Devipriya's poems in English

Khaja Hussain, popularly known as Devipriya, is an accomplished poet, cartoonist, writer and political commentator. He had won the Kendra Sahitya award in 2017 for his anthology of Telugu poems titled 'Gaali Rangu' (The Colour of Air). His fiery way of writing about people, things, and love of life has curved a glittering niche for him in the edifice of Telugu Literature. For his revolutionary yet modern ways of looking at things, and life, he has been likened to the all-time great revolutionary poet, Sri Sri by none other than 'Pathanjali, yet another versatile Telugu writer.

Entertaining the very idea of translating the poems of such a literary luminary into English could be termed as a 'literary adventure.' But when Devipriya himself asks someone to do this job, it would be at once a daunting task and a godsend, hard to turn down.

This is just what happened to Dr Vijay Koganti who is a poet, academician, writer, and translator of repute. In the introduction to the anthology under review, Dr Vijay says that "It was, in fact, a stunning moment for me when Devipriya asked me to edit his volume of love poems and 'introduce' him."

Accordingly, Dr Vijay and Dr Padmaja, another academician, writer and translator, have culled, collected and translated into English for the first time some 53 gems of love poems by Devipriya written at different times. For Devipriya love means many things, not just the sublunary attraction between two persons. Divided into four parts with suitable titles that succulently reflect the thematic unity of the poems under each part, this collection at once appeals to our eyes and hearts. Especially two of its features do deserve a special mention. First of all, the reader finds it handy and convenient to read the original poem and its corresponding English version side by side. Again, the thematic thumbnail sketches and drawings, by Varchaswee, at the end of each poem add to the appeal of the book.

Talking about the job of rendering the poems in English for the first time, we can safely say that the translators have done a superb job. Being a poet, critic writer and a teacher of English, Dr Vijay in particular as the editor has carefully chosen words to preserve and present the feel, meaning, mood, music, colour and texture of the original poems in their English version. When the situation demanded, the translators have dexterously moulded and chiselled new expressions and new combinations of words.

The poem from which the title of the book is taken could be termed as the masterpiece in more than one sense because here colours ooze like honey from a honeycomb. In the first place, Devipriya has masterly wrought this poem in his radiant Wordsworthian awe at the sight of a rainbow as if the muse had held his hand while writing this poem. Here personification, metaphor and other figures of speech rule the roost when a rainbow comes down as a woman and takes the speaker in the poem into the spell of her charm. The translators also seem to have come under such charming trance.

Only one light jarring note in the poem is that the translators would have used 'She' instead of 'it' as Devipriya has used highly suggestive imagery of a feminine figure. Again, I am afraid that the phrasal verb, 'Sleeping With' in the title has a risqué meaning to attenuate the elevated appeal of the poem as it doesn't match with the words used in the original.

Again, they may also look at the picture on the cover page, and some other poems like, 'The Lady Thief', 'Reverie' and 'In a Cool Night' to enhance the appeal of the verse book. And finally, I could find only one printer's devil- 'tough' instead of 'rough' in the poem, 'A Love Letter'.

On the whole, the anthology is a twin treat for poetry lovers as they can read both Telugu and English poems in one book published by Samata books in June this year. And the translators have succeeded in their sincere endeavours in bringing out 'the first collection of Devipriya's poems in English with their finest emotions and expressions.'

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