The poem “Stammer” was originally written in Malayalam by K. Satchidanandan with the title Vikku and was translated by the poet himself into English. The poem appreciates stammering and also enlightens its importance in the world and human history.
According to the poet, stammering is not a defect but a language itself because it is the imperfection which makes human unique and distinguishable. Similarly, it is the way we stammer which makes the language rich in words and meanings.
The poem has been divided into six stanzas with variable lines. There is no particular rhyme scheme in the poem. The word Stammer has been repeated several times in the poem.
The poet begins the poem by simple words that a stammer is no handicap. It is a mode of speech. There is no hidden meaning in these lines. The poet says that stammering is not a defect or imperfection but a way by which we express our ideas to others.
In the next stanza, the poet says that a stammer is the silence that falls between the word and its meaning i.e. the silence which comes in when we think about the meaning of the word before speaking it is also a stammer.
Similarly, lameness is also the silence that falls between the word and the deed meaning that refraining from doing something which we intend to do is also stammer.
In stanza 3 the poet raises a rhetorical question. He wonders whether the stammer precedes language or succeed it i.e. did stammer originated before the language come into existence or after that.
Next, he asks whether stammer is only a dialect or a language itself and such questions make even linguists stammer. Hence, it is quite confusing for the linguists as well to know about the origin and the nature of stammer.
In this stanza, the poet tells about the importance of stammering. According to him each time we stammer we are offering a sacrifice to the God of Meanings.
God of Meanings here refers to the Language which is a collection of words. The poet says that stammering is quite important because it is by stammering that we add new words and meanings to the language and this is a kind of sacrifice given by us.
Hence, language is made up of imperfection like humans. The imperfection in speaking the words, interpreting and using it is what enriches the language.
The poet says that when a whole people stammer stammer becomes their mother tongue: as it is with us now. The phrase simply means that the whole humanity on the earth stammers i.e. using the words and interpreting their meanings in their own ways.
And hence stammering is not an imperfection but the language or the mother tongue. He gives examples of how people use the words today to justify his argument.
In the final stanza, the poet questions the perfection of God. According to him, God too must have stammered when He created Man and that is why all the words of man carry different meanings i.e. every word means different to different people and each person interprets and uses the words on their own ways.
Even his utterance of the prayers is full of stammering like poetry. Here the poet conveys three important messages. First God stammers and is hence imperfect. This is why humans are imperfect.
Second humans stammer in prayers and thus prayers are also full of imperfections and finally, poetry is also full of imperfection. This is why it means different to different people.
If poetry were perfect, it would not have the charm and beauty which it currently has. Hence the whole universe is imperfect and imperfection is the very basis of existence and thus we should not consider stammer as an imperfection but an integral part of our life without which we cannot exist.
Figure of Speech
- Simile: “just as lameness is the silence”, “whole people stammer stammer becomes their mother tongue: as it is with us now”, “he utters from his prayers to his commands stammers, like poetry.
- Repetition: The word Stammer is repeated several times in the poem.
- Metaphor: The word Stammer is a metaphor that refers to the imperfection we have on the earth and it is this imperfection that makes us exist.