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Sujatha Gopal

Sujatha Gopal - Latest Trends in Modern Poetry

Dasarathi Krishnamacharya

[This article may be read in continuation of her piece “Modern Telugu Poetry – A Perspective,” which appeared in Issue No.13, May-Jun 2007 - Ed.]

Even as modern Telugu poetry witnessed demarcated periods of various forms of poetry like adhunika kavitvam, navya kavitvam, bhava kavitvam, abhyudaya kavitvam, digambara kavitvam, and viplava kavitvam, poets like Dasaradhi and C Narayana Reddy experimented with new forms of poetry while continuing to write old conventional forms of poetry.

The period after 80s was known as Astitva vaada. The period was marked by intense introspection and search for identity. There was a resistance towards the poetry of revolution and the focus shifted to caste, which was emerging as a new theme for poetry. Poetry of identity included feminism, Dalit poetry, BC poetry, Telangana poetry, regional poetry, etc.

Poems of feminism focused on the status of women in patriarchal society – woman as a wife, woman as a mother and woman as the other woman. It is interesting to note that poems with the feminist shade came to be associated with the rising middle class society.

The last two decades saw the rise of poems that dealt with themes like urban loneliness, absurdity, and dehumanization. Dalitism also made its presence felt in the last two decades. From seeking an identity to a movement, this form of poetry has come a long way.

The rise of minority poetry was another form of poetry that came into existence due to the religious oppression the Muslims faced. It was a cry for identity, an anguish to be accepted as citizens of India and the humiliation at being branded as terrorists. As an example, see the following poem by Yakoob.

Awwal Kalima
By Yakoob
[From his 2002 book of poetry, Sarihaddu Rekha]
(Translated by Kuffir Nalgundwar)

Sheikh, Syed, Pathan - flaunting the glories of your khandaans
did you ever let us come closer to you!
Laddaf, Dudekula, Kasab, Pinjari…
we remained relics of the time when our work bit us as caste.
We became ‘Binishtis’ carrying water to your homes
and ‘Dhobis’ and ‘Dhobans’ who washed your clothes,
‘Hajaams’ when we cut your hair
and ‘Mehtars, Mehtaranis’ when we cleaned your toilets
as relics of the age when our work bit us as caste
we remained.

As you say, we’re all ‘Mussalmans’!
We don’t disagree - but what about this discrimination?
We like it too - if these excavations will unearth those accounts
which had remained buried for long, why would we object!
What more do we need to know about the common enemy,
we need to discover the secret of this common friendship now!
We agree: all those who are oppressed are Dalits,
but we need to define what’s oppression now!

Surprise - the language we know isn’t ours, we’re told!
We don’t know the language you call ours
We’ve ended up as a people without a mother tongue.
Cast out for speaking Telugu.
‘You speak good Telugu despite being a Mussalman'
Should I laugh or cry!

All our dreams are Telugu, our tears are Telugu too
when we cry out in hunger, or in pain
all our expression is Telugu!

We stood clueless when asked to perform Namaaz
jumped up in surprise when we heard the Azaans.
We searched for only ragas in the Suras.
When told to worship in a language we didn’t know
we lost the right to the bliss of worship.

You won’t believe us;
no one’s talking about our problems.

Self respect is a ‘dastarkhan’ spread before everyone.
It isn't a privilege that belongs only to the high born.
No matter who belittles a fellow man's honour, betrayal’s betrayal
the loot of experience is a bigger betrayal.

Globalisation had a major impact on Telugu poetry. Poets wrote about the travails faced by the farmers and the ones who were rendered landless. The class divide that widened the gap between the haves and have not’s was another theme seen in these poems.

The 80s saw the rise of mini kavitalu – short poems. Poets like Anisette Prabhakar and Kaloji were famous for mini poems. Haiku form of poetry imported from Japan was first introduced by Gali Nasara Reddi. Naneelu have now come to replace mini kavitalu. Well known for the punch in the four lined poem, Naneelu have been made popular by N Gopi.

Muse India has already published articles on Dalit poetry and Naneelu. Readers may visit the archives:

Jayalakshmi P – ‘Naneelu, The Little Ones’ of N Gopi, Issue 28, Nov-Dec 2009.
Feature: Telugu Dalit Poetry, Issue 16, Nov-Dec 2007.



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