Friday Review

A poet- within and without

“I could see that all creation is freedom-driven and all creation is freedom-oriented.” –K.V. Tirumalesh

It is one of the paramount needs of a culture to harbour individuals who do not tow the line of least of resistance, who do not accede to the clichéd demands made by a hierarchical society and who carve a niche for themselves both in terms of content and form in their artistic activities. A society, that dismisses them as mavericks and misfits, becomes linear and functions within the confines of self-imposed straitjackets. K.V. Tirumalesh (1940), a multi-faceted Kannada writer from Kasaragodu region, Kerala-Karnataka border, permanently domiciled in Hyderabad for almost five decades, has constantly striven hard to expand the horizons of Kannada literature and culture by making choices that are tangential to the mainstream.

Tirumalesh is a poet, fictionist, critic and a linguist of proven merit. His works have been nurtured by voracious reading and a sensitive mindset that revels in absorbing external influences both in terms of creativity as well as ideas. He began his literary career as a modernist writer in the sixth decade of the twentieth century. However, he came out of the shackles imposed by that movement in ‘Avadha’, a landmark collection of poems. Since then, he has been an itinerant traveller in alien cultures and literatures. He is truly global in the positive sense of the much maligned word. But he is neither apolitical nor cynical in his attitudes. His writings are intensely emotional even though he eschews sentimentality and melodrama. He is not convinced about the capacity of literature to engender social change and avoids rhetoric and ideological imposition of any kind in his literary works. But he is a champion of the common man and his works are focussed on the suffering and the angst of helpless individuals. He takes care to avoid aggressive postures and makes his works ambiguous by employing structural devices that are complex and challenging.

K.V.T. is essentially a poet, genuinely interested in extending the boundaries of the language. Initially, he had to confront the poetry of Gopalkrishna Adiga which grappled with the problem of coalescing traditional values with modernity. He used the tools forged by Eliot and his contemporaries to create poetry full of images and symbols. Tirumalesh decided to transcend this mode because he was interested in probing the marginalized everyday experiences. For him, even the revelations made by poetry were tentative. He was keen in unveiling different ways of seeing rather than presenting packaged visions. Constant exposure to continental and Oriental poetry taught him unique ways of structuring a poem. He has been a proponent of free verse with occasional forays into rhymes and rhythms. He is averse to using conventional tools of poetry such as alliteration, consonance, parallelism etc. He explains his method succinctly in one of his interviews: “The only answer to this challenge seems to be to deal with conceptual tropes more than linguistic: I mean contrast of ideas, playing one idea with another, borrowfrom foreign myths, landscape and so on. Such things are necessary to awaken new sensibilities and put them to work.” Many poems in collections such as ‘Avadha’ and ’Paapiyu’ bear testimony to these ideas.

He started experimenting with various genres of poetry such as songs, children’s poems and focused on free verse with rhythm patterns of their own. He created an anti-hero who was a clown (Vidushaka) claiming kinship with the Fool from King Lear. He borrowed mythological and historical characters chosen deliberately from other cultures because they did not carry a baggage. He used their narratives to create enduring images groping for the meaning and purpose life. He did not aspire to become popular by writing songs and poems about ‘burning problems’. He neither practiced an ideology nor did he try to propagate it in his works. His protagonists indulge in a valiant but futile effort to build inter-personal bridges. He does not perceive individualism as a polar opposite to social responsibility. They are but extensions of one another. Actually he takes assertive stands on many social issues involving individual morality.

Categorizing Tirumalesh only as a poet is unjust to his accomplishments in other genres of literature. He has written a number of short stories and novelettes depicting human condition in its various predicaments. They are at once universal and contemporaneous. They have not created a reader’s base of its own because he has never gone after aesthetic appeasement. His fiction as well as his poetry demand lot of commitment and effort because of their amorphous nature. One can discern certain political leanings in some of these stories. However, the focus does not shift from the sufferings of the individual.

K.V.T. is a scholar-critic who brings in his knowledge of diverse disciplines such as linguistics, stylistics, metrics and social sciences into literary criticism. His monograph on D.R. Bendre is an excellent effort delineating various aspects of his poetry. He has never hesitated to call a spade a spade. Of late, he has plunged into public debates with childlike enthusiasm. His debate with D.N. Shankar Bhat, another reputed linguist on the relationship of Kannada and Sanskrit is an illustration. He has a panache for translation also. He has translated, ‘The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge’, the solitary novel by Rainer Maria Rilke very competently.

Tirumalesh has taken to social media like fish to water and participates in many lively discussions. He is not unduly bothered by the barbs released by those uninitiated to literature in general and the vast body of his writings in particular. I am mentioning this because his writings have largely gone unnoticed by the community of literary critics and also by readers.

A writer gets true recognition only if his writings are absorbed by the cultural fabric of the language. Awards and titles are mere baubles if they do not spur the reading community to a meaningful dialogue with the literary works. One hopes fervently, that the much coveted Sahitya Akademi award bestowed on Tirumalesh for “Akshaya Kavya’ succeeds in disseminating his poetry.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 9:13:13 AM |

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