Interviewed by Govindaraju Ramakrishna Rao

Dr. C. Narayana Reddy. is an outstanding writer in modern Telugu Literature. His is a multi-faceted personality combining in himself a poet, a critic, a lyricist, a playwright, an educationalist, an administrator and an orator par excellence, gifted with a captivating command over the music of language. Dr. Reddy, the recipient of' the highest literary award of the country i.e. Jnanpith for the year 1988, is the most distinguished poet of his generation. A poet of over five decades of standing, Dr. Narayana Reddy has to his credit at present of 82 publications. He is a trend setter through many of his works. He is at home hath in poetry and in literary criticism. His research work on Modern Telugu Poetry, assessing the influence of tradition and experiment on it, has been a classic since its publication in 1967. Another dimension of his poetical personality is he has over 3500 film songs to his credit. As a professor of Telugu at the Osmaina University. Hyderabad, Dr. C. Narayana Reddy has achieved great success in the class­room, with his critical acumen, incisive insight and poetic sensibility. He held important and responsible positions in academic and administrative fields namely – Chairman, A.P. Official Language Commission, Vice-Chancellor, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University and Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Advisor to Government of Andhra Pradesh for Language and Culture, Chairman, A.P. State Cultural Council and Member of Rajyasabha, nominated by the President of India. He is now President, Andhra Sraswatha Parishath.

 Essentially, Dr. Reddy is a poet and the following excerpts from an interview reflect his views on poetry.

 GRK: Good morning Sir! You come from a remote village. What are the factors that contributed to your blossoming into a great poet?

 CNR: Mr. Rao! you are right. The question drives me into my memory lane. I was born on 29-07-1931 in a tiny village Hanumajipet, near the famous pilgrim town Vemulawada, Karimnagar district, Andhra Pradesh. My father Malla Reddy was a seasoned agriculturist. My mother Buchchamma, though not educated, was adept in narrating with all grip episodes from mythologies. The ambience of gurgling waters of the rivulet, Nakkavagu, chirping birds on lush green trees all around, swinging crops in fields, rhythmic shuttlings of handlooms and umpteen rural phenomena fascinated my juvenile sensibilities. Our place is even today known for its rich repertoire of folk art forms. In those days, recitals of Harikatha with a unique blend of music, dance and literature, wherein the performer would tell Divine stories to the accompaniment of musical instruments were very popular. The story and content attracted me. My creative urge made me start writing songs and even poems. My teacher at Middle School level Doopati Venkata Ramanacharyulu  prevailed upon me to acquaint myself with the technicalities of periodical versification. I followed his advice. That equipped me with all the requirements to write poetry in all its forms. Right from my middle school level student days at the age of 12 years to the present day, I have been writing poetry continuously. I said in a poem: ‘Move is my mother / March is my father / Equality is my language / And poetry is my breath!'

 The last line answers the question in short.

 GRK: Dr. Reddy, who is your model for your style?

 CNR: Before taking up an answer to this question, I must tell about the conditions prevailing when J was a student. My mother tongue Telugu, was not given its due place in education or administration. On the other hand, it' was resented. I studied upto l1.raduation in Urdu Medium in the erstwhile Hyderabad State. Then, where is the Z1ucslion of choosing a role model for my poetry. It is all my personal endeavour. I developed my own style. Apart from it, I believe that a poet shall demonstrate his own stamp in his poetry. Imitation either in content or style is one thing that I never endorsed. The other factor related to style. Though Telugu is classified as a Dravidian language. it has ample content of Sanskrit terms, Researchers say over 65% terms used in 'T'elugu Poetry are of Sanskrit origin. At the inceptive stage, I wrote poetry with the metrical technicalities. Later, I thought I must have my own specially in the Telugu literature. because there were many poets of eminence writing verses. I chose 'Geya' genre. 11 is a lyrical form following 'Matra' Prosody.

 GRK: Dr. Reddy! How docs the timeless appeal come to poetry?

 CNR: It is an interesting question. Poetry is an eternal f1ow. It takes into its stream the rich heritage of poetical activity in different languages of the world. There are no limitations of time for real poetry. It has timeless appeal. It is perennial and equally universal. Emerson has an interesting explanation to offer in support of this contention. He tells universe has three children born at one time. They stand respectively for the love of truth, love of good and love of beauty. He calls them poetically .love, Pluto and Neptune. We are concerned with the element of beauty represented by poet. "The poet is the 'Sayer'. He is an emperor in his own right", he says, We can reasonably deduce from this that the sayings of the poet are precisely universal and timeless. Dante. Tennyson. Homer, Shakespeare, Valmiki. Kalidasa, Tagore and many others by their works have become immortals. Passage of,centuries does not diminish their poetical excellence and appeal. Even the contemporary poetry has this trait of global appeal.

 GRK. What is the fundamental as well as essential nature of poetry'!

 CNR: This IS a technical question. According to my estimate, Poetry is the highest form of creative work. It is universal and all pervading surpassing all limitations of time. space, region, religion and the like. It brings into its fold all other creative faculties. It is all embracing. In fact creative capability is the bedrock  for poetry. It is a product or refinement. Poetry does not f10w in the absence of such attributes, despite all sorts of training. A great rhetorician Dandi prescribes three qualities for the creation of a good classic. They are Innate talent, perfect knowledge and constant practice. In a way, poetry is a sublime thing. Involvement with it is indeed a bliss. If one is asked to name three great activities - the apt answer will be to read, to write and to live in poetry. These are the requisites of an ideal life. In turn. three kinds of pursuits are warranted . To be realistic, to be imaginative or romantic in literary parlance and to be rationalistic. The first two - reality and imagination are actually opposite forces. It is rationality that operates as synthesizing agent.

 When I think of poetry, I am reminded of the categorization of persons made by Ruskin. He listed out five kinds of persons : persons who see are Seers; persons who talk the Prophets; persons who make are Poets; persons who think are Philosophers; and persons who do are believers. For our purpose, we take the third category, namely those who make. Here making means 'creation'. In Greek language a poet is called ‘Poietes’. It means one who makes. Romans call poet ‘Vates’. This word connotes ‘foreseer’.

 In Sanskrit, the definition of ‘poet’ is as follows: “Kavirmanishi Paribuh Swayambhuh/ Nanrishih Kuruthe Kavyam”.

 To carry the argument further, I would like to quote what Bhatta Thouta, an exponent of Alankara Sastra, said: “Darsandwarnanachchadha Rudah Loke Kavisruthih”.

 One who merely describes cannot be regarded as a poet. There must be an element of ‘creation’ to give it the touch of poetry. A poet must first see and then express in his own words what he has seen. It means a poet shall possess two capabilities namely ‘Darshanam’ and ‘Varnanam’. I call them in English ‘Vision’ and ‘provision’. ‘Darshanam’ does not mean mere seeing with physical eyes. It is something different. It touches the ends and depths of the  object looked at.  ‘Varnanam’ is the art of effectively expressing it. I call it ‘Provision’. It means communication.

 In essence, a poet perceives what is unseen for others and puts it in writing in a way others may not do.

 GRK: What is the most important ingredient in poetry? What makes a genuinely great poem'!

 CNR: In the modern age, most accepted purpose of a literary work is universal good. The word "good' is all comprehensive. It delights man and benefits mankind. Hundreds or Rhetoricians - Alankariks - Poured out umpteen definitions for 'Kavya'. To cite few ­John Dryden says: "Poetry is a just and lively image of human nature, representing its passions and humours, and the change of fortune to which it is subject, for the delight and instruction of mankind." A 'kavya' offers delight and a message for the betterment of humanity. Johnson endorses this view. According to Sydney 'The poet is indeed the right popular philosopher.' Sanskrit Alankariks laid stress an 'Rasa'. Viswanatha opines "Vakyam Rasatmakam Kavyam". Some others preferred diction and purport. Bhamaha contends "Sabdardha Sahitam Kavyam". Without further delving into the didactic details. I will confine my comments from my point of view. Poetry is essentially a creative art that conveys its sharp impulses in effective words. One need not possess a high degree or scholarship to be a poet. Some of the Alankariks gave place of honour to Pratibha in preference to Vyutpatti. "Pratibha Vyutpattyoh Pratibha Gareeyasi'. It means among I creative. genius and scholarship, the former is superior. However, scholarship is a supporting factor in poetry. Thus the most important element in poetry is creative genius. For my poetry Man is at the centre stage. I stand for Humanity and progressive Humanisam Man symbolizes Eternal Truth. I portrayed Man in my collection of Poems 'Mantalu Manasulu', which secured me Central Sahitya Akademi Award. In the three epics Bhumika, Viswambhara and Man Beyond Earth and Sky, Man is the subject. I will say few words about ‘Viswambhara’, Jnanpith Award winning book. The theme is Man’s story and it dispenses with names and dates. Nature offers the backdrop for the story, Really speaking, Nature is more beautiful than man, It is even stronger, With all these attributes, the existence of Nature would have been futile, had there been no Man, Though the Man is small physically, he could conquer the Space. Air, Water and Light are serving hi m to his command. Progressing artistically, scientifically and spiritually. Man has been discovering hidden forces of Nature. Man is constantly on the move.

 GRK: My last question is can Poetry counter the paralyzing effect of globalization'?

 CNR: Mr. Rao! You have posed a relevant question. Yes. It can. Because, the potentialities of poetry are beyond one's perception and estimate. Vedavyasa single handedly did many a marvel. Not only classifying and compiling the four Vedas, he presented to India and world Maha Bharatha, Bhagavatha and several other works of immense significance. These works and treatises answer all questions engaging and disturbing minds of the people of all categories. Globalization is a recent phenomenon resulting from scores of historical, social, commercial, political and other reasons, Such occurrences are common in the modern world full of complexities. Now we have recession and colossal unemployment all over the world. Poetry has vital role to play in mitigating the hazards of globalization. It can enlighten, educate and guide the people on the methodologies to be adopted to face such eventualities. The poetic message emboldens the people and prepares them to face with grit. Further things like globalization, recession and so on are not of permanent nature. Poetry tells the people its intricacies and strengthen their mindsets to combat effectively. Poets are not work force. They are word force. Pen is always more powerful than sword.

 GRK: Thanking you Dr. Reddy for your enlightening exposition on poetry. Hearty Congratulations on your 87th birth day.

 CRR: I t is a pleasant task to say something on poetry. As regards greetings, release of my new book of poems marks my birth day every year. So is the case, this Year too. Thank you.


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