Literary Shelf

Our Recent Telugu Poetry

- A Veteran’s Sage Counsel

The Central Institute of Indian Languages, CIIL has been doing great services in offering Financial Assistance for the publication of translations into Telugu books of eminence by our Writers and translators.

Nobel poetry from 1901-2011, which has come in English translation has been the subject of great enthusiasm for many. Mukunda Rama Rao wrote a book on the subject along with the lives of poets and their greatness seen in that poetry. Veteran linguistician Velcheru Narayana Rao has written an introduction to Mukunda Rama Rao’s work. Prof. Velcheru has expressed his ideas on recent Telugu poetry. Here are some of his comments.

For Telugu poets and writers there is not so much understanding as their aspirations and there is not much information to match with their hopes for the last five decades Telugu literature has been imprisoning itself in its own circles looking themselves in their own mirrors. Recent outbursts on revolutionary local consciousness and various ‘isms’ like Feminism, Dalit and Backward castes urge on commenting on the ill-treatment meted out to them. These noisy complaints of injustice take the prominence. The poets/artist/complainants do not have any perseverance and no strong efforts to take their ideas into the world of other regions and countries. There is a feeling that if their work comes out in English translation, it would be read by the entire world. Every poet seems to aim at the Nobel decoration with no significant contribution to aspire for it.

So writing Velcheru makes the remark that Mukunda Rama Rao has rendered great help opening the gates of Nobel Prize by showing sparklingly what has happened in poetry which has been considered as world poetry.

Many of the details of Nobel Prize are not known to the Telugu readers and more importantly Telugu poets. After commending Mukund Rama Rao's work, the Veteran has gone to show-casing the drawbacks in our (Telugu) poets which many be eye openers to us. It is a fact that in this wide world not many of the languages come up for consideration to the Nobel committee. Most of the awards were bagged by European languages from the South. One thing has to be realised and accepted is that the Nobel is and undoubtedly great and unique. It is not an award for poetic creation elsewhere too. One reason for the peak of the awards is the appreciation of those who know the languages in which the poets wrote in English. Importance is given to poetic taste. Not all really deserving are given the award. The basic and the so the most important reason is that the attraction of Western civilisation, institutions, organisations and their political and economic importance.

And that attraction is a surprising quality. The reasons are not far away to be shown. Their complexion for one thing, their fondness for English their clothing, names and their politeness have great fascination. This is the culture of the 20th country. The knowledge, we the Telugus, have is limited to a veneer. If we have known more perhaps this attraction could not have been so great.,

Among European languages only one is understood and appreciated. In other words, to merit any certification for this prestigious award any language has to be taken / translated into only one language. English as far as we Indians are concerned is the only Western languages we know and admire. Truly for that reason our poets think that their work should travel ahead and that too only English. With English and goes into good of good literature that is English then the poets work gets into world literature. If translated into English and goes into the land of good literature that is English and then the poet’s work gets world recognition. Duggirala Gopalakrishnayya wrote about Adivi Bapiraju, the multi-faceted genius. He said that the Brahmin Adivi’s name is not any the less, but it becomes ‘great’ when he is in the ken of an Englishman, ‘dora’ .

There is born rivalry between poetry and translation. Poetry means the meaning and it is sound that wears the dress of meaning. Both are on the two side of the paper. But for translating, these two have to be separated. Many a translator says this. Experiencing poetry as a blend of sound and meaning, that experience should be expressed in the conjoining of sound and meaning. Only carrying the meaning in another language is not poetic translation. Only good poets can be good translators. Carrying the experience into another language needs the ability to write poetry in that other language.

Having said this Velcheru shows how Mukunda Rama Rao, a good poet himself, could translate the poems he selected in English into our language, Telugu. He knows the way the words are arranged and what arrangements carry the poetic feeling. He could understand and experience the beauty and the depth of thought and intellectual curtains that disturb. Poetry is poetry in whichever language it is presented. There are people who discuss and fight among themselves as to what is poetry and what it is not. Mukunda Rama Rao’s work gives an opportunity to get to know the futility of such quarrels.

Nobel award is not the award of the world. But it is true that the judges of the entries are making themselves slowly and totally worldwide. They are culling information and carefully studying that. To go from one language into another is climbing up. Literary translation gives an opening to the door of another house. The skill of pulling down walls and opening the doors is in the hands of the translator.

It is still a question for which I have no answer. Is there anything called a world literature. Poetry should be brought in the poet’s first language. Unless there is a world language there can't be a world literature! There is a way to slay the feeling of a world language. The way is to see poetry through the political situation and their social mores, beliefs etc., One should be able to see the poems thereafter and then separate these two to assess the poetry produced. Poetry has an independent status. This is the idea of the Indian theoreticians. Ananda Vardhana called that Kaayva Samskara to the culture of Kaayva, a product of imaginative creation. Poet is given an independent status and stature. It is different from the creation of Brahma, the creator of all. Whatever may be their language culture, the poet has that, what is called the language and standard of the speech. This is known to all in the world. If that is brought into translated text, there is world literature.

Talking of Nobel Prize, one gets the question/doubt as to why our poets are not getting it. Is it because there are no great poets in Telugu? In politics with power it is itinerant teaching and spreading ideas and greatness that are considered. On that basis when awards are given, poetry goes behind the screen or off the stage. In world literature there is no place for untruth. If Telugus literature don’t identify good / great poets the world would not take the responsibility of show-casing such greats.

Mukunda Rama Rao’s work makes us widen our own horizons. Secondly our poets try to come up with nicety, irrespective of itinerant spreading of the greatness. For leading our Telugu poets into higher levels and thereby higher echelons, the Nobel Awards book gives a pick-up.


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

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