Writing Telugu Poetry

By Ramarao Kanneganti

I remember a trick that I was told by somebody back when I was in 8th grade and trying my hand at poetry. Here is the simple recipe.

1. First write what you want to write. It can be plain and simple. Let us start with a simple line like:

2. Now, if you have lot of lines like that, you can do a transpositional transformation as follows:

But, that transformation is not good enough on simple sentences. This is the mistake done by sophomore poets. So, we have to effect a few transformations more. Let us try one by one.

3. First add the adjectives and similes. You can go towards two schools here. You can go towards "dEsa vaalee" or "puraaNa" style. To do the dEsa vaalee, you need to arm your self with village vocabulary. Dredge up the teluguness. The farmer, the soil, the first rains, the shy girl, the jasmine, the village belles ... all these are your friends now.

If you decide to go the puraaNa style, it would be good to have some dictionary on hand, preferably like a thesaurus. (which I don't now, so we will skip those transformations now).

So, let us add the adjectives:

4. Now, make it little difficult, like french consonents. Let us make the reader work at it. Let us drop the obvious.

5. Now, we can go the extra mile, and make it into "word picture"

Here, consistency is important. Since we introduced the "shyness" motif in the first line, we are practically entitled to use the "musugu".

6. Or, if we go with the explicit route, the details are important. But, these details better be as detailed as possible. For example:

Here though, a juxtaposition with something in the abstract is needed in the end. For example, you can end it with some message like:

7. If you go the earlier route of a little dash of ambiguity and impressionism, how do you end the poem? You got to keep the punch line that is either culmination of the same line of thought, or the opposite (sort of like judo punch). For example, the earlier motif of the word picture you can personalize by adding a message like:

Or, you can throw a surrealistic fit too, if you want to:

8. But you see all these right? Why not go for broke, and try similes like "sEshEndra"? Here the trick is to use seemingly wrong adjectives. If you ever read any books about wine, you are ready for this task (shy boquet sort of things). So, let us try this:

Not good enough right? But, throw in a few sanskrit words casually, and here is how it looks at the end:

See, how casually I slipped in seemingly contradictory similes? If people question, it is their lack of imagination that is to be faulted!

9. You may be insulted for ignoring the grand tradition of "blaxpoitation baby" (which in Andhra becomes "rakta mallelu" or whatever). Here the trick is to pull the reader into your side. Almost feel him ashamed to insult the poetry; in fact, tell him this is not poetry -- it is

In fact, in your anthology, you should keep a poem defending your poetry.

I am afraid to write this poetry, let us alone read it. So, it is left to your exercise.

10. In the end, perhaps, you would like to hear a 12th century poet, in a language that he is most familiar with wrote:

Yes, that was jaya dEva.

That all folks. Now, let a thousand poems bloom! As an exercise, complete the poems in the styles mentioned above.