H.S. Venkatesh Murthy's poetry is an untiring quest for new metaphors and images, hence a constant engagement with new language possibilities
HSV Samagra Kavithegalu
By Dr. H.S. Venkatesha Murthy
Rs. 300, Anandakanda Granthamaale
H.S. Venkatesha Murthy, arguably one of the most important contemporary Kannada poets, has published 16 poetry collections so far — “Parivrutta” (1968) being the first and “Uttaraayana Mattu...”, (2008) being the latest. And now all these 16 collections have been published in one volume, “HSV Samagra Kavithegalu”. H.S.V. has also published plays, short stories, novels, literary criticism and column writings. But he is essentially a poet, by vocation as well as choice.
For H.S.V. poetry is not just another literary genre. That is his modus operandi, an endless experimentation with language, a tireless engagement with metaphors. His sonnets on Bendre, Kuvempu, Putina, Adiga and KSNa are undoubtedly among the most creative responses to these great poets. The collection of sonnets which include these is called “Eshtondu Mugilu” which, I think, is ameaningful pointer to his attitude towards life in general and literature in particular.
His collection of critical essays is “Nooru Mara Nooru Swara”. H.S.V. has not restricted himself to any one particular mode. Even as he has kept himself open to inspirations and influences from all directions, he has experimented with all types of poetry-lyric, sonnet, narrative and imagist. He has also written hundreds of poems for children. Hence, it is clear that there is conscious, defined compartments as far as choice of genres are concerned. Though H.S.V.'s poetry is not ‘traditional' it is deeply rooted in ‘tradition'. True, there are echoes of his illustrious predecessors, both pre-modern and modern, but they are creatively and imaginatively transformed to suit the immediate, contemporary needs. Memories are neither a block nor a baggage for Murthy. For example, though there appears to be a hangover of images of Krishna and “Gokula Nirgamana” in Murthy's poetry, the ‘billu habba' in and of America does not go unnoticed. Rama and Krishna are a permanent presence in H.S.V.'s poetry. But they too are transformed. Take, for example, a poem like “Srisamsari”. The poet points out that Sri Rama never gets worshipped alone. Every temple, every calendar presents Rama with Sita to his left, Lakshmana to his right, Hanumantha at his feet and so on. Rama's ‘samsara' is very large. Also, Bharatha, Shatrughna, Vibhishana, Jambavantha, Sugreeva, Maandavi and Urmila — which is the entire gamut of Aryas, Dravidas and the Tribals! The photographer is a little uncomfortable with Rama's bow; the request is granted and lo, a little squirrel scurries into the frame. This little inclusion results in paradigmatic shift of Rama's image. It is Murthy's subtle reaction and response to the contemporary ‘Rama Politics'. “Aapthageetha” is a sequence of five poems on Krishna. Here too the poet consciously removes the traditional aura that surrounds the personality of Krishna and makes him appear a true ‘yadava', ‘kadava', ‘shravaka' , ‘sevaka' and ‘panchama'. Who says Murthy's poetry is ‘apolitical'?
If one were to essentialise H.S.V.'s concerns as a poet, I would venture to suggest that there is an eternal search for the ‘Sattvika' values of life in his poetry. Not that he is oblivious to the ‘Taamasa' and ‘Raajasa' elements, in fact, they have to be understood in his emphasis of the ‘Saattvika'. Familial bonds remain and extend even after life as it is demonstrated in his most ambitious long poem “Uttarayana”. The poem is a tribute to his late wife and elevates this purely personal experience to a higher, universal human plane. It is not simply an ‘elegy' in the western sense but a deep reflection of familial relationships in a life which is encircled by accidental births and inevitable deaths. H.S.V. is certainly a major voice in contemporary poetry.