It is not often that we get poets to speak on their own poems. ILU English, in this matter, has been so lucky to have its analysis of K. Satchidanandan’s ‘Stammer’ read by the poet himself. We are immensely grateful to Satchida who responded warmly to our request.
The mail that we received from the poet is reproduced here with permission. We hope that the teacher-student communities in Kerala and elsewhere will find this helpful for a deeper understanding of the poem.
The poet wrote:
As you know the poet’s task is just to write and leave it to others to interpret what he/she has written (as I have myself said in the poem ‘Bertolt Brecht and Gautama the Buddha’). But having also been a teacher for a quarter-century I know interpretations do matter though it is not always possible to contact the poet for his version. I find the analysis you had attached quite convincing though I never had EMS in my mind when I wrote it. A poet’s own reading is only one of the possible readings of the poem and I find this interpretation coming close to mine. Yes, it is a poem about doubt, ambiguity and ambivalence, in speech as well as action and also a comment on the imperfection of the human being from which I guess God too must have suffered from doubts when he created man. (Bible says, ‘God made man in His own image’) This can also lead to a critique of human history: what have we done to ourselves? Look at wars, atrocities, terrorism, and violence of every kind done to others as well as to nature. It is quite likely God regrets having created homo sapiens. (This will lead to several other poems of mine like The Sixth Day and Noah Looks Back and a lot of poems on/against violence – in fact this illuminates my whole vision.) ‘When a whole people stammer, stammer becomes their mother-tongue – just as it is with us now’ gives the teacher an opportunity to criticise the silently complicit people and intellectuals who accept every injustice without a murmur. The poem was written years ago, and the meaning of that ‘now’ keeps changing as time passes, but will remain applicable as long as we silently suffer insult and injury.
Of course when I write a poem I do not think logically like when writing an essay though in the given interpretation it looks so logical. But every poem has an inner logic, dictated by imagination and language. That way I think Stammer, even while being about stammer, does not stammer as it is certain about doubt, unambiguous about ambiguity.
And please remember I have not written any poem in English except during my student days as I do not know enough English. This , like my other poems you may come across in English, is but my own translation of my poem ‘വിക്ക്’ in the collection with that title.