Tigers and Traumas
My mother’s nick name was Bhagu, and loosely translated from Bengali means Tigger or Tiger Cub. My father and Grandfather told me this was her name because she was an energetic baby who crawled everywhere. The tiger is a symbol of Bengal. There is another family myth, and like all myths – only somewhat true, this myth is that my mother’s first breakdown happened when she found out on the BBC that Bangladesh was being born in a rip and war torn in 1973 and her father fled to the Himalayas as a refugee.
I never knew my mother as fierce. Perhaps only occasionally – when she stopped taking her medication. A child understands things differently to adults and we keep those child imaginings deep inside ourselves. I wrote the title poem because I was frightened by my mother’s illness when I was a child. The original title was Tiger Cub, a nod to my mother’s perpetual infantilisation by medication, diagnosis and poor understanding of illness. I showed the poem to one of my heroines Gillian Clark. Gillian read it, and said this is no Tiger Cub, this is a woman trying to break free, this is a woman – trying to roar, this is a Tigress.
Jane Commane, the precise and nurturing editor of Nine Arches Press was keen the title be Tigress. I agreed – that my choice of Darshan might not be quite right. I found lots of Tigers on the internet that night. I also found Laura Santi. Holy wow, I thought when I saw her website filled with Hindu gods and exquisite paintings of Dakinis and Buddhas.
I emailed her late at night. Please can I use your beautiful Durga as the cover of my book? I asked her. She is an amazing artist from Oregon USA. She was politely hesitant, but got back to me – with curiosity. Send me some of your poems and I will see if we fit.
I sent her a few and she (thankfully) got back to me straight away, yes, do it. She sent me some of her poems, which were beautiful and rich and I felt a connection with her right away. Thank you Laura. So much. The cover shows the Goddess Durga – riding on the back of Tiger. This symbolises control and mastery. However – my book covers themes of madness and dislocation too, and coming face to face with powerful things that we are not in control of. Perhaps we are the Tigers feeling those forces too close for comfort.
Launch: July 19th – with Julia Webb (Threat) – Nine Arches Press,
Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden WC2. 7.30pm see you there.