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Wednesday, 26 May 2010



Inner bliss as poetic expressions

Parakrama Kodituwakku has brought out another collection of poems titled as Mahateku Siti Hondin (A Gentleman Stays Well). For me it is not just another collection, as one would find gauging the number of poetry collections that flood the Sinhala literary scene today.

I will try my best to clarify my stand on this collection, as I took more time relaxed to enjoy the pieces one by one. At the outset I must state that as poetry is meant to be enjoyed silently, especially the type of free verse that one comes across in the collection. A hasty judgment may not be too sound. The hallmark taking a synoptic view as regards all these poems is the capture of vivid innerness in human beings.

Take for instance the opening title poems. It is the routine lifestyle of a gentleman accustomed to stereotype patterns of living. Resembling more to a prose parable the protagonist is an elderly man named Kehelkaduwa.

He is relaxed. He concentrates on the optimistic side of the life. His telephone conversation with his son ends up with the same tone of optimism, life is good. He goes on reading the same type of books and magazines. He sings while he takes a shower in the bathroom. He eats the same kind of food for all his meals. He hears a character that in many ways are dissimilar to other around. As such he looks a stranger or an outsider. His drinking habit too is different from others and akin to himself. The entire poem rests on an ironic level of expression.

It is the subtext or the inner text that runs in between and behind lines that matter. This is a portrait of a vanishing clan of individuals. I was reminded of W. H. Auden's poem 'The Unknown Citizen'. The gentleman Kehelkaduwa, in many ways, is the person in Auden's poem.

Panividayak is a sensitive event where the person sees a stray dog or a creature faced with disaster at one's doorstep trying or pleading the sympathy. But can this be materialized? It is the sensitive manner in which the poet sees the event that matters. He has a series of thoughts of floods his mind on looking at the stray creature that had come to obtain a helping hand.

The poem Mahabelma (The Great Vision) recreates symbolically the erection of a gigantic Buddha statue, where artisans and other workers toil hard to build a statue. Once the statue is built it is almost likely that the man owner is being watched by the Buddha himself silently and serenely. The poet recreates the wonder of a creative process unsurpassed in a world of trivialities. If possible, I sincerely feel that this is the type of creative poetry that should be translated for readers abroad, to gauge the creative abilities of the local poets.

A similar thing is tonal beauty in poems like Pahana Nonivi hinting the colossal devastations caused by natural disasters, while the memories of those who are caught in that web remain memorable for years to come.

The poem titled Kepuna Snayuva or 'The Severed Nerve' to give a literal meaning is the most admirable and resourceful creation in the collection. The poet characterizes the inner feelings of a father who leaves the domestic front in search of better academic opportunities to find himself left as if dismembered sensitively from a family bond.

The paternal love over-pervades the material gains and opportunities. The father is left abandoned pondering as to how this sensitive operation of a missing link took place. The manner of an inner lament embodies the whole structure of the poetic creation. He suspects as a father whether some sort of added attraction, hinting on a love episode may have taken place for the silence on the part of the son.

Kodituwakku's poems, as I have noted even in his earlier works, is a fusion of religiosity and materialism, linking various diametrically opposed entities. His forte is the inner quest. This factor is depicted in a more advanced manner in the poem titled Hadavate Handa Shabda (Sounds of the Heart). It is more likely a monologue of a person on a journey in search of his own loneliness. I present the mood of the poem in the following manner for purpose of clarification.

Let's meet again I said

I'll not come again

I should have said

After long time, you said

You were in a dream, I would have said

Let's forget, said I

Blood smears from the wound, I would have said

Sorry about that

But I would have said

It's an action that cannot be forgiven.

Life is like that, though I said

Life is more pleasant, I would have said.

The original poet would never forgive me for the literal rendering. All I wanted is to show how the inner monologue of the poetic persona is expressed. For me the experience is quite touching and packed with a dialectical situation, transcending the common expression of love. Poetry can always be misunderstood especially in translation.

This collection too embraces some of the adaptation of the poet from his favourite sources abroad. Perhaps reason is to show that poetry is a universal human expression. It is not the original source that matters, but the way it is rendered to the local reader. The poet Kodituwakku had excelled in the direction in his work Rashmi, which is a work that deserves a rediscovery on the part of the local scholar and literal critic.

Taking a synoptic view of the entire picture created in the collection of those poems, I felt that the poet Kodituwakku is giving the reader a creative gift. He seems to be murmuring the following lines.

Dear reader,

Read my poems, again and again. Keep your head straight. Don't be swayed by various extraneous forces around you. Let my poems help you gain new insights into life. The last poem Kaviyek Ena Thuru epitomizes the vision. The poetic diction he uses is indicative of the inspiration drawn form the classics of Sinhala literature. This is for the most part neglected by the modern day Sinhala poet. Kodituwakku's attempt as a whole is the search for a new vision of expression despite the prose verse barriers.



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