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Friday, November 27, 2015



This poem (Vikku, Stammer) is possibly as much about the stammering self as about stammering people. And the two stammers do not exist independent of each other since the question “why does the self stammer?” can hardly be isolated from the question, “why do people stammer today?” and both of them point to the state of our actual existence as of the expression of that existence in any of the media, especially language.
Several disturbing questions confront us when we discuss the self and its translations, the first being whether at all there is a pre-existing self ready to be translated into diverse forms of expression. At least for those who do not believe in originaries as also in fixed original texts waiting to be translated – if we take the case of translation in its common-sense meaning – such a self cannot pre-exist its expression. I believe that my self as a writer gets defined only through the process of writing: I cannot imagine that I am translating a seamless and doubtless self, the kind that St Augustine or Rousseau speaks of in theirConfessions, or the one the Upanishads equate with the Infinite, the self Socrates speaks of in his advice to him to know himself (gnothi sauton), or the one with whose knowledge cosmology begins according to Heraclitus, that was already there, in which case I find the whole business of writing absurdly redundant, at least not more exciting than the job of a transcriber. I do not have a ready answer for the question how the self gets constructed in various discourses like art, religion and philosophy; but we know that most of the contemporary theories of subjectivity point to a discontinuous subject formed in different discourses, ‘I’ being the umbrella term we have been habituated to call these enunciating and enunciated selves – the one that speaks and the one that is spoken about – put together. Jung had seen man as a process rather than a settled state of being and Lacan found the elements of the self in continuous flux and transformation, an idea close to Buddhist thinking. There are other questions too: Is this self gendered? Is it free from class, caste, race, religion and nationality? How is my self related to the other selves and the world, may be the cosmos itself or God? What happens to the self when collective memories vanish and cultural amnesia sets in by choice or by compulsion?
The expression of experience cannot be that of an isolated self. It must be that of a relational self. I believe that is the self Montaigne means when he says, “I study myself, that is my metaphysics, that is my physics,” or what W. B. Yeats speaks about when he declares, “I begin to study the only self I can know, that is myself and to wind the thread upon the pern again.” This again is a self in the process of making as suggested by Hopkins (“What I do is me”) or Octavio Paz (“A human being is never what he is, but the self he seeks”).
Self is not a problem, or at least it has a solution, as long as there is God; it is knowable and can be fully captured in language. Atmajnana is a real possibility in Thirumular, Kabir, Sree Narayana Guru and Mahatma Gandhi. Self is not only knowable, and if it cannot be captured fully in language, it is the limitation of human language, for example, Kumaran Asan, the great spiritual-reformist poet of Malayalam says, “God has given us no tool to reveal our self to others” (Thannathilla paranullu kattuvan/Onnume param upayam eswaran). But in the absence of God, the certainties about the self vanish; the modern self thus is a skeptical and interrogating self. It is also a divided self, to use R D Laing’s well-known term, as modernity that on the one hand threatens to destroy what we have, what we know and what we are and on the other hand promises us adventure, power, joy, growth and transformation of ourselves and the world “pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish” (Marshal Berman, All that is Solid Melts in the Air). To be modern is to be part of a universe in which ‘all that is solid melts into air’ to use Marx’s expression.
Our post-colonial situation adds to this conflict as we are caught between our indigenous culture and the received culture, a conflict Tagore tries to articulate in Gora or U. R. Ananathamurthy in Samskara. The very phenomenon of Colonialism is subject to conflicting interpretations like those of Gandhi and Ambedkar. Sree Narayana Guru of Kerala thanked the British, “They gave us sanyas,” as the backward castes would never have been allowed to be spiritual teachers in a caste-society. Ambedkar too had found an emancipatory value in English education and the West’s secular ideals. To a post-colonial mind, the settling of the question of the authenticity/inauthenticity of the self calls for constant negotiation.
The process of globalization further complexifies the question as it raises the question of the future of our past, promoting cultural amnesia in its subjects. It is a monologue of power that imposes Western values and traditions, turning us into unthinking mimics of the West and making us forget our traditions in knowledge, cosmology, arts and aesthetics. In a sense, all of us are becoming diasporic, aliens in our own land, forced to live in what Homi Bhabha calls the ‘third space’. The reality of the body, a material production of one local culture and the abstraction of the mind, a cultural subtext of the global experience, provide the intertwining threads of diasporic existence. The products of the hybrid location are the results of a long history of confrontation between unequal cultures and forces in which the stronger culture struggles to control, remake or eliminate the subordinate partner. The negotiation of cultural identity involves the continual interface and exchange of cultural performances that in turn produce a mutual and mutable recognition of cultural difference.
Though I have indulged in painting, literary criticism, travel writing and autobiographical exercises, poetry has been my primary and most natural form of enquiry and expression of the self. I do not at all mean to say that poetry to me is ‘self-expression’ in the conventional sense, first, because I do not believe in a self that pre-exists poetry and, second, because poetry has been to me a way to express my relationship with myself, others – that is society as well as the species – nature, and the mystery that surrounds us that some choose to call God. The editor of my collected poems (1965-2005) has, following the Tamil tradition, titled its three volumes Akam (Inside), Puram (outside) and Mozhi (Speech/Language), the first carrying my poems on the self and immediate surroundings, the second, poems on the larger social world and the third, on poetry and other arts. The first part also includes a few poems that can be called autobiographical like Ammoomma (Granny), Atmagita (Song of Myself), Aswastham (Disquiet), Nalpathu (Forty), Anpathu (Fifty) and Arupathu (Sixty) besides poems on my family, love poems, poems to friends, poems on the body and on death. The poems on myself are mostly ironic; only in the early poem Atmagita have I indulged in some nostalgic narcissism; the poem belongs to my early individualistic phase........... 






A Critical Appreciation of the poem-STAMMER
‘Stammer’ is a thought provoking poem written by K
Sachidanandan, a well known poet and critic writing in Malayalam and English. He is considered as the pioneer of Modern Malayalam Literature. The poem Stammer was originally written in Malayalam with the title ‘Vikku’, and later it was
translated into English by the poet himself.
In this poem the poet takes stammer as the main theme. He treats stammer not as a handicap but as a mode of speech. Word and meaning are different like
word and deed. A word doesn’t have a fixed meaning. It is the speaker or the listener who makes different meanings to words. It would be difficult even
for a linguist to analyse and explain the history of stammer. It would have started with the creation of man. When we stammer we give a different
meaning to a listener, which is different from its literal meaning.
The poet considers stammer as a sacrifice to the God of meanings.
Unknowingly we make a sacrifice to a language by giving a different utterance of it. If all people stammer, it will become an accepted practice and later
could be considered as mother tongue.
The poet says that the God must have stammered at the time of creation. He justifies this argument saying that all words of man are having different
meanings. Sometimes we interpret rather misinterpret the words of others. Interpretations of these words are making a lot of problems in the society. It
even causes a lot of destruction to society. Differences in perspectives also make us to give different utterance of the same word in different way. So words
can be both constructive and destructive.
We pray and command differently and it appears different to people like poetry. He compares stammer with poetry. Poet speaks about the nature of
poetry. Some people find it easy to understand the implied meaning of poem but for others it looks obscure and finds different interpretation to it.

CREDITS TO - romal17(

 Review : 2


Stammer- A contemplation on the Absence of Creative Dialogues

- Radhakrishnan C K

The poem presents  different perspectives on stammer . It presents stammer as a struggle to translate our selves.It also justifies the presence of diversity in our life as evident in the line "thats why all the words of man carry different meanings ".In that sense the poem is about the different perceptions we have on life.Life is beautiful.Even stammer is no handicap.It is a different mode of speech.

Though there is an effort to  celebrate stammer as a  different mode of speech in the opening lines,slowly the poem becomes a slight to stammer ,especially in the lines exploring the history of the word,as evident in "these questions make the linguists stammer ". There begins  a streak of concealed humour in the poem from here till the end .The poem proceeds to  remark that God stammered when he created man ,  that man stammers and even the poets do.The difference is that we call it poetry when the poets stammer ! . Effective communication is blocked and 'different meanings' or lack of unity is the result. The ironical shift in the perspective is evident here. Even the poets  fail in engaging in creative dialogues as and when humanity is struggling to cope with the challenges like   intolerance ,violence,terrorism , globalisation and commercialisation.

       Still the crisp ending with the words 'like poetry' brings back a tone of meditation,peace and hope. The poet seems to contemplate a hope that the times will change and the conversation will be resumed.At the end of all the stammers, we  begin to wonder ,whether the poet has been translating himself or exploring the self of others. As the poet himself has written once ,the poem conveys an apprehension about the fate that awaits humanity.A contemplation that begins in stammer may justly end in suffocation:

Our poetry is
the last dreamy song
sung in haste by
a head on the rails
listening to the rumble
of the approaching train
before the steel
crushes its thought. 

(Farewell, a poem addressed to Saleh, the Syrian poet from The Arabian Nights)



Reference : Sachidnanadan on the poem ...... My nostalgia for the 60s and the 70s of the last century springs mostly from the happy memories of those eventful days when the artists had come out of their cloisters of isolation, exchanged ideas, shared sensibilities, attempted collaborative work and exhibited camaraderie which in the main seems to have been lost in our times for diverse reasons, one of which I fear is the intrusion of market values on arts like painting. While there are artists who still take risks and experiment, I fear their number is decreasing and the burgeoning art market, despite the temporary recession, is tempting artists to imitate the modes, their own or of others, which have found commercial success. The poets too seem to be finding greater comfort in retreating to the sequestration of their writing rooms than engaging the practitioners of other arts in creative dialogue. I can only hope the times will change and the conversation will be resumed.
At the end of all the stammers, I begin to wonder whether I have been translating my self or exploring the self of others. A contemplation that begins in stammer may justly end in suffocation:
Our poetry is
the last dreamy song
sung in haste by
a head on the rails
listening to the rumble
of the approaching train
before the steel
crushes its thought. (Farewell, a poem addressed to Saleh, the Syrian poet from The Arabian Nights)



1 comment:


read your review. appreciate your work . But i wonder is the poem about language -its diversity and ambiguity