He was a poet who caused a mighty storm in Telugu literature. His poetry emanated from the villages and the heartaches of Dalit mothers. Poetry tradition until then was different. With Madduri Nagesh Babu’s writings, a new kind of poetry was set in motion.
He had such an effect on other poets that even the best of them who considered themselves accomplished had to relook at their poetry, undertake introspection. He reinstated poetry back on track, especially by compelling everyone to revise their poetry. It was only after Nagesh Babu started writing, a clear distinction between Dalit poetry and non-Dalit poetry emerged.
The arrival of the second generation in Telugu literature kicked off with Nagesh Babu. With sharp Dalit words and Dalit dialect, he brought alive the village lives. Nagesh Babu’s poetry that mirrored Dalit lives caused an effect similar to an atomic explosion in Telugu literature.
Every poem that he penned came from his own life. His life and poetry were one. His words, either prose or poetry, flowed like a fierce stream. Many of his contemporary poets put their pens to rest while he was alive, almost wishing ‘when will he die’.
RaCcha BanDa (రచ్చబండ), VelivAda (వెలివాడ), MErevuTlu (మీరెవూట్లూ), Naraloka PrAdhana (నరలోక ప్రార్థన), GodAvari (గోదావరి), LOya (లోయ), PuTTa (పుట్ట) poetry collections made the Telugu literary world sleepless for a period. Many could not sleep after reading Alex Haley’s novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Similarly, if not more, one cannot resist pondering over Dalit lives after reading Madduri Nagesh Babu’s poetry.
He also brought out mixed poetry collections like Kaasta siggupadadaam (‘let’s be ashamed a little’), Ooru-Vaada (‘village-dalit settlement’) along with other poets. That is why Madduri Nagesh Babu’s works don’t exist today – not even a single collection – unless we reprint them.
If other poets influenced the world, Nagesh Babu influenced the poets. As long as he was alive, he lived like a burning fire in a furnace, blazing himself to ashes. His poetry became his life while he lived his life like a poem. Although he lived a short life, he left an indelible impression on Telugu Literature. That is why the arrival of the second generation in Telugu poetry is attributed to him.
Unquestionably, Madduri Nagesh Babu will remain a mighty storm in Telugu literature.
(Amarnath Sandipamu‘s translation of Tangirala Sony‘s Telugu article published recently in Andhra Jyothy & Visalaandhra newspapers on the occasion of the 15th death anniversary of Madduri Nagesh Babu)
Tangirala Sony is a writer, essayist and poet; he also works as a journalist with Prajaakanksha newspaper. He is based in Kanchikacherla, Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh.
Amar is an independent filmmaker-writer. More about him and his work can be found at amarnathsandipamu.wordpress.com