Malayalam Poetry : Kalathara Gopan’s Poems



Malayalam Poetry in Translation Series – 27

Translated by Aditya Shankar

More than any other genre in Malayalam literature, poetry has articulated the profound contradictions of the Malayalee psyche, its moral trepidations and its desire for liberation from the oppressive ideologies of discrimination like those of  class, caste and gender. Poetry has insistently refused to be a mere entertainer or a leisure-pastime, involving itself seriously in social struggles and sharing the agonies and aspirations of individuals of all social layers and persuasions. This is also the reason for its unique vibrancy and popularity that we seldom find in most other languages of India. 

(Extract from the article ‘Malayalam Poetry Today’ by K.Satchidanandan)


Tree is a Poem

Tree is the earth’s best poem,
written on soil with humility.
It journeys through birds,
stoops bearing the weight of fruits.
It is in a tiff with the night,
in an argument with the storm,
in a chatter with the breeze.
It is the one
that wipes its head in moonlight,
wears the moon for bindi.
When the tree turns
gorgeous in the morning dew,
birds unfurl and read them.
The ripe words wither away.
On its lips,
a day awakens with chatter.
Each poem snakes
towards the sun, grows.
It fills the shade
with word-leaves, renews.
Shrouded by that chill
a faraway hill emerges,
followed by a tree
that sheds leaves
to form a canopy of flowers.

(Translation of Maram Oru Kavitha, Page 48, Chirakil Olippicha Pena, Zed Library)


Isn’t a Shadow the Blue of the Sky?

The real me
is a shadow of myself.

The shadow
breastfed by mother,
taught by teacher,
raised by father.

Your young shadow
falls in love
with my young shadow.

Isn’t it
the same shadow
that sits in the shadow of a bike,
that merges into one shadow at noon?

We made night lights
for the shadow.
Isn’t the shadow that made light
the one perched on the river bank,
the one mirroring on the river?
Doesn’t the shadow of a fish
rustle that shadow in its leap?

When it showers
from the shadow of a rain,
when the shadow of a tree dances,
the shadow of a drop
is the shadow of a thirsty bird
leaning towards it.

The shadow of flying clouds
is the shade of its shadow.
Isn’t the shadow of flying crows
the journey of shadows
in which earth grazes the sky?
Isn’t the shadow of sky
what falls upon all forms of water?
Isn’t that why the water is blue?
Isn’t that blue the shadow?

If it is stated
that the moon rises
only to cast its shadow,
we would place our fingers
on our nose in shock.
If we state that those fingers and nose
are also a shadow,
no one will believe.
If we also add that belief is a shadow,
not at all!

(Translation of Aakashathinte Neelayalle Nizhal, Ezhuthu Magazine)

The Dead Live in the Present for a Few Moments

When one among
three hundred million sperms
is drawn near by an egg,
it must be the earliest time.
It is past
till you breathe and feed
along with a mother,
till you form organ by organ,
till you struggle and emerge
from the dark waters.

When you hurriedly exit
through the vagina,
cry and wake to see the
first rays of dawn,
the present begins
as if the shadow of a child.
At all stages of growth,
in joy and grief,
present is present.

As memories can be mobile,
they too form the present.
Future, a thought about breath.
The present continues
as long as the wind withdraws
the air loaned to our body.
When fire or soil
accepts a droplet from your body,
future begins.
When someone remembers him,
memories gain mobility
and he lives in the present
for a few moments.

(Translation of Marichchavar Varthamanakaalathil Kurachumaathra Jeevikkunnu, Page 46, Parannu Ninn Meen Pidikkunnava, Reader’s Cafe)


About the Author

Born in 1972 at Kalathara, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, Kalathara Gopan started writing poems in the nineties. He has three poetry collections to his credit – Athu ningalanu, Chirakilolippicha Pena and Parannu Ninnu Meen Pidikkunnava. Some of his poems are already translated into English.

About the Translator

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 . (