Devika Mathur is loved and known for her celebration of the abstract and surreal; she plays with words like toys and bites into them like ripe fruit. Everything Mathur yields is original and unique. Even when her voice is so reminiscent of Sylvia Plath, she remains a woman and poet unto herself, through and through. Crimson Skins is a testament to Mathur’s talent; through poetry and prose her brilliance is depicted again and again.
The opening to this collection is stunning. Immediately after a dedication to her mother, Mathur establishes the foundation of looking inward and skyward. You are swiftly taken by atmospheric pieces like ‘Olive skin’ and ‘I die each night’ as Mathur paints worlds and portraits with emotions. Whenever I read Mathur I imagine kaleidoscopic colours tinged with shades of grey as she documents love, hope, grief and depression.
In this way, she is a Plath for the modern age: the line “You’re putting your body in the bath-tub, almost like dying in peace.” from ‘Four walls’ recalled the beginning of The Bell Jar. Mathur’s voice is fresh yet ancient with history and as a result there is such a depth to her work that I admire. Pieces like ‘A Self-portrait’, ‘Life blooms’, ‘Silhouette’, and ‘A thing about Winters’ are prime examples of this; they are examples of an attempt to toe the line between living and sinking.
“My windows ache with heartbreak” (How I burn and survive)
“I keep things safely like the moon keeps tides” (A collector of things)
The inward reflection in this collection is beautiful in the way it is expressed and explored. On one hand, Mathur explores reflection, depression and loss through the seasons in poems like ‘Ode to November’, whilst on the other hand, at times her experience is incredibly relatable like in ‘The routine’ and ‘The art of silence’. But alongside this darkness there is a sensual and sultry layer to her writing – ‘Talks with night’ is gorgeously sensual, whilst ‘To you, darling’ and ‘All at once’ are stunning examples of Mathur’s love poetry.
“she entraps the sky in her fingernails” (A goddess)
Mathur’s prose is sensationally written too. ‘How I have been’ is phenomenal and demonstrates a side to Mathur’s talent I would love to see more of in the future. She captures life and soul so eloquently and honestly.
Finally, Crimson Skins comes to an end with pieces like ‘Mother, I see you’ and we are reminded of the dedication at the beginning – we are reminded of the power behind Mathur’s work and her womanhood. This collection is a debut to be reckoned with as it superbly portrays who Devika Mathur is; a force of poetic nature.
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