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Is the Formula of 'Professor of Terror', a Hoax? 

The Waste Land as a Modern Poem  
English as a medium for Indian-writer
Absurdity of Absurd: Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot
Wordsworth’s ‘Ode on Intimations of Immortality’
Chaucer’s The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales 
The Structure of The Fire and Rain
Why Eliot is Difficult ?
 Fallacies for Advanced Readers
Jayanta Mahapatra as a Poet





Jayanta Mahapatra as a Poet



Samir K. Dash.

May 17th, 2003





For Jayanta Mahapatra, the act of writing poetry is a kind of self defence -- 'longing amid the flow of voices towards a need which' he feels 'is defensive' (quoted in Parthasarathy, 1991) -- against what he calls the triumph of silence in the mind'. It is as if he has been 'looking for the voice of his silence' . His poetry are the remainings of his attempt to discover the 'town' of his heart -- "there is a town in the heart of man that never opens..." (Mahapatra, 2003)



Mohapatra's poetry has also its links and takes shapes from the place of his birth, but his view on on his birthplaceis rather more emotional than we generally expect as Orissa keeps for him something that means to him something more than his birthplace -- a place where each dust has the impression of his past roots:


To Orissa, to this land in which my roots lie and lies my past and in which lies my beging and my end...       (Mahapatra, 1981)


'His is a poetic explorationof the earth to which he belongs as much as it equally becomes a search for his self' (Sahane, 1984). And this makes 'the poet in him has become the place he is born in' (Mohanty, ) Mohapatra in this sense is related to Orissan myth also. And why shouldn't she? 'The world of myth has been a source of knowladge for crucial problems in man's existence. They explain natural, social existence. They explain natural, social , cultural and biological facts about the nature and foundation of rituals and customs' (Padhi, 2000). So, the quest for his roots in Orissan-culture that has been 'lost in his grand father's conversion to christianity' (Mohanty, ), led him to make 'existensive use of Orissan and myths in his attempt to discover the roots, illumine the present in the light of  the eternal existential dilemmas' (Padhi, 2000).


But to say just that Mohapatra's poems signify a quest, is infact a misleading hypothesis. Bruce King's following comments can be helpful in this regard to understand what the case of Mohapatra actually is :


It [Mahapatra's poetry] consists of juxtaposed images and statements, contrasting particulars and generalisations, opposing descriptions and moods which begin by appearing associated but which, as a poem progresses, are found to be like mobiles, an assembledge of pieces which many take multiple, perhaps an unlimited, number of forms and significances

                                                   (Kng, 1986)


When we move our eyes through ''Konark' we find him confronting the past of the Sun temple at the beginning and suddenly making his inside out, by discovering his own self in the 'thin black cry' of the 12 year old legendary boy, Dharama:


I must carry the stone I found

In the  late afternoon light

let me not think of myself only

and my pains which posses

these last breaths of my life.

                                    ( Waiting, 28)



When we come to his anthology of poems Relationship, the 'obscurity' regarding Mahapatra's vision gains support, as here also he attempts in 'evoking the myths and traditions of Orissa, and at the same time articulating the sensative responses of his self to his spiritual aesthetic as well as physical heritage and environment' (Das, 1993).


In his anthology A rain of Rites that adds a new dimension of Mahapatra's philosophical retrospect on various themes like sex, love and human relationship, to his poetry through the brilliant piece like 'Hunger', 'A Whorehouse in Calcutta Street', 'Missing Person', 'Indian Summer', we suddenly realise that there are so many emotions in Mahapatra apart from those related to his own place and myths. Suddenly there is the erruption of his heart in the manner, which is similar to that of Shiv K. Kumar or Kamala Das and is recognised by the bold treatment of the themes of the poem. But after meditating we find that the case is not what we thought it to be. It is infact become more obscure in dealing with its theme.


the more  we enter into any of these poems, the more struggle we have to undertake to capture what Mahapatra is after exactly. Puspinder Syal comments in this regard that 'Any reader of [...] Mohapatra's poems, may well be warned that a struggle will have to be undertaken in reading them, a struggle which perhaps has no conclusion and answers' (Syal, 1994).


There are also causes for this kind of obscurity in Mahapatra's poems, outside what we have mentioned and these causes are related to how we generally view Indian poetry. Bijaya Kumar Nanda's essay 'The problem of Teaching Jayanta Mahapatra's Poetry' throws some light in this regard :


Student who read English and American poetry, expect the anglo American modernist code in his poetry.Mahapatra's poetry is significantly free from this code. His poetry is not the poetry of alienation and expressing feelings that echo early twentieth century theories and practices. Particularly, he has not used the ironic mode with sharply focoused urbane imagery which constitutes the staple of this modernist tradition

                                            (Nanda, 1996)


More over, we generally have a habit to study a poem with pre-conceived ideas.  In fact this leads us to surprises and obscurity as we meet strange mode of expressing the self as we enter the poem. That's why when one one reads the the title 'A Whorehouse in Calcutta Street', he may mistake by forming the idea that interpretation of sex in relation to ironical modes of life might be the central theme and when he goes on reading such ideas lose their internal balance with out finding any support --


'you miss them in the house's

                             dark spaces, how can't you?'



                                       ('A Whorehouse in Calcutta Street')


The clue to understand Mahapatra, 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'

                        (quoted in Sunday Observer, May 27th, 1984)










Das, Bijaya Kumar         'Jayanta Mahapatra's 'Relationship': a Study of myth

                                    and Meaning', Critical Essays on Poetry, Kalyani Pub.,

                                    New Delhi, 1993


King, Bruce                   'The Shape of Solitude', The Poetry of Jayanta

                                    Mahapatra, ed. by Madhusudan Prasad, Sterling

                                    Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 1986



Mahapatra, Jayanta.       From a paper delivered on his experience in life, at the           

                                    Annual Ceremony of P.G. Department of English,

                                    Ravenshaw College, 18 April, 2003


          ------                 from speech after receiving the Sahitya Academi

                                    Award for his book Relationship, 1981


Mohanty, Niranjan          'Quest for Roots: Poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra', N.D.,



Nanda, Bijay kumar        'The Problems of teaching Jayanta Mahapatra'sPoetry',

                                     Ravenshaw Journal of English Studies, vol: VI,1996


Padhi, Saroj Kumar        'Jayanta Mahapatra's 'Temple': A Study in Myth',  

                                    Ravenshaw Journal of English Studies, vol: X, No: 1-2,





Sahane, V.A.                 'The Naked Earth and Beyond: The Poetry of Jayanta

                                    Mohapatra', Perspectives on Indian poetry in English,

                                    ed. by M.K. Naik, abhinav Pub., New Delhi, 1984





Sayal, Pushpinder          'New Quest', World Literature today,Spring 1994








© Samir K. Dash, May 17th, 2003





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