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Jayanta Mahapatra was born in 1928 and is known as a creative poet not only in India but abroad also. Strangely speaking, he started writing poetry rather late, he got his special reputation and place in the realm of English poetry. His first book of verse, Close The Sky, Ten by Ten brought out in 1971, which undoubtedly made him a distinguished poet on the contemporary commonwealth literary scene. He is kept with eminent Indian English poets like Nissim Ezekiel, Ramanujan and R. Parthasarthy. He is widely read and discussed despite the fact that his poetry if difficult to understand for complexity, obscurity and allusiveness. He is sometimes compared with Shiv K. Kumar and Keki N. Daruwalla for creating images and learned vocabulary. He followed indigenous tradition to English language; however he creates a new Indian English idiom, too. He won the first ever award by the National Academy of Letters for his book of verse, Relationship in 1981. He got the Jacob Glatstein Memorial Award for his poems published in Poetry in 1975. All these awards proved his originality that he learnt from profession of teaching physics at Ravenshaw College, Cuttack. He did not read much poetry in his life, so was less influenced of other poets in his thinking and temperament. In an interview with N. Raghavan he very frankly admitted the fact: You see, I haven’t read much poetry in my life. As a matter of fact, I haven’t read any poetry until I started writing myself. No, not even poets like Eliot or Whitman or Tagore. I was trained to be a physicist. But I have veered away from physics in a way.1 His other volumes being brought out in quick succession include Svayamvava and other poems(1971), A Father’s Hours (1976), A Rain of Rites(1976), Waiting Dispossessed Nests(1986), Selected Poems(1987), Burden of Waves and Fruit(1988), Temple(1989), A Whiteness of Bone(1992), Shadow Space(1997), Bare Face (2000) and Random Descent (2005). His poetry was praised in all nook and corner of
On October Morning. His poetry has its own life. He described Indian landscape. which shows a continuous development in theme and technique.the world. its culture and tradition loom very frequently. He is also one of the cases who got admired abroad before being attended at home for elements of Indian ness that he poured in his poems. way of life and above all the significance of Jagannath temple in the life of people. Indian Summer Poem. guilt and illumination with -2- . He has his dauntless and open mind and a willing ear which help him choose theme for his poetry before he acclimatizes language. Judith Wright observes the same fact in the words “Before one’s country can become an accepted background against which the poet’s and novelist’s imagination can move unhindered. Evening Landscape by the River. described as it were observed. Village. He remains aware and conscious in his poetry writing. despair. Appearance. Summer. The Captive Air of Chandipuron Sea. The writer must be at peace with his landscape before he can confidently to its human figure figures”2 Now we should take Indian elements one by one into account that he raised in his poetry. In these poems he presented his internal moments of desire. Silence. The landscape of our country. A Country. it must first be observed. He became a successful poet because of his self identification and his acute sense of knowing his surrounding in particular and India in general. understood. Old Places. etc. We come across ironic reflection about love. Evening. A Twilight Poem. of India conferred on him with Sahitya Academy Award. from Chicago to Victoria. he looks before and after and revises again and again to produce an effective and meaningful piece of work. For his great achievement Govt. His poetry is replete with resonance of Orissa local sight and scene. The Wind. season and environment in the poems like Dawn. In his poetry the theme of Indian ness has been very forcefully presented being selected from different nook and corner of the country. from Manchester to Melbourne. sex and sensuality in his earlier poetry and that of social and political events in the latter poems.
4 It is rightly said that he gets his sensibility sharpened by the landscape to use it reveal hard realities being faced at present in the country. the wind with its horrible speed causing great havoc. The -3- . violence and ongoing destruction he thought that death and fall are all pervasive.the slight touch of imagination. His “Dispossessed Nests” brings out wails of shattered human heart. Occupant of the silent sigh of the conch? The ground seems only a memory now.V. “Story at the Start of 1978” for the damage of property and the loss of life by the great cyclone in Andhra and Orissa coasts in 1978. the storm as the great killer of men and animals. The cries of fishermen come drifting through the Spray.3 He praised nature for its beauty. but very bitterly criticized it as well in the poem. Shahane makes a subtle remark on the description and criticism on the great destruction by the cyclone in the poem in the words “ Mahapatra invokes with vivid details the atmosphere of that savage storm. and the wind plucking the jasmines with its fierce and destructive darkness. Music or what the world has lost. the palm leaves screaming the epics in their sleep. Being deeply anguished of the recent past marked with bloodshed. a torn breath. A. and as we wait for the tide to flood the mudflats the song that reaches our ears is just our own. He reminde of the past glory of our country and ancestors In the poem “The Captive Air Of Chandipuron Sea” he raised the past to ask question And what is it now that scatters the tide In the shadow of this proud watercourse? The ridicule of the dead? Susurrant sails still whisper Legends on the horizon: Who are you.
S. “Rains in Orissa”. Further he is interested in describing charm and beauty of rain. Jayant Mahapatra is concerned with contemporary situations prevalent in India and day-to-day problems encountered by common native people. “Four Rain Poems”. He does not think that it moves in linear direction from past to present to future. present and future. In contrast. He has raised contemporary issues in the poems named “A Mansoon Day Fable”. He takes the present moment as the -4- . “The Lost Children Of America”. “Another Day in Rain”. The poet thus writes: I can hear the broken voice of the night. and carrying with it the joint Smells of flowers well past their best. Rain has been described in varieties of mood I “In a Night of Rain”.Eliot in his concept of time. so to him. because it reminds us of the past. He took rain as a metaphor to contemplate on physical union in man and woman. It does not move as does an arrow without any kind of repetition of movement. “A rain”. too.5 The theme of death has been very frequently dealt with for its religious and spiritual significance. bloody and black. “A Day of Rain”. makes us dream of the future and conscious of the present. it repeats itself in the sense that past is alive in present and shapes the future. Crying in my hands. “This is the season of Old Rain” and “Again the Rain Falls”. The concept of time has been a very general theme of discussion in American and British literary works as well. life has lost its charm moving round sense of danger and uncertainty. “After the Rain”. There is no other poet to have written as many rain poems as he. Mahapatra described it as a deliverer. time has a circular motion of which present is the central point of past. that is. Mahapatra seems to be influenced of T.nation suffered shock of violent Khalistan movement and Bhopal Gas tragedy. In his poem the theme of time has been dealt with very forcefully. “The Rain Falling”.
Love. Because there is no decline of variety. His poetry is rooted in tradition of Orissa. He has a wide breadth of understanding of Indian way of life that helps him see Indian temperament. half light of rain. illusive and obscure. culture. the pallor of dreams. ritual. etc. death. He used images to deal with complex world The reader has been given full freedom to exercise his mental faculty for unfolding hidden theme. In the poem entitled “Today” he brings all the experience of his past years on a particular day and sees the future through it. twilight. regional. The starting point of his understanding of Indian ness lies in “Rain of Rites” and finish point does in “Relationship”. the granite eyes needed to see the stones throb. The images that he uses are the consequence of affiliation of local and national cultural and religious life.”6 Now we can say that he is highly dependent on symbol and imagery as a technique that is owing to his being influenced of the imagist movement and specially by Eliot and Ezra Pound. contain the hidden voice for its ultimatesunderstanding. His collection of poems leads us to the elements present in Indian society of which concept of Indian ness is conceived. traditional and religious folks and systems of life. continuity and sensibility. which is a repository of past. His poem is the product of interaction with harsh reality of life and so it remains difficult. form basic core of Indian life and Indian sensibility. phantom darkness. He begins with an image or a cluster of images or an image leads to another. His poem needs an argument for proper understanding. present and future. complex. He is a culturally aware personality believing in the fact that knowing Indian ness means knowing local. His prominent images include sleep. etc born out of the influence of -5- . because he admits that the entire territory of India spills with ancient temples and their ruins and Puri has been focal centre of Orissa’s cultural and religious life.focal point of time. so he himself states that “a seemingly obscure poem does in its content. he remains champion among veteran English contemporary poets. Use of image is a starting point to travel into a region of darkness of mind where he has never gone before. tradition.
or in any rhyming scheme. so his poetry is described as “indicative text” by Raymond Williams. He recreated the past in modern sense. symbols and myths. guilt. hunger. images and symbols. There are so many poems including “The Quest”. He was always frank and candid in focusing on country’s elusive reality. The poems are varied attempts to bridge an epistemological. “Heroism”. He was very worried of people of Kalahandi district of Orissa. “The Unease of Quiet Sleep”. “About My Fafourite Things” where he has made a huge cultural study of Indian society. Puri and Bhubaneswar. R. He was mostly concerned with lighting on socio-political situations to have been casting a great effect on Indian masses. parthasarthy and Kamala Das. Pointing out features of his poetry he says that “My writing would go on to portray cultural values native to Orissa. Ramanujan.No doubt. the Hindu festivals. He did not have any obsession of any native cultural preoccupation despite the fact that his poem is woven into golden triangle of Cuttack. desire and moments of renewal his environment is filled with symbols of belief by the ordinary life of people of Cuttack. He makes an inward journey to search for Indian identity as was done by A. or in any regular stanza form. he set his poem in the background of Orissa. He borrows instances and allusions from natural world and Hindu mythology which make his poetry obscure to understand. the temples. He faced the world and kept his findings very honestly and sincerely through imagery. In this way his poetry advances in his skilful execution of myth. Bruce King makes a noteworthy remark in this regard: “While Mahapatra’s world is filled with personal pain. “Defeat”. the ancient monuments.K. be part of enclose. experience---”7 Jayanta Mahapatra did not believe in any rigorous metrical device.Eliot’s “The Hollow Man” and Yeats’ “Sailing to Byzantium”. “Bazaar Scene”.”8 At another occasion he made pronouncement that he is -6- . remorse. and he never lost his touch with Indian ness. He did always try to go into roots of Indian culture and tradition where real India lies. And perhaps I have done just in my poetry. phenomenological gap to know. not to other regions of India.
In his poetry we come across lively description of Orissan culture mixed up with Indian myths taken from the epics and topography. Manoj Das. “thwarted sexuality” and “repetitive rituals observed by people”. His “Dispossessed Nests” goes through process of creation on the buried horrors of the recent past such -7- . He used images. Some of his poems may help us a lot conclude him as a true Indian representative poet. “unhappy memories”. and legends in his poetry.basically “an Oriya poet who incidentally writes in English” and his poetry could be treated as “translations”9. he collected over powering rituals centring round the lives of people in Orissa in “A Rain of Rites”. symbols and allusions to dip into unconscious region of his mind where actual life lies. he dealt with that kind of relationship with parents and friends in “A father’s Hours”. play on and with it and enjoy its abundance. he took myth of golden deer from the Ramayana. “deprivation”. that of Putana from the Mahabharata and that of the Himalaya peak being supposed as the abode of the gods. He noticed that agriculture has been a major occupation of most of Indians. like Kamala Das. we love the earth where we are born. On the above mentioned facts we can say that he is a bilingual poet. In “Life Sings” he made an endless search for meaning of life being made of several great void groans. It is a powerful regenerative force which associates him with images of “unfulfilment”. For example.which in more ways than one acts like a power generator---”10 As a theme of relationship with family nembers and outsiders has been a typical Indian one. history. In his “Waiting” we come across images of earth and stone. Actually life is governed by “the unconscious--. It is a tentative beginning of the real spiritual growth which is always present in the psyche of Indian. To him. He took resort to myths. who feels on Oriya but writes in English. rain is a motif influencing the lives if Indians especially in rural India. To understand present and to apprehend the future he took help of his poetic self. who write in both their mother tongue and in English. because he believed that they help him understand his environment and his self in true perspective.
He had his own deep reflective mood to deal with Indian themes using his own private symbols and opaque images.as merciless killing in the Punjab and the gas tragedy in Bhopal. -8- . he has his own existential. Now we have all proof to say that he has touched upon all the major issues and themes prevalent in Indian society. Finally. These are all reflections on the chaotic life being faced by innocent people of India. skeptic attitude to the universe which helped him make English language with semantic possibilities of his own Indian or more especially Orissan culture.
“Inner View: Jayanta Mahapatra Talks to N. 2. 54.College Ahalyasthan K.References 1. Naveen Kumar Jhas Lecture in English R. word Literature Today. June 1978. P. 206 Jayauta Mahapatra : “Mystery as Mautra : Letter from Orissa”.S. June 1978. ed. V. 1987. Darbhanga -9- . Bombay : Disha.N. Jayanta Mahapatra: “Selected Poems”.Raghavan. Jaipur. 1987. 1984. Das.S. 60. Of English. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. Delhi : Oxford University Press. Abhinav Publications. Bhubaneshwar : Deptt. 3.A. Utkal University. Quoted ed.S. 1983.U.” Tenor 1. Nirala 6. 32 8. 1990. Jayanta Mahapatra : Tonor No. 1 and 2. Perspective on Indian Poetry in English: New Delhi. 9. 6 no.Shahane: “The Naked Earth and Beyond. the Poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra”. 288. 5.A. Jayanta Mahapatra: Publications. Quoted by Devindra Kohli “Landscape and Poetry”. Jayanta Mahapatra : “Face to face with conten porary poem”. vol. 17. Bruce King : “Modern Indian Poetry in English”.G.D. Journal of Literary Studies. April 1979. 1994. 59. 4. 61-62. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Vilas Sarang. “Dispossessed Nests”. 1. 49. 1986. : “Introduction”. 7. 10. Indian English poetry since 1950 : An Authology. 149.
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