CHENNAI: One common thing among the three Tamil poets Sukirtharani, N Sukumaran and Somasundarampilai Pathmanathan (Sopa) is they use words to address issues that concern them.
While Sukirtharani belongs to the Dalit community from Lalapet and has witnessed caste discrimination even as a child, Sukumaran was a lonely child who grew up away from his parents, and Sopa is an octogenarian who lived in Jaffna when Sri Lanka was beaten down by all countries.
“I had to overcome two things — being a girl and being a Dalit. I took to words during my late teens and wrote about feminism. I learnt about caste discrimination while I was young too,” says Sukirtharani, who along with the other poets were present for the Poets Translating Poets event organised by the Prakriti Foundation.
Sukumaran found his place amid words. “I love writing about various topics; I don’t confine myself to just one. But I see to it that I bring out how language and mankind has developed,” he says.
Sopa believes poetry was in his blood. “I listened to stories in temples in Jaffna. When I was 15, I began to understand the rhythm of poetry and I composed ‘Marabu Kavidhai’ a year later,” he says.
In the event, Sopa’s poem was a conversation between an apple and a cucumber. Laced with humour, it was easy to understand and it turns out, all his poems have an inner meaning. “I have always written about the problems in Sri Lanka and I use simple words to explain the crisis,” he says. Having studied under communist leaders, Sopa has always had Leftist ideas. His poems ridiculed parliamentary system and democracy.
Poems are not everyone’s cup of tea but those in the field believe that it upholds the language. “Poetry is difficult to explore, but a listener should meet the poet halfway and ponder on what he/she is trying to tell. It’s the best way to use language. But now, most novels use colloquial forms of Tamil and the language is losing its charm,” rues Sukirtharani.
Sukumaran, on the other hand, believes that poems metaphorise the context of an issue and presents you something new. The poet — also a translator — says the beauty of the original might be lost in translation but you find a new perspective. “In this event, I translated a German poem. I am sure its originality is lost but I learnt something new about their culture and country,” he shares.
Sukirtharani believes there are many poets that are coming to fore. “I think many women took up poetry after 70s. Many like Devamagal and Vatsala have addressed women issues. Even now there are many who relish poems,” she says and Sopa adds, “Many youngsters are writing and everyone voices their thoughts and opinions in the form of poems on Facebook. There is much imagery and metaphors, and they are not original. I would call it ‘poetry in a mighty hurry’. I am not critical as a senior poet but on the whole poetry today lacks depth.”