Welcome to Indian Poetry – May 2009



Someone once said that translation is, at its best, an echo. And many, it appears, would agree. “A real poem defies translation, in every way,” writes poet Sudeep Sen in a poem included in this edition.

True. And yet, the defiance of the original notwithstanding, the impulse to translate persists. And it persists on many levels. There’s the translation of raging “incipient thoughts” into words; of the shapeless draft into the polished texture of the final version; of the quirky written word into the formal printed one; of the printed version into translation; of translation into re-translation. And so the journey continues. Existentially doomed to failure, condemned as an anaemic echo of the original, a pale shadow of reality, translation – stubbornly – endures.

This edition is a small tribute to translation. It is a tribute to the innumerable poets – many of whom have been featured on this domain – who persevere with the fraught business of translation, who know its challenges, its courageous struggle for autonomy, its unexpected rewards. More specifically, this edition features two seasoned writers who are active as poets and translators. It also features two poets whose work they have translated and whom they believe are worthy of a wider readership.

Poet, critic and translator E.V. Ramakrishnan works bilingually in English and Malayalam. This edition features his mature and resonant poetry in English. It also features his translations of a powerful voice in Malayalam verse, P.P. Ramachandran. Ramakrishnan describes Ramachandran as “the most accomplished craftsman among the Malayalam poets of the 90s”. His short article on Ramachandran’s poetry is also included in this edition.

Poet, translator and editor Sudeep Sen is presented here, as a much-published poet in his own right, and also as translator of Mithu Sen, an emerging voice in Bengali poetry. Of Mithu Sen’s poetry, Sen writes: “Apart from being a Bengali poet, Mithu Sen is an accomplished artist. Consequently her work has an interesting bidirectional interplay that is organic and unusual.”

But this edition is a tribute to the poetic voice in more ways than one. For in this edition, we unveil our latest project: the audio archive of the India domain. It’s a modest start, but a polyphony in its own right. And so you have P.P. Ramachandran and Sudeep Sen reading some of their poems in Malayalam and English respectively. And there’s more. You also have the chance to listen to the voices of many of our previously published poets and the distinctive cadences of their respective languages. There is Amarjit Chandan in Punjabi; Kutti Revathi in Tamil; Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih in Khasi; and Robin Ngangom in Manipuri.

It’s a small beginning, but an exciting one. We welcome you to an edition that is a mini-festival in its own right. A festival of voices. Of languages – mainstream and marginal. Of poetry and its many avatars – visual and auditory. A festival of the word and its obstinately enduring heritage of echoes.

Also on this site

‘Where the Festival is also a Hunt . . . ’: E.V. Ramakrishnan on the poetics of disquiet in the work of P.P. Ramachandran.

© Arundhathi Subramaniam  
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