GSS wrote serious prose — on literary history, aesthetics, and poetics — but the popular imagination recognises him best for his songs.
He wrote with passion about the great Kannada poets of the past, and his book Kaavyartha Chintana explains complex literary terms in simple Kannada. Yet, for many Kannadigas whose knowledge of literature remains restricted to the bhavageete (lyric) form, he is the writer of Ede Thumbi Haadidenu, perhaps the most popular bhavageete in the last three to four decades.
This song (I sing not so others may hear/It’s a karma I can’t change) spread the fame of composer Mysore Ananthaswamy and singer Ratnamala Prakash. Even today, it is sung at almost every sugama sangeeta concert and college contest in southern Bangalore, and across Karnataka.
In the 1980s, when a debate raged between the modernists and poets writing to metre, GSS threw his weight behind the songwriters, though they were derided by rivals as ‘cassette kavis’.
In the larger scheme of things, many saw GSS as a successor to Kuvempu, the statesmanly poet who, with epics like Ramayana Darshanam, also wrote romantic lyrics and songs celebrating the glory of Kannada. History might remember him more for his insightful literary criticism than his bhavageetes, who knows.
Although he was critically aware of the Western world of letters, his sensibility was shaped by his wide reading in Kannada. In that sense, he was not like a later generation of writers who studied English literature at college, taught English literature for a living, and then wrote in Kannada. At the Kannada Study Centre at Bangalore University, which GSS headed till 1986, he was seen as a disciplinarian, but one who would selflessly nourish the talent of young writers. In his death, Kannada has lost a writer in the classical mould and a guiding spirit.