Busted Intellectual- Vihanga Kusal Perera

Vihanga Kusal PereraI don’t know what poetry is. Like Robert Frost once said, “Poetry is the kind of thing poets write”. But Like all other people, I enjoy reading well organized, lyrical arrangements that make us care about worthwhile matters. Sometimes poetry makes us laugh; and sometimes it makes us think how heavenly the mere secular things that we are too busy to notice actually are. So I read poetry and I read Vihanga’s ‘Busted Intellectual’, his recently released collection of poetry.
Very strangely, most things about the book are pleasing my mind except the cover and Vihanga’s political view. I know I will never be able to enlighten him to find the correct political path, but at least he could have chosen to use the book cover I designed; which is a tragedy.
No matter how much I disagree on Vihanga’s opinions about the polity in Sri Lanka, I enjoyed reading the bulk of the poems in ‘Busted Intellectual’. If English is a language with words we have to use carefully and cleverly in order to deliver the “right tone” and “idea”, ‘Busted Intellecual” has in it enough poetry to satisfy that need. Vihanga really has great ideas and also the knowledge to facilitate them with confidence. I am not patronizing, but seriously his play on words to produce splendid verses is praiseworthy. Vihanga’s politics hardly appeals to my mind but I can’t deny that even the political poetry in ‘Busted Intellectual’ are poetic.
Vihanga is a “straw man” who quotes out of the context to prove his opinion and sometimes exaggerates on current political issues in Sri Lanka. A classic example is ‘ Sweet Akon’ on where he dishes out absolute nonsense, blaming each and every Buddhist in the country in general; instead of talking about the attack done to the MBC Network office by thugs of an ignorant politician. And ‘’Streets after Independence day’ is another poem which doesn’t make sense.
However I still don’t see that it is “anti governmental” or “anti Sinhala”. It’s merely the poet’s young audacity producing substance to what he earnestly believes in. Unfortunately in a country where most people take ‘old is gold’ in a reactionary way Vihanga’s poetry will, for the main, be stigmatized as something from an absurd youth.
That stigmatization will cause one’s — Vihanga’s, in this case — gifted talent go unheard of and less cared for. I have a feeling that the poet in question wouldn’t win anything or will not be invited by publishers until he reaches old age or unless he starts being more closer to the mainstream. Take ‘Handagama’ and his new film ‘Vidu’ for an example. Handagama is beginning to get cheered by local award deciders, but is ‘Vidu’ worth it, for what Handagama has sacrificed?
I liked how Vihanga has selected two themes for the book: love and politics. It’s simple, less coarse and less complicated unlike ‘Pesticides for Ma Pants’, his earlier collection. It brings a wicked pleasure for me to see that Vihanga doesn’t have sufficient courage when expressing love situations. He goes ‘chicken’ when talking about love. In his heart-touching personal poems, he uses a phrase or a word to shift the focus, leaving the audience with a fraud: with the attitude of one who ‘doesn’t care’.
I also like the introduction the writer gives to some of the poems. But I keep in mind that he only wants us to hear what he wants us to hear. However, those introductions help to understand the allusions in the poems, which makes the book more organized and less ambiguous. The best poem in the collection is ‘All touring Sinhalayas ‘. There is nothing Political about it. It is the truth, as long as we do not generalize all Sinhala people in that mould. However people who know how to read a poem may know it’s an ironic point of view that the poet adopts and that he is only addressing those who deserve it. And I, too, agree with the poem ‘Big Daddy’. That is a necessary ridicule implied there. Similarly, ‘Alien Accents’, which reads as a political parody, is hilarious.
I still don’t understand the reason for Vihanga to include such satiric verses in ‘Busted Intellectual’ to ridicule writers like Malinda Seneviratne who is happy that the war is over and who, in his writing, is focusing more about rebuilding the nation. Clearly, in ‘Busted Intellectual’ Vihanga states that he expected a political solution to the LTTE issue but I am baffled why he cannot understand that it was the LTTE that walked away from such a programme and took to arms.
Hopefully the renowned writers and journalists who get together writing some petitions demanding more writing freedom will not only welcome safe writers to their league but will also notice Vihanga Perera as a fearless writer with high standards with his powerful work. Perhaps one day he will be commended highly acclaimed if he gets one famous and valid intellectual to raise a hand in his favor. Maybe he needs to get abducted or grow old and die. As he states:

“Looking ahead, at my life, from the point of 26:
Cos, where my plan is concerned
There is a broken line:
your life line- it is broken here, but goes on:
Probably you will, after all, be fine

A continuing life line after being shattered,
There was a time where to me only love was what mattered.
“You will earn money, later in life……”
You can write to Vihanga Perera to own a copy of ‘Busted Intellectual’ .


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