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Ayyappa Panicker: a doyen of new wave poetry

Written by: Staff

Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 23 (UNI) Dr Ayyappa Panicker, who has a pride of place in the pantheon of critics in Malayalam literature and is a doyen of new wave poetry, proved his mettle as a researcher, teacher, editor and translator.

Dr Panicker, who was an icon of modernist culture and thinking, breathed his last here today after a prolonged illness. He was 76.

The poet and teacher was born on September 12, 1930 to E Naryanan Namboodiri and M Meenakshiamma at Kavalam in Alapuzzha district.

He had his basic schooling at the Kavalam Girls' Primary School, the Kavalam NSS Middle School, the Avittam Thirunal High School at Mankombu and the St Joseph's High School at Pulinkunnu. He completed his B A Honours in 1951 from University College, Trivandrum. The essays he wrote during this period about P B Shelley and T S Eliot were published in periodicals such as Kaumudi and The Democrat.

Dr Panicker acquired his PhD from Indiana University, US in 1971.

His doctoral dissertation was on the poetry of Robert Lowell under the supervision of Prof Robert E Gross. In 1981-82, he did his post-doctoral research in Yale University and Harvard University.

During this time, he visited around 25 universities in the US and became acquainted with internationally renowned poets like James Dickey, John Hollander, Czeslaw Milosz and Allen Ginsberg as well as scholars like Cleanth Brooks, Harold Bloom, Charles Feidelson, Frederic Jameson and others.

For Dr Panicker, poetry became an emotion at a very early age and when he was only 16, his first poem was published in the Mathrubhoomi Weekly. During 1946-48, Dr Paniker, then a student of the intermediate course in the Malabar Christian College, Kozhikode, came into contact with leftist politics, then prevalent in Malabar.

He came into contact with politically committed activists and writers like K Damodaran, C Unniraja and D M Pottekkatt.

Starting his career as a lecturer of English at the CMS College, Kottayam in 1951, he moved on to M G College before joining the University College, Trivandrum in 1952. He obtained his Master's Degree from the University of Kerala in 1959 and in 1965 joined the Institute of English as a lecturer.

In 1980, he was appointed Professor in the Institute of English and Head of the Department and continued to hold the post till his retirement. The University Grants Commission made him National Lecturer in 1984-85 and he gave lectures in the universities of Gorakhpur, Kolhapur, Karnataka and Bangalore. He was a visiting Professor at Jadavpur University, Calcutta.

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