks for all the girls who have been ravished, whose virtue has been plundered.”
Reformative works of literature more often than not get poignant in their tone, many taking the reader to a scale of tenderness that is parallel to a child’s consciousness of pain. The verse in No Ocean Here is a work which carries this quality. These poems move the reader to think, feel, and act – to liberate from suffering and plant seeds of justice and peace.
“Right before her murder, she didn’t see
the silhouette of her face
in her grandmother’s heart.
Apparently the family’s pride lies
underneath her skirt
in the space between her legs.” (Honor Killing, p.6)
Vikram’s voice represents the plight of women in the developing world whether it’s emotional and sexual abuse, denial of education and self-autonomy, or trade of the female body in name of marriage, the author makes her readers painfully aware of the gender-specific suffering that continues to haunt humanity, touching the core of our consciousness, in places where there is no ocean to absorb the cry for help.