Manjunath S, sometime called ‘Hakkipalti Manjunath’ after the title of his first collection, is now one of the leading Kannada poets. When I first met him in 1988 or thereabout he had come out with his first collection which was quite strongly in the manner of ‘navya’. I remember a long walk I took with him in K R Nagar where he has been living. My friend Shivu KN was with us. Shivu used to do these things in his own romantic manner – meeting poets. But Shivu was very talkative. I have always been bad with words. I dont think I spoke much with Manjunath that time.
I met him in May 09, in Mysore. We spent one whole day together. I have been translating some of his poems into English. I showed him my efforts. He liked some, corrected others, tolerated some. He is a poet of intensities. Even his light verse has to be read for the intensities for us to appreciate them. Best of his poems are in awe of the world around. The perceiving self is tiny, the perceived is full of wonder. This quality of ‘wonder-struckness’ in Manjunath’s poems is special. It is one of the major ways in which the egotistic voice is undermined.
The following is a translation of ‘Vastu Sthuti’. Suggestions welcome.
Salutes to things:May they not harden our hearts
cursing us with muteness, lethargy, dumb sleep.
Several salutes to glittering coins:
may they not jeer and lure us,
trash the truth of ruth
by vanishing from our pockets.
Special salutes to prostitutes
may their eyes of hunger and mockery
not assault poor us,
pitying let them send us on
love’s feebly fragrant trail.
Double salutes to demon and deity,
who knows who is who?
May the man with the knowledge
save his neck;
let no one enslave us
let not death
make a morsel of us while still alive.