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Devipriya: An ode to intimate poetry

Poetic prowessDevipriya; the cover image of ‘Gaali Rangu’  

Not many would christen their name; Guntur-born Khaja Hussain, popularly known as poet Devipriya, was privileged to do so. His poetry is replete with intimate and political motifs like ‘dear’; his choice of words, often measured, advocate a firm opinion. His residence at Alwal in Hyderabad is named after his first anthology of poems Amma Chettu. Clearly, there’s a nostalgic reflection of childhood but there is also hope for the future. In one of his poems in Gaali Rangu for which he was honoured with the Central Sahitya Akademi award in 2017, he mentions ‘Atu gaali itu raada, itu vaana atu poda’ (Won’t that breeze come here? Won’t our rain go there?). A renowned journalist, script writer, lyric writer and credited to be the father of political commentary in verse for Telugu journalism, he calls himself ‘a train running on four different tracks at the same time’. “It’s upto you to spot me where you want,” he says.

His poetic streaks unfolded in his teenage years, when he needed an outlet to express everything his heart and mind was experiencing. . “I was a student then and believe I’m still one. I trusted my ability to be different and express my inner world through words. Only an awakened mind can become a poet. A poet can’t simply write, be in a slumber and get awakened again.”

Having actively observed the intricacies of revolutions in his times matured him as a poet. After he completed college course, his father expected him to find a job to help him run the family. “I was of the belief that there would be a day, a liberation movement would help build an equal society and we would get our due to live our lives at peace.” Little did a young Devipriya realise the complexities of a modern society then. This comes full circle in Gaali Rangu, reflecting his holistic understanding of ‘isms’ and an aggression channelised towards progress.

Process and precision

Whatever he writes is spontaneous, he doesn’t remember an instant where he edited or reworked a poem. If he didn’t like what he penned, he would merely discard it. “It’s not something that can be chiselled and sharpened later.”

Poetic precision has been among his primary strengths, he toys with the thin line between direct and ornamental poetry. He attributes his love for mythological epics to his poetic evolution, “Why do I read Kalidasa or Valmiki? I was recently reading the Ramayana, not to know about its multifarious interpretations, but to understand how they described the moon back then. He describes them as a bird in a cage, a lion in a den in the mountain Mandra. I read epics to know how great Vedavyasa was a poet, how efficient was Srinatha in Srungara Naishadham.”

During his journalism stint, Devipriya was instrumental in making Sri Sri write his autobiography. Beyond poetry, his sojourn in films like Maa Bhoomi, Ragulutunna Bharatam and Pallaki, his most celebrated contribution to Telugu literature remains the ‘Running commentary’ series in a Telugu daily. In the series, he’d give his own spin to the pocket cartoon by giving it a political commentary in verse. NTR, during his stint as a CM, had sportively commented, “How do we satisfy or please him at all?”

Staying relevant

Devipriya respects reactions of contemporary society as much as he loves the glorious Telugu past. For a poet to stay relevant, seeing isn’t enough, that he proves through his latest award-winning book as well.

“He should always come out of his comfort zone, break that invisible wall. Reacting and learning about events around you is important. Your poetry should reflect that time.” His words resonate his poetry when he mentions, ‘A poet of substance should be able to penetrate into the depths of the earth and also believe that sky isn’t a limit’.

Devipriya: An ode to intimate poetry

The Sahitya Akademi for Gaali Rangu has put a grin on his face. “I feel humbled and nice about it. These things didn’t bother me at any stage of my writing or journalistic career, but I must admit I’m very happy with the honour. People say Gaali Rangu is my best work, though every poem I write is dear to me.” He labels his poem as a perennial stream that’ll only end with him.

What has changed in all these years? “The way I understand things around me, the nature, the relationships. My values have gone through a change. I’ve become more conscious of the nuances of my poetry, softened, philosophical, perhaps inverted and more reflective.”

Legendary writer Patanjali had once felt Devipriya is the only poet as versatile as Sri Sri. “This made me more tense, it feels like a burden. I need to be more responsible.”

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 11:51:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/devipriya-an-ode-to-intimate-poetry/article22366321.ece

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