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Sinhala poetry made in Australia

"All this hideous doubt, despair, and dark confusion of the soul a lonely man must know, for he is united to no image save that which he created himself."

Thomas Wolfe

The soul-wailings, in Poet Sunil Govinnage's latest anthology titled White Mask and Other Poems, emerge at the interface between extreme diasporic loneliness and incantatory effusions. The diasporic masses of this world, are the ultimate refugees of the Earth. They have everything - but, possess nothing. They live everywhere, but have no shelter. They traverse the terrains, but, they are the global aliens of the planet. Though a relatively small island, Sri Lanka too, has contributed somewhat substantially to those globally dispersed generations, who have lost their original cultural moorings and are pathetically reduced to a wandering 'tribe', aimlessly adrift on trans-cultural and trans-national tides.

The initial, tantalising allure of shekel, elitist shelter, luxury living, sense of privilege, untrammelled space to exist - and at times fame, glory and applause, has now faded. The golden diasporic dream has shattered, in a way that can never be put together. The ultra-sensitive diasporic victim, has to evolve, with strenuous effort, a keen stratagem to live with this residual loneliness and the sharp soul-searing pangs.

Several extra-intelligent Sri Lankan personalities, equipped with distinguished mind-sets, have also been caught up in this eddying and swirling global whirl-pool of diasporic geniuses.

In that category of exceptional Sri Lankan diasporic spirits, the most articulate soul-searcher has always been multi-gifted Sunil Govinnage, the poet of the anthology currently under review.

Effort

For several wrenchingly tormented decades, diasporic poet Sunil Govinnage, has continued a desperate, despairing but unflagging effort, to construct an "Island" of poetry, where, at least his restless soul could carve out an emotionally stable safe haven.

In spite of his prolonged wandering, his diasporic gropings fail to provide a steadying support against this utterly helpless, traumatising drift. He turns to those familiar poets, who perennially soothened his troubled soul, in those - now far away. Wholesome non-diasporic days, when he was "certain of certain certainties."

But even those age-old classics in Sinhala do not prove the source of soul-therapy, that his scarred psyche years for. In a line of poetry in Sinhala, the poet's exasperation comes through: "Guttilaya is not poetry. It is merely a Third World Book".

Culture

The indigenous culture, from which he has become painfully alienated through his diasporic Kamma, was a cultural "terra firma", on which he could have his feet steadily planted. There the emotions were either black or white - very clearly delineated.

But, in his diasporic re-incarnation, even the intimate emotions are monochrome. They could either be black or white. What is remarkable about poet Sunil Govinnage's, poetic imagination is his, surprising capacity to view objectively, his own flood of emotions. He is driven to this deep inward look, by the alien human environment, which endlessly interrupts his tranced recollections of his non-diasporic emotions of the days that were unambiguously indigenous.

Even when he is keen to be in his own cosy world of personal silence, penning his stray poetic thoughts, those around him assault his inner tranquillity, with "swords" of "white words".

 

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