poetry

Three Telugu Poets: Siva Reddy, Varavara Rao and Ismail

Translated by Raj Karamchedu

1 October 2014

About The Poems For most Indian readers in English, contemporary poetry in Telugu lies below the horizon, its existence sometimes reported but never directly encountered. But even from this very small sample of the work of three Telugu poets, translated by the novelist Raj Karamchedu, it’s clear that this is a field as exciting as any other in Indian literature. Whether it is Siva Reddy’s poem about two human subjects and a burrow, Varavara Rao’s remarkable poem about speaking corpses and deaths in police custody, or Ismail’s unforgettable image of a real turtle inside a well and a metaphorical one inside the human mind, here are voices, images, rhythms and metaphors that proclaim a burning faith in  the power of poetry to both reveal and imagine the world afresh.

 

Burrow
by Siva Reddy

I have a way
I will crawl away into it

But, she has what
Darkness with no trails
Iron walls dug in all around,
Nowhere she can go
Wherever she goes,
It is back again to within—
In it is way too dark
Brooding, agonising
Into the emptiness
Head split in
Thousand empty pieces—
No choice
Each and everyone
Must search for himself
The burrow that leads
Out of life

 

Demon Ghost
by Varavara Rao

Hauling the carcass from the lockup
Over my shoulder, I was walking

I’ll let you in on the story of my death
Said the corpse
Tell me if it was a natural death
Or was it a murder

Carcass, and on top of it, speaks while in the lockup
Could only mean a murder, I said

Though pleased at the truth’s voice
For the living to speak is a crime
So the corpse disappeared
Showed up in some other lockup

 

Turtle in the Well
by Ismail

Hearing that the turtle was found in the well
We ran like a monkey’s herd, all we children

When we peered into it, we saw our own heads
And the sky and the blue horizon

Picking stones and shards we stirred all the water

Not only the turtle didn’t float up
But even our heads disappeared

As the sky’s dark blaze, lighting up the rim’s far end, went into the well
With our heads in I stared still at the perturbed water

There! Behind my eyes
Burrowed inside the skull
Sitting still, is the turtle

 

A Grave for a Poem
by Ismail

Digging the poem deep is the poet
Beneath tons of dirt
Beneath tons of heart
Lies covered the poem

Who buried it this deep no one knows
Got to dig days and nights
And get the coffin out
Maybe it’ll come alive
At the touch of a breath

Digging the poem deep
When the casket lid opens
Every time the corpse that comes out alive
Is the poet himself

About The Poems For most Indian readers in English, contemporary poetry in Telugu lies below the horizon, its existence sometimes reported but never directly encountered. But even from this very small sample of the work of three Telugu poets, translated by the novelist Raj Karamchedu, it’s clear that this is a field as exciting as any other in Indian literature. Whether it is Siva Reddy’s poem about two human subjects and a burrow, Varavara Rao’s remarkable poem about speaking corpses and deaths in police custody, or Ismail’s unforgettable image of a real turtle inside a well and a metaphorical one inside the human mind, here are voices, images, rhythms and metaphors that proclaim a burning faith in  the power of poetry to both reveal and imagine the world afresh.

 

Burrow
by Siva Reddy

I have a way
I will crawl away into it

But, she has what
Darkness with no trails
Iron walls dug in all around,
Nowhere she can go
Wherever she goes,
It is back again to within—
In it is way too dark
Brooding, agonising
Into the emptiness
Head split in
Thousand empty pieces—
No choice
Each and everyone
Must search for himself
The burrow that leads
Out of life

 

Demon Ghost
by Varavara Rao

Hauling the carcass from the lockup
Over my shoulder, I was walking

I’ll let you in on the story of my death
Said the corpse
Tell me if it was a natural death
Or was it a murder

Carcass, and on top of it, speaks while in the lockup
Could only mean a murder, I said

Though pleased at the truth’s voice
For the living to speak is a crime
So the corpse disappeared
Showed up in some other lockup

 

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READER'S COMMENTS

3 thoughts on “Three Telugu Poets: Siva Reddy, Varavara Rao and Ismail”

good to read these poems.they say something which cant be said directly. I love to read poems like these. .the carcass is very touching, so is ismail;s all poems. arman najmi

I liked the oems. they say something that cant be said directly. the words carry more meaning in them the imagination of the reder is dtirred. ismail;s poems are more contepoaray and say about the recent situation. carry on caravan. I will like ro see the print version and purchase it from the bookstalls. arman najmi

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