A Life of thinking globally, acting locally, and seeking peace internally.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reading Poetry, Writing Prose

I am working on my Sapna stories again. They need to be completed, especially since the kids in my son's fifth grade class continue to ask me about them. They were my critics when they were in third and fourth grade and obvously my characters found friends and my stories (about an Indian immigant family) an audience.

Since I found myself struggling with metaphor and language, I went looking for advice from my favorite English professors. Uncle Ralph said to read poetry, and my father suggested reading Chaucer.

As I began to read, Virginia Woolf "spoke" to me: "I want the concentration and the romance, the words all glued together, fused, glowing: have not time to waste any more on prose." Well, as I wound my way through the various volumes of poetry I have, I went to Vemana, the famous Telugu poet.

Vemana is one of the four foremost Bhakta Kavis (poets) who had devoted the whole of their lives for writing on subjects of Bhakti (Devotion), Gnana (Wisdom) and Vairagya (renunciation). The other three great kavis are Thyagaraja, Pothana, and Ramadasu (not sure of the order being chronologically correct).

Vemana was an 18th century social reformer, prophetic even. His poetry was simple, in the vernacular Telugu which was easily understood and the rhtym and meter helped people to memorize them easily. My parents published Vemana in English Verse, in 2001, where they presented 116 out of the 3253 available verses with translations “as close to the original as possible without distorting the meaning of the original.” When I found this translation online, I called them to help me find the original verse.

Why provide colorful dress to the deity,

Bowlfuls of food and fabulous temples?

Does God want food, clothing and shelter?

Forget fiction, prose and poetry - all roads seem to lead to theology. :)

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