Ian Jack, while making a perfectly valid point in the Telegraph about how the method of choosing Oxford’s Professor of Poetry needs a radical rethink, tells this delightful story:
... I made the mistake of publishing a 13-word poem by Vikram Seth called “Sampati”, about the eponymous character in the Ramayana who, like Icarus, flies too near the sun. We added this information in an epigraph and footnote to the poem, without telling the poet, and Vikram was so furious that he made us publish the poem again in a later edition minus its informative dressing. This took up more space than you might think for a thirteen-word poem, because every word had a line to itself apart from “un-done”, which took up two.
We were only trying to help the ignorant reader, but we were definitely in the wrong. After all, how many footnotes does T.S. Eliot have? (Not enough.)
It is just for these sort of things that I have always liked Vikram Seth. Now I like him even more. As for the headline and the contents of this post, well, maybe you do need to read more about the poets Walcott and Padel and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
Jun 07, 2009