17 July 2023

Reflections on the young poetic heart

All great writers have one thing in common. They all began with a first publication. All great writers develop their craft by voracious reading, continuous writing and agonising over words and phrases. They can, if they so wish, look back to the early days, the first manuscript and the maiden publication.

If they were to peruse through those pages, they are likely to reflect on the innocence of it all. Then they’ll come across something, shudder and ask themselves ‘did I actually write that stuff’ and on another page, reading a different line, stop in awe, and ask the very same question, ‘did I actually write that stuff?’

It would, I believe, be the same with Thiyara De Silva one day in the distant future if and when she picks up a copy of ‘Between day and night: poems and prose.’ For now, in this moment of launch, tangibility and waves of affection if not admiration, it’s the ultimate feel-good. Or close to it. At this moment.

Young and aspiring writers are often advised to maintain a journal. While reading the journal or say notes maintained by Albert Camus, I understood why. It’s the honest transliteration of that which is observed. Observation and honesty: building blocks, foundation. Thiyara has got those right.

The disclaimers frame the reading, but they are not necessary. We write what we know or think we know. We write what we feel, if at all. The reader reads as he or she will; will keep certain things, forgets others.

Thiyara has no illusions about the would-be reader. She believes there’s something for everyone, perhaps some companionship when company is needed for a moment. There could be new perspectives between the covers, she suggests, or words that speak thoughts that have crossed the mind.

A note scribbled on the first page dedicated to a friend who purchased the book says it all, I feel: '[I] hope you find yourself somewhere in the pages.' She's written a personal story and these are the ones that are capable of telling readers something, anything, even if it's just a fleeting thought and nothing more, about themselves.

The book is what she says it is: ‘a collection of often unrelated thoughts, feelings and perspectives on various topics compiled across two years.’ Her friends as well as others of her generation would recognise, relate, empathise and delight. Older readers would recognise ‘that time’ in their lives, the same joys and anxieties albeit differently clothed back then.

‘Between night and day’ reads like a journal, a collection of status updates that weren’t posted for whatever reason. They tell us about Thiyara. Obviously.  And so we find a young person unafraid to share her ‘journal’ and journey with the world. And so we find a keen observer who faithfully records her observations. She sees, processes, draws conclusions and tells us to make of it what we will.  

There are lines here that indicate a mind that is not at ease with what is, an instinct that says ‘perhaps, but perhaps not,’ and proceeds to uncover layers in search of that which doesn’t come shouting or fully dressed but is nevertheless real.

It is fascinating to observe her thought process in some of the poems (and easy because she doesn’t fuss over the descriptions.

‘Cats don’t care about what people think.
That’s how I know I am not one.’

That’s a claim, but to the extent she’s been transparent, I feel Thiyara worries less about what people think than most of us do.

Poetry and prose, she says. The prose certainly has poetic trace; the poetry or the pieces that have ‘poetic structure’ are descriptive. In time, she will probably figure out roughly where the boundary lies. She is unmistakably authentic, there’s not a shred of make-up on the countenance of what she’s presented. She has the kind of imagination that’s almost life-breath to a poet. 

Life and time will make her better able to unpack complexity and obtain nuance and salience. The world is made of metaphor and I feel she knows this. Writers, especially poets, get better at getting a grip on metaphor the more they live, reflect, read and write. Such learning will no doubt enhance the literary worth of what she writes.

For now, this is ‘first’ and like all ‘firsts’ gives future readers of her future work a location from which trajectory can be traced and assessed.

The most important ‘come-away’ is the heart. A poetic heart. Tender, but that’s a young-thing. A good thing. It can be potent. It can empower. We must wait. Patiently.

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below] 

Other articles in this series: 

Wordaholic, trynasty and other portmanteaus

The 'Loku Aiya' of all 'Paththara Mallis'

Subverting the indecency of the mind

Character theft and the perennial question 'who am I?'


A degree in people

Faces dripping with time

Saji Coomaraswamy and rewards that matter

Revolutionary unburdening

Seeing, unseeing and seeing again

Alex Carey and the (small) matter of legacy

The Edelweiss of Mirissa 

The insomnial dreams of Kapila Kumara Kalinga 

The clothes we wear and the clothes that wear us (down) 

Every mountain, every rock, is sacred 

Manufacturing passivity and obedience 

Precept and practice 

Sanjeew Lonliyes: rawness unplugged, unlimited 

In praise of courage, determination and insanity 

The relative values of life and death 

Feet that walk 

Sarinda's eyes 

Poetry and poets will not be buried 

Sunny Dayananda 

Reunion Peradeniya (1980-1990) 

What makes Oxygen breathable?  

Sorrowing and delighting the world 

The greatest fallacy  

Encounters with Liyanage Amarakeerthi 

Beyond praise and blame 

Letters that cut and heal the heart 

Vanished and vanishing trails 


A forgotten dawn song from Embilipitiya 

The soft rain of neighbourliness  

The Gold Medals of being 

Jaya Sri Ratna Sri 

All those we've loved before 

Reflections on waves and markings 

A chorus of National Anthems 

Saying what and how 

'Say when' 

Respond to insults in line with the Akkosa Sutra 

The loves of our lives 

The right time, the right person 

The silent equivalent of a thousand words 

Crazy cousins are besties for life 

Unities, free and endearing 

Free verse and the return key

"Sorry, Earth!" 

The lost lyrics of Premakeerthi de Alwis 

The revolution is the song 

Consolation prizes in competitions no one ever wins 

The day I won a Pulitzer 


Ella Deloria's silences 

Blackness, whiteness and black-whiteness 

Inscriptions: stubborn and erasable  


Deveni: a priceless one-word koan 

Enlightening geometries 

Let's meet at 'The Commons' 

It all begins with a dot 

Recovering run-on lines and lost punctuation 

'Wetness' is not the preserve of the Dry Zone 

On sweeping close to one's feet 

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

To be an island like the Roberts... 

Debts that can never be repaid in full

An island which no flood can overwhelm 

Who really wrote 'Mother'? 

A melody faint and yet not beyond hearing 

Heart dances that cannot be choreographed 

Remembering to forget and forgetting to remember 

On loving, always 

Authors are assassinated, readers are immortal 

When you turn 80... 

It is good to be conscious of nudities  

Saturday slides in after Monday and Sunday somersaults into Friday  

There's a one in a million and a one in ten 

Gunadasa Kapuge is calling 

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California 

Hemantha Gunawardena's signature 

Pathways missed 

Architectures of the demolished 

The exotic lunacy of parting gifts 

Who the heck do you think I am? 

Those fascinating 'Chitra Katha' 

The Mangala Sabhava 

So how are things in Sri Lanka? 

The most beautiful father 

Palmam qui meruit ferat 

The sweetest three-letter poem 

Buddhangala Kamatahan 

An Irish and Sri Lankan Hello 

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership 

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked 

Pure-Rathna, a class act 

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna 

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other 

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles 

Matters of honor and dignity 

Yet another Mother's Day 

A cockroach named 'Don't' 

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth 

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara 

Sweeping the clutter away 

Some play music, others listen 

Completing unfinished texts 

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn 

I am at Jaga Food, where are you? 

On separating the missing from the disappeared 

Moments without tenses 

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have) 

The world is made of waves 


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller 

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya' 

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist 

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses 

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced 

Some stories are written on the covers themselves 

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature 

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time  

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie 

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists? 

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords 

The books of disquiet 

A song of terraced paddy fields 

Of ants, bridges and possibilities 

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva  

World's End 

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse 

Street corner stories 

Who did not listen, who's not listening still? 

The book of layering 

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain 

The world is made for re-colouring 

The gift and yoke of bastardy 

The 'English Smile' 

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5 

Visual cartographers and cartography 

Ithaca from a long ago and right now 

Lessons written in invisible ink 

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness' 

A tea-maker story seldom told 

On academic activism 

The interchangeability of light and darkness 

Back to TRADITIONAL rice 

Sisterhood: moments, just moments 

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging 

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha 

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows 

Sirith, like pirith, persist 

Fragrances that will not be bottled  

Colours and textures of living heritage 

Countries of the past, present and future 

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched 

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains 

The ways of the lotus 

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace 

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville 

Live and tell the tale as you will 

Between struggle and cooperation 

Of love and other intangibles 

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions 

The universe of smallness 

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers 

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills 

Serendipitous amber rules the world 

Continents of the heart
The allegory of the slow road