I had the good fortune to participate at the launch of Mirrored Images, an anthology of Sri Lankan Poetry edited by Rajiva Wijesinha. The book was published by the prestigious National Book Trust of India.
Prof Rajiva Wijesinha had already collected An Anthology of Sri Lankan Short Stories for NBT, beside, of course, his modest collection of Modern Sri Lankan Poetry in English. But this is a more ambitious work which has drawn from Sinhala. Tamil and English representative works. The volume which runs to 400 pages contains 138 poems written in Sinhala and Tamil translated into English and 72 poems originally written in English.
These poems were written over the last five decades during which the island nation – after independence – went through radical political, Social and economic changes. It also witnessed the deterioration of the relationship between the Sinhalese and the Tamils which culminated in a bloody civil war. War means death, destruction and displacement. It also leaves, in its wake, thousands of widows and the disabled who become the responsibility of the country. That was – and is – the context in which these Sri Lankan poets worked. So, understandably, a substantial number of the poems in this collection are disturbing and sad.
Appropriately, Hon. Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Minister of National languages and Reconciliation graced the function. Present in the audience were senior writers, critics and media persons.
“Genuine poetry”, said T.S.Eliot “can communicate even before it is understood” This was affirmed as I first read out the Tamil originals of my poems. At the launch, the audience, mainly non – Tamil, sat in husband silence because, I believe, the reading was infused with so much passion. Their understanding was complete with the English version that followed.
Anne Ranasinghe, the veteran, (she is 80!) had to be helped to her seat but her reading was clear and well – articulated. A.Santhan read his Bigger Match with a brief introduction about a correspondence that occasioned the poem. Continue reading