Contemporary Kannada Poetry II


I read a few volumes of Kannada poetry recently. Three poets appealed to me.
S Usha, Ankush Betageri and Sandhyadevi. I don’t know these poets in person. Their poems are good. What strikes to me most in them is the power of the image.

Of the three, Sandhyadevi is the most experimentative. She has a few poem clusters in the book and some untitled ones. A number of poems are self-reflexive and all appear to be love poems. Her book is titled “Speech-butterfly, Fire-Finger, Broken-thornlike knowledge” (a literal translation). There are a whopping 247 poems in this first collection. Apparently this poet has been writing for long, though this is her first collection; what is more she had not published her poems anywhere before this collection. Is that self restraint, publicity shy, or what I don’t know. By the look of it, if she publishes a couple of more books she will be one of Kannada’s top poets. I have already heard many going gaga about her poems. Yours truly is no exception. She has lines like:

If sun makes up his mind,

even in midnight,

light will pierce beyond the eyes.


In another poem:

            A phrase sat in a place

            Meanings went roaming

            Towards the world.

            Vowels began moving in an orbit.

            Rhythm went beyond the limit…..


And again:

            A tree has thousands of leaves

            We shouldn’t demand that

Among them one leaf or a shoot

            Shouldn’t have been there…..

This poet leaps towards the abstract in relating intimate feelings and transforms those intimate details into something abstract. Her ability to build concrete imagery for the abstract ideas she plays with is exceptional. Don’t be deceived by my puerile translations, she does take us by surprise by the sudden shifts of tone and the turn of thought endowed upon the set of image clusters. All in all I keep thanking my friend who sent her book over to me.

S. Usha is a senior poet, who has been writing for long. Here is another who is strong in voice, deeply symbolic, serious in intent. Her collection “Time when
Pearl Flew” (literally) has many ambitious poems that are rich in allusions to myth and legends. But these invocations come as part of serious scrutiny. Unlike Sandhyadevi, most of whose poems are short and cryptic, Usha dares to write long poems, sustaining the energy all along. There is an intensity of thought in her poems. Her feminist voice is beyond the shrillness of combat; it is a mature voice that speaks of substance more often than subversion. Usha is never over excited in her poems. There is a definite sense of rhythm at work without turning back on the commitment to free verse. There are narrative poems here that do not succumb to the temptation of relating the story, turning the narratives instead on to a process of ideation. An experienced poet is here displaying her mastery of creation. Will translate her poems another time. Just three lines from a poem:

            Because on this land

            No Sita will be born

            No need either.

I hope that these posts on Kannada poetry may interest those who are interested in what is happening in poetry scene. I would like to know about what is happening in other places. If you know of a website or a blog discussing contemporary poetry do let me know.  

One response »

  1. thanks for this
    sandhyadevi has a new book called agnidivya, published by abhinava, bangalore.

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