Jayanta Mahapatra

Jayanta Mahapatra Poems

It was hard to believe the flesh was heavy on my back.
The fisherman said: Will you have her, carelessly,
trailing his nets and his nerves, as though his words
sanctified the purpose with which he faced himself.

The little girl's hand is made of darkness
How will I hold it?

Endless crow noises
A skull in the holy sands
tilts its empty country towards hunger.

Over the soughing of the sombre wind
priests chant louder than ever;
the mouth of India opens.


The substance that stirs in my palm
could well be a dead man; no need
to show surprise at the dizzy acts of wind.
My old father sitting uncertainly three feet away

The yellowed diary's notes whisper in vernacular.
They sound the forgotten posture,
the cramped cry that forces me to hear that voice.
Now I stumble back in your black-paged wake.

At times, as I watch,
it seems as though my country's body
floats down somewhere on the river.

Day after day the drunk sea at Chandipur
spits out the gauze wings of shells along the beach
and rumples the thin air behind the sands.

Awaken them; they are knobs of sound
that seem to melt and crumple up
like some jellyfish of tropical seas,

An orange flare
lights the pale panes of the hospital
in a final wish of daylight.
It's not yet dark.

Sometims a rain comes
slowly across the sky, that turns
upon its grey cloud, breaking away into light
before it reaches its objective.


Not yet.
Under the mango tree
The cold ash of a deserted fire.

In the darkened room
a woman
cannot find her reflection in the mirror

The faint starlight rolls restlessly on the mat.
Those women talking outside have clouds passing across their eyes.
Always there is a moon that is taking me somewhere.
Why does one room invariably lead into other room?


Afterwards when the wars of Kalinga were over,
the fallow fields of Dhauli
hid the blood-spilt butchered bodies. [originally 'red-smeared voiceless bodies']

At Puri, the crows.

The long, dying silence of the rain
over the hills
opens one's touch,

Of that love, of that mile
walked together in the rain,
only a weariness remains.

The strong south wind hits our faces again,
it's October;
sunsets are fiery red
and the waters of wells are clear already-

Children, brown as earth, continue to laugh away
at cripples and mating mongrels.
Nobody ever bothers about them.

Jayanta Mahapatra Biography

Jayanta Mahapatra is one of the best known Indian English poets. Perhaps any discussion on Indian English Poetry is incomplete without reference to his poetical works. Physicist, bilingual poet and essayist, Jayanta Mahapatra holds the distinction of being the first Indian English poet to have received the Sahitya Akademi Award (1981) for Relationship. In 2009 he was awarded by Government of India with "Padmashree Award", country's most prestigious award for civilian citizen for his out standing contribution to the field of literature. Birth and Early Life Jayanta Mahapatra, born on 22 October 1928 in Cuttack ( India ), belongs to a lower middle-class family. He had his early education at Stewart school, Cuttack . After a first class Master's Degree in Physics, he joined as a teacher in 1949 and served in different Government colleges of Orissa. Later Life All his working life, he taught physics at different colleges in Orissa. He retired in 1986. Mahapatra has authored 18 books of poems. He started writing poetry at the age of thirty-eight, quite late by normal standards. Mahapatra's tryst with the muse came rather late in life. He published his first poems in his early 40s. The publication of his first book of poems, Svayamvara and Other Poems, in 1971 was followed by the publication of Close the Sky, Ten By Ten. His collections of poems include A Rain of Rites, Life Signs and A Whiteness of Bone. One of Mahapatra's better remembered works is the long poem Relationship, for which he won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1981. He is the first Indian English Poet to receive the honor. Besides being one of the most popular Indian poets of his generation, Mahapatra was also part of the trio of poets who laid the foundations of modern Indian English Poetry. He shared a special bond with A. K. Ramanujan, one the finest poets in the IEP tradition. Mahapatra is also different in not being a product of the Bombay school of poets. Over time, he has managed to carve a quiet, tranquil poetic voice of his own--distinctly different from those of his contemporaries. His wordy lyricism combined with authentic Indian themes puts him in a league of his own. His recent poetry volumes include Shadow Space, Bare Face and Random Descent. Besides poetry, he has experimented widely with myriad forms of prose. His lone published book of prose remains The Green Gardener, a collection of short stories. A distinguished editor, Jayanta Mahapatrahas been bringing out, for many years, a literary magazine, Chandrabhaga , from Cuttack . The magazine is named after Chandrabhaga, a prominent but dried-up river in Orissa. Vision of Poetry “To Orissa, to this land in which my roots lie and lies my past and in which lies my beginning and my end..." declared the poet in his Award-receiving speech at the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi. The clue to understand Mahapatra’s poetry is given by the poet himself: “My poems deal with the life within myself where the mind tries to find a sort of coherence from the mass of things in the world outside it.” Awards Second Prize International Who’s Who in Poetry, London, 1970. Jacob Glatstein Memorial Award Poetry, Chicago, 1975. Visiting Writer International Writing Program, Iowa City 1976-77. Cultural Award Visitor, Australia, 1978. Japan Foundation Visitor’s Award, Japan, 1980. Sahitya Academy Award National Academy of Letters, New Delhi, 1981. Invited Poet Asian Poets Conference, Tokyo, Japan, 1984. Indo-Soviet Cultural Exchange Writer, USSR, 1985. Resident Writer Centro Culturale della Fondazione Rockefeller, Bellagio, Italy, 1986. Invited Poet University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 1988. Singapore Festival of Arts, Singapore. 1988. New Literatures in English Conference, Justus-Liebig-Universitat, Giessen, West Germany, 1989 ACLALS Silver Jubilee Conference, Canterbury, England, 1989. First Prize Scottish International Open Poetry Competition, 1990. Invited Poet Poetry International, The South Bank Centre, London, England, 1992. Cuirt International Poetry Festival, Galway, Ireland, 1992. EI Consejo Nacional Para la Cultura y las Artes, Mexico. 1994 Mingei International Museum of World Folk Art, La Jolla, USA. 1994. Gangadhar National Award For Poetry, Sambalpur University, 1994 Ramakrishna Jaidayal Harmony Award, 1994, New Delhi. Vaikom Mohammad Basheer Chair Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, 1996-97. Invited Poet ACLALS Conference, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 1998. Awarded Honorary Degree Doctor of Literature, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, 2006. Invited Poet Weltklang Poetry Festival, Berlin, Germany, 2006. Bishuva Award Prajatantra Prachara Samiti, Cuttack, 2007. Padma Shree Award India’s Padma Shree Award, 2009. SAARC Literary Award, New Delhi, 2010 Poetry Readings Outside India University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1976 University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, 1976 University of the South, Sewanee, 1976 East West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1976 Adelaide Festival of Arts, Adelaide, 1978 P.E.N. Centre, Sydney, 1978 Australian National University, Canberra, 1978 International Poets Conference, Tokyo, 1980 Asian Poets Conference, Tokyo, 1984 Aoyama University, Tokyo, 1984 Sapporo University, Sapporo, 1984 Writers Union, Moscow, Leningrad & Lvov, USSR, 1985 Singapore Festival of Arts, Singapore, 1988 Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, 1988 University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 1988 Universitas Indonesia, Jakarta, 1988 University of the Philippines, Manila City, 1988 Museong Kalinangang Pilipino, Manila, 1988 Irish Writers Centre, Dublin, Ireland, 1992 Sligo Arts Centre, The Grammar School, Sligo, 1992 The Guild Hall, Derry, 1992 WEA, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Hexham and Durham, 1992 The South Bank Centre, London, 1992 Universities of Hull and Leeds (UK), 1992 The Naropa Institute, Boulder,Colorado, 1994 Instituto de Cultura de Campeche, Mexico, 1994 Instituto de Cultura de Puebla, Mexico,1994 Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, USA, 1995 Hunter College, New York, USA, 1995 University of the South, Sewanee, USA, 1995 Writers Forum, De Kalb College, Atlanta, USA, 1995 Writers Forum, St. Andrews College, Laurinburg, USA, 1995 British Council, Kandy, 1998 Indian Cultural Centre, Colombo, 1998 In India Andhra University, University of Jadavpur, Calcutta University, University of Delhi, Osmania University, The Poetry Centre - Hyderabad, Visva-Bharati - Santiniketan, North East Hill University - Shillong, Tezpur University - IIT Guwahati, India International Centre - New Delhi, Bharat Bhavan - Bhopal, University of Lucknow, DAV College - Kanpur, Arts, Science & Commerce College - Durg.)

The Best Poem Of Jayanta Mahapatra


It was hard to believe the flesh was heavy on my back.
The fisherman said: Will you have her, carelessly,
trailing his nets and his nerves, as though his words
sanctified the purpose with which he faced himself.
I saw his white bone thrash his eyes.

I followed him across the sprawling sands,
my mind thumping in the flesh's sling.
Hope lay perhaps in burning the house I lived in.
Silence gripped my sleeves; his body clawed at the froth
his old nets had only dragged up from the seas.

In the flickering dark his lean-to opened like a wound.
The wind was I, and the days and nights before.
Palm fronds scratched my skin. Inside the shack
an oil lamp splayed the hours bunched to those walls.
Over and over the sticky soot crossed the space of my mind.

I heard him say: My daughter, she's just turned fifteen...
Feel her. I'll be back soon, your bus leaves at nine.
The sky fell on me, and a father's exhausted wile.
Long and lean, her years were cold as rubber.
She opened her wormy legs wide. I felt the hunger there,
the other one, the fish slithering, turning inside

Jayanta Mahapatra Comments

Bijay Kant Dubey 20 May 2014

It pains us to see that some teachers and scholars under the pretext of meeting him take the interview with him and get photographed with to release it on the internet which is but a gross violation and repudiation of morality and ethics. How does their morality permit them to do it? Had the poet himself introduced, it would have been good, but they like to be photographed with him as for to get a breakthrough. I do not want to belittle anyone, but the gravity of the matter is as such that I cannot help without taking it. |

8 12 Reply
Bijay Kant Dubey 20 May 2014

It pains us to see that some teachers and scholars under the pretext of meeting him take the interview with him and get photographed with to release it on the internet which is but a gross violation and repudiation of morality and ethics. How does their morality permit them to do it? Had the poet himself introduced, it would have been good, but they like to be photographed with him as for to get a breakthrough. I do not want to belittle anyone, but the gravity of the matter is as such that I cannot help without taking it.

9 3 Reply
Bijay Kant Dubey 15 May 2014

Dawn at Puri A dawn at Puri, near the Jagannath temple, the complex lit with the glow and glisten together with the queues of the worshipers, waiting for their turn to enter the Great Temple and to offer their prayers and offerings, most of them the white-clad widows, hopeless and helpless, past the centre of their lives with nothing to be left with, just kept up and held by piety and faith in the Lord, the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of life, into whose hands is this poor life of man and to Him only she can say the things of hers in whispers.With the austere eyes, they looking like the fish caught in the net at dawn break like the shining strands of faith. Frail light like frail faith dazzling around, moving on to focus on a mass of crouched faces, the leprous shells leaning together and here lies the pathos of life expressed in the lines, the dark despair and dejection of man combined with anxiety raising the eyebrows of doubt and suspense with regard to the Scheme of Things and that too against the backdrop of the rock-built temples. Again, the light shifts to the burning of the pyre on the holy sands, the smoky blaze of a solitary pyre burning on telling of a life lived or worth to be lived. But the wish of burning on the holy sands purifies it the forlorn inner will with nowhere to go and confide in, no solace or refuge to be found or given anywhere. Who knows what it is in whose lot? Similar had been the wish of his aging mother if she might have or had it been, as willed she, the wish of every aging mother to be cremated here as Puri is the gateway to heaven, but faith is faith, life, life. Frail faith like dazzling and shaky light keeps shifting.

8 4 Reply
Bijay Kant Dubey 07 November 2015

As a poet, Jayanta is first of all an imagist then a linguist, a photographer, a dreamer, a visionary, a thinker; a realist, a feminist, a modernist, a post-modern; a historian, an ecologist, an environmentalist; an Odia first then an Indian and an internationalist; an existentialist, an iconoclast and a symbolist. As a teacher of physics, he has drawn from light and darkness theories. Poetry is physics and physics his poetry. Poetry to Mahapatra is the geography, sociology and archaeology of Orissa and Orissan places. A professor of physics, he sees the pinda-dana continuing sand the asthi-kalasha being immersed into the holy waters to reach to the conclusion of matter and mass.

5 2 Reply
Arjun Srinivas 05 January 2018

'Evening Landscape by the River' and ' From Temple' by Jayant Mahapatra are missing from this poet's archives here.

5 1 Reply
Bijay Kant Dubey 18 July 2020

But one should not forget it to put it before that he is very, very personal and private in his writing of poetry as because these arise out of his own brooding and reflection confiding int hem so. As a poet he is one of vacant reflections and broodings. The image of Gandhi hangs over and he has not forgotten the Gandhian myths and principles comparing and contrasting them with the values and ideals of modern men and their society.

0 0 Reply
Bijay Kant Dubey 18 July 2020

The Rathyatra recurs time and again and he cannot forget the festivity connected with the the gala ceremony and the sea of people offering prayers and moving with, the mammoth crowd following the chariot seating Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra.

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Bijay Kant Dubey 18 July 2020

A poet of Udaygiri, Khandagiri, Konark, Puri, Bhubaneswar, he is historiographer and is connected with racial and ethnic things of the community dwelling for ages and ages. The defeat of Kalinga, the Ganga kings, the Kharvelas, all these he talks of indirectly referring to art and architecture.

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Bijay Kant Dubey 18 July 2020

A professor of physics who has physics in the classrooms has switched to poetry after evincing an interest in photography and deriving from light and darkness chapters. As the sunlight drizzles, fades and keeps changing and shifting from the dawn-break to the noontime to the twilight so is faith frail and shaky and in between light and darkness lies it the matter of the universe and the particles.

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Bijay Kant Dubey 17 July 2020

He is not only an imagist concerned with mere imagery but is a mythicist, a feminist, a realist, a modernist and a post-modernist too. in his poetry one may find the journey from colonialism to post-colonialism, from modernism to post-modernism and beyond. But we must keep it in mind that word-play and imagery are the things with which he has started the poetic journey of his life.

0 1 Reply

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