Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Poets Cornered

விதியினை நகுவன அயில்வழி- பிடியின்
கதியினை நகுவன தளர்நடை-கமலப்
பொதியினை நகுவன புணர்முலை- கலைவாள்
மதியினை நகுவன வனிதையர் வதனம்
- பால காண்டம், கம்பராமாயணம்

"X is mocked at by Y (which is greater)" is the framework of this verse.

I maintain a largely hostile attitude towards verse libre- particularly in Tamil. There has been a historical overemphasis on capturing the moment and expressing, to the extent of viewing form and conscious sculpting as antithetical to art itself.I find it hard to see spontaneity as its own argument.The pretense of spontaneity is sometimes at the core of a poem.

There has been a lot of lip-service paid to the expression: 'knowing the grammar before breaking it', that I am bordering cynical on that. But there are some pretenses of spontaneity that do pull me back, make me enjoy and even believe (or atleast want to believe) the importance of 'the moment', the afflatus overpowering rules. (a la ஆத்திரம் கொண்டவர்க்கே கண்ணம்மா/ சாத்திரம் உண்டோடீ)

How would have Kambar written the above verse ? Surely surely not in the same order of the lines above. The first line in all probability came last. After he had comparators for the others, he struggles to find comparators for the spear-like gaze of the women. The gaze mocks at the rule of finding a comparator. He has to break the rule or atleast there is a pretense of grasping for a comparator and failing - and making a poem out of it. He presents an exceedingly convincing exceptional situation where one cannot be bound by the rules when floored by beauty.

Kambar is all about lovely visual comparisons and exaggerations (பொய்யோ எனும் இடையாள்). So to see him stumped - even if only once - and even if he is just pretending for effect, elevates this verse to great heights. And reminds of me of a little something written about half a century later by Matsuo Basho:

It's like nothing
They compare it to
The summer moon

PS: I am sucker for works where the artist presents his struggle (or his feigning of it) for finding expressions.


  1. Dagalti,
    Your comment on being sucker for
    verses with the poet struggling for expressions caught my attention.
    I am ignorant of much of Kambar's work,
    but i can immediately think of the song Parthen Parthen Parthen, Suda Suda rasithen (some Prashanth movie..)
    I think the third or fourth line goes like
    "katta azhagu kannthil adikka.
    Kannukkule boogambam vedikka,
    kamban illai michathai mudikka".

    I found the giving up by the poet in the third line very poetic...But then diamond pearl or vaali was probably influenced by kambar. Can't straight away think of any other tamil song...
    (Due apologies for including DiamondPearl and Vaali in the same line as Kambar)

  2. I too don't know much about Kambar's works except the fact that he re-imagined Valmiki's Ramayana (poraadhadhukku Thamizh vera padichachadhu kidaiyaadha, school-la... naangellam orey the Peter plus thoda thoda Indhi wonly, so, in a sense, Padukkaadha Meddhai, LOL!) and that Kolly poets like Kannadaasan and Vairamuthu have quoted him, referred to him left right and center.

    Just like Mutrupulli points out above. I really liked (the bits and pieces I saw of)that Prashanth movie, BTW. It's called Paarthen Rasithen, with him and Laila as lovers, and Simran as his house owner/friend. The parts of the movie that I saw was all PTC Bus Romance, with Laila alternately jumping in and out of Ladies Special buses and super-crowded regular ones.

    And the songs were all great, IIRC. Especially this one, sung by Yugendran (Malaysia Vasudevan's son, who was my sister's classmate in school at Vadapalani, from VII to Xth std. Mini gossip: He had a crush on her best friend and summa guitar-a thookindu pinnadi suththu suththu nu suththinaan (avan paavam; andha ponnu onnum masiyala). But otherwise a very shy kid. He was quite active in the culturals though. Wonder what he's up to now..).

  3. Mutruppulli/Lexi,

    to prevent the possibility of Kambar turning in his grave, the chozhas in their infinite wisdom would have cremated Kambar - if Kulothunga II had his way - probably alive.

    //Padukkaadha Meddhai//
    Which translates to the scholar who never reclined. One tired wit you'd be.

    //And the songs were all great,IIRC//
    I don't think you RC. There is one song sung by the mellifluous TopStar Prashanth :-)

    //Wonder what he's up to now..)//
    Yugendran married a Singaporean who has wierdest accent in all of தமிழ்கூறும் நல்லுலகு. தம்பதி சமேதரா they MC shows on Vijay TV.

  4. Right, "Padukkadha Meddhai" is indeed (intentionally) loaded (subtextually speaking), so extrapolate away, Saar! And as for that Prashanth number, this particular MD could have a monkey chatter and it would sound like music to my ears, make me weak in the knees, etc, if you know what I mean. ;-)

    Thanks for the Yugendran update - kalakkaraan pola irukku, payal, pondaatti oda serndhu. Good for him.