This book explores the nature of creativity. The essays in this book look at how poetry comes alive and resonates with meanings only when it speaks to us, and we listen to its dhvani; and how great works of fiction create convincing worlds, but often transcend realism. They use irony to explore the paradoxical nature of reality, or vastu dhvani where events take on symbolic overtones, or epiphany - moments of revelation and insight. Also exploring the field of creative writing, another essay guides aspiring writers how to shape their stories with the right choice of "points of view".
The essays are rich in insight, and written with simplicity.
Prabhaker Acharya turned to creative writing after he retired as the Head of the Department of English from K C College, Mumbai.
The Book Review called his debut novel, The Suragi Tree (2006), "a delightful novel," and found its "absorbing plot . . . its relaxed and relaxing pace, its suave control . . . simply breathtaking."
About his second novel, Manu in Kishkindha, (2015) - an evocative exploration of Indian mythology - the ABNA Publisher Weekly Reviewer said, "Readers will be swept away in the non-stop action." Kavitga Odu (Reading Poetry), his first book in Kannada, won the Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award for literary criticism in 2013.
Dhvani and Epiphany, his latest book, is all set to take you on an exploration into the world of poetry, fiction and drama and an appreciation of the world of architecture.
Dhvani and Epiphany, the two words I have used in my title, are extremely important in creative writing. The terms are explained, and their significance explored, in the essays that follow - Dhvani in more than 1,800 words at the beginning of "Dhvani and the Byzantium Poems"; Epipbany in seventy-three words in "Only Connect".
My only worry is that the title might make some readers think that the book is meant for specialists. It is not. I have never much cared for criticism written only for the consumption of scholarly critics. Most such closed-circuit communications, heavily dependent on critical jargon, exhibit a kind of intellectual laziness. My aim is to reach out to the sensitive general reader, not the specialist. I hope he finds the book enlightening but easy.
Can literary criticism be creative? I think it can be. At its best, it is. Let me explain how.
An exciting new thought, when it enters your head, has an emotional field around it - like a magnet has a magnetic field. Sometimes, the feelings may come first and then crystallize into thoughts. But when you try to communicate them in writing, there is often a dissociation of sensibility. The thoughts get communicated, but not the feelings.
Writing becomes creative when the writer's thoughts and feelings are both communicated, so that the reader's heart can resonate with them. It is only then that the work comes alive. Abhinava Gupta, one of the greatest Indian critics, noted this more than a thousand years ago. He gave a lot of importance to a receptive reader and described him as "Sa-bridaya"or "Samana bridaya"- which means, "of the same heart". Poetry triumphs, he said, only when the poet and the "Sa-Mdaya" reader come together: Saraswatyastvam kavi sabridayakyam vijayate.
But how does the poet make this kind of communication?
We have often experienced that we can communicate our feelings more easily in our speech than in our writings. That is because we can, when we speak, make use of gestures, facial expressions, tone and modulations of voice. We cannot do that in our writings. So, the poets - and all creative writers - try to bring the quality of speech into their work by a careful use of words, for their sound as well as their connotative and denotative meanings; by making subtle uses of rhythm, pauses and flow; and by creating images. It is because the quality of speech is so important in creative writing that Auden and Garrett defined poetry as "memorable speech"; and Frost said, "When a poem comes to life, it begins to speak". It is the work's dhvani or resonance that communicates the artist's thoughts, feelings and vision.
Explication and evaluation are not the be-all and end-all of literary criticism. A good critic must explore a work, not just examine it; throw light on aspects of the work his readers might miss; and also, be a "Sa-bridaya" reader. He must then speak to his readers about his total experience of reading those works, trying to communicate his feelings as well as his thoughts. I hope these essays come alive and speak to you and help you to become "Sa-bridaya" readers; and that you find, in them, new insights.
The essays are not given in any chronological order. The first essay; "A Child Speaking to Men", was written in 2010. It is about Poorna Prajna, who wrote some lovely poems in Kannada when he was use five or six, and died at the age of nine. I wrote the essay in English because I wanted to translate the child's poems. I re-wrote the essay in Kannada three years later and made it the first chapter of my Kannada book Kaviteya Odu (Reading Poetry) - to show the essential simplicity of poetry. I have used the English version to open this book for the same reason. Kaviteya Odu, by the way, won the Karnataka Sahitya Academy's award for the best book of literary criticism for 2013.
The second essay, "Jejuri Revisited" also demonstrates the simplicity of the language of poetry I reviewed Kolatkar's jejuri when it was first published in 1976, in the first flush of excitement, not bothered by the fact that I knew nothing about the customs and rituals of the temple-town the poems described. The experience of reading the book was like that of visiting the place - you are intrigued but delighted by the strange customs. But while teaching the book a few years later - it was a text for the "Indian Literature" paper for BA - I had to dig up a lot of information about the place, and that was how "Jejuri Revisited" was written.
The next essay is on Kolatkar's Raba Ghoda Poems, a book that establishes him as one of the great poets of our time. Kolatkar’s no longer needs Jejuri's Vaghyas and Murlis, or its hills and temples, to ignite his imagination. It is as if Jejuri has come home, to the heart of Bombay, to the Kala Ghoda area. The sights and sounds of the city -and the sweepers, peddlers, beggars, lepers, street urchins and others - come to life here in a way that has never happened in poetry before.
But there is something strange and sad about the way Kolatkar held back his English poems from the public for several years. He had been publishing poems, both in Marathi and English, in magazines "The Urvasi Myth" is a paper I presented during the D D Kosambi Centenary celebrations at Manipal some years ago. Kosambi was certainly one of the greatest intellects of the Indian Renaissance. The passion he brought to bear on diverse subjects and his amazing ability to see correspondences where others would not notice any were signs of a genuine creative genius.
"Teaching Listening and Speaking Skills" may sound like an informative essay, but it is as personal as anything I have written. It is about how I got into teaching listening and speaking skills in English to an odd assortment of students at Ambalpady; the discoveries I made then and the teaching techniques I evolved. I might not have included this essay - however useful it is - in this collection of critical essays if I had not felt that listening and speaking skills are intimately connected with literature: a poet most speak to his audience; a reader must listen to a poem.
"A House at Manipal" is an essay on Vijayanath Shenoy's Hasta Shilpa, a house in which he has distilled the quintessence of Dakshina Kannada's architectural style; and demonstrated that a house built in the traditional style is not just aesthetically beautiful but more comfortable to live in. He has shown us, as only he could, how precious woodwork saved from old buildings can be imaginatively used in new houses - to enrich their beauty and also to establish a link with the past, so that cultural continuity is preserved.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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