14th May 2000
Editorial/Opinion| Business| Sports|
Sports Plus| Mirror Magazine
By Alfreda de SilvaA day for celebrating mothers - that's what today is. A remembering of this segment of society, who because of this symbiotic relationship with their offspring, make the world tick. A special day for them means that they are shown appreciation, no matter what their station in life is.
A sourcebook of American women's poetry edited by Marilyn Sewell and titled 'Claiming the Spirit Within' does just that. It gives a special place to the minutiae of the everyday and the common place, in mothers' lives so often taken for granted.
These poets have got at the heart of the joys, fears and tribulations of mothers in universal situations.
They take stock of generations of mothers who play their part on the stage they create. They point to the importance of identity in mothers' lives; the defiance with which these characters face seemingly impossible challenges; the way they relate to the earth and its creatures and teach their daughters about the simple blessings like family, friendship and love.
Conception and birthing are the strengths of a mother's kingdom as are mothering and caring. She knows to handle compassion, the day's many occupations and ageing. They are her birthright.
In her poem My Mother Susan Griffin states:
"At the centre of the earth there is a mother,
Great-grandmother, grandmother and mother talk to us, teach us and hold up for our benefit situations with which we can interact emotionally.
We have portraits of mothers working under extremely difficult circumstances as in Restaurant by Maxine Hong Kingston where two women stand in for a cook who is ill.
I lose my size. I am a bent over
In The Piemaker by Liz Max, a mother rises before the dawn and goes down to her kitchen to begin her work - sheer drudgery and monotony that she veils behind her dreaming.
I always thought I'd have little girls
The next extract I've chosen is an example of a mother who makes an unbearable sacrifice. It's by Alicia Ostiker and is called Surviving (excerpt):
Mother, chatterer, I ask you also,
In Christmas Eve: My mother dressing by Toi Derricotte, we have the pathos of a child watching a work-worn mother getting ready to change her image for Christmas:
Now I remember her hands, her poor hands
Florence Weinberger's poem The Power in My Mother's Arms brings memories of her special way of cooking, and the change brought about by her death:
To every celebration
All over the world mothers are combining their careers with looking after their children and doing all sorts of household chores without letting go of that still small place for dreaming.
Peggy Garrison has it in Mother Notes for Elaine:
So during these blessed 20 minutes
This writing steers away from the sentimental. Loss is acknowledged without maudlin self-pity.
Poem in September for my Mother's birthday by Judith Sornberger is a sensitive and meaningful walk through the woods by a dying mother and her daughter.
It draws its imagery from the Red Riding Hood story:
Mother this is not the view
These women know joy and grief, anger, love and loss, gain and sacrifice.
They have come to terms with ageing and dying.
Things and people
By Prof. J. B. DisanayakaWhen communicating, it is necessary to describe people and things, either because we like to express our opinions or because we need to evaluate them. Different languages have different ways of doing so.
Most languages including Sinhala use an 'adjective', to make such evaluations: lassana (pretty); loku (big); unu (hot, warm); and la:ba (cheap).
These words usually occur before nouns to modify them: lassana kella (pretty girl); loku geval ( big houses); unu vatura (hot water) and la: ba pot ( cheap books).
Adjectives can also occur after nouns, but when that happens, there is a verb, such as 'is' or 'are' to link the noun and the adjective:
The girl is pretty; Houses are big; Water is hot; and Books are cheap.
Sinhala, however, uses no verb but adds the particle 'y' after the adjective:
kella lassana-y (the girl is pretty); geval loku-y (Houses
are big); Vatura unu-y (Water is hot) and pot la: ba-y (Books
Madhubashini wanted them to participate in the launch of her book, Contemporary Sinhala Fiction: Some Writers and Their Writing. And they had responded enthusiastically. She walked up to each of them (they were seated with the rest of the audience) and handed over a book where each had been featured with a profile and an English translation of one of their creative pieces. The book presentation was sponsored by The Sunday Times and the National Youth Services Council.
For the writers featured in Madhubashini's book recognition had come their way. English readers would now get to know a host of new writers. They would certainly have known and read about Sarachchandra and a few others. But here, in one publication, they would get a glimpse of the vast talent we possess. And possibly most of them would want to read the originals and familiarise themselves with the trends in Sinhala literature.
The book also opens the door to the international scene, for contemporary writers.
While the speakers congratulated Madhubashini on her effort, they insisted on the need for more works of this nature. She herself confessed that this was in no way a complete job. There were many more writers who should gain recognition. Pointing out the need for us to get to know Tamil writers, she thought someone like journalist K. S. Sivakumaran could do it.
A young lecturer from the Colombo University, Sandagomi Coperahewa lamented that literary education and literary criticism are neglected areas in the university curriculum. He stressed the need for English and Sinhala departments in universities to work together in these areas and make a meaningful contribution to the development of literature.
Professor Ashley Halpe, referring to Madhubashini's effort as "a rich and varied collection", said it gave an insight to the creative abilities of different writers.
Congratulating publisher Sirisumana Godage for undertaking a publication of this nature, Professor Halpe appealed to him to give Sinhala and Tamil readers access to works of other writers.
The other sidePulling out a book from his briefcase at the SLFI after the launch of Madhubashini's book, K. S. Sivakumaran ('Siva' to most of us) responded to the call made to him by saying, "I have already started doing it".
In 1992 he had published Aspects of Culture in Sri Lanka reproducing an interview given by him to LeRoy Robinson, the American academic in the Nagasaki University who had been responsible in large measure to making Sri Lankan culture in Japan.
Siva begins with the contribution made by the well-known figure in Tamil drama and literature, Professor S. Vithianathan (whom I myself remember well as senior sub-warden at Jayatilaka Hall in the Peradeniya campus), particularly on how he re-oriented the traditional Nattu Koothu stylized plays to suit modern times.
He then refers to Professors Kanagasabapathi Kailasapathi and Karthigesu Sivathamby (both my contemporaries at Peradeniya) - the former being identified as "a Tamil intellectual who fostered Sri Lankan consciousness among writers" and one who encouraged awareness of an identifiable Sri Lankan Tamil literature as distinguished from that of Tamil Nadu and the latter as someone who specialized in Tamil social and literary history, cultural communication among Tamils and literary criticism.
Siva traces the history of Tamil fiction referring to the first novel written by a Ceylonese -S. Ignacittamby of Trinconamlee - an adaptation of a Portuguese novella called 'Orzon and Valentine' in 1891. The second Ceylon Tamil novelist has been identified as T. Saravanamuttu Pillai who wrote 'Mohanangi' in 1895. It was not until 1924 that the first woman Tamil novelist appeared -S. Sellammal with her novel 'Rasadurai'.
According to Siva, 'serious novels' came to be written in Tamil only after 1956. He mentions a host of names - Ilankeeran, V. A. Rasaratnam, S. Ganeshalingam, Benedict Palan and C. V. Velupillai, S. Yoganathan and Chengai Aaliyan. He briefly discusses the work of key writers.
Siva also touches on Tamil poetry, music and journals in the book.
It's a good start, Siva. Now, take the cue from Madhubashini and make a more comprehensive study of creative writers.
World Publishers' parleyPublishers met in Buenos Aires recently on the invitation of the Argentine Book Publishers' Association for the 26th sessions of the World Publishers' Society. Representing Sri Lanka were the President of the Sri Lanka Publishers' Association, Dayawansa Jayakody and Executive Secretary Gamini Wijesuriya. Books published in Sri Lanka were exhibited in Argentina for the first time during the sessions.
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