Malayalam Poetry : Anita Thampi’s Poems



Malayalam Poetry in Translation Series – 17

Translated by Aditya Shankar

The history of modern Malayalam poetry is a narrative of continuous innovation, gradual emancipation from the formalistic grip of traditional Sanskrit poetic practice, growing awareness of contemporary social issues and the ongoing democratization of the genre in thematic as well as formal aspects. In the process, paradigms have been tried and abandoned, communities imagined and dissolved, traditions constructed and deconstructed, the concepts of the region and the nation alternately tried out, the impact of foreign literatures absorbed and transcended, the classical and the folk heritage explored one after the other, fresh genres and formal devices employed and indigenized and the concept of the avant-garde transformed from one generation to the next.                    (Extract from the article ‘Malayalam Poetry Today’ by K.Satchidanandan)



On a dining table
in this midday heat,
deep within each grain of rice
in this meal that we eat together,
innumerable paddy fields.

Within the runnels
in those fields,
fishes that flash away.

Parrots that alight
from faraway lands,
tiny winds that tickle the greens
to nonstop chuckles.

Farm ridges through which
children with spread out arms
run without tripping.

Homes skirting the field
that stay awake,
watching light glimmer
on the water in the fields.

Within the homes,
within the sleep of humans,
fantasies they forget in waking.

After the meal
as we silently leave our homes
and distance ourselves in the city lanes
on speeding scooters,

a handsome sun shines
above the village of paddy fields.

The same sun that
burns on our pate,
distils our shadow.

(Translation of Oonu, Page 20, Muttamadikkumbol, Current Books, Thrissur)


Fruit, As It Is *

The artist etches a jackfruit
on the jack tree branch and root,
precisely as it is;
Not as breasts on a female form.

Not as bodily cracks with
wounds and pores,
but how a mom
cut it open with a machete
and laid it on bare ground,
couple of seconds ago.

Rinds, pods, avril, seeds,
the slippery rags
are not drawn separately.

The entire body sculpted in thorns
is the burden
a rising woman bears.

As a sticky, indelible stain,
As a rotting seed that sprouts
at the foot of the jack tree,
As a fragrance that pervades.

When expectant women
who do not paint
watch with their baby-belly pooch,
just as fruits
stuck on a jack tree.

After watching painting exhibition by Sosa Joseph.

(Translation of Kaycha Padi, Page 13, Azhakillathavayellam, Current Books, Thrissur)


the juice in each
grain of rice
began to evaporate,
what simmered grew thicker, dry.

She who drained the upturned rice pot
with a wooden lid,
walked away into the rain.

Will the hunger of this home
remain cooled for ever?
Even if erected,
is it an undercooked meal,
not fit to serve?

(Translation of Annam, Page 23, Muttamadikkumbol, Current Books, Thrissur)


About the Author:

Anitha Thampi (born 1968) is a Malayalam poet and translator living in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. She has published three collections of poetry: Muttamatikkumpol (While Sweeping the Front Yard, 2004), Azhakillaathavayellam (All That are Bereft of Beauty, 2010), and Alappuzha Vellam (Alappuzha Water, 2016). In 2007, a collection of her translations of Australian poet Les Murray was published in a bilingual edition. She has also translated I Saw Ramallah, autobiographical monologue of Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti into Malayalam. Her other translated works include the Spanish classic Platero and I and the Italian classic Pinocchio. Anitha Thampi participates in the project Poetry Connections India-Wales organized by Literature Across Frontiers and partners to mark the 70th anniversary of independent India.

About the Author:

Aditya Shankar is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated poet, flash fiction author, and translator. He edited Tiny Judges Shall Arrive (AHRC, Hong Kong), a selection of  KG Sankara Pillai’s poems translated into English. His translations have appeared in the SAARC anthology of poetry, Muse & Murmur, Modern Poetry in Translation, Ethics in Action and elsewhere. His poems have been translated into Malayalam and Arabic and published from 20 or more nations. His poetry collections include After Seeing (2006), Party Poopers (2014), and XXL (Dhauli Books, 2018). His short films have participated in International Film Festivals.  He lives in Bangalore, India . (