Like FAQs there could be FAPs –facts about poetry and poets. Human life is so complex that it has multitudinous aspects and kaleidoscopic combinations of shades and colours. Mukunda Rama Rao, a student of mathematics, professionally an IT veteran and sensibility wise a lover of familial feelings of love and affection, looking at life with concern and compassion. Some poems get stuck in the heart-mind and memory like: my love is like a red, red rose that’s newly spring in June (Burns), Thins fall apart, the centre cannot hold (Yeats), this is the way the world ends ... not with a bang but a whimper (Eliot). In Telugu we remember with joy ‘a garland of jasmines for our mother Telugu (Sundarambadi), another world, another world has calling, come forward, come forward and rise high and higher (Sri Sri) and ‘the nation is not the soil, it is the populace (Gurazada). Mukunda Rama Rao’s poetry is praised and remembered for its bravura in expression and depth of feeling in imagination.
Writing poetry is a matter of imaginative creativity, mastery of the use of expressive devices and so on. Poetry is not always giving statements. Sometimes a poem might be a conundrum, a mystifying expression not readily understood. New fangled things come up and fade away or disappear. Fine sensibility is the basic requirement of a poet. Skill and aptitude for imagination are God-given. Mukunda Rama Rao’s new book Aakaashayanam heightens his stature already high in his earlier publications like Valasapoina mandahasam (The Smile that Migrated),Veedani mudi (The Knot that’s not Undone) , Nobel Poetry (Life of Nobel winners and aspects of their poetry, which has been a high water mark of the achievement of the literary enthusiast and poet-translator.
Aakashayaanam published on November 14th is the collection of 42 poems. The poet displays a distinctive quality of looking deep within and around. Brevity adds to the quality of scintillating expression. The very first poem Manas is about the heart mind which is a real wonder. The inestimable powers and the unlimited frailties of the shapeless, organ-less part of human anatomy is skillfully brought out in this poem. The reader stops here and mulls about not just the mind but about our existence too. Here is the poet’s imagination:
In that lake one can swim any length
Can shine burning like a candle
May go on and on and return like breathing
Drop like leaves round a tree
Like a brush that can paint anything beautifully
Nothingness, the ocean
The sky and the limitless
Can squeeze in anything
And side by side
How fabulously wonderful
Is this mind-heart.
(Manas has no one word translation – it can be - mind-heart)
In the following poem, the poet describes the condition of being a shadow sleeping in the dark looking at radiance. There are the tree’s bough, the moon, the stars, a wall and tears too in the poem. The world, darkness, sleep and imagination are the persona.
Becoming a Shadow
Moon to the silent bough
Stars to the sky wall
Would be hanging all along the night
The night like the moon’s tears
Light feeling that it is dark
Darkness feeling that there is light
Darkness on the trees
The world in the radiance of lamps
Lying asleep in darkness
Waking up in light
In our tradition, wife and husband are made for each other. And wedlock makes the two unite into one. The ‘knot’ is symbolic, holy and the two become indivisible. This is for continuation of the human race via progeny. The absorption of one in the other is the consummation devoutly to be wished.
One for the Other
Coming however silently
Even in my dreams
Audible would be your foot falls
In half sleep and half awake
Throwing away the dream
I’d fill you in myself
However I might be
Your eyes fill themselves with me
Human limitations, helplessness, with or without power, lead man to wail unheard. Suffering and pain are real and insurmountable in most cases. The poet conveys the meaning deftly.
With any depth of hope
One cannot question
Nor can one impose an ordinance
Rivers and seas
That crosses their limits
Air and flames
Occupying like emptiness
Thunders and lightning
In the limitless sky
Life breath that leaves just like that
The earth that devastatingly breaks –
Helpless, powerless and skill less
Silent wails of the surprise-stricken
Always and ever
The parentage and the Sun’s movements are the subject of the ‘Offspring Night’. Night is spoken of as mother and the sun her offspring. The sun we see today may be the one after innumerable trillions of years. This is an idea in deep cerebration.
Night in prenatal pains
The moment it dawns
Gives birth to splendid fruit – the Sun
Kissing him to satiety
Putting the infant in the nurse day’s hands
Saying she’d come back soon
Goes away to a different place
All day the Sun
From this end to that
Returning to mother night
The Sun we see everyday
Nobody knows the count of his visit
The sight of a lone destitute woman sparks ideas in the poet’s mind as to whether she should be given shelter or not. Before the thought widens barge into the mind dark aspects and evil qualities. Killing kind feeling what ensues is just the scuffle.
The lone destitute
To be given asylum or not
Occupies even before thinking
Like egoism, fury, darkness
Till coming out
Prison could be real or a condition of existential thinking. The poet talks about incarceration in an imaginative mood. Even for the one ‘free’ there could be a psychological prison. That mental condition is extremely corroding.
Is a big prison
In disturbed sleep
Dreams wake up
Except everything else
Pains would be coming and going
Those fears which can’t be escaped
Get translated on paper
Those very songs admired
Feel like being out of tune
Like death behind man
Those behind themselves
In this wide world
Huddled in a corner
Like one freezing
The boat turned turtle
Is the prisoner in sleep.
The following is a poem about the bud opening and blossoming into a lovely flower. She has her own hardship and effort – binding herself into a small one and slowly opening into a flower. This is a description with imaginative finesse.
Binding her within herself
The bud getting small
Losing herself in herself
The flower that blossomed
Losing by herself ---
in mother earths lap
A poet is extremely conscious and careful in the choice of words. This poem is about words.
‘Bol mots’ is a serious and sometimes painful search. The little infant and its desire to be taken into the hands and to be put down at the same moment gives the person a sweet and delightful experience. The search for the right word is arduous. The poet finds personality and character in ‘words’.
However advanced in age
I’ve been searching -
The beautiful butterflies of words
Asking to lift and carry up
And at that moment asking to put down
The words found
Pester like mischievous kids
The words that I caught
Die squirming within me
Words that I could get to know
Tell me only what I know
Those words that have known me,
I wonder, what they would speak of me.
The poet presents the prosaic announcement to the passengers from the airplane pilot but ends with a kind of philosophical acceptance of actuality. Journeys are inevitable and inescapable in life. This last stanza is philosophical acceptance of actuality.
(Listening to the announcement from the cockpit makes the poet ponder thus:)
Isn’t life just one of arrival and departure,
A confluence of care and fears, advices and doubts?
To reach anywhere