Tamil Love Poetry: The Five Hundred Short Poems of the Ainkurunuru

Tamil Love Poetry: The Five Hundred Short Poems of the Ainkurunuru

by Martha Ann Selby (Editor)
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Dating from the early decades of the third century C.E., the Ainkurunuru is believed to be the earliest anthology of classical Tamil love poetry and known to be a work of enduring importance. Commissioned by a Cera-dynasty king and composed by five masterful poets, the anthology renders the five landscapes of reciprocal love distinctive to the genre: jealous quarreling, anxious waiting and lamentation, clandestine love before marriage, elopement and love in separation, and patient waiting after marriage.

Despite its centrality to literary and intellectual traditions, the Ainkurunuru remains relatively unknown beyond specialists. Martha Ann Selby, well-known translator of Sanskrit poetry and literature, opens the anthology to all readers, presenting crystalline translations of 500 poems dense with natural imagery and early South Indian cultural materials. Because of their poems' short length, the anthology's five authors relied largely on double entendre and sophisticated techniques of suggestion, giving their works an almost haikulike feel. Groups of verse center on one unique figure, whether an object or animal, a line of direct address, or a specific conversational or situational context. Selby introduces each section with a description of the poet and the conventions at work within the landscape. She then incorporates notes throughout the text that explain the shifting contexts.

Excerpt:

He has gone off all by himself
beyond the wastes
where tigers used to prowl
and the toothbrush trees grow tall,
their trunks parched,
on the flinty mountains,

while the lovely folds of your loins,
wide as a chariot's seat,
vanish as your circlet
worked from gold
grows far too large for you.

Book details

Publication date
May 24, 2011
Publisher
Collection
ISBN
9780231521581
Paper ISBN
9780231150651