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Book Review

Modern Telugu poetry

ADHUNIKA KAVITHA — ABHIPRAYA VEDIKA: Edited by Acharya Thirumala; Compiled by M. Raghuram; Kinnera Publications, 2-2-647/153, Central Excise Colony, Hyderabad-500013. Rs. 100.

WHEN DID modern Telugu poetry begin? What are its qualities? A symposium was organised a quarter of a century ago. The replies of 20 modern day poets to a questionnaire were published first in 1981.

This is the second edition. Surprisingly the problems posed and the replies to them are as valid today as they were then.

Modern Telugu poetry, according to most of the respondents, began with Gurujada. Some have tried to trace it to the earlier Saraswathi Vilapamu of Veeresalingam Pantulu, whose opinions, it must be noted are remarkable neither for their objectivity nor rational approach.

Even in this symposium the best opinions are easily those of Sri Sri and Arudhra, conspicuous for their innate humility and sincere respect for the past and the present. Poetry can never remain tied down to rules and regulations. It evolves with time and 20th century poetry tried to cut through nets of grammar and prosody.

The ballad like composition Poornamma permanently changed people's attitude to child marriages. Sri Sri's Maha Prasthanam has also had a similar permanent effect. The song "O Mahatma, O Maharishi" on Gandhiji's death will never be forgotten. But modern poetry has also had its ups and downs. The so-called naked poets and revolutionary poets wrote what could hardly be called poetry. They created a repulsive atmosphere and their writings have had their most deserved end — few bother about them today. The ancient poets were no fools. They worshipped beauty and tried to create an atmosphere of happiness, and a graphic picture of what they wrote.

If popularity is the touchstone how many modern poets can come anywhere near Pothana, whose poems even illiterate villagers recite, or Vemana, a pioneer of Dalit rights, or even Thyagaraja whose compositions are as much literary poetry as of music?

The answer is as Kalidasa said "don't reject all that is old because much of it is good and great and don't accept all that is modern because much of it cannot be described in any way other than that they are plain rubbish."

G.D.

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