Thursday, Aug 11, 2022
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The Mahapatra Muse

Two deeply vivid volumes of poems from the Oriya masters

JAYANTA and Sitakant Mahapatra are two thoroughbreds who have kept up with Pegasus these many years. Their devotion to the muse has been single-minded. They have never deviated into other genres. The fruits of their labour differ, but don’t they always? Sitakant has been translated into many languages. He has won the Jnanpith, something that Jayanta cannot aspire to. The logic can’t be faulted. Why should the brown sahibs be encouraged to indulge in their Anglo-Saxon idiosyncrasies? The sons of the soil, linguistically speaking, should inherit the earth. Unexceptionable.

Both poets write with their heart, sometimes with the heart on the sleeve. The Orissa landscape and way of life comes alive in both volumes. Jayanta rightly contends that he is an Oriya poet who, by accident, writes in English. And as if to offset this handicap he has now come out with a volume of verse in Oriya. Jayanta’s verse is ruminant, and so introverted that it borders at times, on the edge of neurosis. Sitakant’s verse is outgoing, buoyed on a current of empathy and sentiment.

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