At the Poets’ Meet, poems with metre and sans it, looked critically at little things that make life

The traditional and modern faces of Malayalam poetry met recently. What was disappointment for one, was hope for another. Classicism gently made its points with realism. In the end, there was only the good of Malayalam poetry in mind. The scene was the Poets’ Meet held as part of the S.K. Pottekatt Birth Centenary Celebrations organised by the Kerala Sahitya Akademi in Kozhikode.

Losing musicality

Inaugurating the meet, veteran lyricist and poet Yusuf Ali Kecheri, lamented the loss of musicality in Malayalam poems. Referring to the thinning audience for poetry he said, “We have people coming in to hear songs, but not poetry. What prompted this change? Malayalam poetry has lost its musical strength. We have lost the song in our poems.” He remembered a time when poetry meets boasted G. Sankara Kurup, Vylopilly, Edasseri, Akkitham and ONV Kurup. “We sang our poems. None of us were great singers. But we sang in tune,” he said.

If over decades musicality has walked out on poetry, he held two reasons culprits — the absence of serious learning of Malayalam and limited working knowledge of Sanskrit. “A bit of Sanskrit is needed to use Malayalam well,” he added. He suggested forming committees with language specialists to systematically work on the language.

It was followed by poetry reading by 11 poets. Some went by metre, others didn’t. Pallode Vasudevan spoke of search through Krishna and Radha, Anwar Ali came thundering down on frivolous glitz and opaque minds of modern times, Veerankutty sang an elegy for green, while P.P. Sreedharan Unni spared a thought for the calendar. P.N. Gopikrishnan talked about the perpetual loser Jose who triumphed through money power. Pavithran Theekunni narrated the tale of the girl who took her household well to her husband’s home. Manambur Rajan Babu celebrated the spirit of the poem. V.P. Shaukat Ali, K.T. Soopy, Satyachandran Poyilkkavu and O.P Suresh brought alive their concerns in verse.

T.P. Rajeevan, poet and short story writer, who presided over the function, said the variety poetic fare was an assertion that all is well. “Everything will survive,” he emphasised, attempting to allay the apprehensions of veterans.

He dug deeper to find what ails Malayalam poetry. He wondered why S.K.’s poetry was less known compared to his travelogues, novels and short stories. He wondered why Madhavi Kutty took refuge in English and a pseudonym for her poetry. He wondered why Lalithambika Antharjanam abandoned poetry early. He gave the answer too. “Malayalam poetry did not envelop those like Pottekatt and Madhavi Kutty who had ventured out far and then came back home. It was still elitist. It spoke in limited language and metre. It spoke still of rain, moonlight and love. It didn’t speak of the lives of a mechanic or an auto driver. It hardly spoke for women, Dalits or the marginalised. Our language was still not mature to tell those poems,” he said. With different slices of life celebrated by the poets at the meet, the signs were of poetry winning some and losing some to stride onwards.

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