Veerankutty, a prominent environmental poet of the new generation in Malayalam, has authored three volumes of poetry and two collections of stories for children. His poetry has won him the KSK Thalikkulam Award. He teaches Malayalam at the Government College, Maddappally, in the Kozhikode district of Kerala.
Veerankutty’s poetry combines a deep sensitivity to the nuances of language with what Sherrif calls “a gentle persuasiveness”. This subtlety is in evidence in the two poems included in this edition. ‘In the Sanatorium for Trees’, for instance, makes its point not through a declamatory rant against the Enemies of Ecology, but through a muted and hauntingly dystopic vision of a hospice for a terminally ailing orchard.
While he respects the iconoclasm of Modernist Malayalam poetry, Veerankutty believes that its decline in the 90s was inevitable. “Disillusionment set in,” he says. It wasn’t just about disenchantment with socio-political movements. “The grand narratives of literature also came under intense scrutiny. The poet was no longer the colossus who marched imperially on the highways of poetry. In his place appeared the unassuming figure who sought man in the raw. In the poems of K R Tony, V M Girija and S Joseph, man disappeared from his pre-eminent position in the scheme of the universe. Their poems abounded with leaves of grass, grasshoppers, earthworms and streams. Man was an insignificant presence. The new poets did not aim at the creation of perfect artefacts, unlike their modernist predecessors. They did not seek, like wizards, to amaze the readers with their craft. They only created spaces for the readers to walk in freely and work on. They do not have the luxury of “god’s plenty”. They work on the simplest and crudest of material. The morality of the environment is their natural strength. Each one of them merely adds a strand to a great fabric of poetry in the making.”
This is obviously not tourist brochure poetry that eulogises Kerala as “God’s own country”. But it is not aggressive agitprop either. The tenor of radical socio-political critique, typical of modern Malayalam poetry, is alive and well. But what makes this poetry distinctive is the fact that a delicate precision and quietude do not permeate merely the content, but the tone and form as well. As Veerankutty puts it, “Malayalis have to strain to catch the reverberations of these loud silences.”
Jalabhoopadam (Mapping the Waters), Papillon, Kozhikode, 1999.
Manthrikan (Wizard), DC Books, Kottayam, 2004.
Autograph, DC Books, Kottayam, 2007.
The Hindu: Article on contemporary Malayalam poetry mentioning Veerankutty