Sunday, September 5, 2010

Layered with meaning

Jayanta Mahapatra's poetry unfolds into the landscape of Indian writing…

His verse, silent, subtle and intense, truly becomes him. For years he has ‘purified the dialect of the tribe' with his poetry of teasing indirection, sensuous suggestiveness and metaphoric interiority delivered in an idiom of enviable precision. Few poets have been able to do what Jayanta Mahapatra has done, turning poetry away from statements towards a delicately layered utterance and effecting thereby a noiseless rupture with the dominant tradition of Indian English poetry with the metropolis as its source and centre.

This comprehensive volume makes the reader relive the entire process of Mahapatra's significant emergence as a poet of India and of Orissa, who changed – aided in this effort by A.K. Ramanujan, R. Parthasarathy and Kamala Das – the rules of versification by writing back in the small man, the small time and the small life. It has representative poems from fourteen out of sixteen volumes of poetry he has published till date, starting, appropriately enough, with the third volume, Waiting (1979). With this, Mahapatra burst onto the scene of Indian English Poetry in the nineteen seventies with his, to quote him, ‘language plus' approach to writing verse. The volume includes, alas, just one poem (“The Sprouting Grass”) translated into English by the poet from the original Oriya, permitting us a quick glimpse of his bilingualism.

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