Malayalam Poetry : V. M. Girija’s Poems



Malayalam Poetry in Translation Series – 10

Translated by Aditya Shankar

(Translator’s Note: The finest of contemporary Malayalam poetry represents the latest poetic sensibility that is on view today. A poem that is able to mend its language and meaning, and blend into the issues of our time will break the barriers of language eventually. In fact, as a translator, I believe it becomes the need of other languages to grow and adapt to the new shapes of meaning that a poem carves for itself. My project ‘Malayalam Poetry in Translation’ is an attempt to showcase the work of some of the finest poets writing in Malayalam. I believe it is only apt to clarify in this note that new poetic sensibility is in no way co-related to the age of a poet, but is a product of her/his poetic outlook and awareness. Also, the scope of this translation series is limited to a sample size and do not encompass the entire spectrum of contemporary Malayalam poetry. Every notable poet manages to continually reinvent his poetic landscape and the poets featured in this series are no exception.)



   on a sunray
       she journeys
   to forget,
       to part.

Hears only
   his footsteps
       in the dark,

       like him.

His breath spreads
      in receding forests,
the crescent teases
      with his smile.
Waves deliver
      messages in his voice,
the sarod of wind
      plays his music.
Moonlight caresses
      gently, like him.
Sky heaves
       like his chest,

Will she return,
      the one who is sailing
           abroad in a leaking ship?
                Will waves swallow her?

(Translation of Advaitam, Page 22, Jeevajalam,  Current Books, Thrissur)



Laila and me splits a dream.

Let’s capture the pictures of rain.
Girijechi, do you remember the shot
of downpour poised to uproot the roadhouse?

A jungle where sunlight, summer
shade and avenue tangles.
Is the camera a poet?

You can even see
the dark/silvery flapping of wings
on her tiny face.

The forest within mind,
the spring that whistles in the forest,
the sword-clanging of wild animal claws,
the human life tragedy,
a story in different tongue at various places,
the silent forest that play acts as a multitude:
an intersection of hundred roads,
a thousand places —

Laila imagines Rashomon as
the Genesis flood that permeates,
dissolves all places and time into one.

Slanting, babbling,
walking on a string of pearls holding an umbrella,
hanging on trees,
leaping from the veranda,
raising the tomb of mist on the field,
shouldn’t we make a cinema on rain
that transforms into many?

(Translation of Rashomon, Page 9, Jeevajalam,  Current Books, Thrissur)


Marital Life

I lay on my stomach
on the cold floor
and became a heap of snow..
You sleep afar
like a cloud emptied of rain,
I become the earth
shredded by lightning,
Beneath the soil layers
clamor, laughter, youth, love.
That first time when you
filled my body..
Is all that a lie?
On the cold floor,
I am a nude sculpture.
a dark moonlight that oozes blood.

(Translation of Dambathyam, Page 311, Samakaleena Kavitha 1-4, Chithira Printers)


About the Author:

V.M. Girija (born July 1961) is an Indian poet and essayist, writing in Malayalam language. She has published a number of books, which include Prem – Ek Album, the Hindi translation of her poetry anthology in Malayalam, Pranayam Oralbum. She is a recipient of Changmpuzha Award for literature.

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 . (