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Tête-à-Tête

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KV Raghupathi

The Wise Owl talks to Dr KV Raghupathi, a former academic, poet, novelist, short story writer, and critic, He has so far penned thirty books. His first passion is poetry, which he began writing seriously in the early 1980s.  Since then, he has published thirteen poetry collections, two novels, and two short story collections and has edited eight critical works. His poetry collections include Desert Blooms (1987), Echoes Silent (1988), The Images of a Growing Dying City (1989), Small reflections (2000), Samarpana (2006), Voice of the Valley (2006, 2014), Wisdom of the Peepal Tree (2006, 2014), Dispersed Symphonies (2010), Orphan and Other Poems (2010), Between Me and the Babe (2014), On and Beyond the Surface (2018), The Mountain is Calling… (2018), and Transition (2022).

The Interview : KV Raghupathi

The Wise Owl talks to Dr KV Raghupathi, a former academic, poet, novelist, short story writer, and critic, He has so far penned thirty books. His first passion is poetry, which he began writing seriously in the early 1980s.  Since then, he has published thirteen poetry collections, two novels, and two short story collections and has edited eight critical works. His poetry collections include Desert Blooms (1987), Echoes Silent (1988), The Images of a Growing Dying City (1989), Small reflections (2000), Samarpana (2006), Voice of the Valley (2006, 2014), Wisdom of the Peepal Tree (2006, 2014), Dispersed Symphonies (2010), Orphan and Other Poems (2010), Between Me and the Babe (2014), On and Beyond the Surface (2018), The Mountain is Calling… (2018), and Transition (2022). His poetry is endowed with rich and dense philosophy, mystical/transcendental thoughts, romantic elements, and imagery. He is a recipient of several national awards for his creativity. He lives in Tirupati, AP .

 

TV:  River predominantly figures in your poetry in general and several individual poems such as “Perennial River,” “River that Ever Flows”, “River that Never Flows”, and “Kaveri”. It acquires a metaphorical significance. What has prompted you to write poems on rivers and glorify the water element? What have you depicted in each of these poems?

KVR: In India, rivers are much more than just sources of water. Most rivers in India are considered deities, and stories or myths revolving around them that are fascinating in their own way. Rivers that flow elsewhere in the world also carry stories and symbolic significance. In general, despite the geographical boundaries, a river is always venerated. Since the time of the Vedas, poets have written about the rivers and sanctified them in their poetry. They were often used as metaphors. Right from childhood, I have been drawn to water. Wherever I found water, I used to spend time with it to derive a sense of fulfilment and a river has always attracted me. Many meanings could be drawn from its flow. One meaning is that it is a big metaphor for life. In the poem, “River that Never Flows” the river referred to is Swarnamukhi, a tributary of the river Krishna that flows in Andhra Pradesh. The tributary flows in the southern districts of the state, particularly abutting the village where my house is located. It never flows, but only during monsoon season in October and November the water could be seen flowing like veins on its bed carrying all dirt including leaflets, brown paper, card boxes, shaven hair, faded flowers, banana leaves, stubs, and empty bottles. By this, one could see the pollution caused by humans. This part occupies the centre of the poem, as I am deeply affected by it. The poet is conveying his anguish at the human element intersecting with the water element, causing immense damage to the latter. The sanctity is unsanctified!

In “Kaveri”, the poet has depicted the quarrel over ownership, “Four states like four princes/fight over the share” while the river flows unmindful of their scolds and abuses. The poet has untouched the myth associated with these rivers, as it is very much known to the people of this country.

T V: The stream of narration, interaction, and dense imagery, especially drawn from nature, are the striking qualities of your poetry.

KVR: Yes, of course.  That is the lifeblood of my poetry.  To me, it is the imagery that sustains poetry. How can a poet engage a reader mentally, physically, and emotionally in a poem? It is only through imagery.

TV: How do you maintain these qualities?

KVR: There is no secret about it. They happen naturally with no volition.

TV: The imagery in your poetry arrests, captivates, enlightens, and liberates...  An ordinary reader may be caught in the dense jungle of your imagery and there would be no way to escape. What do you say?

KVR: You have used the right words ‘enlightens’, and ‘liberates.’ I have not met any interviewer pointing out these qualities. Ultimately, the imagery should serve these twin purposes. It should enlighten you in the sense of understanding the poet’s genuine feelings and liberate you in the sense of ‘catharsis’. It is true, the reader is caught in the vivid description for some time in the sensational and emotional experience within the poem.

TV: Dispersed Symphonies, your 8th prose-poetry collection, proclaims your dictum in eco poetics, ‘a thing of the woods knows better than man how all things can be altered beyond death’ is the product of your keen observation of nature. Is it the eco-poetic response from the East?

KVR: In the east, we do not have to be taught the ethics of living closely with nature. It is a part of our life. But in technology-embedded towns and cities, we are seeing more and more natural calamities. Nature has an inherent mechanism, to set the imbalances. We do not have to do that. The moment we interfere, things go awry.  So, Dispersed Symphonies is a record of experiences that the poet has undergone while walking in nature. So, you discover the language transcending its own limitations, capturing the spirit of beauty as well as transcending that beauty.

TV: There is a shift in the subject of the individual poems you have written later in your poetic career. You have moved away from your obsession with philosophy and spirituality in the earlier collections. The titles Desert Blooms, Echoes Silent, Voice of the Valley etc suggest a philosophical inclination. However, you have changed tack and have now become a poet of social consciousness. Could you please throw some light on this development in your poetry writing?

KVR: Your perception is right. There is a shift of movement in the treatment of the subject. Earlier, at the beginning of my poetic career, as you pointed out, I was writing long narrative poems. I never conceived writing individual poems focussing on social themes. That happened because I had gone through such experiences that needed a long narration depicting my turmoil. I was mostly contemplative. Hence, my poetry, in the beginning, sounded philosophical and spiritual. Fellow poets and friends asked me why I should not reflect on social themes that would carry a strong message. They believed that the pen wielded to write philosophical and spiritual poetry could as well write poems addressing social realities and definitely the treatment would be sharp. This has prompted me to pen such poems, addressing social problems realistically. The result of it has seen three collections of individual poems, Orphan and Other Poems, Between Me and the Babe (2014) and On and Beyond the Surface (2018). The first two collections carried thirty-six and fifty-two poems and the third, particularly the first part of it, On the Surface twenty poems.

TV: And the recent collection Transition also carried individual poems that dealt with contemporary happenings?

KVR: Yes. It contained forty-three poems.

TV: I will come to it a little later. Meanwhile, let me focus on the two collections which you mentioned. I have read the poems in the two collections besides your earlier books. I find the Keatsian narration, capturing the scene/s picturesquely. The narration almost moves like a motion picture. This technique is evident in the poems.

KVR:  This kind of a vivid, often dramatic, verbal description of a scene either real or imagined is called ‘ekphrastic’. The word ekphrasis, or ecphrasis derives from the Greek for the written description of a work of art produced as a rhetorical or literary exercise.

 

TV: Your poems reflect use of powerful and striking imagery. Let me ask you, do you define a poem in terms of visual images?

KVR: If the poem does not connect immediately with the reader and the reader with the subject of the poem, then the poet has failed.  This connecting happens through imagery which elevates the poetic sensibility.

 

I firmly believe that a poem must not only tell but also demonstrate. I think my poems meet this requirement.

 

TV: Let me turn to your long poem in five sections, “Death of a Book Seller” which has figured in the two collections, Orphan and Other Poems and Between Me and the Babe. It brings out your emotional encounter with the death of your friend, a bookseller. Quite a few of your poems dwell on the subject of death. Tell us a little about the genesis of this poem.

 

KVR: The person behind writing this long poem was my friend, a bookseller who was older than me by twenty years. If he had lived, he would have been in his eighties. He died when I was just forty-four. He was a bookseller. Amicable and lovable. He worked in India Book House in Chennai, took voluntary retirement, and opened his own shop in the city. I used to go to him quite often and interact with him on various things. His sudden demise was a shock for me. The pain of having lost him remained with me for a long. To release the pain, I wrote the poem. It was cathartic.

 

TV: This takes me to another interesting long poem, “Father, I Never Asked you Anything More” in thirteen sections. It is, as the subtitle shows, a mini autobiographical poem. You begin the poem, addressing your father: “At eighteen, father/I wanted to be away from home/like Ulysses in search of knowledge”’ and later you confess, “For five years, father/to confess the truth:/Learning became stifling, /thinking dampening, /acting oppressive /living unmoving/in the muffled classrooms.” You expressed the same sentiment in your second book, Echoes Silent, much more forcibly assailing the academics.

 

KVR: True. The disillusionment was at its peak. I was disillusioned with academics, particularly when I came out of the university. Many teachers in the universities have no integrity of character and a sense of individuality.  They are carbon copies and big recycling bins, parroting western scholarship. There is no original thinking.

 

TV: You have mentioned you are twice-born. What does it mean?

 

KVR: It means you are reborn with wisdom. It happens when you lose the knowledge you have gained over time.

TV: Let me turn to your latest collection, Transition published this year, 2022. Why did you name the collection Transition?

 

KVR: It comprises forty-three poems, mostly penned during the Corona time. Half-a-dozen poems are about Corona, capturing its images. Interestingly, one of the poems is “Transition”, and I used it as the title of the collection. This poem has figured in the anthology titled In Silence We Wait, edited and published by Richard M. Grove in Canada. When I sent this poem to him, impressed by its feelings and thoughts, he readily accepted to include it in the anthology without subjecting it to any corrections or modifications. It is a long poem comprising seventy-seven lines. It was written in the post-Corona period. Transition stands for a swift change from one state or condition to another. The entire world was passing through this in early 2021. It affected everyone’s life. I was no exception. I recorded my transition objectively in this poem.

 

TV: Thank you for spending your precious time to me to reflect on your poetic career.

 

KVR: Thank you. It is my pleasure. Namasthe!

About T. Venkataramana

A Lecturer in English at Government Degree/PG College, Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh, he has over two decades of teaching experience. Currently, he is working for his Ph. D. on K. V. Raghupathi’s works at Dr. B.R. Ambedkar State Open University, Hyderabad. He has participated in a number of seminars and conferences and presented papers. His articles have appeared in prestigious books & journals

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