I cannot write poems for money: Akkitham
Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri is a great poet living in contemporary times. Though he is 92, the poet is still busy penning new lines and weaving new thoughts. He shares his opinions and views in an interview given to Mathrubhumi Weekly.
Don’t you feel like writing poems? Is your mind which once was a perennial source of poetry and prose empty now?
There were poems which disrupted my sleep. Also there was a time when the power that controls us made me write. Though poems emerge within me, physical ailments bother me a lot. Once PC (Uroob) and I thought about writing on the same topic. Thus PC wrote the story ‘Chattukali’ and I wrote the poem ‘Madhavikkutty’ within a night. That was time full of energy.
Has age started affecting creativity?
I maintain reading. I am not used to the trick of dictation at all. I still have the mind to read good books. I read Pakaravoor Chithran Namboodiripad’s memoir. It was a good one.
Did that reading help you return to the old times? Has any of the attitude of yesteryears changed?
I have felt since my childhood that the mercy shown to a life is the greatest ideology.
Many incidents occur these days which hurts that ideology. Even the writers are under threat. What the reason that leads to this situation?
Human beings become more selfish. Selfishness surpass all other emotions. Writers are killed because their writing is so powerful.
Many places are turning into battlegrounds.
It’s all avenging the fury within people. It cannot be justified at all.
Does a writer need party politics?
If you mean political parties, then a writer may need to write poems for a party’s campaign. Poetry is the real literature. It is an easy medium for politics and campaign. But the ‘poetry’ will be very low. Uroob had said that the infinite eccentricities of human life can be depicted only in a novel.
Isn’t it possible in long poems?
Who reads long poems nowadays? It cannot be read like novels.
Vyloppilli was the head of Purogamana Kalasahithya Sangham. But his poetry did not carry any political campaign?
Vyloppilli had a politics for namesake. So was the case with G. Sankara Kurup.
How can the political awareness of a writer be useful for literature?
It is useful for the party, not for literature. The intention of writing becomes only the need to sustain the party.
Isn’t the sense of nationalism in the poets of freedom struggle era a kind of politics?
The initial poems of Vallathol had elements of Indian culture. He also wrote poems paying respect to Russians after a visit to their country.
What about Kumaran Asan?
Vallathol was influenced by Gandhiji whereas Kumaran Asan considered Sree Narayana Guru as his teacher. Asan was a poet who had many ideologies. One of my friends once said that Kumaran Asan is not a poet, but a philosopher. The ability of expression is more seen in Vallathol’s poetry.
How do you evaluate Sree Narayana Guru as a poet?
His poetry was of a devotional nature.
Akkitham also belongs to the type of poets who were also storytellers. How do you manage to bring story inside poetry?
K. P. Narayana Pisharody has said that if we write imaginations, they would not survive for long. A poem remains in mind only if it has a story in it. Being lyrical will only serve to make the poetry beautiful.
Can you tell about an unforgettable writing experience?
Once the station director of All India Radio asked for an epic poem to broadcast during Onam. The season was approaching. It is my job also. But poetry did not emerge. Station director allowed me to go home till the poetry is completed. I was staying at Thiruvannur in Kozhikode then.
I tried different meters of poetry until I found the suitable one. Thus I finished ‘Balidarshanam’ within four days. It was written on the concept that Mahabali himself went back to his home and was not stepped down to the netherworld. It can also be interpreted as a blessing with the foot. On the first day it was broadcast, V. M. Nair came to my house and requested to give the poem for ‘Mathrubhumi’.
You said about meter. Is meter inevitable for poetry?
Poets mislead the readers that the poetry sans meter is better because of their inability to write in meter. Rejection of meter is tactic too. Balachandran Chullikkad is capable of writing both in meter and in prose. In fact, the power of a generation ends with him. S. Ramesan Nair is a talented poet.
Are good criticisms of poetry also disappearing?
M. P. Sankunni Nair was a king of criticism. His criticisms were real trailblazers. No such criticisms are written nowadays.
How did V. T. Bhattathiripad influence you?
His humanitarian ideologies influenced me. Namboodiri community was the controlling force of castes. VT used to say that if the society let loose Namboodiris, it is like letting loose all others.
How do you evaluate the immoral life of Kuriyedathu Thathri?
Kuriyedathu Thathri started rethinking after her father-in-law misbehaved at her. She rejected the moral thoughts regarding the relationship with other men in light of her own experiences. It can be interpreted as a fight against the social norms and fury against men.
Can share some of the evergreen memories of your life in Kozhikode Akashavani?
I got a chance to stay with Kelappaji at Gandhi Griham in Kozhikode. Gangadharan Namboodiri of Mathrubhumi also was with us. I was given the responsibility to present ‘Gandhi Margam’ in Akashavani. I utilised that time to read the entire Gandhi literature. I have also stayed with M. T. Vasudevan Nair. He wrote ‘Iruttinte Athmavu’ and I wrote ‘Vennakkallinte Katha’ at the same time. It was he who made me write ‘Nithyamegham’.
You have witnessed the growth of MT. How do you view the writing of MT?
MT’s writing is poetical. His ‘Nalukettu’ is a beautiful novel. The story written on the backdrop of Mookambika journey still remains in mind. The mental state of the characters created by PC and Vasu are different. Uroob is a story writer who can survive if translated into world languages. MT, VKN and O. V. Vijayan created characters with a personality in the next generation.
Moosa and Abdulla are notable characters of Akkitham’s poems. Can you tell about the deep relation with them?
Moosa is a character of the poem ‘Neeliyattile Thannerppanthal’. Valavinkal Moosa was my regular company while waiting for bus to Kozhikode when I was in Akashavani. We used to discuss worldly matters at the bus stop.
I was very late to know that he was living in the grief of the untimely death of his children. The grief transformed into a poem. Abdulla was my classmate. He was living near Chalissery. Both are no more. They are symbol of humanity.
What did you mean by a recent speech on Ramayana?
I happened to mention Kesavadev’s speech in which he asked to burn Ramayana, during the ninetieth birth anniversary of Balagokulam founder M. A. Krishnan. Today everybody has started reading Ramayana. Ramayana is the soul of India.
I recalled Madhavji who attempted to renovate temples and make casteless Brahmins priests of temples. Both were my friends. The crux of my speech was that everyone started reading Ramayana due to the efforts taken by them.
What did the poet gatherings give to you?
I used to write poems to read them at poet gatherings. I could read poems in gatherings in which poets like Vallathol attended.
Are you upset for not writing poems? What is the core of the poetry?
I cannot write poems without an inspiration, just for money. The core of both poetry and story is joy. A give and take occurs only when the poet feels the joy while writing and the reader feels it while reading.
(Published on March 10, 2019)