BOOK REVIEW

Modern Tamil poetry

TAMIL

KAVIMANIYIN KAVITHAIGAL — A Complete Collection: A. K. Perumal and S. Sreekumar, Chempaka Padhippagam, 24, Krishna Street, Pondy Bazaar, T. Nagar, Chennai-600017. Rs. 300.

THIS IS a collection of poems of Desika Vinayakam Pillai, (1876-1954) a renowned modern Tamil poet.

The editors have taken pains to search out hitherto unpublished poems numbering 119 from journals and manuscripts and added to his output shown in this book. They have also done a good job of "textual criticism" noting down variations between the texts as published and the manuscripts of the poet and also adding explanatory footnotes.

"Kavimani" (meaning a gem of a poet) as the poet is known, shines in several capacities showing his versatile interests. As a children's poet he captivates readers, young and even the not so young.

As a translator and adapter of popular lyrics and longer poetical classics in English such as Omar Khayyam and The Light of Asia of Sir Edwin Arnold his verse displays admirable fluency and flow.

As a composer of kirtanais in Carnatic music format he excels in simple emotional strains of noble devotion. Last, but not the least, he has set the example of narrative verse alive with the depiction of the suffering inflicted on a society with an unjust system of matriarchal inheritance in a long poem.

This last poetic effort of gentle social satire called "Nancil-nattu marumakkal manmiyam" contributed greatly to the abolition of the iniquitous matriarchal system in Nancil-nadu (now Kanyakumari district) in 1926, and has become a text-book example of poetry influencing social change in the modern age.

He was a Gandhian of simple living and high thinking free from all prejudices; he was a man respecting religion and old values. His poetic efforts do not violate traditional verse-patterns but bring in simplicity, lucidity and musical quality by choice of words and a gifted creativity of poetic inspiration. He may be thus said to fulfil Bharati's enunciation that the poet who writes poetry of simple words, simple, pleasing cadences and flowing, understandable narratives brings new life to Tamil.

S. Vaiyapuri Pillai, a great friend of the poet with a fine appreciation of the latter's excellences has provided most perceptive prefaces to the poetical works as and when they appeared over many years and these have been given in the appendices along with a short resume of the events of the poet's life. This publication will be welcomed by all lovers of the Tamil muse.

J. PARTHASARATHI

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