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Reflecting reality

Madhusoodanan Nair's poetry has a musical quality to it. It also incorporates mythical elements.

The deeper in we go, the more we learn the ecstasy to know

--Sebastian Barker, `Against the Deadening of the Mind'.

REPLETE WITH mythical contexts as well as elements of modernity, Madhusoodanan Nair's writings offer a voyage into the realms of human imagination. There have been bouquets as well as brickbats. "The very same people who attack me have lauded Pablo Neruda's rendition of his own poems. But when I do the same thing, it becomes a crime," he says.

Poetry interested Madhusoodanan Nair during his childhood itself. "Composing poetry is a spontaneous process. The soul of the genuine poet often drifts off into poetic experiences quite involuntarily. Sometimes, poetry occurs even as fragments in a dream." Nair has been severely criticised for the `musicality' of his poems. But he is unmindful of the form in which poetry takes shape. Barring a few exceptions, most of his poems are composed in a metrical pattern. He has conditioned his own art of poesy in such a manner that his poems can easily be adapted to musical notations. The tonal value of poetry is all-important for him. "Language itself is a rhythmic intonation of emotions. Poetry is a purely personal affair and the most intimate personal revelation cannot but be musical. Moreover, the rhythm and music of my poetry are based on the unique culture to which my self is rooted," he observes.

His poems are full of mythical elements. Such figures and situations are often adapted into modern contexts in order to depict the astonishing realities around us. Nair has created his own world of myths just as W. B. Yeats built up a private mythology for himself out of the Irish legends and folktales. Nair's `Gandharvam', which is a recreation of Kalidasa's `Abhignanasakunthalam', is a case in point. The depiction of Sakunthala in the poem typifies the forsaken woman in the modern society. A committed poet cannot keep himself aloof from the startling visions of modern times, Nair maintains. Several of his poems reflect the harsh realities and the ever-thriving hypocrisies of contemporary life.

The poem, titled `Bharatheeyam', criticises pseudo-patriotism. (The poem is in the form of a monologue addressed to a child who attempts to learn the map of India.)

The child is advised to return to the glory of the mythical past - `Wash your face with the crystal tears, trickling from the core of earth. Go down the steps, and behold the crimson halls of yore, where nymphs dance in unison.'

`Santhanagopalam' depicts the fall of the master archer, Arjuna, from the towering heights of omnipotence. As the poem opens, we find a mellowed Arjuna preparing to end his life in a pyre, owing to the disgrace he had to suffer due to his failure in protecting the children of a Brahmin priest from the jaws of death. The figure of Arjuna in the poem reminds us of the modern ruler who fails to live up to the expectations of the masses. Similarly, the image of a small caterpillar growing at once into a huge, venomous serpent is suggestive of the destructive potential of scientific devices. (The image, which occurs in the poem `Meghangale Keezhadanguvin', alludes to the myth in Mahabharata in which King Parikshith is confronted by the serpent Thakshaka.)

In `Anyonyam', a poem which depicts the mutual fear and loss of trust among human figures who find themselves on a darkling plain, he sums up the predicament of man in modern times thus: "Today, we are guards of somebody's crime. We are punished for no sin of ours. We are beset by the wicked eyes of the spies. And stinking ethos and blaming cries."

Current trends in poetry have had little impact on Nair's creativity. "The various movements associated with literature have never been the guiding forces behind my creativity."

He thinks that the works of some young poets, who experiment with the form and structure of poetry, lack individuality. There are a few promising ones, though, he says. He likes to read W. H. Auden and Dylan Thomas and labels Thomas "the most musical of modern poets".


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