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When hallucinations become golden poetry

R. Madhavan Nair
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The cover of Sirolikhithathinte carbon pathippukal
The cover of Sirolikhithathinte carbon pathippukal

Poet A. Ayyappan lived like a nomad and drank liquor like a fish. Yet he had a large circle of friends and fans. Because he wrote poems that came from his heart and went straight into their heart.

Though Ayyappan is no more (found unconscious by the wayside in Thiruvananthapuram and declared dead soon after in a hospital), he continues to be at the centre of discussions in literary circles.

Many recite his poems, though his lines and imagery are sometimes obscure, bordering on psychedelic.

The more serious among his readers do studies to understand better the beauty and profundity of his poetic thoughts.

Proof of the appeal he still holds for students and researchers of Malayalam literature is Ravi Sankar S. Nair’s book Sirolikhithathinte carbon pathippukal, a literary appreciation in which the author attempts a psychological analysis of Ayyappan’s poetry. ‘Sirolikhithathinte carbon pathippukal is also the title of one of the poems Ayyappan wrote.

Poet and poetry

Like Ayyappan’s poetry, Ravi Sankar’s book also has been in the limelight after it won the State Language Institute’s K.M. George award. The distinguishing feature of Ravi Sankar’s award-winning book is that it attempts to link the personality of the poet with his poetry.

“Ayyappan’s poetry is a narrative of his own life,” says the author.

Ayyappan had spoken on many occasions about the tragic side of his life — of his father’s death owing to poisoning and his mother’s demise during an illegal abortion.

No wonder motifs of death and desolation dominate Ayyappan’s poetry. Two chapters of the book deal with evidence of schizophrenia in Ayyappan’s poetry.

Schizophrenia

It is said that Ayyappan attempted suicide during a bout of hallucination.

It is a fact that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and put in a mental asylum.

Ayyappan’s poems about his hallucinatory experiences were published under the title ‘Chithrarogasupatriyile dinangal’ (My Days in a Mental Asylum).

Ravi Sankar’s analysis highlights how the poet’s style, language, and imagery had come under the influence of schizophrenia.

The book is an erudite attempt to understand Ayyappan’s poetry better and must be as fascinating as Ayyappan’s poetry to the poet’s large circle of fans and admirers.

R. Madhavan Nair

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