Literary Shelf

Paean to World Poetry - Mukunda Ramarao

Veneration for excellence can be displayed in various ways. Mukunda Rama Rao’s 2016 book ‘aDe gaali- prapancha dEsaala kavitwam’ World Country’s Poetry – Back ground - is a bulky book of about 550 pages. More than two thousand 2000 poets from 100 countries world over have been referred to and about 500 poets have been translated. This work stands top most for the admiration of poetry lovers reading the Telugu work. What is more, his recent work contains selections from the works down the ages.

No researchers working or studying for a doctoral degree has ever attempted a work of this magnitude with finesse. The writer is a septuagenarian who got acclaim in working for the Indian Railways and is basically a computer expert. His adoration for poetry is deep and great. Love of poetry could be a mystique and a cult as seen this enthusiast’s work. In his brief intro like thing in the volume he averred to this effect: Ascending the mountain of world poetry with a desire to look around and below, an uncontrollable passion, I could get satisfaction in sending joy to the readers. Any amount of happiness or satisfaction that the readers get gives me contentment.’

The book contains articles of twenty countries or groups of countries: Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Russia, New Zealand, West and South Africa, Poland, Europe Eastern and Western, Caribbean and Latin American. Here fifteen poems in Mukund’s poems are given for the readers as a sample. It is not my intention to comment on Mukund’s technique or assess the merits or otherwise on his rendering ability. These are produced here to give the readers of the Telugu book just a taste of the originals which are not available in the book.


Three years I was your wife,
I never tired of household chores.
Early I rose and late I went to bed;
Not a morning was I without work.
First you found fault with me,
Then treated me with violence.
My brothers, not knowing this,
Jeered and laughed at me.
Quietly I brood over it
And myself I pity.

(Wu-Chi Li, Translated by – Liu and Lo, 1975 from the Book of Poetry) – Page – 16

Man Lives Until He Dies

How often do I ponder
Over what I live for?
Innocent of life as it were.
Though the stream
Empties into the ocean
I will not bend
Under the weight of
Workday cares.
Man lives and dies.
Yet I pause to think.
Like ant
Lost in building its shelter
In the warm spring sun,
I will live
Drunk with delight of living.
If man is born to live,
What should I worry?
Man lives till he dies.

(Kim Sowol’s Poem) – Page 54


Some folks transplant rice for wages,
but I have other reasons.
I watch the sky, the earth, the clouds,
observe the rain, the nights, the days,
keep track, stand guard till my legs
are stone, till the stone melts,
till the sky is clear: and the sea calm.
Then I feel at peace.
(Page no 66)

This is from the folk poetry of Vietnam sung by people. Down the centuries

The Begining of the Road

He read each day like a book
and saw the world as a lantern
in the night of his fury
He saw the horizon come to him
as a friend
He read directions
in the faces of poetry and fire

(Poem by Adonis) – Page 96

The clock on the wall

My city collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
Our neighbourhood collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
The street collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
The square collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
My house collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
The wall collapsed
The clock
Ticked on

(Samih al-qasim (1939-) Poem – Jordan) – Page 100

I Am There

I come from there and remember,
I was born like everyone is born, I have a mother
and a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends and a prison.
I have a wave that sea-gulls snatched away.
I have a view of my own and an extra blade of grass.
I have a moon past the peak of words.
I have the godsent food of birds and an olive tree beyond the kent of time.
I have traversed the land before swords turned bodies into banquets.
I come from there, I return the sky to its mother when for its mother the sky cries, and I weep for a returning cloud to know me.
I have learned the words of blood-stained courts in order to break the rules.
I have learned and dismantled all the words to construct a single one: Home

(Mahmoud Darwish's Poem) – Page - 104

Jami’ Poem

Who is man?
The reflection of the Eternal Light.
What is the world?
A wave on the Everlasting Sea.
How could the reflection be cut off from the Light?
How could the wave be separate from the Sea?
Know that this reflection and this wave are that very Light and Sea.

(Jami’s Poem) – Page - 115

My world

Where is the ear
to hear my cries?

Where is the eye
to see my tears?

I am the ashes of a hopeless fire
Where is the wind
to refresh my flames?

I am a silent Darvish
sitting in the cell of my grief

Where is the flute
to sing my sorrows?

(Fevziye Rahgozar Barlas Poem) – Page - 159


No foreign sky protected me,
no stranger's wing shielded my face.
I stand as witness to the common lot,
survivor of that time, that place.

(From Requiem - Anna Akhmatova's Poem) – Page 215

I Knocked My Head against the Wall

As a child
I put my finger in the fire
to become
a saint.

As a teenager
every day I would knock my head against the wall.

As a young girl
I went out through a window of a garret
to the roof
in order to jump.

As a woman
I had lice all over my body.
They cracked when I was ironing my sweater.

I waited sixty minutes
to be executed.
I was hungry for six years.

Then I bore a child,
they were carving me
without putting me to sleep.

Then a thunderbolt killed me
three times and I had to rise from the dead three times
without anyone’s help.

Now I am resting
after three resurrections.

(Anna Swir Poem) – Page - 374

Our fear

Our fear
does not wear a night shirt
does not have owl’s eyes
does not lift a casket lid
does not extinguish a candle

does not have a dead man’s face either

our fear
is a scrap of paper
found in a pocket
‘warn Wójcik
the place on Dluga Street is hot’

our fear
does not rise on the wings of the tempest
does not sit on a church tower
it is down-to-earth

it has the shape
of a bundle made in haste
with warm clothing
and arms

our fear
does not have the face of a dead man
the dead are gentle to us
we carry them on our shoulders
sleep under the same blanket

close their eyes
adjust their lips
pick a dry spot
and bury them

not too deep
not too shallow

(Zbigniew Herbert’s Poem) – Page - 377

A Windy Afternoon

Two beards laughing
Slashed by teeth;
Four legs walking
A great gale blowing;
Trees awhirl;
Skirts fly, showing
Essential girl;

Leaves and laughter
And legs hurl past
And I stride faster
Against the blast.
Where am I going?
What shall I care,
Buoyed by the blowing,
Living air?

(A. D. Hope's Poem - From : A late picking) – Page - 382


Brothers, break them gently,
People used to live there.
Those were not always mere mud walls
to be bulldozed and leveled down
to make way for a new highway.
Heaven only knows what scars those walls
now naked and bald bear, what secrets
they hold of the dreams and doubt of those
who lived, who loved and hated, within them.
To them this was home. Here they came
at night to their meager meal; here
they hoped in wearied sleeplessness
for better days that never came
They were such ones as you,
with their joys and frustrations.
Then one day they were told to leave, to go
and start from scratch elsewhere, rootless.
They, like you, would not say no –
you would be foolish to! Yet how lovingly
and longingly, how tearfully they clung to
those age-smeared walls, unable to unmoor.
But do not let me upset you. Sentiment
Cannot avail now. Besides you have your
daily wage to earn. You may break them down.
Only, please, do try and be gently.
People used to live there.

(Kobina Eyi Acquah's Poem) – Page - 313

Poem to her Daughter

Daughter, take this amulet
tie it with cord and caring
I’ll make you a chain of coral and pearl
to glow on your neck. I’ll dress you nobly.
A gold clasp too – fine, without flaw
to keep with you always.
When you bathe, sprinkle perfume, and weave your hair in braids
string jasmine for the counterpane.
Wear your clothes like a bride,
for your feet anklets, bracelets for your arms...
Don’t forget rosewater,
don’t forget henna for the palms of your hands...

(Mwana Kupona binti Msham’s Poem) – Page - 338

Final Poem

I toppled beside him — his body already taut,
tight as a string just before it snaps,
shot in the back of the head.
"This is how you’ll end too; just lie quietly here,"
I whispered to myself, patience blossoming from dread.
"Der springt noch auf," the voice above me said
but I could only dimly hear
through the filthy blood slowly sealing my ear.

(Miklos Radnoti's Poem) – Page - 398

To a Stranger

Passing stranger! You do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me, as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me, or a girl with me,
I ate with you, and slept with you—
        your body has become not yours only, nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass—
        you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you—I am to think of you when I sit alone, or wake at night alone,
I am to wait—I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

(Walt Whitman Poem from - Leaves of Grass) – Page - 491

January First

The year’s doors open
like those of language
toward the unknown.
Last night you told me:
we shall have to think up signs,
sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan
on the double page
of day and paper.
Tomorrow, we shall have to invent,
once more,
the reality of this world.

I opened my eyes late
For a second of a second
I felt what the Aztec felt,
on the crest of the promontory,
lying in wait
for time’s uncertain return
through cracks in the horizon.

But no, the year had returned.
It filled all the room
and my look almost touched it.
Time, with no help from us,
had placed
in exactly the same order as yesterday
houses in the empty street,
snow on the houses,
silence on the snow.

You were beside me,
still asleep.
The day had invented you
but you hadn’t yet accepted
being invented by the day.
—Nor possibly my being invented, either.
You were in another day.

You were beside me
and I saw you, like the snow,
asleep among the appearances.
Time, with no help from us,
invents houses, streets, trees,
and sleeping women.

When you open your eyes
we’ll walk, once more,
among the hours and their inventions.
We’ll walk among appearances
and bear witness to time and its conjugations.
Perhaps we’ll open the day’s doors.
And then we shall enter the unknown.

(Octavio Paz's Poem) Page – 529-30

Black Stone on a White Stone

I will die in Paris with a rainstorm,
on a day I already remember,
I will die in Paris—and I don't shy away—
perhaps on a Thursday, as today is, in autumn.

It will be Thursday, because today, Thursday, as I prose
these lines, I've put on my humeri in a bad mood,
and, today like never before, I've turned back,
with all of my road, to see myself alone.

César Vallejo has died; they kept hitting him,
everyone, even though he does nothing to them,
they gave it to him hard with a club and hard

also with a rope; witnesses are
the Thursday days and the bone on the upper arm
the solitude, the rain, the roads. . .

(Cesar Vallejo's Poem) – Page - 555


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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