Words by Kamala Das is a short poem describing the power of words and the poet’s fear of them as they keep growing in her. This poem, like her other poem An Introduction is also Confessional. I have divided the poem into three parts.
In the first part (All round me are words…..from within), the poet says that she is surrounded by words. (All round me are words, and words and words. Here the literary device used is called Anaphora which is the deliberate repetition of the words for emphasis.
This repetition of the word words probably refers to the poetry and especially the Confessional Poetry which she is famous for. Thus the line means that the poetry which she writes all around her.
Next, she says that words grow on me like leaves, they never seem to stop their slow growing from within. According to the poet, the words or the poetry grows from within or from the heart which like the leaves keep growing and never stop. Here the poet uses Simile to compare her poetry with leaves.
By comparing her poetry with the leaves, the poet refers to some hidden instinct which causes the words to come out like photosynthesis in the leaves. Neither this instinct stops nor the growth of the words.
In the 2nd part (But I tell myself…..best friend’s throat), the poet says that she often warns herself as the words or the poetry are quite annoying. She uses Metaphor and compares her poetry with various things to justify her argument why she doesn’t like her poetry.
First she compares it with a chasm (a deep fissure in the earth’s surface). According to her the words can be deep holes where the running feet must pause as there is a sea with paralysing waves. Here running feet probably symbolise the imaginations or the confessions which are filled in the words.
Sea with paralysing waves refer to the society which doesn’t allow the woman to write, to imagine, to confess and to be free. Hence the words are problem for her in particular and all the women in general.
Next she calls the words a blast of burning air which mean that the poetry which she writes can be explosive which can be used against her. Finally she calls the words a knife which can cut your best friend’s thoughts.
In general perspective the phrase can be an advice depicting the power of words. But in the poem, it probably means that they can hurt the ego of friend or the males who won’t accept the woman as a poet or writer.
In the final part (Words are a nuisance….somewhere deep within), the poet repeats the beginning words. According to her, the words are annoying as they keep growing in her. They never stop coming from inside i.e. her heart which is suffering.
Hence the poem ends in grief describing the problems that a woman writer has to face in a male-dominated society.