The Sunday Leader

Poetry Corner Vivimarie Vander Poorten

She is a one of the foremost Sri Lankan poets. Vivimarie’s book Nothing Prepares You won the 2007 Gratiaen Prize. She was also awarded the 2009 SAARC Poetry Award in Delhi. She is of Belgian and Sinhala ancestry and grew up in Kurunegala. She holds a PhD from the University of Ulster, UK, and is currently a senior lecturer in English language, literature and linguistics at the Open University of Sri Lanka.

Her poetry has been called “gentle, reflective minimalism which touches the soul” by Dr. Sinharaja Tammita-Delgoda, the chairman of the panel of judges who awarded her the Gratiaen Prize. Her second collection of poems, Stitch Your Eyelids Shut (2010) addresses issues that include feminism and the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s Civil War.

She lists Kamala Das, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou among authors who have influenced her, and Moshin Hamid, Khaled Hosseini and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as contemporary writers that she reads. Vivimarie made an appearance at the Galle Literary Festival 2011, where she read poetry about her reaction to the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge.

She won the State Literary Award for English poetry (sharing the award with another Sri Lankan poet Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe) in October 2011. Her work has been translated into Sinhalese, Spanish, and Swedish, and published in India, Bangladesh, Mexico, Sweden, and the UK, as well as in online journals such as sugar mule and the open access journal ‘postcolonial text’.


There’s A Woman

In every picture

there’s a woman

an outstretched hand

holding out scissors

carrying a garland

handing out a tool, a ribbon, a tray of certificates, awards

leaning against a car

a tyre, a bottle of soda

she’s serving a drink

pouring coffee

smiling nodding


but hardly waiting.

she’s sitting it out

observing it happen

taking down

the dictation of life


typing out decisions of life and death


In every picture there’s a woman.

If you look very hard

You might even see her.


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