Translating poetry is always challenging, exhilarating and yet never a completely satisfying job. It is more so with a poet like Kambar. Kambar is one of the most important poets of contemporary India and needs no introduction. He is known as a dramatist, but his fiction and poetry are equally important too. The recent Kabir Samman (2002) has once again proclaimed his importance as a poet.
Kambar is truly and essentially a Kannada poet who refuses to be translated. He draws inspiration from the very local vocabulary, rythms and ways of expression. Indeed it has become a fashion among the critics to refer to him as a folk poet. That description is only half true. Kambar draws inspiration from the folk and yet his sensibility is certainly modem. Most of his poetry is in the form of songs and as readers well know songs are untranslatable. Kambar is dramatic too. And he is a very good story teller. His poetry is thus a creation of folk themes and vitality of folk language, dramatization and narration. His language adapts itself to the needs in so many subtle ways.
Kambar creates a vision of Shivapura, a mythical space, where much of his stories and poems are enacted, it is indeed a vision of an ideal space with all the tensions and conflicts of reality. Raw passion, an endless quest for appropriate expression, unbounded play of imagination, and keenness of perception of the political and social dimensions make his poetry rich and therefore untranslatable. The present translator has just attempted to present to non-Kannada readers a fleeting glance of the spectrum of Kambar’s poetic world.
Kambar is interested in creating myths of creation and myths of fulfillment. An exploration of what seems to be and what really is one of the main concerns of Kambar. And hence we find twins appearing as a major metaphor in his writng. Timelessness and the process of history are the other two major themes of his writing. He is also a poet who is interested what is beyond this world of appearances. And hence fairies, demons and magic form an integral part of his poetic world. The boundary between the imaginary and the real, the logical and the illogical, is always shifting and getting blurred. Kambar has a keen sense of music too. The artist and the musician appear as two important metaphors of man’s search for perfection. Kambar seems to me as a poet of great discontent. It is a discontent about the inability of man to realize his full potentials. It is a discontent of not being able to express oneself in a real way without being troubled by the shadows of doubt. It is a discontent about not being free from the demons created by the mind. And this utter discontent gives a vibrating energy to his writings.
The present anthology of translations of Kambar’s poems attempts to present the readers the range of his poetry. All the poems are selected from Evaregina Helatene Kela, the first edition of his complete poems published in 1994. I thank the poet for his kind cooperation and Sahitya Akademi for entrusting the job of preparing this anthology. I am indebted to H.S. Shivaprakash, A.J. Thomas and H.S. Raghavendra Rao for their valuable suggestions. In particular I must thank Sri Agrahara Krishnamurthy, the Regional Secretaiy of Sahitya Akademi and the members of the board of advisors for Kannada.