The northeastern states of India have been positioned as India’s postcolonial other in mainstream politics with the aim to create xenophobic binaries between insider and outsider groups. Comprising the eight “sister” states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura, this region represents India’s amorphous shadowlands in arbitrary political markings between the mainland and the off-centered northeastern periphery. These satellite states have been subjected to the neocolonial governance of the Indian government and its implementation of political terror through abusive laws, militarized violence, protracted wars against civilians and insurgents alike, and gender abuse. Women poets from the region, such as Monalisa Changkija, Temsüla Ao, Mamang Dai, and others, have played a leading role in exposing and denouncing this violence. This essay examines the importance of women’s poetry as a gendered documentation of conflict, a peace narrative, a poet’s reading of history, and a site of memory. Can poetry express the particularized “sorrow of women” (Mamang Dai) without sentimentality and concession? How do these poetic contestations of conflict represent complex interrogations of identity, eco-devastation, and militarization to invalidate an elitist “poetry for poetry’s sake” ethic?

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