Professor K G Sankara Pillai – is a well-known Indian poet, philosopher and author. He came into prominence in the 1970s with the publication of the poem “Bengal” and is now one of the most popular among the modernist poets of Kerala. A recipient of the state and central Sahitya Akademi Awards (state and central Literary Academy) in 1998 and 2002 respectively. In June 2016, he was invited to a reading of his poems by the ‘Trikone’ Foundation in Sri Lanka. This video reproduces his speech and the reading of poems. YouTube Link.
The text of his speech is as follows;
My dear friend, poet and thinker, Sri. Basil Fernando,
My dear versatile artist Sri . Dharma Siri, fellow poets, and my dear friends, of Sri Lanka.
I feel significance and satisfaction. I am deeply obliged to Sri. Basil Fernando and Sri. Dharma Siri for inviting me to be here for a reading of some of my poems. My sincere thanks to both of them and to all of you for the creation of this occasion. In such occasions of poetry the word becomes the center of the world. Everybody is keen to listen to the multitude of the inner meanings of the word, and ready to have a journey through the word to the inner polyphony of history. Enjoyment is enlightenment in poetry. We enjoy the essence of our experience and our time as the new poetics of history in every good poem. Human soul is a secret orchestra. We do not know what instruments are being played there. We only feel the symphony.
Sri Lanka today is a lion struggling hard to come up from the trench to which it unknowingly fell . Auditing the accounts of the fall has become its everyday routine today. We can see every where today that rethinking , self criticism, and self renovation is a global spiritual exercise today for the self lifting from the demonic grip of globalization. This reminds me of the well-known lines of T.S. Eliot:
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge,?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? And
Where is the life we have lost in living?
Poet and thinker Basil Fernando said two days back that Sri Lanka today has great hunger for wisdom and knowledge to re instate itself in the to be recaptured glory of life and brilliance of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has started to fight out the sleepy mediocrity of its intellectual and creative life . They can regain and renew their wounded and lost spirit in the brave new world of peace and self confidence. In the great Indian epic Ramayana Sri Lanka is described as seeing from the skies as the precious green jewel on the fore head of the diety of prosperity, sagara devatha., goddess of the sea. I wish Sri Lanka all success in its great struggle to re establish the authority of its cultural and political dreams; the authority of every human being in its unbound self .
Our whole social system rests upon the fictitious belief that nobody is forced to do what he does, but that he likes to do. This replacement of the freedom by anonymous authority finds its expression in all its areas of life: Force is camouflaged by consent; the consent is brought about by methods of mass suggestion. As it is argued by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in the book, manufacturing consent ; and by Eric Fromm in his treatise on the art of being. I write poems not by obeying any force of external authority. For more than fifty years I am engaged in writing poems.
Poetry is my freedom. Poetry makes my word and world bold, beautiful, meaningful, and insightful . In his poem dedicated to his political party Pablo Neruda said: You blessed me with warmth and brotherhood of unknown people. I realize it is the same reward that poetry gives to the poet. Insights of justice in the written word is the poem’s right to live long. Writing is writing the Nation. Writing the stress, strength, weakness, hope , despair, suppression, sufferings, shameless corruption, hegemony, studies in the technologies of the self , and revolt in the making of a Nation. Poetry arises from a deeper sense of justice ; and a deeper sense of time. Wherever the ethics of history fails to be just and human, poetry ushers out as a great force of resistance. When a social system starts to perform fascism , no doubt, poetry of that social system brings out the resistant force within that system to respond. Function of poetry in situations of violence and fascism is to function as an aesthetic force of resistance. Under currents of resistance is inherent in all cultures. It is the aesthetic justice ; the spirit of culture. Aesthetics devoid of ethics is only a timid and tempting sensuousness. My conviction is that poetry in every language , in every age, speaks to the micro societies dwell deep within the mind. The revolutionary poet of the Russian Futurist movement concluded that a poet should be at the centre of things and events to understand the social order correctly. Later in the nineteen forties great German poet Bertolt Brecht said that the poet is not an angel. He should be a man among men. Poet should place his sense in the centre stage of history to hear the silence of the wounds; the screaming mothers, the weeping of dead fathers, the awaiting children of the murdered; and the wrath of the raising protests. Mayakovski gradually lost his glamourous halo in post revolutionary Soviet Union due to various reasons. But the truth he said about the space and position of a poet in turbulent times remains un-faded. Because time today is more turbulent. And the challenge for a poet today to confront is more tough. Brave poets resisted the brutally suppressing fascist regimes with utmost courage, dedication and vision. Many of them , including the great Spanish poet Lorca had to pay their lives as the wages of their faith in freedom in the fight against fascism. Great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova was blocked by Stalin from writing or publishing poems for nineteen years. Alexander Blok died in an early age unable to bear the over dose suffering under Stalinism. Osip Mandelstom, another great Russian poet died in a Siberian concentration camp. Marina Tsvetyeva is another great voice of the Russian muse had to commit suicide after she lost his husband and a daughter in the bitterness of Stalinist political terrorism .
We know only very little about any terror. Terrific is the agony suffered by the great poets and artists and scientists and revolutionaries under various fascist regimes in various countries. Our age is not the dark age; it is the darker age in a period of stunning brilliance of mankind.
It was in this back drop of sufferings and terror that a new generation of poets appeared in various languages with hope and love towards posterity to protect a world of peace and hope for the posterity. Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, Syrian poet Adonis, Bei Davo and Ai Ching from China, Mahamoud Darwish and Adonis from the Arab, Pablo Neruda, Cesar Vallejo, Octavio Paz, and Nicolas Guillen, and Nikonar Parra from Latin America , Leopold Sedor Senghor, Aime Cesair and Wole Soyinka from Africa, Paul Celan, Bertolt Brecht, Ceslov Milosz, C.P.Kavafy, Wislawa szymborska, from Euorope are some among this new galaxy of high voltage poets. They dealt with their subjectivity ; never ignored society. They combined self and society in poetry . I remember an Israeli poem:
Sometimes a poem.
Something always bursts out.
And always pain.
My father was a tree in a forest of fathers
Covered in green cotton wool.
Oh, widows of flesh, orphans of the blood,
I must escape.
Eyes sharp as tin-openers
Opened heavy secrets.
But through the wound on my chest
God peers into the world.
I am the door
To his apartments.
This is a poem by Yehuda Amichai in the back drop of the death of major ideological gods. We get here a key image. About the position of the poet in a world of turmoil and globalization; fall of pride , and rise of resistance and hope and faith: Image of the door.
Poet is to be a door today. To come and to go, to in and out; to past and present. A passage to the inner world of emotions and to the outer world of chaos. A passage to reality.
I conclude my words by reminding an African story of creation: When the gods made the world, the sky was not distant as is today. It was just above the heads of the people. And it was there for them to reach up to and take what they wanted. Sky could be used to create clothing, for food, for shelter. It was everyehere and within their grasp. But unfortunately , the people became too greedy and were tearing down pieces of sky beyond their need. So the gods decided they would teach a lesson: they raised the sky to its present height, where people can no longer abuse it, and to remind them of the beauty and plenty they have lost.
Now our all our movements today seek to recapture a distant, a vanished era of well being.
Thank you all.
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER