Her other well-known publications are Alphabet of Lust (1976) and A Doll for the Child Prostitute (Fiction, 1977). Sensitive and high-strung by nature Kamala Das has nothing but contempt for critics and publishers though many critics have been responsible for her recognition in the academic world.
She is equally critical of godmen and priests though a firm believer in God. Contradictory views and impressions prevail in respect of her family life particularly her relationship with her husband. Her autobiography My Story sparked off many controversies about her attitude to men and her views on marital fidelity and sex. (Ref. to the General Introduction to this Anthology)
Controversies apart, Kamala Das has been accepted by most critics as a poet of undoubted talent and while her first volume of poems summer in Calcutta (1965) was an instant success, The Descendents (1967) and The Old Playhouse (1973) have been equally well-received. But she is “pre-eminently a poet of love and pain, one stalking the other through a near-neurotic world” (Daruwalla, Two Decades of Indian Poetry, p.34) in the words of Daruwalla, again, she writes with an all-pervasive sense of hurt and humiliation.
These aspects of her poetry as also the strong confessional dimension inherent in all her writing, lead to many speculations about the nature of her own personality as well as the personal experiences which underlie her writing. It is difficult to study and understand her poetry without reference to her personal life and her unique sensibility as a woman. The Eliotian dictum that the poet and the poem are two different things cannot always hold good and the theory that poetry calls for a continual extinction of personality is totally negated in the case of a poet like Kamala Das.
The subjective element is powerful and dominant in the poetry of Kamala Das as it is in the poetry of many other post-Independence Indian English poets who are often free from political and social consciousness. In the case of Kamala Das, however, while much is revealed something is always kept back and the ultimate ‘She’ remains a mystery.
Nostalgia and Confessionalism are the most dominant characteristics of Kamala Das’s poetry. Many of her poems carry with them tender recollections of her childhood days and a nostalgic yearning for her family home, Nalapat House in Punnayurkulam especially for her grandmother whom she loved dearly.
Living in Calcutta far away from her home she remembered often “the noons in Malabar with an ache growing inside me, homesickness”. Most of the poems in Summer in Calcutta, The Descendants and The Old Playhouse and other Poems are confessional in tone and are marked by self-exposure, but these poems “transcend personal import and acquire universal significance, for they reveal the predicament of the contemporary woman beset by her encounter with the difficulties of love and necessary sex”. (Harish Raizada, “The Confessional Note in the Poetry of Kamala Das” in Indian Poetry in English Ed. Hari Mohan Prasad). This aspect of her work brings her close not only to other Indian English poets like Ramanujan, Parthasarathy and Mahapatra but also to well-known confessionals like Sylvia Plath.