Poets of the new generation defied the mythological subjects and emphasized individual experience, altruism, cultural renaissance, and motifs of sacrificial suffering became a central poetic image
The rise of modern Malayalam poetry began with the Venmani Group, whose members started experimenting with new forms and subject-matter, abandoning the classicist mode, using simple diction and Dravidian meters, and above all, by daring to deal with taboo subjects. Ironically, this was also an era when the literary orthodoxy was the most active in public culture. For instance, the elite Brahmin poets (with last names like Iyer, Sharma, Moothathu, Varma, Namboothiri) and Nair poets (Menon, Pillai, Marar, Panicker) frequently indulged in poetic combats such as akshara sloka and samasya. A poetry-feud of the period led to the historic "Rhyme Dispute" during which the entire literary community of Kerala came to be divided on the question whether rhyme enhanced or hindered poetry. The lively literary enivironment also enabled many new poets to start resisting the orthodoxy to produce unrhymed verse, consequently freeing the language from the traditional epic poetry limited to endless veneration of the Hindu pantheon. While the othodox poets had been evasive about the harsh social and economic realities prevalent in the land for over a millenium, the new generation became emboldened to seek out new forms and contents for their poetry.
With the publication of K.C. Kesava Pillai's Asanna Marana Chinta Satakam (Verses on Imminent Death), V.C. Balakrishna Panicker's Oru Vilapam (A Lament, 1909), Malayalam poets began to proclaim their Romantic aspirations; the revolutionary spirit of the English Romantics appealed to these poets. Panicker's short life was similar to that of Shelley and Keats. Having established himself as a major poet at the age of nineteen, he died at the age of twenty- seven. The poets of his generation defied the mythological subjects and emphasized individual experience, altruism, cultural renaissance, and motifs of sacrificial suffering became a central poetic image. This late arrival of the romantic spirit quickly transformed Malayalam literature as a whole, and out of the ferment emerged the three poets known as the Great Trio.
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Last Updated: December 11, 1998