(Suriname, 1926)   
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Poetry International has an extensive online collection of poetry and poets, but our offline archive is even bigger. As part of the run-up to our 2014 festival, we asked each of the festival poets to choose a former festival guest from our archives – someone who made an impact on their poetry or the poetry of their home country.

Shrinivási (guest in 1972 and 1995) was chosen by 2014 festival poet antoine de kom. “For me, poetry began in Suriname,” writes de kom. “I'm immensely happy when I can write poetry there. One of the poets who convinced me that poetry is one of the most essential things in life when I was young was Shrinivási. To write under vicious conditions is to write at the edge of existence. That is poetry: to go to the extreme and to that end expire. And that is Shrinivási. That’s how he remains and that’s how I would like to end up.”

Shrinivási was born Martinus Haridat Lutchman in Surinam in 1926. He taught on Curaçao from 1949 until he published his first collection of poems Anjani in 1963. A widely travelled and multilingual poet, Shrinivási has published poetry in Hindi, Sarnami and Dutch. Though quite strongly centred on the Caribbean Shrinivási doesn’t shirk from being critical in his writing, despite being widely recognised as one of Surinam’s most eminent poets.

Although not extraordinarily prolific, Shinivási has been writing poetry for over half a century. The changes in his writing over time has been described by Wim Rutgers in his reading experience: “I read a poet who initially wanted to vitally, cosmically, reform the world, but with the passing of the years and the socio-political developments in his country became increasingly sombre and personal”. Shrinivási is generally known for his metaphorical use of language, and recurring themes such as death, love and the universalities of different cultures.

Since his first collection Shrinivási has published a number of noteworthy collections, including Pratikshā (1968), Om de zon (1972), Oog in oog (1974), and Sangam (1992). Sangam won him the Surinamese Literature Award for 1989-1991. He was also awarded the Governor Currie Prize in 1974, and the Vedanta Prize in 1992. The poet is also known for his contributions to composing an anthology of Surinamese poetry, published in 1970. In his most recent collection, Hecht & Sterk published last year in celebration of his 86th birthday, Shrinivási emphasised the simplistic. The long-awaited publication has been generally well received.

Although utterly unique in both his poetry and character, Shrinivási is a great supporter of unification of people(s), saying that: “The world needs poetry: poets are the ones who have the courage to reveal right and wrong in society, and have the gift to console and encourage their fellow-villagers of this world towards togetherness”.

Shrinivási visited the Poetry International Festival in both 1972 and 1995, from which audio recordings of the poet reading are available.

© Sanna McGregor


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