There is almost always, in a great poem, that line that stands out, that so impresses itself on the reader that it serves as the focus for the reader’s every feeling about the poem (and poet even).
It could be a metaphor so completely new as to astonish, a delicacy of feeling so exquisite as to overwhelm, a play of language so buoyant as to delight, a commonplace presented so novelly as to rarify.
Bendre’s remarkably prolific poetry is full of such lines. Often written as Ambikatanayadatta – the Kannada-speaking daimon within – his greatest poetry is a melodic melding of, in Shankar Mokashi’s words, “the intellect and the heart.”
In this particular poem – Bendre’s Kannada adaptation of the Petrarchan sonnet – the last line of the octave is what struck me immediately (“ಬೆಳಕೆ ಬೆಳಕಿದ್ದು ಕತ್ತಲೆಯು ತುಂಬಿತು ಹೇಗೆ?”) – I even think I tried right away to translate it. The rest of the translation came later – and not without some effort. (The sestet was particularly difficult – given its cultural references and its original character as an almost “single-breath” denouement.)
Like I often do, I have, in some places, eschewed a literal translation for a more fluid transcreation.
As is usual – here is a recording of my reciting the original Kannada poem.
To read and listen to more (including the entire translation), please buy my book, The Pollen Waits On Tiptoe.
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