Literary Shelf

The Achievement of Ismail, the Chettu Kavi

Ismail known as chettu kavi in Telugu poetry retired as a Professor of Philosophy. He lived in Kakinada. His works are not voluminous but extremely impulsive and exhilarative. We never met but had some acquaintance through telephonic conversation.

Besides poetry he wrote some essays also in his Kavitwam lo Nissabdam, 2006. This is a stimulating account of literary history. A few of his averments deserve safe custody and preservation. There are articles on writers and poets belonging to holding on to different schools and ideologies. “If we analyze what we get are only pieces. Life disappears. To understand life another way is a philosophical attitude.” He analyzed several poets from Rabindranath Tagore right up to Vegunta Mohan Prasad, Srikanta Sarma, Sivareddy, Nagnamuni, Godavari Sarma, Raouf, Devipriya, Sumanasri and editors like Narla Venkateswara Rao. He started from Kalidasa, went to Krishna Sastry, Gudipati Venkata Chalam and Sri Sri on the way. Short-story writers like Palagummi Padma Raju are discussed. Ismail pays his obeisance to the Principal of PR College, where he studied and worked as a professor of Philosophy. What was said of Goldsmith could be declared about Ismail: “He touched nothing he did not adorn.”

Ismail published six poetry collections, two books of essays and six translations from other languages.

The six Telugu poetry collections are Chettunaa adarsham, Mrutya Vriksham, Chilakalu Vaalina Chettu, Raatri vachchina rahasyapu vaana, Balcheelo chandrodaym. and Haikus in Kappala Nissabdam. Kavitwamlo Nissabdam. KaRuNa mukhyam.are collections of essays.

1.Godavari at Balusutippa

Endless is the river
Endless is the sky
Which is the river
And which is the sky?
The lone fisherman’s oar
Divides the sky by a river
Leaving as a remainder
A zero, the size of a universe

2.After burying the sun

Having buried the sun
Taking a bathe in the canal
Departs dusk
Returning home
Lighting chulha
My wife wakes up the sun.
Having slept all night
Warmly in my stomach
The next day the Sun rises
Resplendent in the East.


Opening the window
While dusting the cobwebs,
I saw
A beautiful face
Flashing a twinkle.
Hereafter this window shall not be closed.
Windows are for vision
Not for keeping shut.

4.To her

For me
From tip to toe
You get drenched in rain.
How joyful I’d have been
If I were to be that rain!

5.Little girl’s smile

Returning from play in dust
This little girl is laughing
She is dust-smeared
Not her smile.

6. Song of Freedom

The bird swaying in the sky
Is held by the worm on the ground
The sun never staying for a moment
Is held by the hands of the clock
The moon held by the hoofs of a crab
The hands raising the sea
Is held by noisy waves
The wheel circling around itself
Is held be the road taking turns
The tongue of the waterfall
Is held by the steaming summer
The wrinkled old evening
Is held bound by the wordless drain
The roots hidden under the ground
Holds the arrow of the wind
The boat that lifts the sail
The man is held captive
Holds both the captive and wisdom

7.Tree – My Ideal

Like the arrow
That leaves the tree’s bow
Wonders the little bird
Trying to open the earth’s secret
Like the screw in the cork
The insect
Half insect, half the little bird
Entering earth opening it
Holds the branches, the tree

8.A Jovial Walk Along the Canal
(To my friend Bitta Moksha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy)

Do you remember, Moksham
At least for a fortnight
Our jovial walks along the canal shore
The ends of days
Weighing the lights between the dawn and dusk
The other light of dusk
One on the sky, at the bend of the canal another
With musical sound of bangles tingling
With different radiance
The rising wind of dusk
Swerving in dance and swerving
Only the canal in line of dusk
Standing, bargaining
Today our friendship
Is just borne by myself alone.

9. Esteem

A stringed musical instrument
Like shadows on the wall
Forgetting the respectability
With balls of sunshine
Spreading this or that way the instrument
Above thought and imagination
We wish for
But the water on the river
Would drag us down sadly
Like ones soaked and worried
Here in the center of darkness

10. Our Old House in the Village
People underwent a change
Only the mud did not
After walls collapsed
Trees sprouted embracing them
Only the creeper held on
My grandpa’s soul

The poetry of Ismail aspires to have clarity and simplicity without losing depth. Clarity is the objective. Poets like Ismail through their clarity complexity make the reader puzzled. All his poems are very brief with no attempt to be luxurious. Simplicity is his basic quality. He always believed that silence and pathos are essential. Language shall not stand in the way the thought and the reader. The poet feels that troubles and hardship are there, in life. They shall be won over with song.

O! Stream, O! stream!
With gurgling all the time
How are you able to sing?
Look, my life is full of stones,
How can I live without singing?

His poetry is replete with delicate humor as when he writes that the tree’s leaves clap, the needle comes wagging its tail, the stream goes jumping with joy under the bridge the cloud looking at her face in the canal, to cite a few. There is the present and now all along and never any self-pity. There is always a feeling of hope. Hopefulness is a positive quality

Either Reddening
Of today's dust
The darkness of
In my manas
Raising the sails of joy
I don’t thank you
and blow out the radiance of the boats
(Sravana Mangalavaaram)

In haikus there are some very captivating about kids and children
Wearing footwear
Stood the bag in water
In both the faces, joy

For whom do the clouds rain
If not for children
Is it for those who save themselves without umbrellas?

If the little one is kept to
Drive away the birds away
She is making friendship with crows

Once Ismail wrote: “The reason why children always look happy and joyful is because they are poets. In fact, all of us are as born as poets.” There is just one poem among all about death in Mrutyu Viriksham. His use of images is new, self-packed up ones are the fruit of giving up sentimentality as in this poem Death tree – Mrutyu Vriksham

One day
Death tree
Sprang up
Head down
Those avoiding, his friends and relatives
Carrying him away
Bury them as a seed
In the sky of manas
The branches of memories
Such the growth
of the dead are sucked back
This death tree
gives nothing back.

The most endearing of Ismail’s poems, are the personal poems written about particular individuals. These reveal his attitude of life and personal friendship. He wrote Munigina vodalu about Kaseegaru, Wyru about Nagnamuni and Kalava vodduna Shikarlu about Bitta Moksha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy. Ismail doesn't approve of sentimentality. Poetry, in his view, must appeal to the finer sensibilities. He feels that sending the reader out with references of the work would destroy universality.

Ismail is a poet immense personal feeling, anubhuti. There is the thinking of existence in his imagination. Some of his poems like this makes thongs trivial. This is what he wrote in his poem Goda, Wall.

What should be out
And, what should be in
All, I know
In that case
This window
What does it do here?

Some in puts – Courtesy Ravisankar Vinnakota now in the US

This is only by way of a brief introduction and more would come out after securing necessary information.


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

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Views: 3521      Comments: 1

Comment sir where can i buy ismail poetry collection books , there are only two volumes available in published form now
thank you

04-Jan-2023 09:48 AM

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